Very Specific Playlists is a weekly feature in which Jezebel staffers make very specific Spotify playlists based on their weird proclivities.
Of the times at work that I truly dread, few are greater than when one of my editors puts out a request for our song of the summer or song of the year. For some odd and—quite frankly—stupid reason, Julianne and Jia refuse to accept anything off of Kate Bush’s 1985 album The Hounds of Love, even though that’s where my all songs of summer and best songs of 2015, ‘14, ‘13, and so on came from.
Is this discrimination against me? Probably. Do I let it get me down? No way, man. I’m running up that hill, taking my shoes off, throwing them in the lake, and cloudbusting my way to righteousness. Kate Bush forever, I say, and will continue to say even as my coworkers plea with me to stop.
Here are just some of the things I love about Kate Bush: She has the voice of a mystical pagan angel. She’s weird and creative and tells beautiful stories with her music. Her perspective is distinctly female and she speaks directly to the heart in a way that few other musicians have ever accomplished. She lives on a crumbling cliffside in Devon. She’s into mimes. She performs the unexpected in ways that, through her, seem somehow both theatrical and natural.
But a person can’t solely listen to Kate Bush (actually, she can) and—for the sake of diversifying one’s tastes—should probably try branch out to music that, either in tone or in mood, reminds her of Kate Bush. If you are that person, this playlist is for you. For the full experience, I suggest you play it while wandering around wistfully in a foggy moor.
“Divers” by Joanna Newsom
What’s a better way to get you hyped for a playlist than kicking it off with a meandering seven-minute Joanna Newsom ballad about a woman and her diver lover. The beautiful plinks of the harp and lyrics like “I know we must abide/each by the rules that bind us here:/the divers, and the sailors, and the women on the pier” evoke Kate Bush in ways extending beyond the vocal quality that she and Newsom share.
Feeling turned up yet? I know I am!
“Queen,” Perfume Genius
I love Perfume Genius for many of the same reasons that I love Kate Bush. He’s eccentric and fun to watch, but also backs it up with a beautiful glam rock sound that I just can’t say no to.
“Life on Mars?,” David Bowie
Here’s a rarely played tune by an obscure artist who you’ve probably never heard of. His name is David Jones, but he goes by David Bowie because he’s a beautiful freak. This song, like the song “Hounds of Love,” always leaves me feeling like my heart is about to swell and burst, but, like, in a good way.
“Organ Blues,” T.Rex
The titular organ in T.Rex’s “Organ Blues” (annoyingly not on Spotify) creates a dreamy quality that makes me imagine floating on a cloud while surrounded by all the people I love. Plus, the line “we make feasties of the beasties” always makes me laugh.
Similarly dreamy but a little more modern and female, Grimes’ “Oblivion,” off her 2012 album Visions, lets you ride a looping roller coaster made of synth.
This song lacks the complexity of a Kate Bush song, but it’s gritty, stripped down, and weirdly sensual, so I like it anyway.
“Daniel,” Bat for Lashes
Bat for Lashes’ Natasha Khan cites Bush as one of her biggest influences and you can definitely hear it on 2009's haunting (but dance-y) “Daniel.”
“Never Ending Circles,” Chvrches
With its heavy ‘80s influence, the chorus of “Here’s to taking what you came for/And here’s to running off the pain/And here’s to just another no man/If you want another/Say you need another!” explodes out of singer Lauren Mayberry’s voice box in a way that can only be described as Bushian.
“Buzzcut Season,” Lorde
Maybe it’s the wild hair, maybe it’s the freaky-deaky dance moves, maybe it’s that they’re both prodigies who took creative control of their careers at a very young age, but Lorde, mark my words, is a Kate Bush in the making.
“Vesuvius,” Sufjan Stevens
“Vesuvius,” off 2010's Age of Adz, starts in the melodic and symphonic style we’ve come to expect from Sufjan, but then turns into a chaotic and exciting aural tangle about half way through. You cannot dance to it, but you could probably let it inspire some pretty wacko performance art if you wanted to.
“Prince Johnny,” St. Vincent
In the BBC documentary The Kate Bush Story: Running Up That Hill, St. Vincent (a.k.a Annie Clark) gushed about “Wuthering Heights,” saying, “There aren’t that many pop songs that have two or three key changes in them...It’s so brilliant. It’s so memorable.” Later, in the same doc, she remembers going to buy Sensual World. “I remember putting it in the shitty car stereo on the way home,” she says. “And my life was forever changed.”
“Hong Kong Garden,” Siouxsie and the Banshees
Lyrically, you could make the (winning) argument that this song is more than a tad offensive, but I can’t help but love the sound so goddamn much.
“When Doves Cry,” Prince
Another song that most of you have never heard before! Lady Babooshka meet Purple Royalty. You two weirdos will get along great, if only for your mutual love of metallic fabrics.
“I’m Kissing You,” Des’ree
This song wasn’t originally on my playlist, but when I went to look up songs on Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet soundtrack in the hopes of finding a sharable cover of “When Doves Cry” on Spotify (I didn’t, by the way), I was reminded of this beautiful Des’Ree song that—when squinting my ears—vaguely reminds me of Bush’s “This Woman’s Work.”
“Big Time Sensuality,” Björk
Did you really think we’d get through this without any Björk?
“California Nights,” Best Coast
One of my favorite things about Kate Bush is her ability to make me feel nostalgia for a memory I don’t actually have. Best Coast’s “California Nights” does the same thing, only rather than place me in a rolling English country side, it lets me drift on a pool float, comfortably stoned, as the sun sets in L.A. In fact, I’d really like to be in that fake memory now.
“The Cutter,” Echo & the Bunnymen
Speaking of songs that put me in a specific place at a specific time, I’d like to close on “The Cutter” because it always reminds me of the ‘80s when I attended uni at Bristol and it was around this time that I, in this completely fabricated memory (I’m 29 and American), first discovered Kate Bush. Remember when we camped out in the rain for tickets for the Lionheart tour? Heady days, man. Heady days.
“Wuthering Heights,” Kate Bush
Just kidding. I’m ending with Kate Bush because she’s irreplaceable.
Art by Jim Cooke.