Best albums for winter listening

Photo by Andrew Wigdor / Sidelines Archive

There’s a certain type of sound that best accompanies the coldest nights of the winter months. Since many tend to find themselves curling under blankets for warmth, it seems preferred that the music we choose to accompany us reflects the frigid atmosphere that we attempt to shield ourselves from. Here are five albums that manage to really capture the soul of winter with their wonderfully chilly sounds.

James Blake – “James Blake”

The wide array of electronic components James Blake uses to compose his ephemeral songs give the impression that all sound is radiating from under heavy blankets of snow. As these muffled tones weave in-and-out of the London producer’s compositions, his fickle voice dances over them with quiet grace. Blake makes frequent use of artistic auto-tune so that his voice too becomes an instrument within his mixes, just as a lone individual can find themselves blending in with their snowy surroundings.

Radiohead – “Kid A”

“Kid A” was one of Radiohead’s greatest musical achievements for a number of reasons, each deserving of a proper write-up, but one of the most immediately striking comes from it being their first effort to detach from any semblance of their former sound as they ushered in the new millennia. From the very first subdued synthesizer notes on “Everything In Its Right Place” to the droning “Motion Picture Soundtrack,” the album’s exploration into uncharted synthetic territories is undeniably cold, but in this isolated atmosphere there exists an entirely captivating universe of avant-garde wonder, reflecting the disorienting yet refreshing perspective created by the winter season.

Sigur Rós – “Ágætis Byrjun”

Hailing from the frigid country of Iceland, Sigur Rós might as well exist on another planet. As if the breathy Nordic language sung by lead singer Jónsi wasn’t cryptic enough, their 1999 album, “Ágætis Byrjun,” which translates to “a good beginning” utilizes a plethora of diverse instrumentation ranging from synthetic drum pads, to ambient guitar notes strummed with a cello bow.  Despite the foreign nature of the music, Sigur Rós’ orchestrations have powerful transcendent effects that manage to instill a sense of wonderment to those willing to dive into their carefully constructed world.

The Microphones – “The Glow Pt. 2”

The desolate tracks that lay out the journey through “The Glow Pt. 2” can, in many instances, feel as bone-chilling as winter itself. Phil Elverum’s lo-fi folk odyssey never seems to lose its enigmatic qualities between listens and can often feel difficult to fully comprehend, but its elusive nature ends up being the album’s greatest quality, for with all its jagged compositions and mystical imagery, “The Glow Pt. 2” had cemented itself as one of the most overbearingly human performances in modern-folk. With song titles like, “I Want to Be Cold,” it’s just as wintry as you may think.

Bon Iver – “For Emma, Forever Ago”

The story behind Justin Vernon’s classic debut album is that in order to craft it, the songwriter took refuge in his father’s Wisconsin hunting cabin in which he spent the winter of 2006 in an isolated state, manically writing and recording the songs that would later make up the album. “For Emma, Forever Ago” reflects this creative process to a resounding degree, bleeding with resonant acoustic guitar and Vernon’s well-recognized falsetto vocals that, while densely layered on top of one another, give the impression of absolute solitude. The hauntingly sung lyrics of “All my love was down in a frozen ground” on the sentimental “Re: Stacks” are enough to create chills no matter where the temperature lies.

To contact Music Editor Hayden Goodridge, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

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