Who: Kate Bush
Label: Fish People
Tell me more: Gosh, she releases albums as often as a coup in Fiji then unveils two in one year. 50 Words for Snow follows May’s Director’s Cut, a reworking of songs from two previous albums.
The Lowdown: Long gone is the Kate Bush who pranced and danced on Top of the Pops, and hit ear-piercing notes on Wuthering Heights, or indeed the Kate Bush who showed her teeth on such rocky numbers as Rubberband Girl. In 2011, as in 2005 for her magnificently ethereal comeback album, Aerial, Bush creates pieces of music, songs that build and grow, something that is eminently achievable when the whole album is 64 minutes long and one, Misty, clocks in at over 13 minutes.
In this winter-themed work, Bush gets Stephen Fry to reel off 50 words for snow; her son plays the role of a falling snowflake and Misty is about the consequences a snowman faces after a night of passion with a beautiful woman.
The orchestral, neo-Eno rhythm of 50 Words, with the use of technology and pace, resembles late-era Talk Talk when the development of a song, using whatever was available, was far more important than cranking out three-minute pop songs. All of which make the use of Elton John, on Snowed In At Wheeler Street, all the more beguiling. That is not a statement of John’s talents, but a little irritation that his voice is somewhat out of place. It sounds as if he hasn’t been given the full job spec, or hasn’t grasped the feel of the work, as he overdoes his vocal duties. It is my sole gripe, however, and the song is decent regardless. 50 Words is a concept album of sorts … a unifying theme, tracks bearing their sole with their successors, and the sense of worth that abounds.And there are plenty of examples of that, from the Himalayan adventure of Wild Man to the mesmerising minimalism of Among Angels.
Title: Everything That I Have Seen
Label: Rhythm Method
Tell me more: Crawley first came to prominence supporting Paul Weller when he played three nights in a row in Auckland late last year. Support acts to those with a huge following are always in a tricky position, but Crawley and her band, The Conversation, received lukewarm admiration from the Weller army.
The Lowdown: Crawley writes about love and loss, with the fear of being alone clouding her thought process. “Loneliness should be against the law” she sings on You Won’t Be There. Everything That I Have Seen is a delicate little angel that critics have lumped into the folk-pop bracket, though that wouldn’t quite tell the whole story. Crawley’s voice is eerie and comforting at the same time and the band are doing a grand job. But it’s too laidback, lacking in energy and I could easily envisage Crawley playing in a lounge bar to 50-somethings on their first date. Pleasant but hardly arresting.
Anything else: The who’s who of the album credits lists members of Kiwi bands Bannerman, The Ruby Suns, The Checks, Artisan Guns and TinyRuins.
Title: The Singles Collection 2001-2011
Tell me more: With time to kill before another Blur album, Damon Albarn created a band that use pseudonyms, were illuminated as cartoon characters and dipped into hip-hop, dub, rock and whatever.
The Lowdown: The mix of styles was always the most captivating part of the Gorillaz. Blur may be a fairly straightforward rock/ pop band but Albarn has been to Mali and Iceland in search of new, exciting forms and to record in such places. After hearing Clint Eastwood for the first time I found it hard to comprehend that this was by the same person responsible for Britpop classics like Country House and Park Life. The track listing is pretty much in chronological order, with a bit of tinkering. 19-2000 has always been the most played Gorillaz track of all time both in its original form and as the remixed, beefier Lil’ Chief Dubbin, and alongside Clint Eastwood and last year’s On Melancholy Hill are the standouts. No surprises but a couple of versions end the collection.
Title: Surrealistic/ Thoughtghost
Label: Sarang Bang records
Tell me more: Surrealistic is the vehicle for multi-instrumentalist and Mellotron enthusiast Ben Furniss from Auckland. Since releasing his debut in 2004, Furniss has been spending a lot of time in groups such as The Broken Heartbreakers, White Swan Black Swan and Superturtle.
The Lowdown: There are clear but gentle strains of Superturtle, who’s 2010 album I reviewed on these pages click here and are subtly obvious on what is two mini-albums in one. The first six tracks of Surrealistic are uplifting, with plenty of hooks and harmonies. There’s some glorious melt in the ears moments here, such as the simple beauty of Even Deeper in Thought or the dreamy Tell Me When It’s Over. Surrealistic is over too soon, before Furniss switches to Thoughtghost, a near-minimalistic collection of semi-acoustic and languid tracks that allow the listener to wallow in peaceful thinking.