It’s cold, very cold. And, to me, sub-zero temperatures and the prospect of an extended commute call for one thing – yes, ditch the hip flask and thermo hand-warmers, what I need is a well-charged iPod loaded with tunes befitting the big freeze. So here is a wintry soundtrack with not one mention of gritter vans. I must confess in many of these selections – all from 2010 – there’s a distinct crossover between snow and sunshine. Think twinkling icicles and the sun glinting off ski goggles.
Komputer – Com Truise
I was determined to shoe-horn in a slice of Com Truise – this music is without doubt the “discovery” of 2010 for me. And the man behind the spoonerism, Seth Haley, hails from upstate New York so no stranger to snowdrifts. Haley programmes vintage keyboards and sixties reel-to-reels, evoking a delicious blend of New Order, Cocteau Twins and Boards of Canada – all shook up in a synthy snowglobe.
Get Up – Washed Out
If you grew up in the 1980s, the music of Washed Out is the realisation of the dream you had of recording a synth opus via your kid sister’s keyboard and your dad’s cassette deck. Washed Out, a.k.a. Ernest Greene, is leading the vanguard of “chillwave” (a fairly vacuous genre tag but it suits me here) along with the likes of Memory Tapes and Blackbird Blackbird. Google them all, they make magical sounds fresh out of winter ’85.
White Magic – CEO
Ceo is the offshoot of Swedish electro-pop duo The Tough Alliance, with debut album White Magic released in fairly low-key fashion this year by one half of the band Eric Berglund. Here, the title track turns jungle beats into icecaps, marching glacially towards some unknown destination. And while it contains more than a dollop of Balearic sunshine (dangerously close to cheese), mostly it makes me want to travel by toboggan to Moominland.
Snow and Taxis – Gold Panda
Back in London and Gold Panda is chopping up beats and glitter bombs on slushy street corners. An elusive character, he recently tweeted “The Wikipedia info about me is completely wrong”. What we do know is Mr Panda has made one of the electronic albums of 2010, Lucky Shiner, with tracks like Snow and Taxis coming over like a cockier Four Tet chucking sonic snowballs.
Silent Time of Earth – Candy Claws
When I first heard Candy Claws’ album, Hidden Lands, all I could think of was Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins – trapped inside a mountain, possibly with a band of elves. According to Pitchfork the lyrics were composed by running the words of a textbook, The Secret Life of the Forest, back and forth into a translation programme. It’s a weird, evocative record unlike anything else around and would certainly enhance a ramble in the snow.
Castles in the Snow – Twin Shadow
Twin Shadow seemed to come out of nowhere this autumn to snatch the crown labelled “album of 2010” from the heads of Beach House and Caribou. The album, Forget, contains so many perfect melodies it seems implausible they have not existed before. The songs come parcelled up in lush new wave synth drones and on this one “everything I touch turns cold”. What’s more Twin Shadow’s George Lewis Jr has been described as a “black Morrissey”, which can’t be bad.
Walk in the Park – Beach House
A friend of mine described the sound of Beach House as “like being drunk on a slowing-down waltzer… in a good way”. I agree. Like Twin Shadow, Baltimore dream-poppers Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally create melodies and moods which feel familiar and new all at once. I’m at risk of wearing out the grooves on my Teen Dream LP and this song begs to be taken for a frosty wander past the empty bandstand.
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) – Arcade Fire
I had to include Arcade Fire after seeing them transform 17,000 wool-clad freezing Brits into a sweaty mess of euphoria at London’s O2 early this month. Frontman Win Butler even congratulated the UK on the quality of its snow – quite an honour coming from a Canadian. Sprawl II is a Régine Chassagne (Win’s wife) led romp railing against “dead shopping malls” from the ‘Fire’s blockbusting The Suburbs LP. It is a winter boredom call to arms.
Through the Winter – Saint Etienne
For me, no winter playlist is complete without the presence of Saint Etienne. They are, after all, the band that wrote the lyric: “21st of June, it’s Christmas in my heart” (California Snow Story). Yes, they are yuletide-o-philes. Proving this, the Et just released a seasonal album, A Glimpse of Stocking, from whence this song came. Crack open the Baileys and throw me a fig.
Lalibela – Caribou
I’m ending on a crystalline slice of Caribou, the project of Canadian mathematician Dan Snaith. I first got into Dan’s expanded brackets when he recorded under the name Manitoba (see albums Start Breaking My Heart and Up In Flames) in the early 2000s. It still causes confusion in my alphabetised CD stack today. 2010’s Swim is a glorious triumph of warm beats over cold electronica – and this track is only a taster. Pour yourself a brandy…
You can listen to the playlist here.