25 Essential Winter Songs
A couple of our most popular posts are our lists of essential summer songs. With another gloomy day on tap and winter looming just around the corner, it got me to thinking about essential winter songs. What makes a great winter song? To me, it's not about obviously being set in winter (although some songs are), it's a song that, in direct contrast to a summer song, makes me actively listen to it, savor it and let it sink in. A great summer song is sometimes just background music, while a great winter song is more substantial - it makes you think. It's hard for me to imagine just sitting and listening to music on a beautiful summer day, while cozying up to music is perfect in winter. It's almost like the difference between and easy-drinking summer wheat beer and a Guinness or a glass of red wine.
As an aside, just writing that makes me realize how much I can't even fathom living somewhere without seasons. I have absolutely no idea how you'd mark the passage of time without seasons, although people obviously have for eons.
Anyway, here are my 25 Essential Winter Songs
1. Piano Concerto No. 2 - Moderato, by Rachmaninoff: Since we're going for complex, why not start out with some dramatic classical music? Who better than Rachmaninoff, if for no other reason than he's the undisputed king of figure skating music.
2. Fallen Angel, by Robbie Robertson: This song was written as a tribute to Robertson's fellow member of The Band, Richard Manuel. These lines paint such an evocative winter picture:
All the tears
All the rage
All the blues in the night
If my eyes could see
You kneeling in the silver light
If you're out there can you touch me
Can you see me I don't know
If you're out there can you reach me
Lay a flower in the snow
3. The Ocean, by Dar Williams: I thought about choosing "February" by Williams, but this song brings the cold & rocky winter ocean to life.
4. Overkill, by Colin Hay: A solemn winter song of self reflection.
5. New Year's Day, by U2: Besides the obvious title, I associate this song with its snow-filled video and Poland (how come in my imagination it's always winter in Poland?).
6. Seasons, by Chris Cornell: Cornell's song song comes from the "Singles" soundtrack and therefore is burned into my memory as a song of gray & flannel - in other words, the winters of my youth.
7. Diamond Mine, by Blue Rodeo: This might be the perfect winter song as it's depressing, musically complex and from Canada.
8. You've Got To Hide Your Love Away, by The Beatles: Maybe I'm being both naive and overly romantic, but I always think of this song as hiding your love away in a cozy cabin with a fireplace and bearskin rugs. Knowing The Beatles, that's probably not exactly what they were thinking.
9. Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime, by Beck: This choice is obviously influenced by the fact that this song is from the "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" soundtrack and that listening to it makes me imagine Montauk in the winter or an iced over Charles River.
10. Ain't Understanding Mellow, by Jerry Butler: This is the perfect song to listen to with a glass of wine and somebody to love (or a Snuggie, whatever). At first you just kind of groove along to it, but then, like the wine, it spreads through you and warms you up and you want to just listen to it again.
11. Say When, by The Fray: The Fray have a knack for creating beautifully dark and dramatic music that's too good for a party or a crappy TV show.
12. The Immigrant Song, by Led Zeppelin: Honestly, I had no idea this song was about Vikings. Apparently the whole "we come from the land of the ice and snow" was completely lost on me. Now that I get it, it gets on the list.
13. Mind Flood, by Sam Roberts: Another long, complex song from Canada. This isn't as depressing as "Diamond Mine". Instead of conjuring up the sadness of winter, I feel like it brings to mind the majesty of winter and our small place in it all.
14. White Winter Hymnal, by Fleet Foxes: As close to a Christmas song as you're going to find on this list.
15. Wisconsin, by Bon Iver: Not only was this written in a cabin in Northern Wisconsin, it's also the murkiest song since the heyday of R.E.M. Listening to it is like being inside of a blizzard.
16. In A Lifetime, by Clannad & Bono: This song is a cold, Irish storm - to save yourself perhaps you should just stay inside the pub and have another pint.
17. Smoke, by Ben Folds Five: I think of the smoke literally like a typical autumn bonfire and after it's over you're left at the end with the dead of winter.
18. Pass In Time, by Beth Orton: After that depressing Ben Folds Five song, here's a song with a more positive message - whatever it is, good times or the dark winter of the soul, it will all pass in time.
19. Write It All Down For You, by Elliott Brood: Here's another happier winter song - in the sense that the crowd participation and inclusiveness of the music is like what might happen at a really cool family gathering (which, by the way, I'm totally going to suggest that we record a bluegrass song this Thanksgiving :).
20. The Way You Look Tonight, by Frank Sinatra: This is a city-in-the-winter song. I picture him singing it to a woman in fabulous faux fur.
21. Don't Forget Me When I'm Gone, by Glass Tiger: More Canadians! But really, if you're ever in a bad mood after dealing with the snow and cold, just watch the video. It's so full of ridiculously cheesy 80s goodness that it's sure to put you in a better mood, no matter the weather.
22. Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, by Gordon Lightfoot: This song speaks to my Upper Midwestern soul, but even if you're not from around here, you can still almost feel the cold waters of Lake Superior, can't you?
23. Blue Monday, by New Order: I don't think winter songs need to be downbeat - this is a great example of a dance song that has so much more lurking beneath the surface than just a good beat.
24. Skyway, by The Replacements: Another sad winter song about missed connections (pre Craigslist), isolation and stupid hats & gloves.
25. Ice Ice Baby, by Vanilla Ice: Yo, I couldn't resist.
Posted by at October 25, 2009 10:43 PM
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|# October 26th, 2009 12:51 AM BVBigBro|
"Fifteen under zero when the day became a threat. My clothes were wet and I was drenched to the bone. Been out ice fishing, too much repetition. Make a man want to leave the only home he's known."
|# October 26th, 2009 8:07 AM kris|
|That's a good one! I thought of Fallen Angel right away, so I didn't think of songs by The Band at all. |