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Winter Music: Songs for Cold Weather

By Eamonn Morris in Arts & Culture

I find that during the winter, my musical preferences can change dramatically. The hard-driving, exciting music that I listen to during summer and fall just doesn’t seem to match the slow, quiet essence of winter. Music that would get me pumped to go out with friends on a summer evening simply will not work for a night with a good book and a cup of tea while snow falls softly and silently. If you’re feeling the need for some new music to match the season, you’re in luck- I’ve compiled a list of music from across genres that jives with cold weather and long nights. Enjoy!

“Night Passage”-- Weather Report A lot of pump-up music evokes balmy nights on the town or by the pool. This jazz-fusion album takes a different route, offering up hard-driving electric bebop grooves that nonetheless seem to evoke winter nights in New York or Seattle. Check out “Port of Entry,” the album’s third track, where keyboardist Joe Zawinul’s keyboard evokes the foghorn of a ship approaching slowly in the night-- until drummer Peter Erskine pulls the rug out from under the listener by doubling the tempo. This is exciting music you don’t have to feel bad about listening to driving home in a blizzard. “UTP_” -- Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto, and Ensemble Modern When I first listened to this groundbreaking concert-work-cum-album, it instantly evoked a night at home alone with snow flying imperceptibly through the air outside. Noto’s grains of electronic ice swirl in the fog during certain movements, while the Ensemble Modern’s string section drones silently on underneath with all the headlong momentum of a sheet of ice. Turn this one on when you’ve got some time on your hands-- it’s over an hour in length and you won’t want to listen to it in pieces-- and if you want to match with the perfect stillness of a dark, cold night. “Kid A”-- Radiohead Cold, cloudy weather does things to people. “Kid A” is extremely demonstrative of this idea. On this landmark rock album, Radiohead used electronic textures to put together a cold, dark, eerie winter soundscape, wherein resides singer Thom Yorke’s manic and rather paranoid narrator, who spouts incoherent jargon while vast, incomprehensible sound-masses build themselves slowly around him in the icy air. It’s disturbing, but “Kid A” is an effective catharsis for any winter-induced existential dread you may be suffering from. “The Light That Fills The World”-- John Luther Adams There is no classical musician on earth who understands winter better than Luther Adams, who has resided in Alaska since the 1980s and cites the winter landscape of that State as his main inspiration. This work, along with a couple of others on an album of the same name, evoke a sight familiar to Colorado residents- the day after a big snow, when the sun shines behind a blue sky and the earth is white with fresh snow. Rolling mallet chords mix with more sustained sounds to create the beautiful chords that Adams is known for, all while eschewing the cloudy weather that is most often associated with the winter season. “Hejira”-- Joni Mitchell Mitchell’s seminal 1976 album chronicles a road trip from coast-to-coast, depicting drab, grey, and cold landscapes from across the country during its languid journey. “Furry Sings the Blues” depicts a decaying New Orleans; “Song For Sharon” soliloquizes about a foggy and wet New York; “Amelia” is set amid the southwestern deserts, where during the winter the low Sun saps the color from the already barren landscape. The album is filled with inner landscapes too-- the barren fields left after a failed romance. “Hejira” is the most heartfelt and introverted of any of the albums on its list, and is artfully crafted from start to finish.

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