Monday, February 28, 2011
There is a common argument among music fans that typically comes up around the time when everyone releases their year end lists, and that argument concerns whether the song or the album is an artists greatest form of expression. I have always fallen on the side of the album, as there is much more space and time to create a narrative and mood. Yet every once in a while I will hear an individual song that puts me in the other mindset. Where albums can wax and wain, and create an impression over some 40 minutes, a song can be concise in a way that an album simply cannot.
Lately I have been filling some major gaps in my music listening, and Kate Bush is the latest one of those gaps. While I enjoy the three albums I have been listening to lately, one song really stuck out to me as the essence of what makes her such an amazing musician. "The Sensual World" is the lead track on the 1989 album of the same name. Kate is known for making highly eclectic music that draws on a broad range of influences, from world music to dance as well as folk. The sound contained on "The Sensual World" is a potent mix of 80's reverb haze mixed with an unmistakable and incredibly effective vocal. The lyrics concern a monologue given by one of the characters at the end of James Joyce's "Ulysses", although familiarity with the novel have no impact on the enjoyment of the song.
Its hard to put a pinpoint why I keep coming back to this song, so much so that I have listened to it 11 times in the last 5 days. For one Kate's vocal delivery is incredibly unique. The way that she ends every line with a hum and a sighing of the word "yes" is a fantastic hook. Although I hate to do this, the best word to describe it is sensual. Her voice oozes and drips with an emotion and longing to understand and love the world around her. As she comes off the page and into the world as a whole she realizes what is truely important and what she wants from the world and people around her.
Another selling point is the production. Lately there has been a resurgence of the reverb heavy almost shoegazy sound of the late 80's, and what better to sell the sound than a masterpiece from the era itself. Artists such as m83 have made a career out of recycling this nostalgia soaked eargasm wall of sound, and interestingly the tracks "Up!" and "Skin of the Night" off of m83's latest album Saturdays = Youth feature a female singer basically doing her best Kate Bush impression. The production here, while admittedly sounding a bit dated, is nearly flawless for what it is trying to accomplish.
Below I have my favorite Kate Bush album that I have listened to so far, The Hounds of Love. I won't get into why I love the album too much, I will just say that the way that the first half features incredibly catchy synth pop songs whilst the later half contains more soulful personal songs is an interesting and effective concept.
Kate Bush - The Hounds of Love