Monday, January 2, 2012

November 2011 - Popular Music

Tori Amos - Night of Hunters
Tori Amos - Audience Bootleg - Glasgow, 5 December 2001
Sara Bareilles - Little Voice
Kate Bush - Hounds of Love
Kate Bush - The Red Shoes
Francis Dunnery - Tall Blonde Helicopter
Joni Mitchell - Hejira
Simply Red - Picture Book
Something for Kate - Desert Lights
Tears for Fears - The Seeds of Love

I actually listened to a lot more Kate Bush than this list makes apparent.  I just didn't listen to it in album form.

It was arguably triggered by the appearance of her new album, 50 Words for Snow.  The album was available for streaming online before it was released for sale. I listened to the whole album, then became utterly obsessed with the opening track.  I don't know how often other people find a song that they just want to play over and over again for a period of a few days.  For me, finding a new song to truly obsess over might only happen once a year. 'Snowflake' was probably my biggest obsession of 2011 that actually appeared in 2011.  Earlier in the year I stumbled across Janelle Monae's song 'Tightrope' and played it to death, but I was a year late with that one.

Around the time that 50 Words for Snow appeared online, I also embarked on a sizeable period (maybe a week?) where I spent a lot of time exploring Kate's previous body of work.  A new album from someone often seems to prompt that kind of behaviour, although it's something I also venture into at other times. I am naturally a 'body of work' kind of person - liking completeness and wanting to fit individual pieces into an overall context are part of my personality.

Modern technology makes it easy to just 'shuffle' everything together, which is what I did initially. I then made a playlist of my preferred songs (about a third of the total) and shuffled that.  I can't say that I adore absolutely everything Kate Bush has done. Some of her albums strike me as a bit uneven, but if there's one thing that she can, in her best work, nail better than almost anyone it's atmosphere. On the albums I regard as weaker, the songs I still respond to are often the ones that are the most moody (and often slower, but not always).  The Red Shoes, for instance, has some slightly bland songs on it - material that was supposedly envisioned for live performance which seems to suffer on CD - but it also has 'The Song of Solomon' which positively drips with passion and is one of the sexiest songs I know.

I also spent time going through most of her videos. Here is an artist who has created their own YouTube channel and done it properly. Instead of ignoring her history (ie everything before whatever is being promoted when the channel starts) it embraces it.  It seems to have every music video, including ones I wasn't aware existed. They're not all wonderful, but it's nice to see so much material available.

And some of them are wonderful.  I was quite pleased to discover that Kate herself was specifically proud of 'Army Dreamers' because when I first saw it a couple of years ago it struck me as an exceptionally good example of a video fitting its song in tone and mood.  And 'Cloudbusting' deserves its status as a classic video.

So that's my ramble for November, slightly delayed. I know it's particularly rambling, but I'm on holidays and my brain isn't available for careful editing. I guess the point is to say that while Kate Bush isn't always someone I love, she's almost always interesting.  And worth checking out - which can be done for free, legally!

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