The holidays are done, and now all there is to do here in the high desert is to settle in and try to survive the inversion. I’m kidding. Kind of. I love this valley, but I think we can all admit that January to April is not our best look around here. It’s cold, but sometimes not so snowy. And that darn inversion is killing us all. Ugh. It is for this reason that I like to have a carefully curated playlist for the winter months. I need it to explore a full range of emotions–the cozy comfort of snuggling in with loved ones, the bone-deep desperation of mid-February when it feels like it’s been dark forever, the anticipation of spring to come. Here are ten songs that cover the whole range of winter emotion.
Song for a Winter’s Night by Gordon Lightfoot: I love Gordon Lightfoot. He’s a fantastic lyricist, the guitar is perfect. He’s a troubadour in the finest sense of the word. The song evokes the romance of winter and will inspire you to cuddle up with your sweetheart in front of a crackling fire. This is why winter was invented.
Symphony no. 4 by Jean Sibelius: There’s a lot of dark and foreboding in this symphony. Perfect for the months where the sun goes down shortly after noon, or so it seems.
White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes: White Winter Hymnal is weird – there’s no getting around it, especially if you pay much attention to the lyrics. It’s one of those songs where you just need to get past the weird and enjoy the sound. I love both the original, folksy version by Fleet Foxes and the a cappella cover by Pentatonix, and the lyrics mention coats and scarves and snow, so it’s totally a winter song.
California Dreamin’ by the Mamas and the Papas. I was addicted to oldies in my teenage years. While my peers were fascinated by Pearl Jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, I was listening to the Beatles and the Mamas and the Papas. It’s just who I am. If you start singing “all the leaves are brown” I will respond with “and the sky is gray.” And then I will fully expect 4-part harmony, even if it’s just the two of us.
The Wild Swans on the Lake by Foy Vance. He’s an Irish crooner, and one of my absolute favorite singer/songwriters. You can’t go wrong with Foy Vance any season, but this one has that haunting quality of a silvery winter.
Symphony No 1 in G minor Op 13 by Peter Tchaikovsky: This one runs the gamut of winter feelings–from the delightful to the dreary.
Peace Piece by the Bill Evans Trio: One of my very favorite things to do in the winter is to witness a late-night snow storm. Not the blizzard-y thing where flakes are blowing in sideways-the soft, quiet, sparkly snowstorms that light up the night sky. I like to grab a blankie and sit at a window or on the front porch and just listen to the sublime silence of a snow-insulated street in the wee hours of the morning. This piano piece is the sonic equivalent.
La Mer by Claude Debussy: It’s the ocean, but it’s a cold, roiling ocean. Apparently Debussy was inspired in part by The Great Wave off Kanagawa,
and you can hear it.
Nine Below Zero by Sonny Boy Williamson: Winter seems like a great time to sing the blues. If this doesn’t make you want to wallow in the exquisite sadness of winter, I don’t know what ever will.
It’s the End of the World As We Know It by REM. This is not a political statement. Just so you know. I thought we’d end on an upbeat. It’s cold, it’s dreary, it seems like spring will never come. But I feel fine.