Kate Bush is one of the UK’s most enduring and iconic musical artists, with her fans continuing to show their devotion to her music despite her not releasing any new material in over a decade. Now, her 1985 hit ‘Running Up That Hill’ is enjoying a phenomenal revival in the charts thanks to Netflix’s Stranger Things, and a new generation of fans are now discovering Kate’s discography for the first time. While she has so far never made a genuinely bad album, some are certainly better than others. To help any new listeners looking to discover the queen of weird and wonderful British pop, here is a ranked list of the five best albums from Kate Bush’s illustrious career.
#5: The Kick Inside (1978)
Kate Bush’s debut, released when she was only nineteen years old, remains one of her most well-loved and influential albums. A lot lighter, more accessible and less experimental than her later work, it nonetheless remains an incredibly strong debut from one of the twentieth century’s most unique artists. This album spawned the immortal hit ‘Wuthering Heights’, as well as ‘The Man With A Child In His Eyes’ – the latter recorded, incredibly, when Kate was only sixteen.
#4: The Sensual World (1989)
Often overlooked in her discography, The Sensual World is nonetheless one of Kate’s richest and most rewarding pieces of work. Her storytelling here is as eccentric and imaginative as ever. Who else would write a song about a woman in the 1930s unknowingly dancing with Adolf Hitler (‘Heads We’re Dancing’)? Who else in the 80s would come up with an eerily prescient tale about computer addiction (‘Deeper Understanding’)? Other highlights include the stunning, string-based ‘The Fog’ and Kate’s most devastating ballad, ‘This Woman’s Work’.
#3: Never For Ever (1980)
This album is a transition point in Kate’s discography, melding the lighter sounds of her early music with the headier experimentalism of her later career. Opening track ‘Babooshka’ remains one of her most popular and entertaining singles. Other songs like ‘Army Dreamers’ and ‘Breathing’ touch on heavier themes of war, loss and the threat of nuclear annihilation. ‘Violin’ remains perhaps the most Kate Bush-y song to ever exist, with swooping vocals mimicking the screeching strings of a violin. This album is truly magical and baffling in turn.
#2: The Dreaming (1982)
The Dreaming was widely maligned and misunderstood when it was released, but it remains Kate’s most experimental and daring album, featuring Lynchian backwards-speaking vocals, donkey braying and screams galore. Each song tells a specific story from a unique perspective, covering topics such as the Vietnam War in ‘Pull Out The Pin’, the death of Houdini in ‘Houdini’ and the persecution of Indigenous Australians in the title track, ‘The Dreaming’. Though it was something of a commercial and critical failure in 1982, this album is now viewed as one of Kate Bush’s most daringly original and inventive creations. Artists from Björk to Tori Amos have credited it as a major creative influence in their careers.
#1: Hounds of Love (1985)
What else could take the top spot but the album that birthed the timeless smash hit ‘Running Up That Hill’? Hounds of Love was the ultimate comeback for an artist widely seen as being past her peak. Released to overwhelming critical acclaim and commercial success, it represents the perfect blend of Kate’s hit-making sensibilities and experimental impulses. While the first half of the album features sophisticated, radio-ready hits such as ‘Hounds of Love’, ‘Cloudbusting’ and, of course, ‘Running Up That Hill’, the second half – known as The Ninth Wave – is effectively a self-contained concept album featuring some of the most bizarre, daring and exhilarating music of her career.
The word “masterpiece” is thrown around far too often when describing albums. With Hounds of Love it seems like an understatement. It is not only Kate Bush’s best album, but also one of the greatest albums of all time.
Listen to the full album below: