I’ll be honest, I’m a terrible music nerd - I have never heard a Kate Bush album. I try to intentionally not to listen to *too* much new music so I don’t develop listener fatigue, and because of that some influential artists get lost in the shuffle. But with the release of the critically adored album “The Turning Wheel” and a phrase that was often thrown around being that it was a modern take on a Kate Bush record, I took that as an excuse to finally listen to her 1985 classic “Hounds of Love”. And shit, this really is as great as everyone says it is.
It’s easy to see why so many people praise Kate Bush’s musicianship, especially on this record, because you can hear so much of her take on progressive pop in many art pop albums that are being released to this day. Produced entirely by herself, Kate uses her Fairlight synthesizer and a team of collaborators to make a record that is punchy and catchy while also forward thinking and even dramatic. There are two halves to “Hounds of Love”, Side A being full of pop songs while Side B is a conceptual piece titled “The Ninth Wave” about the survivor of a shipwreck trying not to drown before receiving help. But even though these parts are distinct from each other, I wouldn’t say either of them is radically different from each other or that one is 100% pop and one is full on experimental. The first half does have a bunch of progressive moments on top of the pop songwriting and “The Ninth Wave” is fairly accessible as well.
On each track, Kate sings with a dramatic theatricality that takes the music to new heights. Her singing voice makes each song sound larger than life, which is only helped by the lush synths, the grand background vocals (I love how she harmonizes with herself), the epic strings, the sparkling keys, the ripping guitars, and much more. While Kate clearly knows how to write a catchy hook and a beautiful melody, her lyricism has a form of poeticism that isn’t typically found in mainstream music, especially not in this time. Kate also tends to write about stories from the perspective of people other than herself, yet the way she writes about those people and their stories as well as her great vocal performances makes each song like it’s coming straight from her life circumstances. And even with such an accessible record, I feel like there are many layers to this thing that I will still be trying to unpack overtime.
Yeah, this thing is great. Even while it definitely sounds like an 80’s record, this definitely doesn’t feel dated in anyway, as I think this will be considered compositionally great even further down the line from when it was originally released. There’s no denying that “Hounds of Love” made such an impact on art pop and the shape that it has taken since, and I strongly urge you to not be dumb like me and just Kate Bush a listen already.