Nobody would ever accuse Kate Bush of being overly prolific. "50 Words For Snow" is only her 2nd album of original material in 17 years. The last time she released an album, Tori Amos was a young upstart. Florence Welch was 8 years old when "The Red Shoes" came out. Consequently, when Kate Bush releases an album, you'd better soak it up.
"50 Words For Snow" is essentially a 6 song concept album about, well, snow. It's a whole lot less pretentious than it sounds. Like winter itself, some of this material is pure white, some of it is downright dirty. Taken as a whole, though, this hour-long song cycle is stunning.
"Now I am falling, I want you to catch me," she laments near the beginning of the first track, appropriately titled "Snowflake". On the surface, it sounds like late-period Tori Amos in a mournful mood, but she never sounded as sincere as this.
The shortest song here is 7 minutes long, but it doesn't feel even a little bit indulgent. Kate Bush has simply given these songs room to breathe. The effect is not exactly sensual, but the sense of longing, especially on the 13 minute long "Misty", is palpable.
Despite knowing that she hasn't toured since 1979 and likely never will again, it's impossible to not hear these songs collectively as a theatrical piece. A song like "Wild Man" absolutely aches to be performed in front of an intimate theater audience. When she sings "Lying in my tent, I can hear your cry echoing round the mountainside. You sound lonely," you can't help but yearn to see the expression on her face.
Bush is not very often a willing interview subject, so finding a quote to try to describe her feelings about the much-loved and often misunderstood music she creates is a difficult task. She is without a doubt reclusive, and there is a certain knowing sort of fear at play in her more recent works, but it's important not to read too much into that. She explained her ambivalence a decade ago, saying:
"It's healthier for me not to indulge in being a famous person. It's ridiculous, there's absolutely no reason why I should be at all, other than that I make records. I find it extraordinary that people should want to write about me when I do so little. I just pop out and do an album and go away gain."