It's easy to follow in Kate Bush's footsteps, or rather footprints, when she's walking in the snow, as she does on her frosty new disc "50 Words For Snow." Closest in mood to her 2005 "Aerial" set, right down to the mini-epic length of the seven songs (the shortest track clocks in at just under seven minutes), the disc feels like the musical equivalent of a snowstorm. That's especially true of "Snowflake," which triggers the hypnotic sensation that occurs while sitting in a window and watching the snow blanket streets, sidewalks, houses and trees. The weather intensifies on "Lake Tahoe," although it's not quite a blizzard. Of course, once the snow has fallen, what's left to do but build a snowman – as Bush does on "Misty"? Already a favorite among gays, Bush cements her status with cameos by her royal highness Elton John on "Snowed in at Wheeler Street" and out actor/writer Stephen Fry, who supplies the voice of the character Prof. Joseph Yupik on the dazzling title cut.
Tori Amos is probably the artist most frequently compared to Kate Bush. Early in Amos' career, when the focus was on the piano and her voice, the Bush comparisons came fast and furious. With her ambitious new album, the 21st century song cycle "Night of Hunters," she bravely explores another avenue. It's not all that surprising to find a classically trained musician such as Amos, moving, if only momentarily, in this direction. After all, Rufus Wainwright, the closest thing that Amos has to a contemporary, has written an opera. Joined by daughter Natashya Hawley on several tracks and accompanied by the Apollon Musagète Quartet and Andreas Ottensamer, principal clarinetist of the Berlin Philharmonic, Amos pays homage to Chopin, Satie, Bach, Schumann, Debussy and others through a series of variations based on the composers' themes. In spite of the distinctly non-commercial nature of the recording, Amos fans are certain to find tracks to their liking, such as "Job's Coffin" and "Your Ghost."
While Miss Tori is off investigating classical pastures, French pop chanteuse Emilie Simon goes for a distinctly vintage Kate Bush vibe on "The Big Machine." The Bush business is especially strong on cuts such as "Rainbow," "Nothing to Do With You," "Chinatown" and "The Devil at My Door." You might think this Kate copycat would get tiresome, but there's actually something charming at work. Simon emerges as her own performer, particularly on "Ballad of the Big Machine," "Dreamland," "Rocket to the Moon" and "This Is Your World."
You can hear traces of Kate and Tori, as well as Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) on "Love Is Won," the timeless opener on "Grown Unknown" by Lia Ices. The same can be said of dazzling tracks such as "Little Marriage" and "New Myth." Ices even skirts Enya's environs on the airy "Bag of Wind," then explores uncharted regions on the aptly named title cut. By the way, that's Bon Iver's Justin Vernon on "Daphne."