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An Unorthodox Guide to Winter Music

By Sadie Gugliotta


The winter season is a complicated time for many people, bearing saccharine good cheer, a barrage of commercials soundtracked by jingling bells and instrumental renditions of classic Christmas songs, and seasonal depression made worse by unseasonably warm air and tornado warnings. Especially in the current climate, it is hard to find something to feel excited over, and near impossible to reach that pure, unadulterated state of exuberance once ushered in by the holiday season. In times such as this, when emotions run especially high, I envelop myself in worlds of music: music in its plushest, most commercialized form, or at its most sincere and, sometimes, depressing. Thus, I set out to compile an unconventional guide to winter music, filled with albums to soundtrack any and all emotions brought about by the winter season!


Folklore by Taylor Swift - Folklore is the perfect winter album in the same way that Red is undeniably autumnal in tone and theme. With echoing instrumentation and lyrics of fiction that ring with emotional resonance, Folklore embodies the mercurial and capricious emotionality of the winter, dredging up memories long forgotten and offering musings on life’s missed opportunities. This album is one of reminiscence, its narrator contemplating stories of past lives so glamorous as to immerse listeners in daydreams of extravagance and luxury, though simultaneously universal in the emotional themes its songs evoke. It is, undeniably, among Swift’s most sonically mature and inventive works.


Stick Season by Noah Kahan - Noah Kahan’s Stick Season album breathes with folk-pop familiarity, billowing with humble acoustics and lyrical fables recounting depressive episodes and lost love, each told with such pop-ingenuity and humility as to harken to some strange pastiche of Joni Mitchell and Maisie Peters. The album is named for the winter “Stick Season” of Kahan’s home state of Vermont. Its titular track is a standout on the album, though should not discount the quality of its other songs; “New Perspectives,” a personal favorite of mine, is shot through with childhood nostalgia and poetry perfect for cold nights of self-reflection.


Lady in Satin by Billie Holiday - This is an album that I find myself returning to time and again throughout the winter months. Billie Holiday has long been exalted as one of the greatest jazz musicians in American history, and Lady in Satin stands as a prime example of her brilliance. With soft, full instrumentals, and a voice liquid and warm as mulled cider, this album cements itself as a perennial winter companion.

Tidal by Fiona Apple - Fiona Apple’s Tidal is full-fleshed and uninhibited, documenting the turns, tricks and polarity of adolescence with dazzling depth. Though her debut was released almost two decades ago, it maintains its potency and zeal through Apple’s masterful lyricism and a voice so singular and mature in its resonance as to mark listeners like a palimpsest. Tidal is an unforgettable album, unrestricted by genre - it interweaves jazz, pop and rock with ease, though its often delicate sound should not misdirect from the sincerity and brutality of Apple’s unsparing lyrics. This is an album that I turn to in the wintertime due to its ability to enchant, fully and without reservation. It is a season in and of itself.


Grace by Jeff Buckley - Jeff Buckley’s Grace may seem a less obvious choice for a compilation of winter music. However, for those vulnerable to the effects of the gray hues that span the skyline throughout the wintertime, this album is one to luxuriate in: it is bare-boned and in motion, hurtling towards emotional reckoning through vignettes of love lost and unrelenting. Grace is primal, beautiful, affirming, and always deeply affecting. The album includes Buckley’s performance of Hallelujah, which is, in my opinion, an unparalleled rendition of Leonard Cohen’s classic.


Winter is a challenging time for most, but I hope that these albums can offer some comfort and warmth during the colder months!

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