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- Ice ice baby: Forget the holidays, what we really need is a genre-neutral mixtape to help thaw our frozen souls.
This year has been a downright slog for myriad reasons, but the holidays are now upon us, signaling that the end is in sight. With Christmas and Hanukkah falling on the same weekend, you'll no doubt hear plenty of holiday music in the coming week.
But what then? We're all embittered by the grind of 2016 and, likely, tired of holiday music. Once the familiar tunes fade away, you'll be left rudderless and abandoned for a long winter. Do you have to listen to the Frozen soundtrack until March? Of course not; we are here to help with a playlist of all things snowy and wintry.
If you're not yet completely jaded and broken by the world, and still consider the softly falling snow a thing of quiet majesty and beauty, you can't do much better for putting that feeling into sound than Kate Bush's underrated 2011 LP, 50 Words for Snow. Bush's slightly jazzy piano flourishes verge into abstract "flurries" at times, while she uses her always-expressive voice to conjure tales of snowbound ghosts, yetis and star-crossed lovers. The opening track, written for her son to sing in his still-unchanged boy soprano voice, is a definite highlight.
Plenty of other pop artists have looked to the wintry for exquisite meditations on the season's emotional equivalents, of course. Andy Warhol's favorite chanteuse Nico's icy "Winter Song," penned by her former Velvet Underground co-conspirator John Cale, reads like a bitter Charles Baudelaire poem backed by chamber strings and a brisk wind. Mosaic, the 2006 offering from Denver musical exemplars Wovenhand, weaves religious mysticism through songs such as "Winter Shaker," which sounds just like our snow-swept Eastern Plains look. Belle & Sebastian's "Fox in the Snow," from their standout 1996 album If You're Feeling Sinister, is possibly one of the best chamber-pop recordings put to tape; sheer longing at its most twee and elegant. Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn, who always had a great eye for natural symbolism, spins a tale of "The Coldest Night of the Year" into a heartsick, midtempo rock 'n' roll ballad. (Cockburn, incidentally, also has a Christmas album that showcases his sophisticated guitar playing, if you're still in the spirit for that sort of thing.)
If none of this is loud or strange enough for you — when the sun goes down at 4 o'clock, I feel pretty strange — there are plenty of further detours to take. My Bloody Valentine's 1988 track "Soft as Snow (But Warm Inside)" practically laid down the rules for shoegaze with its alternately blanket-like and stabbing washes of guitar feedback, while The Pop Group's manic postpunk cutup "Snowgirl" is as disorienting as a free-jazz blizzard. Grouper, the pseudonym of musician Liz Harris, put out the ultimate snowed-in record with the ethereal, washed-out haze of 2008's Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill.
Then, when the cabin fever starts to set in, there's always Black Sabbath's doom metal classic "Snowblind" to get the adrenaline pumping, along with many offerings of Norwegian metal act Ulver, who steeped their early records in all the trolls and traditional folklore their snowy homeland has to offer. And if the cold weather leaves you with nothing better to do than catch up on the news, Gil Scott-Heron's "Winter in America" will assuredly provide the perfect soundtrack.
Finally, what some might consider a "classic" cold-weather song, Frank Loesser's 1944 duet "Baby, It's Cold Outside," has already been in the news recently, with Minneapolis-area singer-songwriters Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski rewriting the crooner to diminish some of its perceived creepiness and emphasize consent. Some contend that the line "What's in this drink?" especially veers into uncomfortable territory, even in the gender-swapped rendition released in 2011 by She & Him, aka Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward.
Liza and Lemanski's version features call-and-response lines such as "I really can't stay" and "Baby, I'm fine with that," as well as an answer to the question of what was in that drink — it's pomegranate La Croix now.
According to Liza, the duo has already received suggestions of other songs to re-write, such as Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and, apparently to remove any ambiguity from human emotion and interaction whatsoever, Ella Fitzgerald's "She Didn't Say Yes, She Didn't Say No."
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