Ten Great Winter Albums - 1 to 5

Why is it I always turn to blogging when at my most bored and/or intellectually restless? Strange. Anyway.
 
I have been meaning to catch up on my blog, more specifically continuing to update my adventures of a new PC owner series. But I'm taking time out today to talk about something that means even more to me than video games - that subject is music. In particular, today I wanted to talk about a handful of albums that, for me, really define the winter season we are currently experiencing. We have had heavy snow here in London the past week, and as always it has filled me with a poetic melancholy that has made me especially enraptured by deep haunting emotional music. I want to talk about a few prime examples of this style of music making.
 
1) Gregor Samsa - Rest
 

You have never heard of Gregor Samsa. That is your fault, not theirs. Although their catalogue only extends to two EPs and two full length records, they already established themselves as masters of the art of creating simply beautiful melancholic music, almost shattering in their emotional resonance. It helps when you're named after the most famous creation of one of the most torturously brilliant writers of his or any generation. Their first full-length record, 55:12, was more rooted in the soft-loud dynamic so prevalent in post-rock, but Rest was something of a deviation in that it focuses so heavily on creating moody atmospheric ethereal soundscapes that remind one of rolling fields of white, candlelit nights and of beautiful isolation. The opener, "The Adolescent", is simply one of the most moving pieces of music you will ever hear, and the album as a whole is a complete delight.
 
"I'll be here when things die down, and the winter is gone."
  2) Bjork - Homogenic
 
Bjork is a strange figure in many minds, a bizarre porcelain doll dancing on the edges of popular culture. She is revered in musical circles for her incredibly imaginative songwriting, her powerful vocals and her flair for the artistic, the playful and the fantastic. Nowhere are her strengths and talents more apparent than the simply dazzling Homogenic. Probably the most winter oriented of her albums, her third release was a departure from her earlier work, rooted as it was in glitzy European electro pop. We all knew that there was a true artist, something special, in Bjork's early music, but it is fully realised here. There are still big beats, but the haunting weighty feel of the music is all encompassing. Just about every track is special, each one an encapsulation of a beautiful mind. "Joga", "All Neon Like" and "All is Full of Love" tower the highest, and the unforgettable "Unravel" is haunting beyond belief. It's also according to Radiohead frontman and musical genius Thom Yorke his favourite song ever. He might be right. And are you going to argue with Thom Yorke? Huh? Thought not.
 
" I weave for you the marvellous web , glow in the dark threads , all neon like"
 
3) Mono - Hymn to the Immortal Wind
 
Hymn to the Immortal Wind is the most recent album from the towering Japanese post rock band Mono, and it's also probably their best. They held nothing back here. Not wanting to delve too deeply into stereotypes and preconceptions, but the Japanese, in particular in their art, have an innate and immediate understanding of the beauty of simplicity, the effectiveness of atmospherics, and the appreciation of the soul's melancholy. Need proof? Look no further. The band gave themselves even more space and time to ruminate; an ironic statement really, because like much of this type of music, they seem to supercede, even evaporate, time and space until nothing but the music exists. The aptly named "Ashes in the Snow" begins the precedings, but the true genius of the album is found in the next three tracks. "Burial at Sea", "Silent Flight, Sleeping Dawn" and "Pure as Snow (Trails of the Winter Storm)" are all beautiful pieces in and of themselves, but together they take on an even more glorious magnitude. Deeply affecting and ever so moving, this is an album that truly must be experienced, even lived in.
 
4) Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
 
The discussion of atmospheric melodic post-rock begins, and in some circles ends, with the Montreal trailblazers of modern orchestral rock. They are synonymous with this genre, and their magnum opus, the 87-minute colossus Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, is an album almost beyond compare. The four songs are full of secrets, all magical, strange and majestic, built around their incredible sense for the harmony of melody and rhythm. If we were willing to openly engage in unifying all music genres into one internal bracket, and if there were any justice in the work, we would be discussing GY!BE in the same breath as we would the likes of Mozart, Schubert and Rachmaninoff, so great is their talent and their impact on a generation of audiophiles. This is an album you have to give yourself up to, let it affect every part, let every sound resonate within. Few pieces of music deserve such attention and affection. This is one of them.
 
