If you're like me, your favorite thing to do on a cold day is curl up with a book, a cat and some tea, or go for a long walk. Either way, the best winter music is mellow, lyrical songs that are quiet enough for reading and stimulating enough for walking. However, in the event that you have homework—and you're actually planning on doing your homework—the following playlist will also help soothe your frazzled nerves and calm your racing, stressed-out mind.
Here's some music from SCO to help you stay cheerful and mellow in the face of brutal winter winds and equally brutal homework loads.
"Bloom," by the Paper Kites
Key lyrics: "In the morning when I wake / and the sun is coming through / Oh, you fill my lungs with sweetness / you fill my lungs with you."
Nothing warms the soul like gentle guitar melodies, humming and love songs whose lyrics seem to float by like delicate snowflakes. In all seriousness, the Paper Kites, an indie folk band from Melbourne, Australia, have a guaranteed calming effect—and "Bloom" is one of the best songs they've written. "Featherstone" is also lovely, though not as quiet. I recommend you become a Paper Kites hipster immediately: they're going to be seriously big someday.
"Monsters," by Angus Stone
Key lyrics: "'Cause in the dark / There's monsters, crying alone / They're waiting / For you to come along and play."
Another folksy Australian singer, Angus Stone is a little more on the blues and acoustic rock side of mellow. A steady drumbeat keeps the pace of "Monsters," which could be a ballad, on the workday flow, and the guitar strumming keeps it upbeat. Stone is fairly well-known, especially with his sister Julia Stone, with whom he released "Big Jet Plane," which was popular in Australia, Belgium and France.
"Chasing Cars," by Snow Patrol
Key lyrics: "If I lay here / If I just lay here / Would you lie with me and just forget the world?"
Perhaps Snow Patrol's most famous song, "Chasing Cars" is also one of the best. It's simple, touching and powerful, equally good for staring out at the snow from the warmth of your house and tromping through the snow with the wind on your face. If you're looking for another chill Snow Patrol song, I recommend "You Could Be Happy," which has the melodic delicacy of a music box and the same mellow vibe as "Chasing Cars."
"Hey Ya," by OutKast
Key lyrics: "I wanna see y'all on your baddest behavior / Lend me some sugar / I am your neighbor."
DANCE PARTY TIME! If you were starting to feel melancholy, or at least quiet and comfortable, this will get you on your feet: "Hey Ya" is quality jams. But if you're feeling lazy and don't want to get up, you could always listen to the acoustic version by the Blanks.
"Youth," by Daughter
Key lyrics: "And if you're in love, then you are the lucky one / 'Cause most of us are bitter over someone."
A little too sad to be mellow, "Youth" still manages to sound upbeat if you don't listen to the lyrics. At any rate, it's quiet and has a soft, whispering quality that's pleasant for working or walking. A gentle drumbeat enlivens the lyrics and makes it resignedly accepting of its own blues.
"Story of My Life," by One Direction
Key lyrics: "Written in these walls are the stories that I can't explain / I leave my heart open but it stays right here empty for days."
All right, hear me out. This is not the party music filled with corny one-liners that you associate with One Direction. It's low-key guitar pickings and a quiet beat, with touching lyrics that are pretty if simplistic. Also, the music video is guaranteed to make you cry. GUARANTEED.
"Ribs," by Lorde
Key lyrics: "You're the only friend I need / Sharing beds like little kids / We'll laugh until our ribs gets tough / But that will never be enough."
Again, this is not the fierce Lorde you're used to. "Ribs" is, perhaps, the most vulnerable of her songs. It describes her fear of getting old in simple but powerful imagery, with repeating lines over modest electronica tones. For more Lorde-as-a-mere-mortal, check out "400 Lux" and "Still Sane."
"Such Great Heights," by Iron & Wine
Key lyrics: "They will see us waving from such great heights / Come down now, they'll say / But everything looks perfect from far away / Come down now, but we'll stay."
Slow, quiet and beautiful, this is a winter love song if I ever heard one. It makes you want to go for a walk in a snowy forest with a loved one—or at least cuddle up under the blankets. The Iron & Wine version is actually a cover; the song was initially written by the Postal Service. "Grey's Anatomy" fans may recognize it as the first theme song for the show. Anyway, if you're planning on asking someone out soon, this might be the right song to learn on the guitar for a snowy serenade.
"How High the Moon," by Ella Fitzgerald
Key lyrics: "There is no moon above / When love is far away too."
A very upbeat, cheerful background combined with melancholy lyrics creates an unusual mix that is good for anything from dancing to thinking. Jazz is perfect for winter: it can either get your blood going or calm you down. More on the pensive side include by Louis Armstrong and by Nat King Cole; more on the pulse-raising side include "Fever" by Peggy Lee and "All of Me" by Billie Holiday.
"Transatlanticism," by Death Cab for Cutie
Key lyrics: "The rhythm of my footsteps crossing flatlands to your door have been silenced forever more / The distance is quite simply much too far for me to row."
Long, quiet and somewhat melodramatic, this song reminds me of eternity. It describes the formation of the Atlantic, and how that transformation was beautiful but also the cause of separation between loved ones. Two lines are repeated over a few minutes' piano melodies to lovely effect. Mmm. It's indescribable—just listen to the song. For more quiet, pretty Death Cab for Cutie, I suggest "I Will Follow You Into the Dark."
"Mad World," by Gary Jules
Key lyrics: "And I find it kinda funny / I find it kinda sad / The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had."
You'll probably recognize the quietly gorgeous piano melody that starts the song, and plays under it throughout. "Mad World" is sad, it's true, but it's also beautiful, and it's nice for looking out at the snow and being pensive. In a way, it's like snow itself: it's cold, gloomy and can put you in low spirits, or you can accept that it's cold and just enjoy it.
"Piazza, New York Catcher," by Belle & Sebastian
Key lyrics: "Oh, elope with me in private and we'll set something ablaze / A trail for the devil to erase."
After all the gloominess, we'll round off the playlist with an upbeat, faintly mysterious song that's perfect for walking. Through quiet guitar strumming and wistful lyrics, Belle & Sebastian make you want to travel the world with someone by your side—a friend, a lover, anyone. Or at least, you know, get that homework done.
Listen to the playlist here.
1. "Bloom," by the Paper Kites
2. "Monsters," by Angus Stone
3. "Chasing Cars," by Snow Patrol
4. "Hey Ya," by OutKast
5. "Youth," by Daughter
6. "Story of My Life," by One Direction
7. "Ribs," by Lorde
8. "Such Great Heights," by Iron & Wine
9. "How High the Moon," by Ella Fitzgerald
10. "Transatlanticism," by Death Cab for Cutie
11. "Mad World," by Gary Jules
12. "Piazza, New York Catcher," by Belle & Sebastian
Zoe Johnson. Hey there! I'm Zoe, and my spirit animal is a lioness, which sums up my personality pretty well, actually--though I do try not rip people from limb to limb if I can help it. But hey, we've all got our growth areas, right? I really ... More »