Snow is piled high, but the road is clear. As you stare out the window, you see miles of evergreen trees, the tips of their pines painted with a white layer of frost. The world seems to get bigger rather than smaller the more you travel; the thick fog and cloud-covered sky seem endless. Like always, though, you make it to your destination. You step out of the car, and the cold air makes blood rise to your face. You pull your coat tighter around you as you walk inside.
It’s hours later now. The fire is stocked, helping the candles you lit earlier illuminate the room. With a warm drink in hand, you take a seat next to the window. As you wrap yourself in a blanket, you notice the snowflakes falling softly to the ground.
Quietly, in the background, these songs keep you company.
Track 1: Flume - Bon Iver
The first song off Bon Iver’s debut album — For Emma, Forever Ago — captures the hopefully melancholy feeling each winter brings. While Flume has a very gritty and distinct sound, the entire album manages to replicate light snowfall and cold hands on warm mugs through sound alone. Flume and every other song off For Emma was written in a Wisconsin hunting cabin over the winter of 2007, so the emotion it evokes is domestic and true.
Track 2: Vor í Vaglaskógi - Kaleo
Kaleo embodies the sound of ice in the Icelandic-written song, Vor í Vaglaskógi. Though the lyrics translate into a ballad dedicated to the season of Spring, the eighth track off of their album A/B is the perfect companion for a cold night.
Track 3: Polaroid & The Autumn Tree - Milo Greene
Though the 12th and 13th tracks of Milo Greene’s self-titled album are seperate, they blissfully lead into each other to create a longing and desperate sound. Beautiful harmonies and haunting instrumentals beg to be heard before the ground thaws.
Track 4: Flesh or Bone - Auralai
Setting desolate sounds aside while keeping the theme of bittersweet lyrics, Auralai uses cello and distinct vocals to capture the ear’s attention. The band is a fellow Wisconsin-native; the state is acknowledged in the chorus, which invites a sense of understanding to the listener. Flesh or Bone, in all of its cinematic glory, is the 1st track of Auralai’s self-titled EP.
Track 5: Dirty Paws - Of Monsters and Men
Dirty Paws is a story told through lyrics; the 1st song on My Head is an Animal paints a picture of triumph after hardship. Though the sound is as strong as a winter storm, it can be stripped down to only simple guitar chords reminiscent of a cold breeze on flushed cheeks.
Track 6: Drifting - ON AN ON
Listening to the 6th song on ON AN ON’s album And the Wave has Two Sides, ironically, makes you feel as though you’re drifting into oblivion. Between the strong percussion and distressed tone, Drifting paints a picture of low fog and winter heartbreak.
Track 7: The Night We Met - Lord Huron
Sharper than a record needle and more soothing than a drive in the dark, The Night We Met is a ballad and a lullaby wrapped into one. The instrumental surrounds and warms you, but the grounding lyrics leave you out in the cold. The song is — quite fittingly — the last song on the album Strange Trails, and tells a story most of us already know: goodbyes can be hard.
Track 8: Nina Cried Power - Hozier (ft. Mavis Staples)
Nina Cried Power — which shares a name with the EP it opens for — is a powerful tribute to the artists that came generations before us. Using powerful vocals and strong instrumentation, Hozier elicits enough strength to get us through the year.
Track 9: Alone and Made of Ice - Maldito
The title on its own describes the song that is Alone and Made of Ice; the song is lonely and frostbitten. The tempo and volume control is like spending hours in the snow only to step into warmth — you feel it build, freeze your fingers and toes, make your limbs feel heavy. Then, you feel… nothing.
Alone and Made of Ice is the conclusion to Maldito’s album titled Kingdom of Coldness.
Track 10: Repeat Until Death - Novo Amor
The calm and steady instrumental featured in Repeat Until Death is enough to both lull you to sleep and keep you up at night; while the sound is first soothing, it turns into a recount of regret, remorse, and eventually, realization. The second-to-last song on Novo Amor’s Birthplace is a reminder to embrace the snow, but to not let yourself be buried in it.
You can listen to the playlist in-full here.