Soundtracks for Snow Days

by JD Warnock on December 28, 2007

in Blogs

I recently bought a record by the band Matt Pond PA called “Wintersongs.” This excerpt from the liner notes helps explain the impetus for the EP… “In the height of summer, these were some songs that reminded us of winter. We only want what we can’t have.” It got me thinking about my favorite winter records. So, here’s a list of a few of my picks for best soundtracks to snow days and frozen car doors.

Matt Pond PA – “Wintersongs” (2005, Altitude Records)

Matt Pond is the singer/songwriter in the band that bears his name originally from Pennsylvania as the moniker suggests, but now residing in New York. The “Wintersongs” EP includes three tunes penned by the band and four aptly chosen winter covers, the highlight of which is their version of the Lindsey Buckingham song “Holiday Road.” Matt Pond PA slowed down Buckingham’s “National Lampoon’s Vacation” soundtrack classic to create a delicate and beautiful rendition that immediately places you at the center of the band’s summertime love affair with winter. They also do a smashing job with Neil Young’s “Winterlong” from the “Decade” album from 1977.


The Beatles – “Let it Be” (Apple, 1970)

I can’t hear any of these songs without seeing the indelible image of The Beatles in heavy coats atop the Apple building in London performing together live for the last time. There’s an unforgettable moment when Lennon botches the lyrics to “Don’t Let Me Down,” he and McCartney share a laugh as they both work through chilled faces and hands. By far the least focused of any of The Beatles records, “Let It Be’s” charm comes from its uncharacteristic production and the unique distinction of being an audiovisual document of the falling apart of the greatest band of all-time. Personal favorites: “Two of Us,” “For You Blue,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” and “Across the Universe.”


The Cure – “Disintegration” (Elektra, 1989)

Robert Smith and the boys sure know how to take apparently relentless and icy depression and turn it into magical music. “Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me” is
my favorite album by The Cure, but “Disintegration” always makes me think of driving, alone, in my first car, commiserating the seemingly never-ending high school experience with Mr. Smith. “Fascination Street” is simply one of the coolest songs period, and “Plainsong” just may be the single most perfect musical representation of winter ever. Other personal favorites from this record: “Lullaby,” “Prayers for Rain,” and “Closedown.”


Nada Surf – “Let Go” (Barsuk Records, 2003)

Here’s a band that really knows what it’s like to be tossed out in the cold. After their Elektra Records ’90s hit song “Popular” got so huge, Nada Surf was tagged as a novelty band and quickly dismissed as anything else. They had to go all the way back to the beginning and restart their career on indie labels. The result was the rebirth of one of indie rock’s most interesting and talented bands. “Let Go” is a near perfect record, because there is no need to skip a single track. The album begins with “Blizzard of ‘77,” which doubles here as a great wintersong and an excellent introduction to the band. Here are some more of my personal favorites: “Hi-Speed Soul,” “The Way You Wear Your Head,” “Fruit Fly,” and the single “Inside of Love.”

Mark Kozelek – “White Christmas Live” (Sub Pop, 2001)

The former singer of the great yet largely overlooked band Red House Painters, Mark Kozelek is one of my all-time favorite singing voices. The “White Christmas Live” album is as stripped down as it gets, just Kozelek and an acoustic guitar. He performs three AC/DC songs in his haunting style, including “Rock and Roll Singer” and “Up to My Neck in You.” He does throw down a chuckle-filled version of “White Christmas,”but that is the only official holiday music on the record. A better introduction to Kozelek may be the first Sun Kil Moon record, called “Ghosts of the Great Highway,” but this stark collection is well-suited for a day inside looking out. My personal favorites: “Cruiser,” and AC/DC’s “What’s Next to The Moon.”


Badfinger – “Best of Badfinger” (Apple)

Maybe it’s the band’s history or the sweet melancholy that’s always present in the songs of both of Badfinger’s main singers Pete Ham and Tom Evans, but Badfinger seems a solid choice for winter. Signed in the earliest days of The Beatles Apple label, Badfinger never escaped the misfortune that seemed to follow them. They were, however, fantastic songwriters and this “best of” captures the essence of this musical juggernaut. Personal favorites: “Baby Blue,” “Take it All,” and “Maybe Tomorrow”– a song from their early period as The Iveys, before they were re-christened Badfinger (legend has it, by John Lennon).


