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 411mania » Music » Columns

The 411 Music Top Five 12.23.13: Top 5 Songs About Winter
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 12.23.2013


Criteria: Are you cold? I am! It's December 23rd and that means that this past weekend, winter officially came upon us thanks to the Winter Solstice (or yule, if you prefer). As such, we in the Music Zone are looking at the top 5 songs of winter! We kept the criteria little open to interpretation but the gist was songs that reminded you of the winter season.


5. First Aid Kit - "New Year's Eve"/"Winter is All Over You"

I couldn't pick between these two tracks. The latter is arguably better suited to the topic but the former is just so fantastic it has to be included, after all New Year's Eve generally occurs in the wintertime. If First Aid Kit is a band you haven't heard before, make it your mission to check them out and don't be surprised if they make up the soundtrack of this winter and many more to come.

4. Mumford and Sons - "Winter Winds"

Ah yes, Mumford and Sons. A band that came into such critical acclaim right up until the point where everybody realized how good they were, and then of course everybody hated them. Give Sigh No More another listen and tell me it isn't awesome. "Winter Winds" isn't even the group's best work, far from it, and there are other Mumford tracks that would fit nicely into this topic, but this is simply a personal favorite.

3. Kate Bush - "Snowflake"

Kate Bush is a national treasure and it is nothing short of incredible that in 2011 she was still able to produce an album at the high standard that she did. 2011's 50 Words for Snow is obviously winter-centric but the poignant "Snowflake" stands head and shoulders above many of the other tracks on the album. Kate Bush is the quintessential winter artist for me, and this is some of her best work.

2. Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Snow (Hey Oh)"

I loved this song the first time I heard it; it's one of the strongest tracks from the disappointing double album Stadium Arcadium. The thing is, despite the obvious wintery connotations of its title this tune always feel more at home when its playing on out loud in the summertime, particularly on a long road trip. Nevertheless it was one of the first songs that came into my head when the topic was chosen, and it places so highly purely because it's a great song.

1. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

Okay, so I am massively cheating here by nominating an entire album instead of one song. And technically, the songs aren't even about winter, or snow or ice or wind or rain or even Christmas. But those familiar with the album know that Justin Vernon recorded it whilst holed up in a secluded cabin in Wisconsin over the Winter of 2006/2007. It's also an incredibly beautiful album and perfect to listen to especially, at this time of the year - whether it's because of my familiarity with its back story or simply because such a piercingly surreal album has rarely delved so deep into my subconscious, there is no music I associate more with the cold winter than this masterpiece.


Honorable Mention: Queen - "A Winter's Tale," Bob Dylan - "Girl of the North Country," Lisa Loeb - "Snow Day," Nick Cave - "Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow"

5. Bush - "The Sound Of Winter"

Bush is one of those groups who seem to get unfairly painted with the same brush as Puddle of Mudd or Nickelback. There's no doubt that Gavin Rossdale's group doesn't have the critical love or die-hard fanbase of some of their contemporaries, but they had the ability to put together some damned good songs and "The Sound of Winter" is one of those. Off of the band's 2011 LP The Sea of Memories, "The Sound of Winter" is probably the song on my list that has the least to do with actual winter; it instead uses the season as a metaphor. Rossdale uses the snowy season to symbolize desolation and barrenness and it's quite effective. I debated whether to include this because of the sidelong appropriateness to the subject matter, but finally caved after giving it a listen. The sound certainly does sound like winter to me.

4. The Rolling Stones - "Winter"

This song is a great example of how versatile the Rolling Stones were. While we know of the group's bluesy and traditional rock and roll sounds, this was a very different direction for them as they decided it was time to put a little country into their music to great effect. This song is credited to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, but allegedly it was actually written by Mick Taylor. However it was written, it was the first song recorded for 1973's Goats Head Soup and talks about moving out of the hard times into a happier, brighter day. It's one of their gentlest melodies and just a fantastically evocative piece.

3. The Mamas and the Papas "California Dreaming"

This was not one of the first songs that came to mind for me, but it should have been. It's one of the great 60s rock songs, with the ill-fated Mamas and the Papas delivering a melancholy number about being stuck in the winter wishing for warmer days and happier times. Of course, the song had a much deeper subtext; it was written by John and Michelle Phillips in 1963 while living in New York and is popularly believed to truly be about how America was stuck in the cold war and Vietnam, wishing for better times and warmer climates ahead. But the song certainly stands on its own even if you just think about it as a song about California dreaming on such a winter's day.

2. Simon and Garfunkel - "Hazy Shade of Winter"

One of Simon and Garfunkel's "hardest" songs...not that the group had a lot of harder rocking songs in their repertoire. Even this one doesn't have too terribly sharp of an edge but those driving drums, the coldness in their voice, the severity of the lyrics and the ominous tones of the guitar certainly make this a damned sight tougher than "Sounds of Silence" or "Mrs. Robinson." While the band was always best known for their folksier music, this was a song that showed that, when they wanted to, they could deliver more than that.

1. Tori Amos - "Winter"

Tori Amos rules this list for me without breaking a sweat. "Winter" is one of the most wonderfully-composed songs of the singer-songwriter's entire career and it is the first song that I think of when I wake up to see snow outside. For me this is the song that takes me to a place of seeing your breath, wrapping up in a blanket with cocoa, making snow angels and all that other stuff that you do when it's wintertime. It's a beautiful song that drifts along and carries both cold regret and the promise of a death and rebirth in the still of the night. That's all I really have to say about it.

As always, the last thoughts come from you, the reader. We're merely unpaid monkeys with typewriters and Wikipedia. Here's what you need to do: List your Top Five for this week's topic on the comment section using the following format:

5. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
4. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
3. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
2. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
1. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it


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