So many great albums are intrinsically attached to the quintessence of a season.
Music has this incredible ability to mimic the tone of reality with a combination of timbre, texture, chords and melodies. And of course there’s the subject matter. Each year when winter descends, music with a sombre temperament usually makes its way out of the gloom to once again accompany us through those long, cold days.
And there’s something pretty comforting about this. Here is part 2 of our series of records with an icy heart: essential winter listening.
Yeah it’s getting damn cold, but sometimes you just have to roll with it. Here are 7 essential winter albums that, although cold as ice, might very well warm your heart.
Elliott Smith – Either/Or
In an interview Elliott Smith once lamented the connotations of sadness that are automatically attached to his music and the ‘singer/songwriter’ label in general, saying “You can take a picture of New York and one person looking at will think it looks really depressing and frightening and someone else will look at it and think of all the fun things you can do in New York, you know I think songs are kind of like that.”
Whatever frame of mind you’re looking at Elliott’s music through, it seems to naturally pair itself with the cold and rain of winter, and if that frame of mind so happens to be one of sadness, then Either/Or is the perfect remedy for the winter blues – or conversely the album to nurse you through your funk until you’re ready to leave it.
His third album plays the role of a halfway point between the early minimalist basement four-track recordings of his early work, and the brightly polished, almost orchestral styles of his later albums. Subtly introducing touches of more instruments and a somewhat higher quality of production, combined with the unique way that Elliott layers his vocals, it all gives the record a great sense of warmth.
It helps that the album contains some of the so called Unsung Genius’s fan favourites (I’m sure he would’ve lamented the term ‘Unsung Genius’ as well), with tracks like Ballad of Big Nothing, Between The Bars, Angeles and Say Yes, something about the whole record will just warm even the iciest soul. – Josh Grech
Tom Waits – Rain Dogs
Tom Waits is a pinnacle artist for any winter playlist; Waits’ contrast between grim dispositions and snark humour seems as though perfectly tailored for any grey and murky winter day. If you happen to find yourself out of pocket precariously nailed to the outer walls of a jazz bar, Tom Waits is for you.
If the ravening clouds rumble over town impeding the view of city lights, along with it any signs of a feasible rapture, Tom Waits is for you. If you ever wished to be consumed by romances of love, death, lust and joy topped off with all the biting humour a drop of red plasma could provide, Tom Waits is for you.
Rain Dogs remains one of his most celebrated releases, and rightly so. This album is Tom Waits in a nut shell; everything from his twisted humour and witty charm, to his unruly narrative driven execution is up for scrutiny. So this winter, do yourself the favour; please enter and enjoy the world of Tom Waits. – Alan Gojak
Daughter – If You Leave
What can be most chilling about winter is the lack of sunlight. The poor sods of Daughter only get around 4 hours of light per day. So no wonder their music is very much on the sadder side of life. The first track is very aptly titled Winter, and it exudes that frosty space you might see on an early morning in the city.
Although the soft screams of a distant guitar will give you the chills, the more intense, yet soothing nature of the lyrics and melodies will ease you into a wallow of those wintery feels. All of the tracks feature very powerful albeit the melancholic lyrics.
“Setting fire to our insides of fun”, “I sometimes wish I’d stayed inside/my mother never to come out.” Paired with the spacious acoustic and electric guitar melodies, the soft vocals and the thump of the drums, Daughter persuade you to feel comfort in sharing their sadness. – Georgia Love
Thomas Köner – Daikan
Absolutely boring, too long, didn’t read, troo kvlt hipster ambient music. It won’t warm the cockles of your heart, but just like the overcast skies and dead trees makes you long for the shorts-positive summer, this deadbeat artsy music will probably put you in the opposite place.
And probably remind us that the hedonism of summer and the depression of winter aren’t seasons, they’re just the vibe of your heart. – Nick Hartman
Alex Turner – Submarine soundtrack
If you haven’t seen the film, like these must-listen winter records, Submarine is a flick you need to devote yourself to on a slumber rainy afternoon. Alex Turner showcases a modest 6-song soundtrack with a shy demeanor and mellow undertone.
There is definitely a perturbing sense of vulnerability – relevant to the film’s stroppy protagonist, though it will also leave you feeling nostalgic of the Arctic Monkeys Cornerstone glory days. It is refreshing seeing Turner stripped back to a purely acoustic solo compilation that is highly self-reflective as much as it alludes to naivety and adolescent yearning.
Essential listens are Stuck On A Puzzle and It’s Hard To Get Around the Wind that are sure to inspire bittersweet romance even just on an imaginative level. – Harriet Wolstenholme
Eels – Beautiful Freak
Richard Kingsmill has been quoted as saying that the seminal 1996 record by Eels sits in his top three albums of all times. And while front man Mark Oliver Everett wouldn’t know Kingsmill from a red nosed wino on the corner, it’s an endearing thought that The King holds Everett in such high regard. Emotionally flayed and exquisitely executed, the record is deep, dark and excruciatingly raw.
With samples from Gladys Knight, Fats Domino and Al Green, Everett lays all to bear in the wake of the kind of loss most would find unbearable. He wraps it in an array of bells, tinselled fuzz and sharp heart breaking analogies brought home in baritone croon to die for. Fuck it, I’m going over to Susan’s House! – Radi Safi
The Smiths – Hatful of Hollow
The Smiths in any context fit the picture of a miserable winter season existing in melancholia and emotions of yearning. Morrissey’s monsoonal drones combined with the band’s miserable lyrics always guarantee a gloomy mood despite how unsettlingly upbeat the instrumentals can become.
Hatful of Hollow is no exception to their golden rule, however it features some of their most renowned work on a 16 track record – notably Please, Please, Please (Let Me Get What I Want), This Charming Man and How Soon Is Now that will inspire some eighties nostalgia and cravings of a depressing colour palette. It will cut you deep like a winter chill cuts your face. – Harriet Wolstenholme