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  • Amy Norton

The Broad’s Seasonal Recommendations: What to Listen to this Winter

Illustrations by Megan Le Brocq 

The Broad’s Creative Editor, Amy Norton, has curated a list of ten songs to embrace the frosty mornings and cold nights of the winter season. Our wider creative team has also compiled a full playlist to accompany you through the final stretch of winter. Immerse yourself in the winter vibes by listening to the playlist, including Amy’s top selections, here.

Fleet Foxes - "White Winter Hymnal"

Fleet Foxes, Spotify

Starting off strong with the lush harmonies of “White Winter Hymnal” by the American indie folk band, Fleet Foxes. Despite having the word “winter” in the title and “snow” in the verse, I don’t think this song is necessarily about wintertime specifically. The band’s songwriter, Robin Pecknold, told Rolling Stone that the lyrics are fairly meaningless, and this song is more about the singing itself. He said the simple lines and repetition throughout the song was inspired by “Whistle While You Work” from Snow White. Fans of the band have a multitude of theories about what the true story of the track is, but even in this vagueness I think this song certainly feels nostalgic and crisp like a bright winter’s walk. I urge you to listen to this track with headphones, it’s a special one for sure.

The Mamas & the Papas - "California Dreamin'" 

This classic folk-rock song has an enduring legacy, covered by many since its release in the sixties. For those who don’t recognize it by the title, you certainly will from the opening vocals. Its ongoing popularity is understandable as it’s such a simple yet incredibly catchy song. “California Dreamin'” is about longing to be somewhere warmer during winter. Michelle Phillips, who had lived in Los Angeles all her life, wrote the song about her first experiences of harsh, cold weather in New York: “I’ve been for a walk, on a winter’s day, I’d be safe and warm, if I was in L.A.” I think it’s generally about dreaming of what you can’t have, a “grass is always greener” kind of vibe. I think we can all relate to wishing for sunshine and warmth in colder times of the year.

Simon & Garfunkel - "Wednesday Morning, 3A.M."

Simon & Garfunkel, Grunge

This song is the title track of the debut album from Simon & Garfunkel, released in 1964. I think the fingerpicking guitar that opens this song creates an immediate cozy atmosphere, its quiet and intimate. The lyrics set a scene harmonious with this, a person lying beside their lover who is asleep and “softly breathing” in the “winter moonlight.” The song takes an odd turn in the second verse when it is revealed that the singer is anxiously awake after robbing a liquor store, knowing that the police are after him, and he will have to abandon this woman in the morning. The fate of the narrator is left a mystery to us, like the unsuspecting lover in the story. It’s an odd song, equally sweet and somber. Comforting and frosty at the same time, like winter!

Kylie Minogue - “Can’t Get Blue Monday out of My Head"

Kylie Minogue, Brit Awards 2002

Switching things up a bit, this song came from a live performance mashup of Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You out of My Head” and New Order’s “Blue Monday” at the 2002 Brit Awards. This first aired in wintertime! Blue Monday is an iconic song but also a day in winter. One might say the beat is sharp, almost icy. You get the gist. A tenuous link to winter but this list was needing something more dance-worthy. A great strutting around song, as long as you don’t strut too hard and slip on the icy pavement!

The Cranberries - “Linger”

The Cranberries, The New York Times

A legendary song, and one of my all-time favourites. This track is about the feelings after the breakup of first love, an ex-boyfriend that lets the painful debris of a relationship linger. “You know I’m such a fool for you, you got me wrapped around your finger.” The emotionally raw and charming Irish vocals of Dolores O’Riordan on top of the orchestral string sections of this song make it timelessly gorgeous and special. This needs to be played loud, I don’t make the rules. The Cranberries’ discography feels familiar but also continually like a breath of fresh air. They have so many amazing songs, it’s well worth listening past the most famous tracks. I think this particular song will always warrant a loving sigh from me at the sound of the opening melody.

Blossoms - “Winters Kiss”

Blossoms, NME

“Winters Kiss” is one of the extended tracks from the 2016 self-titled album from the band Blossoms. Blossoms are my favourite band, but this song is a slightly rogue choice as its much simpler and stripped-back than the majority of their music. I’ve always liked that the first thing you hear when listening to this song is the sound of the rain, which continues throughout. I think this effect sets up the rest of the track in creating the atmosphere of being wrapped up warm inside.

Elbow, John Grant - “Kindling (Fickle Flame)"

This track is a duet version of the closing song “Kindling” from Elbow’s seventh album Little Fictions. I love the original, but I think the harmonized vocals from American musician John Grant just elevate the song to perfection. There’s just something so satisfying about this duet, something that makes me want to restart it when it ends. As a Mancunian myself, Guy Garvey’s beautifully rich northern voice and soulful lyrics will always have a place in my heart. Elbow’s music feels like a tight hug, perfect for winter. Their cover of the classic Beatles track “Golden Slumbers” sits similarly in this category. I’d recommend listening to the “Live from Spotify Studios” or “Live at Jodrell bank” versions of their songs as these almost transport you to experiencing their music in person.

Laura Marling - “Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)"

Laura Marling, “Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)" vinyl cover

“Winter was on us, at the end of my nose, and I’ll never love England more than when covered in snow”

Laura Marling had a spot in my top ten autumnal songs, but I felt like I’d be doing her a disservice if I missed this off the winter list. Marling explained that this song is about a childhood wintery walk up a hill in her hometown with her father. He asked her to bring him back to that spot before he died, so he could remember how beautiful the English countryside is. She intended it to encapsulate the feeling of being homesick to the village she grew up in after moving to London. Like many other Marling songs, this track gives me a lump in my throat if I concentrate on the lyrics hard enough. I think this is the most wintery of all the songs on this list, and quite possibly my favourite too.

Olivia Dean - “Be My Own Boyfriend”

Olivia Dean, The Independent

Winter brings Valentines Day with it, so I will finish my list with two romantic songs, the first being this luscious self-love ballad by Olivia Dean. I discovered Dean recently through her popular song “Dive” and have been obsessed since then. “Be My Own Boyfriend” does what it says on the tin, she sings about the frustration of dating and deciding to treat and spoil herself the way she wanted to be treated by a partner. Songs with this description would normally be put in a cringey category for me, but I don’t think this should be the case. We’re inundated with soppy relationship love songs; it’s refreshing to hear a track like this. I think Dean pulls this narrative off in a super stylish and cool way. In an interview with Clash she said: “I think the end goal is being happy by yourself, and if you do meet someone then it's a really cute accessory – a cute addition to my life, but it’s not completing my life.”

Adam Melchor - “I Choose You - Wedding Edition”

Adam Melchor, Grandstand Media

While Dean sings of choosing herself, this final song on my list fills the Valentine’s category of choosing one specific person. This track comes from American singer-songwriter Adam Melchor’s 2021 album, Melchor Lullaby Hotline Vol. 1. I remember my first listen to this, thinking I’d never fallen in love with an album so quickly before. Melchor is a super talented and criminally underrated musician, so treat yourself to discovering his work! This particular song is about falling in love with someone to the extent that the rest of the surrounding world goes almost blurry. The lyrics are so sweet and simply portray this feeling with incredible effect. “I used to always say, I was good with people’s names, now I’ve forgotten everyone’s, but yours, and you’re to blame.”

Make sure you check out The Broad’s other seasonal picks on the creative section of our website!

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