As I mentioned about a year and a half ago, I have the habit of associating music, for better or worse, with seasons. I suspect it has something to do with the things I need from music being very different from season to season, or maybe it’s my tendency to see colors when I hear music, combined with the fact that we all associate certain colors with certain seasons. At any rate, as the cold weather is now (presumably) here to stay, here are some albums that can act as aural blankets to keep you warm through those long winter nights.
Bob Dylan, The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11
A cult classic among Dylan fans since its recording, over the course of 1967 in homes around Woodstock, NY, The Basement Tapes gets a full treatment on the November 4 release from Legacy. Collected in this 6-disc extravaganza are, for the first time ever, the full recordings from these hallowed sessions between Dylan and The Band. These songs are relaxed and full of the particular comfort of home recordings. There’s no pretense here, just some gifted players and writers getting together and exploring folk, rock, Americana, pop and R&B with a laid-back alacrity that feels intimate and endearingly haphazard. Just imagine you stepped in from the cold to hear your (extremely talented) friends tinker away on some laid back jams.
Atlas Sound, Logos
For my money, Logos is Bradford Cox of Deerhunter’s best album in general. The songs are imbued with a feeling of closeness that draws the listener into the warm imperfection of Cox’s voice. Songs of love, alienation, nostalgia and pain push the listener into a reverie that is perfectly paired with a glass of red wine in front of the fireplace.
Grizzly Bear, Yellow House
The most insular and stark of Grizzly Bear’s four albums, Yellow House feels exactly like a warm and dimly-lit room in the middle of a violent snowstorm. Full of lush harmonies and cinematic sweeps, this album is an ideal wintertime companion.
Beach House, Teen Dream
Despite its coastal name, Baltimore outfit Beach House makes music that is patient and slow and lit with the orange glow of Victoria Legrand’s toasty and thick voice. Teen Dream oozes intimacy and provides the perfect soundtrack for contemplative cuddling.
Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
Something about lofty and harmony-rich folk music seems to fit well with the mood of winter. Fleet Foxes self-titled debut album, chalk-full of stunning harmonies, wintry tales, and rousing songs of place and time, sounds older than it is and feels like a walk through the snowy woods, followed by a hearth-side cup of hot chocolate.
Bright Eyes, Fevers and Mirrors
This classic Conor Oberst album, from way before he retired the Bright Eyes moniker, stands as a perfect example of emotive and self-exploratory indie-folk. Besmirched throughout with haunting images of barrenness and expansive cold, the everyman warmth of Oberst’s frail voice becomes the healing center of each song. These are refreshingly depressing songs for whiskey nights and snowed in days. Each, in their own way, reminds the listener of how much warmth the world has to offer, even in the face of metaphorical and/or actual freezes.
Shovels & Rope, O’ Be Joyful
What could be more heart-warming than a husband and wife folk duo, singing contemporary songs of love and struggle in the styles of yesteryear? This South Carolinian pair perfected their unique Americana alchemy on O’ Be Joyful, their second album, and the results are as pure and comforting as an Appalachian campfire.
Doug Sahm and the Sir Douglas Quintet, The Complete Mercury Recordings
A Texas treasure, Doug Sahm and his Sir Douglas Quintet are the fathers of the Tex-Mex sound. Their music, journeying through country, to Tejano, to classic rock and back by way of the blues, is full of warm colors and vibrant sounds. With so many gatherings taking place over the winter months, Sahm and company can help you liven things up and offer a little something for everyone. The Complete Mercury Recordings give a definitive look at this truly classic outfit.
Elliott Smith, XO
Probably the most ‘no shit’ masterpiece here, I couldn’t have felt right about making such a list without Elliott Smith’s magnum opus XO. The contrasts between warmth and coldness abound on this album, sonically and lyrically. With Smith’s beautifully glowing voice at its center, XO feels like that deep religious experience I kept hoping might happen, all those years ago, as my family and I filed in from the cold to worship ‘the reason for the season.’
VA, Dark Sweets, A Moahaha Mixtape (from Holy Warbles blog, 2011)
Culled from tracks from 50-100 year-old 78s, this freely downloadable mix by blogger and audiophile Moahaha really hits the sweet spot. Weird and warm, these songs were specifically chosen to be paired with the winter months, even has they lead you down little-travelled roads of the musical past. Grab the compilation for free: tinyurl.com/q4kz2n9.
Blowing Trees, Wolf Waltz and the Big Nothing Now
Local indie rock heroes Blowing Trees may be on an indefinite (probably forever) hiatus, but the band’s last release, 2011’s Wolf Waltz and the Big Nothing Now still holds up exceedingly well as a testament to their greatness. Full of lyrical images of various notions of freezing, the album, with its head roaming the romantic wilderness and its heart stranded in a decaying city, is perfect for long cold nights spent raging against the abyss. You can download it for free at blowingtrees.bandcamp.com.