Music Review: 50 Words for Snow

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"50 Words for Snow" by Kate Bush (Fish People)

A snowflake is born. As it falls earthward, it longs for a stranger to catch it and cherish its singular beauty. But a Christmastime blizzard is blustering, and the sky is full of other snowflakes. This is the plotline of “Snowflake,” the first of seven magical, winter-themed songs of unrequited love on English singer Kate Bush’s transfixing 50 Words for Snow.

Bush has been writing zeitgeist-defying, transcendental piano ballads since she was 19 years old–more than 30 years ago–and has honed her songwriting and storytelling skills into a sharp, sentimental blade. She’s not afraid to twist the knife, either.

On “Misty,” Bush sketches two tragic characters: a snowman and the lonely woman who built him. That night, the snowman appears in her bedroom for a passionate tryst. The two consummate what seems an eternal love. But the closer she gets to her lover, the faster he leaves her. “So cold next to me,” she moans, straddling a somber piano riff and a swelling, ambient throb. “I can feel him melting in my hand.” The woman wakes to soaked bedsheets, alone again. Kate Bush’s compositions are parables in miniature–open-ended vignettes of human experience and raw, conflicted emotions.

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