Songs to Hear All Winter Long

Elizabeth Wolfe, Staff

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In recent decades, the mixtape, once seen as a practical way to listen to songs together, has been injected with a deeper interpretation which allows for greater artistic and abstract meaning. With the rise of music streaming websites, such as Spotify, the “mixtape” may have lost its physical form and hand-drawn cover illustrations. However, the titles, concepts, and flow of the music have remained intact and equally imperative. Playlists, synonymous with the “modern mixtape,” are easily created, and therefore, more accessible and frequently shared. This allows playlists to be made for any event, milestone, or mood that requires its own distinctive soundtrack.

A popular theme for playlists is seasons. As winter approached, I created a winter playlist to prepare myself for the cold and snowy time of the year. Personally, I view winter as a dreary and dark time of the year, which would contrast with the happy-go-lucky sounds of summer. This is reflected in my playlist with more mellow sounding songs. When I create a seasonal playlist, I don’t focus on the lyrics describing the season, but rather the mood that a song invokes. As a result, this is not going to be the ultimate holiday playlist filled with classic wintry songs, but, instead, a compilation of songs that demonstrates the feelings and sounds associated with the journey winter takes.


#1: “Greyhound” – Calpurnia (2018)

This song is first on my playlist because it sets the mood for winter. As the season begins with short days and little daylight, the song portrays a sort of overcast sound. This is reflected through the lead singer Finn Wolfhard’s voice, which is given an indie filter and layered with a slight echo to create a distant sound. Jack Anderson, the bassist of Calpurnia, brings out the bass line as a distinct part of the song which gives “Greyhound” its mellow sound. Lastly, the chord progression of the guitar and the distorted tone it provides allows for a darker feel, which reflects the start of winter. 


#2: “We Laugh Indoors” – Death Cab for Cutie (2001)

“December’s chill comes late, the days get darker and we wait for this direness to pass…” This line from the song reminds me of the shortest days of the year when the sun begins to set only a couple hours after we get out of school in the late afternoon. “We Laugh Indoors” is second on my playlist because it exemplifies the progression of getting deeper into winter and the weather becoming more bitter with short days. “Wait for this direness to pass…” relates to how we want the days to get longer, but the anticipatory days of warmer weather are still so far away.


#3: “Oh, Ms. Believer” – Twenty One Pilots (2009)

This song represents the sound of the holidays with its more upbeat rhythm and persistent sleigh bells. Although no holiday themes are explicitly mentioned, the lyrics allude to snow and wintry scenes many times, creating a sense of how the holidays look with “snow on the rooftops”. Despite this playlist not being holiday-oriented, the bells in this song remind me of winter because it is such a predominant sound this time of year.


#4: “This Will Be Our Year” – The Zombies (1968)

Along with the holidays, the new year is always a happy time of year with traditions and parties. “This Will Be Our Year” is a song that evokes happiness due to its positive lyrics and piano-driven melodies. Because dreary weather is not all that winter has to offer, a song looking forward to the new year encompasses the excitement and resolution-making that accompanies the holiday.


#5: “Between the Bars” – Elliot Smith (1997)

“Between the Bars” has some of the deepest lyrics I have ever heard in a song; they pair perfectly with Elliot Smith’s haunting voice and lo-fi music. Together, these effects create a similar essence to that of winter. The song’s slow and simple sound exemplifies winter’s tendency to slow down in January. While its themes are not reflective of winter, the song evokes a cold and dark mood.


#6: “Flapper Girl” – The Lumineers (2012)

I put this song on my winter playlist because I think it sounds like winter. There are no mentions of snow or the cold, but rather its mellow nature of the melodies and instrumentation that display characteristics of the season. “Flapper Girl” is the type of song that I would listen to indoors while snow is falling outside, and it would put me in the wintry mood.


#7: White Winter Hymnal” – Fleet Foxes (2008)

This song is on the playlist because it portrays winter scenes through its lyrics. The talk of scarves and snow, along with the title and rhythmic ostinato of the song gives it a wintry essence. In addition to the lyrics, the tambourine played throughout the piece mimics the sound of sleigh bells, which resembles the scene created by the lyrics and the holiday time of year.


#8: “Aeroplane” – Greer

“Aeroplane” is a song by an up-and-coming band from California named Greer. Only two of its songs have been produced; I discovered the unreleased song “Aeroplane” from the band’s acoustic performance of the piece. All of the instrumentation is acoustic, which gives the song a mellow and personal aspect. The song sounds like winter because of the laid-back musicality that gives off a feeling of staying inside during the cold weather. 


#9: “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” – Arcade Fire (2004)

This song describes aspects of winter with lyrics, such as “And if the snow buries my neighborhood…” and “…our skin gets thicker from living out in the snow”. The themes of the song accurately portray our longing to be out with friends and to escape the boredom of being inside on a snow day.


#10: “Dear Winter” – AJR (2019)

“Dear Winter” is ironically not about the season, but rather the narrator’s future child named Winter. He sings about his hopes for his son or daughter. With the guitarist’s simple picking of strings and the name described in the singer’s story, the song reminds me of winter. 


#11: “The Last Snow-Storm of the Year” – Hippo Campus (2016)

This song begins with a long instrumental intro that mimics the sound of a snowstorm. The slow melodic mood of this song feels like a dark, cold winter night. “The Last Snow-Storm of the Year” is towards the end of my playlist, wrapping up my winter. The song reflects the course winter takes with its slow and soft beginning that builds up to a louder and larger snowstorm, which quietly calms down until the snow disappears. 


#12: “February”- Beach Bunny (2017)

“Any day’s better than February” is what the singer repeats as common lyrics in this song. I feel as though February is the one winter month that is generally disliked with its excessive cold weather, and lack of holidays. In addition, this is the month that everyone is longing for the warmth of spring to come. Therefore, the song is a way to express the end of winter and how we wish to move on from the season.

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