By Clayton Ambrose
It’s about that time, ladies and gentlemen. Time for that cool weather to grace our presence with its beautiful and steely chill, albeit for only once or twice a week. However, if those winter winds do ending up rolling up on your doorstep for actual consecutive days, you’re gonna look like a damn fool if you don’t have any music prepared. Luckily, you’ve got me to drop some records on your head for your cold evening strolls or your reclusive winter hibernation, either/or will do. This list also serves as a gathering of albums that you should listen to regardless, so when the brief moments of cold are eventually broken up by the heat again, I would still recommend giving these albums a go.
The Microphones – The Glow Pt.2) The Glow Pt. 2 can be best described as a cold campfire. The natural tones and textures are there, but the warmth in the acoustic guitars is not all encompassing. It’s a somber and dense record, so although it compliments a cold environment very well, it’s not meant to be taken as background music. There are great and fuzzy explosions placed sporadically over the album, but most of it takes place in an intimate and secluded space. You might picture Phil Elverum writing this album in a log cabin deep in the forests of Washington, but unlike Justin Vernon’s break-up record, Elverum’s is more fantasy laden, meditating on life and death and concluding with an epic samurai duel between man and polar bear. This may sound overwhelming, but trust me, this album will go perfectly with your hot cocoa.
Animal Collective – Sung Tongs) Sung Tongs, on the other hand, is a different side of the same coin to The Glow Pt. 2. Both albums play well into a forest-like aesthetic, but Sung Tongs is much more jubilant and festive. The bizarre acoustic instrumentals paired along with Avey Tare and Panda Bear’s yipping and hollering vocals create an image of something magic, like mystic but friendly creatures bounding up and down through the woods between the trees, which actually might be a good way to describe Avey Tare and Panda Bear. Sung Tongs is definitely not the most accessible of albums, especially if you’re not already an Animal Collective fan, but I find this record to be so rich in textures and emotion that it won’t be too hard to get the intended effect on first listen.
Frank Ocean – Blonde) Of course, winter music isn’t all acoustic guitars and campfire songs, as can be seen in Frank Ocean’s 2016 album Blonde. The nostalgic subject matter of the lyrics might be better associated with summer, but the sparse and low-key instrumentals brings to mind images of colder spaces. The album almost functions as a mental hibernation, where you hole up for the winter and explore the vast reaches of your consciousness, turning over memories in your mind as you let the cool air hit your face. If you’re one to take a memory trip too far down the rabbit hole, then maybe this album isn’t for you just based on it’s heavy sentimental power, but I’d recommend it anyway, because what is the winter season for but for unearthing old feelings and wrestling with your past, right?
Modest Mouse – This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About) When one thinks of cold weather and Modest Mouse, the obvious association to be made is with their 2000 album The Moon & Antarctica. However, I think their debut fits the bill more accurately and aesthetically. This is album conjures an image for me that’s more “frozen wasteland” than “cool winter’s night”, which may or may not be your cold season experience depending on where you are situated. The album provides a similar aesthetic experience to its album cover; a long trek through a blue-tinged nowhere. I mean, there’s a song on the album with the word “Tundra” in its name, for crying out loud. This Is A Long Drive… is almost aggressively atmospheric, and you may find that more skewed to your liking than a thick blanket to beat back the frost.
Duster – Stratosphere) Speaking of atmosphere, Duster’s 1998 album, Stratosphere, has got it in spades. As you can probably guess from an album with the genre moniker of “slowcore”, the album takes it time with some lush and loud instrumentals, allowing the listener to properly soak in the sonic experience, which I think is a core tenet of cold weather music and cold weather in general. As the year winds down, you take some time to absorb the year’s happenings, giving yourself some time to come to terms with the person you were and the person you’ve become in these 12 months. In this situation, Stratosphere is the perfect album for your chilly existential crisis.
Slint – Spiderland) Of course, there is also something sinister brought along with the changing of temperatures. For some, the loss of the warmth and the rise of the cold may be a looming obstacle that they must face for the four to five months they must sit and lie until spring rears its head again. If you’re one of these people, Slint’s Spiderland could be the album for you, unless you’re looking for a remedy. The album’s angular, discordant instrumentals behind the monotone storytelling of the vocals create an uncaring and malevolent picture, like a beast stalking you in the cold, cold woods. The mood it exudes is dark and oppressive, in a way that matches the coldest of winter nights. So yeah, make sure it gets some play time at your next Christmas party.