Worlds Away

what the nomad brought home

The Essential Winter Soundtrack

No, this is not a holiday playlist.  It’s a selection of songs meant to help you channel the essence of winter for your own creative endeavors.  The feel, the scent, the sultry darkness of this season are all too familiar to someone who’s grown up in the northeastern U.S..  Winter definitely has a feel; it’s cold, forbidding.  And yet it’s sexy, mysterious, intense.  It reminds you of the force of the elements.  These songs were chosen because they’re evocative of a number of winter moments — some call to mind only one type; others, a combination:

  1. looking out the window on early evenings, down onto the gray street where everyone is bundled up against the cold as they rush to get home
  2. actually being one of those people out there in the frigid air on a winter’s afternoon, shrinking into the self-contained heat of your layers of warm clothing
  3. walking at night down snow-covered paths hung with icicles, as the glistening white powder reflects the glow of streetlights and bestows a temporary life on all the barren trees that line the way
  4. savoring the warmth of someone else’s breath and body, and defying the chill in bed all day

The list follows, in no particular order.  Please add your own suggestions!  You’ll see words like “chilling,” “haunting,” “dark,” and “gray” repeat because winter can be all those things.  I hope this selection can help you wrap yourself in the allure of the season, even if you’ve never experienced this type of winter yourself.  Enjoy!

