It’s cold out, here’s some songs to listen to until it’s not.


Danielle Kessler

Winter can be a time for self-reflection as well as being cozy. Here are some songs to capture the different feelings cold weather can bring. Photo by Danielle Kessler.

As much as I try to keep warm during the winter, there is something oddly alluring to embracing the bitter cold every once in a while. Why? I can’t say for sure, maybe to remind myself why I bundle up, or maybe the cold reveals aspects about ourselves that we would never realize if we didn’t bother to leave the comfort of our homes every once in a while.

Melodrama aside, the aesthetics of the cold in music can have an unforeseen effect on everyday activities. It could turn a walk through the woods into an unsettling trek through an unknown world, or a late drive home into a self-reflection session that you never asked for.

On that somber note, this is a playlist that covers an array of soundscapes and themes, from the isolating cold to the comforting reassurance of warmth in the midst of a bitter winter.

American Football – “Silhouettes”

To start off the playlist, indie rock legends American Football have crafted what can only be described as being heartbroken in the middle of a blizzard. Its themes of skepticism and “inconsequential love” lend themselves to a sense of isolation, while the looping guitars and distant sirens make it feel as if you are far from any sort of refuge or safety. It’s a somber opener, but the cold can be a somber place.

Mount Eerie – “It Wasn’t the Hunting”

Thematically, this song has no relation to American Football, but of all the songs in this playlist, none evoke a sense of to-the-bone cold like “It Wasn’t the Hunting.” Lyrics detailing foraging for wood and following wolf tracks paired with the sparse guitar make for an emotional and evocative listen.

Julie Byrne – “Morning Dove”

Keeping with the forest imagery, Julie Byrne shifts us into a positive portrayal of walking amongst the trees. While maintaining the minimal instrumentation and soft vocals, her lyrics reflect on an old lover while taking in the scenery of her environment.

Kate Tempest – “Firesmoke”

By far the coziest song of the bunch with some laid back percussion and soft chords, Kate Tempest’s spoken word ode to love is practically made to be listened to fireside with tea and a blanket. Her performance sounds emotionally exhausted but nonetheless passionate. “Firesmoke” represents most people’s favorite part of winter, staying in and getting comfy in spite of how freezing the world outside may be.

Caroline Polachek – “Go As a Dream”

Hyperpop queen Caroline Polachek put out an icy slow burn with “Go As a Dream.” The plucked strings and chiming percussion create a glacial atmosphere that sounds hollow yet beautiful, as if the listener is wandering around the inside of an iceberg.

James Blake – “I Need A Forest Fire”

With a mix of glitched out R&B and shimmering ambience, James Blake’s “I Need A Forest Fire” sends off the short playlist with an instrumental palette reminiscent of the melting ice and blooming greenery at the end of the cold season. The lyrics describe starting anew, hence the titular “Forest Fire.” As the closer, it evokes the bright light of spring as the biting cold fades.

Thomas Stremfel can be reached at [email protected] or @tomstremfel on Twitter.