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Eddie writesOh, So Cold Up North: 5 Songs To Help You Endure This Arctic Winter

by Eddie Sayago

We have just survived a long period of subarctic weather and for that, we are rewarded with a couple of rainy days with temps above 50 degrees. (It was 58 degrees at the time this very sentence about our short winter weather break was written.) And not only do we get winter weather again, but more snow is coming! And the storms have names now. Yippee!

Here are five songs about the cold to accompany you while are walking (in layers) in this winter wonderland. Stay warm!

“Cold Weather Blues” by Muddy Waters [from Folk Singer (1964, Chess Records)]

The opening (oh man, that guitar) 15 seconds is possibly the best way to step outside into this Chicago winter. Its early morning, still dark. Snow is falling onto your head. You can see your breath even though your mouth and nose is covered under a wool scarf. Recorded at Tel Mar Studios in the South Loop, this track includes Buddy Guy strumming on the guitar that sets the mood for the dark wintry day. Oh man, that guitar.

“Winter Song” by Nico [from Chelsea Girl (1967, Verve)]

With lyrics like “The snow on your eyelids that crusty with age/Is freezing the stares on tyranny’s wings” and the melody and harmonization, there’s something old-world and folksy, almost Shakespearean vibe to a song and record that Nico had very little regard for. While you weep over salt ruining your boots, the artist and model born Christa Paffgen wept over how little to no control she had over Chelsea Girl’s production. “The first time I heard the album, I cried and it was all because of the flute.”

“The Fox in the Snow” by Belle & Sebastian [from If You’re Feeling Sinister (1996, Jeepster)]

Despite the animal in the song title, this song is also about a girl with a truth to tell, a boy with a bike to ride, and a kid out in who is told to make the most of it. But of what? Of the snow? Of being a child? Or perhaps he comes across the fox, who should probably get fed. Maybe if either boy or girl sees this kid, maybe make sure he gets home before the temperature drops to zero again.

“Coldest Winter” by Kanye West [From 808 & Heartbreaks (Roc-A-Fella, 2008)]

Winter is often a time of both literal and emotional darkness. Sometimes one will use the long nights to reflect and look back on what has occurred in previous seasons. “If spring can melt the snow/Can it melt away all our mistakes?” Just about all the snow is gone, but the Internet remembers everything, no matter how many tweets, pictures and accounts are deleted. “I hate big ass striped scarves” and “Sometimes, I get emotional over fonts,” the former Chicagoan once tweeted. (This writer agrees on both.)

“Frozen” by Madonna [from Ray of Light (Maverick/Warner, 1998)]

Before a movie/phenomenon about a literal ice queen appeared, this now 20 year old song would have been your go-to if you needed a dramatic piece of pop art about a woman who is often misunderstood, banished to the middle of nowhere, and has a full army/magic for makeup and hair, costumes, and special effects so that she may fully express herself that contains “frozen” in the title. And an ice cream company may or may not have considered using this single for an promotional campaign before realizing that the lyrics “You’re so consumed with how much you get/you waste your time with hate and regret” are probably not best heard while viewing footage of people consuming pints of ice cream.




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Categorized: Top Five

Topics: belle & sebastian, kanye west, madonna, muddy waters, nico

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