Winter Albums To Warm You Up

Graphic+Courtesy+of+Daniel+Bernas
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Winter Albums To Warm You Up

Graphic Courtesy of Daniel Bernas

Graphic Courtesy of Daniel Bernas

Graphic Courtesy of Daniel Bernas

Graphic Courtesy of Daniel Bernas

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In October, I put out a list of albums that are best suited for the fall. This time, winter’s getting its own treatment. Here are 25 albums that are perfect for the coldest, snowiest months of the year.

 

Björk – “Vespertine”

Björk’s magnum opus, Vespertine is one of the most transcendent pieces of music…ever? I will tell you from personal experience that snowy nights + Vespertine + shoveling snow is truly beyond words in its beauty. There’s just something so majestic about how the songs on this record pair with the twinkling of beds of snow; each sound is like another snowflake hitting the ground. It’s like getting an up close view of something you’re not exactly meant to see.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wp6tAcjq0N0

 

Kate Bush – “50 Words for Snow”

Leave it to someone like Kate Bush to make a record like “50 Words For Snow,” a conceptual album about, well, snow. On this project, Bush takes things slowly, stretching 66 minutes across just seven tracks, testing patience (not in a bad way) while treating its cold concept in seven incredibly interesting ways that only Kate Bush could pull off, or even think of.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n32hOhNIqp8

 

Boards Of Canada – “Music Has the Right to Children”

There’s just something about Boards Of Canada’s classic 1998 debut that has the ability to warm up even the coldest of hearts. While many of these records complement the scenery in more transcendent, colder ways, “Music Has the Right to Children” feels like an addition to a snow day. It’s the musical equivalent to putting peppermint in your hot chocolate.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMRLlSPt7ak

 

Microphones – “The Glow, Pt. 2”

One of a couple that also appeared on my autumn list, listening to “The Glow Pt. 2” is like walking through a cold forest. Every note, every guitar string, every instrument is like another crunchy footprint in the snow. Its beauty is masked, but not compromised, by gloriously lo-fi production. It’s lonely, yet incomparably comforting.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WvWkUhszeE

 

Joni Mitchell – “Blue”

This is not simply from the fact that “River” is commonly considered to be a Christmas song. as “Blue” is one of the most beautifully melancholic, sentimental folk records ever recorded. Each song may be a different type of tear jerker, but there is nothing more charming than a Mitchell song, even ones as sad as “Little Green.”

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YuaZcylk_o

 

Adrianne Lenker – “abysskiss”

The Big Thief front woman’s 2018 solo record missed many people’s radar, but it is arguably the most enjoyable out of the three records Lenker has had a hand in over the past two years (both of Big Thief’s 2019 records). Dropping the mystical folk rock instrumentation usually backing her songs, ”abysskiss” is little more than Lenker’s nasally voice and hypnotic guitar. She sings with the insight of your grandmother on a cold February night.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PpR2AESAaY

 

Marissa Nadler – “Strangers”

What would the cold weather be without Marissa Nadler’s ghostly voice? On “Strangers,” the singer-songwriter presents her most dense sound pallet yet to deliver more of her haunting folk tunes. Wintery, atmospheric, cold, it’s Nadler doing what she does best.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSrwq-muXMg

 

Aphex Twin – “Selected Ambient Works 85-92”

Like many great IDM records, there’s some sort of layer of ice on top of every track. “Selected Ambient Works 85-92” is one of the most widely acclaimed debut records ever, and it’s easy to see why—especially as the warm atmosphere of this record has gone on to influence so many artists over the years.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWcLccMuCA8

 

The Knife – “Silent Shout”

Commonly considered the duo’s best work, “Silent Shout” is as cold as it is groovy, as nocturnal as it is textured. One of the better electropop records ever made, the dark nature of “Silent Shout” is masked by how fun it is to listen to, similar to how the beauty of winter distracts from its deadly nature.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcCQw4iv7uM

 

James Blake – “James Blake”

No list of winter albums would be complete without James Blake’s self-titled debut. An icy take on the sounds of art pop, alternative R&B and future garage, Blake’s baritone atop the soft, sensual instrumentals is heartwarming magic.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVgEaDemxjc

 

Skee Mask – “Compro”

The album cover to Skee Mask’s IDM and techno masterclass is what you see outside your window as you’re warming up inside with hot chocolate and chicken noodle soup and whoever that person is bringing in the firewood. It’s a glorious, textured, frozen hour of music.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ASPGNBKCsM

 

Regina Spektor – “Remember Us to Life”

Regina Spektor’s “Remember Us to Life” is one of those late-career albums that just works in every way you’d want it to. Its dynamic piano and dense orchestration set to simply-put, beautiful songwriting, Spektor’s seventh record is the soundtrack to an unexpected visit from an old friend, the kind of visit charmingly depicted in the closing track “The Visit.”

