Here is a mix I made for winter. It was very cold on Florida, but nowhere near as cold as winters used to be for me. I kind of miss the sweet misery of the blinding frost. Here are 19 songs I put together to put myself in that frozen, distant mood I remember so well.
Many different styles and approaches represented here. I don't believe any of them set out to write a wintery song at all. It just kind of happens. A fateful arrangement in the weather patterns. Nobody meant to shield the sun. Many of these are instrumentals. Winter is the best season for instrumentals.
Download the Winter Mix:http://www.sendspace.com/file/if4upt
1) What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? -- Rufus Wainwright
2) Speed of Sound -- Chris Bell
3) Main Title Theme (Billy) -- Bob Dylan
4) Fairest of the Seasons -- Nico
5) I'm Walking This Road Because You Stole My Car -- Fascinoma
6) In Spirals -- Trey Anastasio
7) Assassination of the Sun -- Flaming Lips
8) Everything Merges With the Night -- Brian Eno
9) It Never Entered My Mind -- Miles Davis
10) Saudade -- Love and Rockets
11) Exit Wound -- Mike Gordon
12) Wot's...Uh, the Deal -- Pink Floyd
13) Red Rabbits -- The Shins
14) Slave to the Traffic Light -- Phish
15) One of These Days -- Neil Young
16) The Kids Don't Stand a Chance -- Vampire Weekend
17) Hotel Chelsea Nights -- Ryan Adams
18) Memphis -- The Benevento Russo Duo
19) Come -- Lemon Jelly
What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?
The only holiday song on this playlist, but it's more a moody piece of self-delusional mopery than a paean to any specific calendar day. The first time I heard this version of this song, I was in Starbucks, reading a few dozen pages of Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day. This song happened to play over a distant, coldly moving sequence during which Reef Traverse retrieves his father's body from the pillars of Jeshimon. A less-holiday-like sequence I can't possibly imagine, but the resonance behind the words was absolutely correct.
Speed of Sound
The world's chilliest vacuum exists between Chris Bell and the microphone as he sings this song. Hear the chords echoing off of the icy walls? It's quite easy to visualize the mists of his anguish. And it's also a really great song.
Main Title Theme (Billy)
The Royal Tenenbaums reappropriated this song as a shuffling Christmassy instrumental simply by pasting it over a sequence of Royal's family abandoning him in much the way that he abandoned them however many years ago. It's a perfect winter's day outside, with a respectfully sparse and clean snowfall, and as Royal is stabbed in the flank by his otherwise faithful manservent, one gets the feeling that somewhere, maybe just a block away, there are families wondering how the day could get any more perfect. But even without the Tenenbaums connection, this song will always remind me of winter as I have a vivid memory of driving home from work years ago in a treacherous snow storm, as this looped endlessly on my CD player. I had to keep spraying fluid onto my windshield to clear off the frost, and then spraying more to clear off the frozen fluid. It was a very dangerous trip. I made it through okay. The cuffs on my pants were frozen when I got home. I couldn't unroll them. For me, this is a winter song.
Fairest of the Seasons
More Tenenbaums here. If there's a better song to go with dead trees and undisturbed snowfall, I've yet to hear it.
I'm Walking This Road Because You Stole My Car
No wintertime memories to go along with this one, except the ones I invent while listening to it. If I were still up north right now, snowed in, huddled up for warmth with a blanket, a book and a cup of hot tea, this is the song I'd be listening to over and over again.
Not Trey's prettiest acoustic song, or the best, but the most fitting for all those moments in life that happen to fall between two extremes. (That is to say, nearly all of them.) I remember feeling compelled to listen to this endlessly when I was in New Jersey last, for New Year's a few years back. Every time I turned off my iPod, I kept hearing it. I think I heard it in my sleep. I think it's one of those songs that communicate their point so successfully that you don't even have to understand it.
Assassination of the Sun
One of my favorite Flaming Lips songs, from the post-Yoshimi period, when the band was sprinkling out songs like this (and hiding them on remix EPs) like they were nothing. We really expected that if this was throwaway material from their latest sessions, the next album would be nothing short of perfect. (It was everything short of perfect.) The lyrics are slightly overt, but the atmosphere is solid. Frozen solid.
Everything Merges With the Night
I never would have known it if you hadn't made me feel it, Brian. Now I can't imagine it any other way.
It Never Entered My Mind
The colder the night, the truer this one rings. If you don't close your eyes when this song begins and find yourself in a whole other world when you open them again, start it over. Don't let the bus leave without you. Not on a night like tonight. You can't afford to be left alone much longer. Daylight is, and has always been, so far away.
The coldest fireworks ever recorded.
This is the song that plays in your mind when you leave home the night after a blizzard without having dressed quite warmly enough, a guitar that you never learned to play slung low on your back and the promise to yourself that you will never walk these same streets again. You don't look back. At no point do you ever look back.
Wot's...Uh, the Deal
One of my favorite Pink Floyd songs. It does not control the weather, but can cause one to hallucinate very specific patterns. Has the ability to turn everything solid around you into mist. If you reach out and touch it to find that it's still solid, that's only because you've been turned to mist as well.
There's not one bad thing I can say about the Wincing the Night Away album. Except maybe that its title sucks. Beyond that, it's a remarkable tapestry of conflicting directions that turn out, in the end, to have worked in glorious, anarchic tandem. Red Rabbits is the children's song from hell. It's at the end of side two of a tape you bought them years ago. You never listened that far. They did. They didn't know what they heard, and they didn't like it, but they listened that far. The confusion scared them. It would have scared you, too.
Slave to the Traffic Light
What an icy, endless swirl this song represents. I remember shoveling snow to it, watching my shovel catch the sun, seeing the snow fall in perfect synchrony with Page McConnell's twinkling mini-solo on the electric piano. I remember leaving New Jersey to this song, as the stars revealed themselves in the sky, and the lights I was most familiar with disappeared beyond the horizon behind me forever. I remember Milena Ryan's head on my shoulder as I drove her through Montreal, the roads quiet, the night cool and impersonal...one human moment in a world that felt too tired to have them anymore. I remember sleeping outside after a hurricane. I remember a campfire dying at the end of Phish's final (at the time...) show at Coventry. I remember. One thing about the cold: it does an excellent job of preservation.
One of These Days
One of these day, I'm going to sit down and write a long letter to all the good friends I've known. And I'm going to try to thank them all for the good times together, though so apart we've grown. One of these days. One of these days...
The Kids Don't Stand a Chance
A special shout-out in Afterbirth. It's the only song that gets to go by its real name. It's got the only name that said enough with me having to step in and explain. I particularly enjoy the way this song cocoons itself. It begins as a gradual layering, but by the time it winds to a close, the instruments are all pulling tighter...too tight for comfort. It's the tightness of panic for security. It retreats into itself. It continues into eternity, but like a dead man in his car at the bottom of a snow-filled ravine, it's an eternity it shares with no-one else.
Hotel Chelsea Nights
If you ever wanted to make a movie about whatever it was that cowboys did around Christmastime, this would need to be on your soundtrack. I wouldn't recommend making that movie, though. All that dirt makes the snow ugly. It just sits there. Nobody plays in it. It becomes a nuisance. A reminder of the cleaner, happier winter that everybody but you has gotten to have. This song is a dirty spur cutting a low rut through somebody else's bad weather.
They say there's warmth in repetition. Or, at least, they should say that.