Aimee Mann – “Bachelor No. 2” (Superego, 2000)

This record is ready for all seasons, but Mann’s skillful and flawless songwriting on “Bachelor No. 2” was the soundtrack to a frozen season or two a few years back and it stands out for me as a record I love to listen to when frost is on the windows. Like Nada Surf’s “Let Go,” this record doesn’t hit a bad note anywhere. This is as good a record as anyone has made in the last decade. The whole album is a favorite, but if I had to point to a few highlights I’d say “The Fall of the World’s Own Optimist,” co-penned by Elvis Costello, “Red Vines,” and the album’s closer, “You Do.”


Jay-Z – “The Black Album” (Roc-A-Fella/Island/Def Jam, 2003)

“The Black Album” is definitely a contender for the title of best hip-hop record of all time. One listen to “The Black Album” and any questions about why Jay-Z is considered among the absolute best rappers ever are out the window. From the record cover to the farewell vibe of the record, “The Black Album” works well as a winter soundtrack. Personal favorites: “Encore,” “December 4th,” and the unstoppable “Public Service Announcement.”


Other great winter records:

Tori Amos – “Little Earthquakes”

Marvin Gaye – “What’s Going On”

Travis – “Invisible Band”

The Sheila Divine – “Where Have My Countrymen Gone”

Pernice Brothers – “The World Won’t End”

Tears For Fears – “Songs From the Big Chair”

Superdrag – “In The Valley Of Dying Stars”

Magnet – “Quiet and Still”

Ozzy Ozbourne – “Blizzard of Ozz”

XTC – “English Settlement”

There’s plenty more where these came from. Please, fire up the comments and let us know your picks for best wintersongs and records.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Phil December 29, 2007 at 1:54 pm

Winter is my favorite season, and some of my favorite songs that contain that seasonal appeal are:

“Field Below” by Regina Spektor (album: Begin to Hope)

“Romain” by Bill Evans and Jim Hall (album: Undercurrent)

“You Don’t Know Me” by Ray Charles (album: Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music)

“Brick” by Ben Folds Five (album: Whatever and Ever Amen)

“Xanadu” by Rush (album: A Farewell to Kings)

“Echoes” by Pink Floyd (album: Meddle)

I feel kind of stupid for putting “by” in front of Floyd, as if anyone’s going to be thinking, “Pink Floyd… who are they?”, or, even worse, “Pink Floyd… who’s he?”

Reply

2 Phil December 29, 2007 at 1:54 pm

Winter is my favorite season, and some of my favorite songs that contain that seasonal appeal are:

“Field Below” by Regina Spektor (album: Begin to Hope)

“Romain” by Bill Evans and Jim Hall (album: Undercurrent)

“You Don’t Know Me” by Ray Charles (album: Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music)

“Brick” by Ben Folds Five (album: Whatever and Ever Amen)

“Xanadu” by Rush (album: A Farewell to Kings)

“Echoes” by Pink Floyd (album: Meddle)

I feel kind of stupid for putting “by” in front of Floyd, as if anyone’s going to be thinking, “Pink Floyd… who are they?”, or, even worse, “Pink Floyd… who’s he?”

Reply

3 ilcin December 31, 2007 at 9:26 am

Uncle Tupelo – Still Feel Gone
Scott Miller & The Commonwealth
Things You Didn’t Know – Bottle Rockets
Answer – Old 97′s
I wanna Stay Home – Jellyfish (i’m on a wierd kick right now, sorry)
Snow Day – Trip Shakespear
John Herrmanson – Saw him once at an ASCAP showcase in Minneapolis, no idea what he’s doing today
Hollywood Town Hall – The Jayhawks (for the cover alone)

Reply

4 ilcin December 31, 2007 at 9:26 am

Uncle Tupelo – Still Feel Gone
Scott Miller & The Commonwealth
Things You Didn’t Know – Bottle Rockets
Answer – Old 97′s
I wanna Stay Home – Jellyfish (i’m on a wierd kick right now, sorry)
Snow Day – Trip Shakespear
John Herrmanson – Saw him once at an ASCAP showcase in Minneapolis, no idea what he’s doing today
Hollywood Town Hall – The Jayhawks (for the cover alone)

Reply

5 john c. January 7, 2008 at 5:42 pm

I never thought of Nada Surf’s Let Go album as a good winter record. Yet, I listened to them constantly during the summer so maybe thats why. I do have to agree and commend you on putting Winter Songs by Matt Pond PA on the list. Even the instrumental tracks are great.

