a list obligatory. hibernation rock; winter albums.

The cold is officially here, and with it comes those albums that make the cold, long months of winter a bit more bearable. Join a list obligatory for its best winter albums.

Well, after a few weeks off and a particularly trying few weeks at that, it is finally time for the list obligatory to resurface. And, just as my mood is suggesting, I needed some winter albums. Any regular readers of this column know that I have a grand appreciation for listening to music in its proper environment. I’ve just started reading David Byrne’s new book How Music Works much to my (pleasant) surprise, David’s central argument is that music ‘works’ by fully utilizing the surroundings and time in which it was created. He believes, as I do, that music is not a watershed force of individual creativity, but rather the best result of elementary surroundings and technology. In a related way, the music that we choose to listen to is heavily influenced by the surroundings of our listening environment. There is a difference between what you want to hear in your car and what you want to hear with your headphones on due to the sonic difference between those spaces.

I also believe that seasons have a mighty impact on the records we want to hear. Just like certain fruits and vegetables taste their best are certain times of year, so do certain albums sound best with a particular season. It is a basic argument of science. As our moods change with temperature and available daylight, tempo and melody produce different effects in our brain. Just as our metabolism evolved to slow down to allow for optimal survival during winter’s scarcity, so does our brain reward that which promotes the conservation of energy. As the seasons become colder, we begin turning away from the songs that make you dance toward the songs that make you think. Luckily for you folks, I’ve always hated dancing. This week, the list obligatory will take a dive into those albums that make perfect sense for the winter season. The tempos will shift down and singers will whisper, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still rock a little. The real challenge here is conflating albums for the winter with albums for the fall (mostly because I’d already covered the albums of fall a few months back). There should be a fine line between the two. Just like music for the spring is more hopeful and upbeat than summertime tracks. The albums of winter need to slow down from the fall; become colder. This is the season of natural death on one hand and of new beginnings on the other. Artists like Elliott Smith, Bon Iver, and Sufjan Stevens make for great winter listening, but so do artists like The Cure, Bauhaus, and Echo & the Bunnymen whose work may not be quiet, but is certainly desolate enough to make for prime listening in this season.

honorable mentions.

Daniel Johnston – Why Me?
Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
Sparklehorse – Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot
PJ Harvey – White Chalk
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – From Her To Eternity
Galaxie 500 – On Fire
Kristin Hersh – Hips and Makers
Lou Reed – Transformer
Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
Neil Young – Live at Massey Hall
Shearwater – Rook
Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends
The Velvet Underground & Nico – The Velvet Underground & Nico
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Howl
Bob Dylan – John Wesley Harding
Elvis Costello – Almost Blue
José González – Veneer
Tom Waits – Mule Variations
Tubeway Army – Replicas
American Music Club – Everclear
Antony & the Johnsons – The Crying Light
The Beach Boys – Surf’s Up
Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – I See A Darkness
Crooked Fingers – Crooked Fingers
Dinosaur Jr. – You’re Living All Over Me
Dr. Dog – We All Belong
The Dresden Dolls – The Dresden Dolls
Eels – With Strings: Live at Town Hall
Elliott Smith – Elliott Smith
Espers – Espers
The Fall – This Nation’s Saving Grace
Fiona Apple – When the Pawn Hits…
Frank Sinatra – In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning
Gene Clark – White Light
Grant Lee Buffalo – Fuzzy
The Jesus & Mary Chain – Darklands
John Coltrane – Blue Train
John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band
Lambchop – Is A Woman
Mark Lanegan – Field Songs
Nico – Chelsea Girl
Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
The Pogues – If I Should Fall From Grace with God
Public Image Ltd. – Metal Box
The Smiths – Hatful of Hollow
Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
Tim Buckley – Happy Sad
Tool – Lateralus
U2 – War
Vashti Bunyan – Just Another Diamond Day
Vic Chesnutt – At The Cut
Skip Spence – Oar
Roky Erickson & Okkervil River – True Love Cast out All Evil

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About Chris Bell

Chris Bell was born in the suburbs of Kansas City, MO in 1981. His path toward a life enjoying music began at ten, when he first heard Queen. Chris attended Truman State University in Kirksville, MO, where he studied English and Communication Arts. While there, Chris spent three years working as an on-air disc jockey for 88.7 KTRM Radio. Chris was the host/creator of the weekly ‘Tangled Up In Bob’ show and a frequent guest on the station’s weekend talk format, serving as a guest commentator on music and politics. It was during this time that Chris was first published by the National Communication Association. His work, ‘Dylan and the New Left: How Political Song Changed American Political Rhetoric’ was presented at the 2002 NCA National Convention in New Orleans. Chris was the only undergraduate to present research on his panel, ‘Rhetorical Strategies in Music’. After college, Chris moved back to Kansas City and started his own talent management company, Poker Face Productions. He continued to manage that company until moving to Brooklyn, NY to pursue a business opportunity in 2008. While there, Chris started as a weekly column writer and album reviewer for 411music.com. Now back in the Midwest, Chris is hoping to bring what he learned about music media in New York to his hometown and support an already vibrant arts culture in Kansas City. His areas of concentration include American Roots, Glam Rock, Punk, Psychedelia, Chamber Pop, American Underground, and Garage Rock.