  1. “Again” — Lenny Kravitz:  Dark, and relentlessly melancholy.
  2. “Deep Inside of You” — Third Eye Blind:  The title evokes a warm place, but there’s a chill in the song that makes it the perfect soundtrack for walking through the city in the cold.
  3. “El duelo” — La Ley ft. Ely Guerra (Unplugged version — trust me!):  One of the hottest songs ever.  Hauntingly passionate.  The darkness makes it perfect for this time of year.  “Sin dolor no te haces feliz.”  Wow.  Like nothing you’ve ever heard before.  (And I’m going to make a confession; I’m in love with Beto Cuevas’s voice.)
  4. “Silence” — Delirium ft. Sarah McLachlan:  Beautiful and mysterious.
  5. “The Flame” — Cheap Trick:  “Touching heat, freezing on my skin…”  A classic.  For some reason, this feels wintery to me.
  6. “I’m With You” — Avril Lavigne:  Good for people-watching and solitary strolls.  “It’s a damn cold night.”
  7. “I Am Made of You” — Ricky Martin:  Again — dark, cold, mysterious.  You can practically hear the emptiness of the setting and feel the fire of two kindred souls coming together on the frays of some barren, wind-swept no-man’s land.
  8. “You’re Beautiful” — James Blunt:  Memorably mellow.  Good for a stroll under a blanket of leaden, winter clouds.  You’re taking your time, while the rest of the world rushes on by.
  9. “My Immortal” — Evanescence:  There’s no need for me to try to explain what makes this song cold and lonely enough for winter.  Just take my word that it belongs on a winter playlist and have a listen.
  10. “You Can Still Be Free” — Savage Garden:  Another haunting selection.  Definitely evocative of some cold, desolate hideout on the margins of life.  This is a song to listen to indoors, as you watch the world move past from a distance.  “Sail through the wind and rain tonight…”
  11. “She Will Be Loved” — Maroon 5:  Sounds like dusk, in the damp air of approaching snow — the calm before the storm.  You’re at home, or you’re getting there.
  12. “Here Without You” — Three Doors Down:  Nightfall in winter.  In bed.  With someone you’ll soon be missing.
  13. “Bittersweet Symphony” — The Verve:  Just like the video.  You’re walking, walking, walking…Nothing stops you.  Now, add the element of snowfall; the flakes are catching on your hair before inevitably melting.  The day is cold.  The sky is so gray it’s almost white.
  14. “Sexo, pudor, y lágrimas” — Aleks Syntek:  Another one for talking a walk outdoors.  The snow is crunching underfoot.  You’re in absolutely no hurry at all.
  15. “Here With Me” — Dido:  Pretty damn awesome.  It’s like an addiction set to music.  There’s a subdued yet formidable passion in this.  When it’s so freezing outside that it feels like the air has punched you in the face, this track meshes pretty well with the ambience.  (Or you could just stay in bed…)  “And I won’t go, and I won’t sleep, and I can’t breathe…”
  16. “Gray Sky Morning” — Vertical Horizon:  That would be every morning, from November through March.  This is good for people-watching from a café, where you warm your hands with the steaming richness of your coffee, and you drink the sights of life from the other side of a frosty window.
  17. “Yellow” — Coldplay:  You’re walking along, tending to your errands, and it’s chilly and drab.  Or you’re sitting at your desk, looking down through the snow at the cars that carefully navigate the slick roads below.  Maybe you see the yellow haze cast by the flashing lights of a salt truck.
  18. “What Would Happen” — Meredith Brooks:  Sexy, dark, chilling, fiercely hungry, and deceptively composed.  This song was released late in the year, which reinforces its winter status.  It’s a nighttime walk in the snow with a partner who embodies the mysterious.  A muffled winter tryst in a dark alley.  The heat just building on the doorstep, your gloved fingers are fumbling with the buttons on each other’s coat, and you’re desperate to get inside…  “Would you run away, would you stay, or would I melt into you?”  Choose your own adventure.
  19. “Underneath Your Clothes” — Shakira:  Nowhere is warmer than this.  You just need to be able to get past Shakira’s gutted-cat vocals, or else it’s not going to be pleasant.  But — if you can put that aside, this song calls to mind gazing out at streetlights and snowflakes, or walking around amidst all the wintery whiteness!
  20. “Angels” — Robbie Williams:  Go for a stroll.  Be pensive.  That’s exactly what this feels like.
  21. “Losing My Religion” — REM:  This calls for a walk too.  But not a leisurely one; a wintery one when you’re frustrated, and your pace is actually quicker than the rest of the world’s.
  22. “Stirb Nicht Vor Mir” — Rammstein:  Chilling, mysterious, haunting — and yet warm and sort of seductive, in an unexpected way.  This sounds like the blizzard that confines you to your apartment, and you’re perfectly happy to be trapped inside.
  23. “December” — Collective Soul:  “December” sounds the way December looks.
  24. “Possession” — Sarah McLachlan:  “Listen as the wind blows from across the great divide.”  Amazing.  This is good for a blisteringly cold night when you’re braving the elements and heading out to an intimate gathering.
  25. “Entre los Andes” — Cristian:  The sound of utter desolation.  It’s cold.  You can hear the bitter wind rustling the dead grass and brittle branches of the frigid landscape.  Even if you can’t understand the dark sex poetry that laces the original lyrics, there’s a slow, erotic thrust that carries you along.  It will haunt you.  Only if you dare.
  26. “Lamento boliviano” — Los Enanitos Verdes:  You throw off the blankets and face the cold air of your bedroom.  You’re alone.  And you’ve woken up mildly angry about something — probably the damn weather.  Screw it.  You boil some water, and the tea burns your throat as you cup the mug with both hands, staring blankly ahead.  “Adentro hay un volcán que pronto va a estallar.”  Probably won’t muster up the motivation to leave the house today.
  27. “The World I Know” — Collective Soul:  It’s close to dusk, and you’re on the streets.  Snow gently flutters to the ground.  Time to go home and be with the people who matter.
  28. “Extreme Ways” — Moby:  Lonely and dark, with a slight, bitter cool.  Another good one for taking a walk through the city and just thinking.  The lyrics are incredible.
  29. “Ice” — Sarah McLachlan:  It sounds just like the title.  Good for being outside in the cold, but somewhere more removed from the urban scene.  Potent and raw, but far from uplifting.
  30. “Insatiable” — Darren Hayes:  Mostly, this song has a fragile vulnerability and a propensity to melt that remind me of ice.  Sounds like nighttime at the close of the year.
  31. “Eres” — Café Tacuba:  Smooth, sensual, and warm.  People-watching from your apartment, walking outside alone at any time of day or night, warming to the scent of coffee, or simply resisting the freeze all day by playing with someone in bed.  This is a very versatile song.
  32. “Say It Right” — Nelly Furtado:  Hollow, haunting, cold.  It’s a gray day, no snow; the crisp air invigorates your lungs, and you want to relish the feeling of being (temporarily) alone in the world.
  33. “Nada es para siempre” — Luis Fonsi:  Decidedly melancholy.  Another good one for walking around outside, staring down at your boots.  Or huddling under the comforter as you sink into the warmth of a partner you know you’re losing.
  34. “Tardes negras” — Tiziano Ferro:  Cold, tormented, beautifully fragile.  It’s good for chilly, overcast mornings.  Or afternoons, as the title suggests!  This sound is the start of the weekend in winter.
  35. “Wonderwall” — Oasis:  Shivering, obstinately lonely, accidentally lost.  Take a walk, clear your mind, feel the wind lash your face, the freezing rain soak your hair, the fiery sting of the sleet numb your skin.  Breathe deeply, and smile — you’re alive.  “And all the roads that lead you there are winding, and all the lights that light the way are blinding…”  The sleet subsides, and a wet snow is just beginning to dust the ground.  Slushy footprints mark the steps behind you, before melting back into the pavement.  Your tracks vanish.  There’s only the brilliant blank canvas of the road ahead.  This moment is immortal.

*Others’ recommendations*
Nick Drake — “Northern Sky”

November 11, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , ,


  1. strange. a winter time list without Nick Drake?
    don’t get it. honestly

    Comment by utopianfragments | November 12, 2008 | Reply

  2. Uh-oh, sounds like I’ve missed somebody crucial! I will be sure to check him out. Thanks for the suggestion. 🙂

    Comment by 20yearsfromnow | November 12, 2008 | Reply

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