Being a fan of all Kate's albums, it feels that she has in some ways come full circle, returning to the evocative simplicity of her early work but creating new moods and atmospheres that are fresh and intriguing. After listening to this for a few weeks, it has a special meaning to me. I often play it as a late evening chill out.
Just listening to her in the latest radio interviews, Kate clearly has never seemed happier and her musical Mojo remains undimmed. It seems she already has ideas for her next project and we will be hearing of her more often in the years ahead.
Not so much a collection of songs, but 7 short story 'tone poems'. I welcome Kate's experiment with longer song structures to lose oneself in.
Whilst I would admit this is not an album of catchy seasonal ditties, this album needs patience and repeated listens in order to fully appreciate its beauty. Kate is an artist who produces work on her own terms, free from the shackles of the demands of fan blogs and the music industry establishment.
My general impressions: Shut out the world, put on this album and immerse yourself for an hour uninterrupted in Kate's winter wonderland. Despite only a few listens, new details and elements of the stories are starting to develop in my head. This work is so organic, evocative and dreamy. Forget your troubles and the recession, just escape into Kate's alternative world.
Snowflake: Kate views snow as a substance transforming a landscape or garden with its physical beauty. Kate finds the world so loud and 'lowest common denominator' sometimes, whilst snowflakes are all unique and individual. With repeated listenings, the repeated piano and Bertie motifs become less intrusive and ghostly sounding electronic keyboard details emerge from the mix. Love's Steve Gadds evocation of horses through snowdrifts.
Lake Tahoe: Perhaps the most ambitious song on the album, Kate giving the song an almost classical feel. Stefan Roberts makes a memorable contribution, his opening lines remind me of the end of Hello Earth from the album Hounds of Love. The haunting theme of a dog's almost mythical journey to be reunited with its owner is simple yet atmospheric and moving. This is Kate at her storytelling best.
Misty: I love the almost jazzy feel of Steve Gadd's sunlime drum work. The sequence 'I turn off the light, switch on a starry night' is almost akin to an out of body experience, makes me think of the scene in the film Little Voice, when we first see Jane Horrocks character singing/playing music in her bedroom. 'When I kiss his ice-cream lips' is Kate at her musically bonkers best!!!
Wild Man: The most pop-oriented and perhaps the most immediately accessible track on the album, marking perhaps the beginning of the albums second section. Steve Gadd's hypnotic drums, Andy Fairweather Low's full and throaty chorus and Del Palmer's bells are highlights. Kate's interpretation is an intriguing mix of fear, pity and intrigue for the mythical Yeti.
Snowed In At Wheeler Street: Whilst not particularly well versed in the music of Elton John and despite the controversy evinced by some fans, I think this really does 'work', particularly with Elton's soulful delivery. The idea of the love and loss of friends and lovers by humanity as a universal trait through the centuries is great. Love Kate's increasingly frantic vocal towards the end.
50 Words For Snow: No Kate album is ever complete without a lighter, fun moment. Wacky, this song follows in the tradition of the Big Sky and the song Aerial, whilst keeping to this album's feel. I don't think this track needs to be over-analysed.
Among Angels: A return to the piano-based delivery of the first 3 songs, it is clearly not about snow. Quite simply this song is to me one of the most moving songs she has ever written in her whole career. There is an underlying theme of personal loss, perhaps partly inspired by the recent death of her father, but I feel there is a more general message, about self-belief. We often overlook that the beginnings of a resolution to inner conflicts lies within our own souls.