Grace Notes is a weekly exploration by Jason Morehead of signs of common grace in the music world. We hope to alert you to wonderful music, some of which will be spiritual in nature but all of which will be unique and worthy of your attention. Each week we will share brief reviews of albums worthy of your attention and maybe a video or two.
On 50 Words For Snow, Kate Bush sings from the perspective of a snowflake as it drifts down from its cloudy birthplace to the ground, tells the story of a woman who has a love affair with a snowman, and has comedian/author/actor Stephen Fry recite 50 words for, well, snow. So you could be forgiven for dismissing the album as pretentious. It is pretentious. It’s also otherworldly, delightful, and constantly arresting. I’m occasionally reminded of Björk’s Vespertine, another wintry album full of wide-eyed wonder. But whereas Vespertine was full of chilly electronica, 50 Words For Snow feels warmer, more organic, and even playful at times. Album opener “Snowflake” drifts about on solemn, graceful piano lines and lightly brushed drums that lend the track a fittingly airy and contemplative feel. “Snowed In At Wheeler Street” is a passionate, romantic torchsong in which Bush and Elton John figure as lovers who keep running into each other across space and time. And finally, the title track, which features the aforementioned Fry, should fall apart on paper, but it becomes increasingly compelling and fascinating as Fry describes snow in terms common, poetic, and obscure as Bush cheers him on. For my previous “Grace Notes” column, I offered a list of albums that would make for perfect winter listening: go ahead and add 50 Words For Snow to that list. (Listen to 50 Words For Snow via NPR.)