Each year, around this time, I find myself putting together a playlist for the winter season which I then broadcast on my weekly radio show on BBC Kent, and this year I was asked to contribute an article on the subject of the winter song to a lovely publication called The Barefoot Diaries. I’m a big fan of the seasonal song, they really take on a magical quality when listened to in the right context. The Summer song is very popular & always gets mass airplay on radio stations as soon as the first signs of sun come bursting through in May, but the Winter song gets a bit of a rough ride. Remember I’m not talking Christmas jollies here. The difference between summer songs & winter songs is (without stating the bleeding obvious) like the difference between winter & summer itself. The summer song is easy to nail – beach boys layered harmonies, a lyric celebrating love in it’s many forms, softly strummed acoustic guitar, light bossa nova rhythm, intro incorporates the sound of the ocean lapping on the shore & the mood is joyful & carefree. now let’s examine the winter song – a lone voice sings sings of love lost & cold lonely nights, the instrumentation is sparse & the rhythm slow to non existent, there are no sound effects to draw on to evoke the mood – the sound of snow falling anyone? melancholy & solitude rules the track. Not quite the mood most radio shows strive to create, but I’m a bit of a sucker for these tunes.
I’ve put together a playlist of thirty of my favorite winter tunes which travels from folk, soul, indie, electronic, disco & all points in between. Download here. Below are 5 of my particular favorites.
Winter Melody – Donna Summer
Summer (sic) was the queen of soft core disco, though this song is strictly speaking a soul ballad. The song represented the “winter” phase of her 1978 concept album, Four Seasons Of Love and speaks of a woman struggling to come to terms with the fact that her relationship has ended. It sort of rips my heart out every time i hear it, I don’t know of another tune steeped in so much melancholy.
2-21 Winter Melody
Winter Home Disco (Hot Chip Remix) – The Pictish Trail
Johnny Lynch is a Scottish musician who performs under the pseudonym The Pictish Trail. This is a song whose message is quite clear – it’s too cold to go out, so make your own disco at home!! originally released on icy – clear vinyl, the remix by Hot Chip plays with cliche of the winter song & adds sunshine drenched steel drums into the equation, giving you the feeling of euphoric warmth whilst dancing at your very own home disco.
2-01 Winter Home Disco (Hot Chip Remix) 1
While The Cold Winter Waiting – Trentemøller
Anders Trentemøller is a Danish electronic producer, dj and multi-instrumentalist who draws from sources such as techno, kraut-rock, shoegaze, folk, classical and soundtracks. This song from his 2007 album The Last Resort is a beautiful magical tune with some gentle sounds, acoustic percussion and sonic manipulations to spice things up. with a frosty, glockenspiel-laced ambience. It sounds a bit like the music that Santa would play in his Santa-mobile heading home from a hard nights work as dawn is breaking on Christmas morning
1-05 While the Cold Winter Waiting
White Winter Hymnal - Fleet Foxes
Taken from the 2008′s debut lp by the Seattle 5 piece, This chorale roundelay about a school trip to the woods in winter is just 52 words and two-and-a-half minutes long. Songs don’t get tinier, but Fleet Foxes pack their miniature tale with an eerie plot (“I was following the pack/ All swallowed in their coats/ With scarves of red tied ’round their throats”) repeated with slightly more instrumental oomph in each of the three verses and sung in the sweetest of Beach Boys inflected four-part harmonies. It’s a cold song on every level.
02 White Winter Hymnal
Winter – The Rolling Stones
Here they were in sunny Jamaica, recording their 1973 long player Goat’s Head Soup, and the Stones were writing and recording an entirely convincing and evocative picture of a Northern Hemisphere winter. Perhaps they were so happy to be escaping the season they felt that starting the sessions with “Winter” could transition them out of the old and into the new climate. Though it bemoans many of the negatives of the season [in the] lyrics… “Winter” seems to simultaneously celebrate the season as something inherently beautiful, with other evocations of holiday scenes and wanting to wrap a coat and keep a lover warm.
08 Winter (Remastered 2009)