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYUDOEZ6BbU

 

Agalloch – “Marrow Of The Spirit”

One of the coldest black metal albums I have had the pleasure of listening to, just look at the cover of this thing and you’ll know what you’re in for: some rich, dense, dynamic, frozen black metal. This thing is gorgeous, it pulls at your heartstrings through its performances and, to me, is a perfect encapsulation of the famous February depression.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaaOpQpfRFA

 

Radiohead – “Kid A”

As every list of this kind will do, I had to put “Kid A” on the list. It really needs no introduction, but everyone else seems to love this during the winter, and I see no reason why you shouldn’t, either!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZq_jeYsbTs

 

Fever Ray – “Fever Ray”

More nocturnal than hiemal, Fever Ray’s self-titled debut stood for nearly 10 years as the only solo project from The Knife’s vocalist Karin Dreijer Andersson, and it’s only gotten better with time. It’s one of the coldest art pop records you will likely ever hear.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWFb5z3kUSQ

 

Laika – “Sounds of the Satellites”

It’s more than just the snow globe on the cover. “Sounds of the Satellites” is about as fun as an elementary school snow day. There’s something so endearing about Margaret Fiedler’s delivery and an all-encompassing warmth of the trip hop production Guy Fixsen and John Frenett. I feel like this record was made for making dinner and a batch of cookies while it’s snowing outside and you’re drinking hot chocolate, but maybe I’m just weird.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlk6xcs7LFQ

 

Bon Iver – “For Emma, Forever Ago”

Much like “Kid A,” every list of winter albums will have Bon Iver’s “For Emma, Forever Ago,” an album whose backstory explains its winter vibe perfectly. Dealing with illness and heartbreak, singer-songwriter Justin Vernon isolated himself in his father’s remote hunting cabin in Wisconsin. It was there that he wrote the songs that would make up the band’s groundbreaking 2008 debut. Going on to inspire many songwriters and folk acts in the 2010s, this album brings you to that remote cabin more than it brings it to you.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssdgFoHLwnk

 

Nico – “The Marble Index”

After being practically forced into The Velvet Underground, Christa Päffgen, aka Nico, began a surprising string of releases following the band’s hailed debut. While “Chelsea Girl” had the German model-turned-singer and Warhol superstar singing 10 folk songs written by other artists, Jim Morrison of The Doors encouraged Päffgen to start writing her own songs. Out came “The Marble Index”…in a way that almost nobody expected. An avant-garde staple, it’s a record that went on to influence darkwave and goth music as we know it and still stands a striking example of what can happen when you let a creative mind loose.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-n8Vqin2H34

 

Sigur Rós – “Ágætis Byrjun”

So many lists I came across online had one of two Sigur Rós records on it, this one and “( ).” “Ágætis Byrjun” showed up the most, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a record that presents itself in many forms, from shoegaze to dream pop to post-rock to ambient, the band wraps up so many genres in a thick layer of ice.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8L64BcCRDAE

 

Emperor – “In the Nightside Eclipse”

Another black metal staple. You could really listen to just about any black metal record as you stare out into the snow, but “In the Nightside Eclipse” is spellbinding in its cold mysticism. It’s truly transcendental, and listening to it feels like being transported into the bleak world presented on its cover.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgQRRI9goFg

 

Grouper – “Alien Observer”

Picking a Grouper record for this list seemed impossible, as “Alien Observer” and “Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill” are both perfect winter records. I talked about “Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill” on my fall albums list, and it’s easily my favorite of the two, but “Alien Observer” is, in my opinion, the second masterpiece in Liz Harris’ discography. While it’s far more on the ambient/drone side than “Dragging a Dead Deer,” its magic is similarly told through Harris’ stunningly intimate recordings that are lo-fi in nature, yet feel so upfront and in person. Transcendent and meditative, “Alien Observer” is one of the most gorgeous sets of sound you will ever hear.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb5ZCr3YkM8

 

Mount Eerie – “A Crow Looked at Me”

In literature, winter has always been symbolic for death. As the winter drags on, it’s not uncommon for people to find themselves in the darkest corners of their minds. Phil Elverum’s “A Crow Looked at Me” is maybe the most cutting encounter with death through music there is. Within the three months after his wife died from cancer, Elverum wrote and recorded this record in the room where his wife died, leaving behind their baby daughter. According to Elverum, he used “mostly her instruments, her guitar, her bass, her pick, her amp, her old family accordion, writing the words on her paper, looking out the same window.” If the colder months put you in full-on existential crisis mode, “A Crow Looked at Me” might allow you to sink into the world of death and come out a little more satisfied…or much more depressed. One or the other.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGESP0iePmQ

 

Julie Byrne – “Not Even Happiness”

This is simply just one of the most gorgeous folk records of the past decade. I’ve played this on snow days. I’ve played this on long, dark, snow-stormy car rides. It’s the kind of beauty that asks if you have a soul and begs it to come out.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gdO3qebP5E

 

Planning For Burial – “Below the House”

Shoegaze, post-metal, sludge metal, ambient, drone metal, and slowcore meet on Planning For Burial’s “Below the House.” It sounds like you’re having a mental breakdown in a snowed-in suburb. Just look at the cover. This thing is glorious.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViqoervsGyE

 

Sufjan Stevens – “Greetings from Michigan, The Great Lake State”

The ever-ambitious Sufjan Stevens’ “Michigan”…I mean, it’s about Michigan. Of course it’s a winter record.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7IMmsRGRpA