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Sounds for snowfall: Albums to get you through the winter


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There’s no denying that music is both universal and subjective. However, there’s a certain power in associating music with seasons of the year, especially what is arguably the most poignant of them all: winter. This transcends your average trite holiday music; I’m talking about songs that paint portraits that are integral to the experience. In that regard, here are some albums to help you through the remnants of the season.

Albums best enjoyed in the morning with cups of coffee/tea

  • In the Wee Small Hours (Frank Sinatra, 1955) – Evoking the image of a street on a silent night awash with soft street lights and pure desire, this Sinatra album embodies smoothness and sentimentality in its reflections on lost love and loneliness, and is perfect to listen to just as the sun peeks over the horizon.
  • The Creek Drank the Cradle (Iron & Wine, 2002) – A beautiful folk rock album that prides itself on its intimacy, with the fuzzy vibe of the songs’ lo-fi production and the poignant, whispery voice of Sam Beam wrapping listeners in warmth and coziness.
  • Hospice (The Antlers, 2009) – One of the most heart-wrenching listens of the past decade, this indie rock concept album details the relationship between a hospice worker and the terminally ill patient he’s tending to. Its scope, presentation, and prioritization of textures over instrumentation makes it less of an album and a far more cinematic experience.
  • Minecraft: Volume Alpha (C418, 2011) – The first of two ambient soundtracks made for the game, this album is built on a chilled-out atmosphere that ebbs and flows from crescendoing highs to hushed lows and has a power to immerse like few albums in recent years possess.
  • Carrie & Lowell (Sufjan Stevens, 2015) – As it serves as an elegy to Stevens’ late mother, C&L is a trip to the bottom of the self and a confrontation of the grief, confusion, and sadness experienced along the way. Much like Creek, it bears a snug lo-fi sound that hosts a beautiful coalescing between acoustic instruments and electronic ambience.

Albums for daytime drives

  • Kid A (Radiohead, 2000) – My all-time favorite album from my all-time favorite band, and a historic example of an album that wasn’t made for mass appeal. Kid A mixes alien electronics and frosty acoustic instruments to create an apocalyptic atmosphere that can be depressing, uplifting, terrifying, and utterly awesome all at once.
  • Michigan (Sufjan Stevens, 2003) – The wintry Sufjan album for those who are not as prone on having their heartstrings tugged. A heartwarming, emotionally saturated, and conceptually rich ode to Stevens’ home state (as well as mine).
  • Give Up (The Postal Service, 2003) – A wiser and less hormone-fueled precursor to Owl City, as well as a side project of the lead vocalist of Death Cab for Cutie, this album tells stories of love and relationships through an interweaving of excellent lyricism and bubbly, upbeat ’80s new wave-esque synths.
  • Takk… (Sigur Rós, 2005) – A perfect sonic encapsulation of the winter wonderland you always dreamed of in your childhood, with all of the feelings of wide-eyed marvel, urges for adventure, and cloud-blotted bright skies compressed into a fantastical hour of music.
  • pook (bsd.u, 2017) – In the latest project from a producer credited as the progenitor of “lo-fi hip hop”, groovy samples, irresistible drum swings, and vocal stabs from old hip-hop songs coalesce over smooth layers of fuzz and static to create a near-tastable silky and buttery flavor of music.

Albums for introspective nights

  • Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely (Frank Sinatra, 1958) – For those who wish for an even more emotive endeavor within the Sinatra sound, Only the Lonely is for you. With an enhanced and more refined grasp on melancholy, this sincere and stirring ode to heartbreak begs for listeners to get lost in its world.
  • In a Silent Way (Miles Davis, 1969) – Although it’s not Davis’ most iconic and widely acclaimed work, there’s something about the mellowed, subdued purring of In a Silent Way‘s fusion jazz sound that creates a coldly seductive and utterly irresistible allure.
  • Ágætis byrjun (Sigur Rós, 1999) – The perfect Sigur Rós album for those who prefer to spend their winters in their thoughts and not in the snow, this album runs on lengthy songs that all carry an ethereal and dreamy sound that wraps itself around the wintertime zeitgeist; although some evoke images of reflective mornings (“Starálfur”, “Olsen Olsen”), the album procures most of its power from the sensation of moody nights (“Flugufrelsarinn”, “Svefn-g-englar”).
  • Soon It Will Be Cold Enough (Emancipator, 2006) – An album that truly embodies the word “wintry” through mesmerizing, chilled-to-the-core downtempo trip-hop that truly turns snow into sound.
  • Burial (Burial, 2006) – Awash with lush background noises, scattered vocal samples, and rumbling percussion, this brooding ode to the rave scene of the United Kingdom shifts and jerks in a truly unpredictable fashion. While it generally creates an atmosphere not dissimilar to a dimly-lit alley, there are occasional moments of pure ambient beauty (“Night Bus”, “Forgive”).

Included below is a Spotify playlist of handpicked favorites from each album. Hopefully as you’re taking time to reflect and recollect, these albums may be by your side.

Featured image designed by Sam Mwakasisi, original artwork used according to fair use guidelines

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Sounds for snowfall: Albums to get you through the winter