" And I still remember in my mind how things used to be, and, uh, I feel very bad...and we used to sleep on the beach here, sleep overnight. They don't do it anymore, though. Things changed, see? They don't sleep anymore on the beach."
 
5) Sigur Ros - ( )
 
It's probably not their best album, but through all the music of these Icelandic titans of modern music, none of their work is as auteur, as aggressively artistic and anti-mainstream as ( ). The mere title alone is the stuff of music marketing men's nightmares. Sigur Ros don't care. They only care about creating their beautiful style of deeply moving music, crafted passionately from local folk music, classical and modern works. This record examines both sides of Sigur Ros' style in microcosm, and in clear detail. The first four tracks are light, wistful, almost playful, but still effortlessly magical and extremely engaging. The latter half is darkness, weighty, deeply atmospheric and undeniably melancholic. The lighter half of the album is highlighted by the piano-based instrumental track "Untitled #3 (Samskeyti)", while the latter half if highlighted by the simply massive, all encompassing epic that is "Untitled #8 (Popplagio (literally "The Pop Song" - the ultimate irony))", which is probably the best song the band have ever penned. Sometimes the sheer monolithic weight of their genius collapses upon them, but for it's flaws, it's still a marvellous experience.
 
I am exhausted by this task I have endeavoured, and so the latter half of this list shall wait for another day. Goodnight.
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Posted by Atlas

Why is it I always turn to blogging when at my most bored and/or intellectually restless? Strange. Anyway.
 
I have been meaning to catch up on my blog, more specifically continuing to update my adventures of a new PC owner series. But I'm taking time out today to talk about something that means even more to me than video games - that subject is music. In particular, today I wanted to talk about a handful of albums that, for me, really define the winter season we are currently experiencing. We have had heavy snow here in London the past week, and as always it has filled me with a poetic melancholy that has made me especially enraptured by deep haunting emotional music. I want to talk about a few prime examples of this style of music making.
 
1) Gregor Samsa - Rest
 

You have never heard of Gregor Samsa. That is your fault, not theirs. Although their catalogue only extends to two EPs and two full length records, they already established themselves as masters of the art of creating simply beautiful melancholic music, almost shattering in their emotional resonance. It helps when you're named after the most famous creation of one of the most torturously brilliant writers of his or any generation. Their first full-length record, 55:12, was more rooted in the soft-loud dynamic so prevalent in post-rock, but Rest was something of a deviation in that it focuses so heavily on creating moody atmospheric ethereal soundscapes that remind one of rolling fields of white, candlelit nights and of beautiful isolation. The opener, "The Adolescent", is simply one of the most moving pieces of music you will ever hear, and the album as a whole is a complete delight.
 
"I'll be here when things die down, and the winter is gone."
  2) Bjork - Homogenic
 
Bjork is a strange figure in many minds, a bizarre porcelain doll dancing on the edges of popular culture. She is revered in musical circles for her incredibly imaginative songwriting, her powerful vocals and her flair for the artistic, the playful and the fantastic. Nowhere are her strengths and talents more apparent than the simply dazzling Homogenic. Probably the most winter oriented of her albums, her third release was a departure from her earlier work, rooted as it was in glitzy European electro pop. We all knew that there was a true artist, something special, in Bjork's early music, but it is fully realised here. There are still big beats, but the haunting weighty feel of the music is all encompassing. Just about every track is special, each one an encapsulation of a beautiful mind. "Joga", "All Neon Like" and "All is Full of Love" tower the highest, and the unforgettable "Unravel" is haunting beyond belief. It's also according to Radiohead frontman and musical genius Thom Yorke his favourite song ever. He might be right. And are you going to argue with Thom Yorke? Huh? Thought not.
 
