The chilled frost of winter has finally descended upon Boulder, and the prospect of an evening indoors is starting to become much more enticing. As the shades of the air around us change, so does the nature of the music we listen to. For evenings when a blanket and a turn table seem like the best medicine for the harshest of months, may these albums comfort you in wintry weather.
A Ghost Is Born – Wilco
Trading in bright acoustic choruses for muted, melancholy production, Wilco’s follow-up to the landmark, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” remains their most unique and singular release. Recorded in the midst of Jeff Tweedy’s growing battle with depression and panic attacks, “A Ghost is Born” wavers between moments of folky serenity (“Muzzle of Bees”) and mindboggingly avant-garde noise ventures (“Spiders”), with even its most cathartic tracks projecting the aching moan of a damaged mind.
Wind’s Poem – Mount Eerie
Phil Elverum’s love letter to the harsh spirit of the wind mirrors the moments of calm and cruelty that one might encounter on a snow-covered mountain in the dead of winter. Elverum’s ability to channel sound into whatever form he wishes turns this set of songs into a constantly shifting enigma, with ambiance taking priority above all.
Oh, Inverted World – The Shins
What stands out most about the Shins’s debut release is that, although the songs mimic a California mindset of pop, the record ultimately comes off like an introverted sketch of those very same ideas. Keyboards weave out melodies while distant production puts the music in an isolation chamber of innocence, where the beaches and cars can finally be as shimmering as they look in the movies.
Richard D. James Album – Aphex Twin
Aphex Twin’s music has always instigated a push-pull relationship with his fans, and his namesake-bearing record epitomizes that frame of mind. The icy synthesizers that hold the core of these tracks are some of the most beautiful, ambient melodies James would ever write, yet the schizophrenic rhythms seem built to jar the brain out of any sense of comfort.
All My Friends Are Funeral Singers – Califone
The latest in one of the most prolifically consistent discographies in American music, Califone’s “All My Friends Are Funeral Singers” sees some of the band’s warm, gritty sounds closing the blinds in favor of a more weary, metallic clatter. Still, Tim Rutili’s thousand-year croak is as jaded as ever, and this late-career release continues to wear down the bark of any trees within a certain radius.
An Empty Bliss Beyond This World– The Caretaker
James Kirby’s sample-based journey into the crevasses of human memory hit a high point with “An Empty Bliss Beyond This World.” Through the hiss of old vinyl scratching and loops of ballroom numbers that seem to disappear and reincarnate with uncertainness, Kirby finds a haunting world both comforting and disconcerting.
Playing With Fire– Spacemen 3
Perhaps the sparsest record by the originators of the charging space rock anthem, “Playing With Fire” is a great reminder that behind the noise and psychedelia, Spacemen 3 wrote some of the prettiest rock songs of all time. If “The Perfect Prescription” is an experience fueled by excitement and catharsis, then “Playing With Fire” is its more tranquil and sedated cousin; less world-shattering at first, perhaps, but ultimately the more reliable companion.
Elliott Smith– Elliott Smith
The king of sorrow’s most stripped down-record channels his usual reach for the sublime into the purest distillation of his sad sack mindset. The vocals may convey a spirit of desperation and longing, but his guitar parts are some of the most melodic and iridescent he would ever write. “Elliott Smith” is a record that seems to say that even if the snow outside is blistering cold, it produces an equal amount of light.
The Crying Light– Antony & the Johnsons
New York’s favorite gender-questioning ballad wizard hit his peak with this aching 2009 release. Seemingly channeling the very specter of death through his delicate arrangements and bombastic vocals, Antony’s style of music feels as if it is withering from its very core.
Dongs of Sevotion – Smog
Bill Callahan’s stint as Smog produced some of the greatest records of the 90’s and early 2000’s, but “Dongs of Sevotion” stands as one of his most impressionable records. As the title implies, his usual sarcasm is still intact, but the songwriting is so unceasingly heart-wrenching that, even as he mocks you for taking him seriously, it’s impossible not to smile.