Kate Bush's latest arrives loaded with topical anticipation. The overdue follow-up to The Red Shoes, Aerial is the English dream-folk singer's first album in more than a decade, a period in which her Mystical Art Woman persona was adapted to great commercial ends by Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan and other long-haired ladies fond of straddling piano benches. Interest in Bush increased last year via a widely circulated cover of her mid-'80s gem "Hounds of Love" by British post-punkers the Futureheads. And Aerial features string arrangements by Michael Kamen, who died two years ago; his work with Bush represents the final highlight of a wide-ranging career.
Whether or not the double-disc Aerial lives up to those considerable expectations depends on how deep your appetite runs for rainy-day piano plinks, breathy vocal exercises and lots and lots of birdsong. Nothing much on Aerial sticks out from the whole: Bush works up a mild Rainforest Café groove in "An Architect's Dream," and the stripped-down piano ballad "A Coral Room" may or may not be about 9/11. (She describes "planes...crashing down" but also mentions her "mother and her little brown jug.") Bush is great at inviting you into her world, less so at persuading you to stay.