" I weave for you the marvellous web , glow in the dark threads , all neon like"
 
3) Mono - Hymn to the Immortal Wind
 
Hymn to the Immortal Wind is the most recent album from the towering Japanese post rock band Mono, and it's also probably their best. They held nothing back here. Not wanting to delve too deeply into stereotypes and preconceptions, but the Japanese, in particular in their art, have an innate and immediate understanding of the beauty of simplicity, the effectiveness of atmospherics, and the appreciation of the soul's melancholy. Need proof? Look no further. The band gave themselves even more space and time to ruminate; an ironic statement really, because like much of this type of music, they seem to supercede, even evaporate, time and space until nothing but the music exists. The aptly named "Ashes in the Snow" begins the precedings, but the true genius of the album is found in the next three tracks. "Burial at Sea", "Silent Flight, Sleeping Dawn" and "Pure as Snow (Trails of the Winter Storm)" are all beautiful pieces in and of themselves, but together they take on an even more glorious magnitude. Deeply affecting and ever so moving, this is an album that truly must be experienced, even lived in.
 
4) Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
 
The discussion of atmospheric melodic post-rock begins, and in some circles ends, with the Montreal trailblazers of modern orchestral rock. They are synonymous with this genre, and their magnum opus, the 87-minute colossus Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, is an album almost beyond compare. The four songs are full of secrets, all magical, strange and majestic, built around their incredible sense for the harmony of melody and rhythm. If we were willing to openly engage in unifying all music genres into one internal bracket, and if there were any justice in the work, we would be discussing GY!BE in the same breath as we would the likes of Mozart, Schubert and Rachmaninoff, so great is their talent and their impact on a generation of audiophiles. This is an album you have to give yourself up to, let it affect every part, let every sound resonate within. Few pieces of music deserve such attention and affection. This is one of them.
 
" And I still remember in my mind how things used to be, and, uh, I feel very bad...and we used to sleep on the beach here, sleep overnight. They don't do it anymore, though. Things changed, see? They don't sleep anymore on the beach."
 
5) Sigur Ros - ( )
 
It's probably not their best album, but through all the music of these Icelandic titans of modern music, none of their work is as auteur, as aggressively artistic and anti-mainstream as ( ). The mere title alone is the stuff of music marketing men's nightmares. Sigur Ros don't care. They only care about creating their beautiful style of deeply moving music, crafted passionately from local folk music, classical and modern works. This record examines both sides of Sigur Ros' style in microcosm, and in clear detail. The first four tracks are light, wistful, almost playful, but still effortlessly magical and extremely engaging. The latter half is darkness, weighty, deeply atmospheric and undeniably melancholic. The lighter half of the album is highlighted by the piano-based instrumental track "Untitled #3 (Samskeyti)", while the latter half if highlighted by the simply massive, all encompassing epic that is "Untitled #8 (Popplagio (literally "The Pop Song" - the ultimate irony))", which is probably the best song the band have ever penned. Sometimes the sheer monolithic weight of their genius collapses upon them, but for it's flaws, it's still a marvellous experience.
 
I am exhausted by this task I have endeavoured, and so the latter half of this list shall wait for another day. Goodnight.
Posted by RagingLion

Winter melancholic music is something that I can definitely find a place for in my life on many occasions so I will try to remember these and give them a listen at some point.  Only listened to the Sigur Ros album of these so far.  Haven't listened to any Bjork yet but maybe I'll try her out soon.
 
Right now I'm listening to M83 - Before The Dawn Heals Us which I listened to for the first time earlier this week and am now very fond of.  Half of that feels like the accompaniment to driving around at night and I'd class the track 'In The Cold I'm Standing' as being particularly good and fitting for the winter melancholy theme.  Also, if you've never come across The Notwist before then I highly recommend them as they're one of my very favourite bands - I'd describe them as often having a wistful optimistic melancholy with their albums 'Neon Golden' and 'The Devil, You + Me' being the albums to check out.  You might like their latest album 'Sturm' as well though which is more ambient in feel and minimalistic - standout track on that is 'Sarejevo 2' I'd say.