It’s wintertime here in the Northern Hemisphere. While the imminent doom of climate change has created more warm days and less snow in some places, extreme blizzards and storms still ravage others. Even El Niño has dumped rain upon drought-ridden Southern California, forcing Angelenos to curl up with thick blankets and wool socks. But music can make all the difference in your mood if you’re tired of winter’s soggy, frigid wrath. To cure some of those winter blues brought on by the endless winds and grey clouds, we’ve compiled a list of 10 songs that’ll warm you right up.
The Fleet Foxes’ ode to winter tells a simple story of a kid running out in the snow only to plop down into the deep fluff. Yet, the band’s unparalleled harmonies and musicianship make it significant. There isn’t another modern winter song that harkens back to Christmas carol traditions while appealing shamelessly to Millennials. Listen now, and thank us in the spring.
“Hoppípolla” may be an obvious a choice from Sigur Rós’s vast catalog, but this song (which translates into “jumping into puddles”) from the Icelandic group is borderline perfect. Icelanders have a very close relationship with nature and that’s clear from this song, as the beautiful piano melody and drums perfectly mirror the beauty derived from a storm. It’s a song full of contentment, nostalgia, and whether you’re driving through the gorgeous snow-capped mountains or driving through a snowstorm to work, it’ll make you do a double-take and better appreciate winter’s power and beauty.
Bon Iver’s name is literally a play on the French phrase, bon hiver, or good winter, so inclusion on this list is pretty much mandatory. Bon Iver’s atmospheric meditations of life and love are tailor-made for the long days spent inside staring at the snow. While “Skinny Love” or “Holocene” have sadder undertones, “Minnesota, WI” is more energetic, and equally elegant. The song builds, swells and creeps its way into your bones. Bon Iver is seductively pretty, and just listening to Justin Vernon croon over elongated synths is enough to warm you during a particularly cold day.
“Vesuvius,” off 2010’s Age of Adz, builds slowly. It begins with just piano, guitar and Steven’s whisper of a voice, evoking a prayer to the destructive mountain and a reflection on doubt and next steps taken. But over five minutes, the song wraps itself around you with its ever-complicating notes. By the end you feel confident and ready for whatever is next, even if it’s just the mundane task of having to scrape a bunch of ice off your windshield in -10º weather.
The Postal Service, with it’s twee take on electronica and Gibbard’s heart-wrenching lyrics, is perfect music to comfort you as the weather slowly ruins your plans. “Brand New Colony,” takes a slightly hopeful view, especially with the lines “I’ll be your winter coat buttoned and zipped straight to the throat. With the collar up so you won’t catch a cold.” Cue the “aww’s” those lyrics elicit. When the snow is too deep and some hot chocolate and a thick blanket seem necessary, let Gibbard and co. keep you warm with visions of a “Brand New Colony.”
The piano is winter’s official instrument. There’s something about the delicate pulsing of keys that is a perfect auditory representation of the season. The National puts the piano, along with deep drums, to brilliant use in this under-rated song. The band employs a minor key to bring you in, and the heartbreaking lyrics keep you there. The song never fully builds into the bombastic sounds it hints at, but keeps a steady pulse of those piano keys, not unlike the falling snow, that creates a contemplative, nostalgic mood fit for winter.
Radiohead was made for winter. The sparse notes, unpredictable key changes, and somber vocals perfectly mirror the strange season of winter. It matches the dying leaves, the slowly falling snow, the deceivingly warm days followed by sudden blizzards. But as beautiful as Radiohead is, the bleak tone can be a bit much to handle after days and days of freezing temperatures. But then there’s “Blackstar.” It’s a sad song, yes, but the acoustic version, with Yorke’s howling vocals is hauntingly gorgeous. It draws you in and urges you to listen again and again. It’s a headphones song, surely, and one best listened to while walking home in the dark and cold after a long day.
From the first, and arguably, best Arcade Fire album, Funeral, comes “Neighborhood #1.” It’s a song of love and whimsy, about creating your own world and embracing it. Every line drips with romance, including “our skin grows thicker from living out in the snow.” If you need an atmospheric, sprawling pick-me-up when the cold is just too much to bear, look no further than “Neighborhood #1” (or the entire “Neighborhood” collection featured in Funeral). It’s a song for conquering the day, for hitting the gas as your tires fly through snow and ice and admiring the days when the sun peeks through the clouds and turns a winter wasteland into a winter wonderland.
“The bitter winds are coming in, and I miss summer already,” Klara Soderberg of the Swedish duo First Aid Kit sings in the opening lines of “Emmylou.” It’s a song about the general unpleasantness of winter, especially in Stockholm where the cold feels eternal. But it’s also a song about hope, about finding warmth and love even during the everlasting cold. “I’ll be your Emmylou / if you’ll be my Graham and Johnny, too” the sisters belt in the beautiful chorus, wishing for a storybook romance. This song might make you text an ex you really shouldn’t, or, alternatively, it’ll make you embrace those you care about to carry you through the darker months.
The band name alone conjures up images of a snowdrift-filled wasteland. But while rural Alberta, Canada is most likely a harsh, frozen land, the band that takes its name from that locale is anything but. With “North Star,” Rural Alberta Advantage crafts a catchy, piano-laden track that is as romantic as kissing your loved one under the winter stars. Leaning on the image of the north star, a symbol for guidance and hope even in the most brutal of winters, this song will warm your bones and maybe even give you enough bravery to make the trek through the snow to that bar your friends are hunkered down at tonight.