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6 john c. January 7, 2008 at 5:42 pm

I never thought of Nada Surf’s Let Go album as a good winter record. Yet, I listened to them constantly during the summer so maybe thats why. I do have to agree and commend you on putting Winter Songs by Matt Pond PA on the list. Even the instrumental tracks are great.

Reply

7 Ben January 9, 2008 at 12:08 pm

I had a good laugh when I saw Jay-Z included on your Winter list! It was a surprise, considering your other selections, but The Black Album is probably my favorite of Jay-Z’s albums (just got it on vinyl for Christmas!), so I’m definitely glad to see it there. Other favorite Winter music for me is Joanna Newsom and Clark (an electronic artist on Warp Records) and I always love some Matt Pond and Beatles :)

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8 Ben January 9, 2008 at 12:08 pm

I had a good laugh when I saw Jay-Z included on your Winter list! It was a surprise, considering your other selections, but The Black Album is probably my favorite of Jay-Z’s albums (just got it on vinyl for Christmas!), so I’m definitely glad to see it there. Other favorite Winter music for me is Joanna Newsom and Clark (an electronic artist on Warp Records) and I always love some Matt Pond and Beatles :)

Reply

9 rob p. January 9, 2008 at 2:28 pm

i like the list you’ve got here…i think that “let It Be” was a great choice, as was jay-z’s black album…and starting the list off with matt pond PA…great choice as well…that whole album just gets you into the whole winter thing…especially holiday road…haha…anything that reminds me of national lampoon’s is ok with me

haha…phil…like you need “by” in front of pink floyd…”who’se he”…reminds me of “have a cigar” from “wish you were here”…”and by the way…which one’s pink?”…love it

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10 rob p. January 9, 2008 at 2:28 pm

i like the list you’ve got here…i think that “let It Be” was a great choice, as was jay-z’s black album…and starting the list off with matt pond PA…great choice as well…that whole album just gets you into the whole winter thing…especially holiday road…haha…anything that reminds me of national lampoon’s is ok with me

haha…phil…like you need “by” in front of pink floyd…”who’se he”…reminds me of “have a cigar” from “wish you were here”…”and by the way…which one’s pink?”…love it

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11 J.D. Warnock January 10, 2008 at 12:02 pm

I’m really excited to hear from so many other Matt Pond PA fans, I’m in the middle of a Matt Pond freak-out at the moment and that EP is great, I am also really into their latest release “Last Light.”

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12 J.D. Warnock January 10, 2008 at 12:02 pm

I’m really excited to hear from so many other Matt Pond PA fans, I’m in the middle of a Matt Pond freak-out at the moment and that EP is great, I am also really into their latest release “Last Light.”

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13 rob p. January 15, 2008 at 11:55 am

yea man…last light is pretty awesome…i really like taught to look away, foreign bedrroms, and basement parties…btw…have u checked out their older stuff, like emblems, the nature of maps and several arrows later? all good stuff man…

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14 rob p. January 15, 2008 at 11:55 am

yea man…last light is pretty awesome…i really like taught to look away, foreign bedrroms, and basement parties…btw…have u checked out their older stuff, like emblems, the nature of maps and several arrows later? all good stuff man…

Reply

15 pete January 17, 2008 at 3:53 pm

I have to agree with all of you. Matt Pond PA has been putting out great records for some time (dating all the way back to Emblems and Nature of Maps). My favorite, though, has to be Last Light; just because it is great to see the band’s progression in their songwriting. Love it.

Reply

16 pete January 17, 2008 at 3:53 pm

I have to agree with all of you. Matt Pond PA has been putting out great records for some time (dating all the way back to Emblems and Nature of Maps). My favorite, though, has to be Last Light; just because it is great to see the band’s progression in their songwriting. Love it.

Reply

17 Phil August 8, 2008 at 3:00 pm

I just want to credit this post as the source of my now unrelenting love for “Plainsong.” I’d always loved The Cure, but after having read that and meditated on that song and all of its wintry implications, it’s now one of my favorites, period.

Reply

18 Phil August 8, 2008 at 3:00 pm

I just want to credit this post as the source of my now unrelenting love for “Plainsong.” I’d always loved The Cure, but after having read that and meditated on that song and all of its wintry implications, it’s now one of my favorites, period.

Reply

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