It’s that time of the year again when the nights are drawing in, the skies are clouding over, you finally get to wear your winter layers and you start thinking that maybe bears are on to something with the whole hibernating thing. Thankfully in Sydney there are no shortage of secluded, cosy little alcoves for you to retire to for some respite from the elements. You’ll preferably want to be finding one with a roaring open fire, some hefty oak furniture and elk heads adorning the walls. The question is, as you sink back into the cushions, swaddled in a chunky knit blanket and gaze wistfully into the embers, slowly swirling the brandy in your glass, what five songs should you be listening to?
A suitably dreamy, melancholic groove to get things started from Doves debut album, ‘Lost Souls’. Prior to releasing this record Doves were known as ‘Sub Sub’- a much more dance oriented group. The experience of cutting their teeth in the 90s club scene in Manchester undoubtedly helped influence this chilled out and considered indie album, the morning after the night before, so to speak. This instrumental track is the perfect opener for settling in as dawn’s first cold, steely light is struggling to break through those heavy winter clouds. Throw another log on the fire and rest easy that there’s nowhere else you need to be.
The archetypal winter song. Written and recorded in 1965 in New York during a particularly bleak winter when John and Michelle Phillips were missing their native Los Angelean sunshine. Laden with The Mamas and the Papas signature vocal harmonies and a very groovy flute solo this is West Coast sixties folk condensed into a perfect two and a half minute pop masterpiece. “All the leaves are brown, and the skies are grey”, indeed.
French Composer Eric Alfred Leslie Satie was born in 1866 and wrote this minimalist, piano piece (the first part of three piano compositions) in Paris, 1888. Commonly held to be an important precursor to modern ambient music this is a hauntingly sparse yet beautiful piece of music. Satie composed many other songs in his lifetime before his untimely death in 1925 after years of heavy drinking. Listen to this as your eyes are drawn once again to the window and the first flecks of snow drift down from bruised clouds above.
From 1973’s ‘Goats Head Soup’, despite being recorded in Jamaica this is the perfect evocation of a tightly frosted winter’s afternoon. It’s credited to Mick and Keith but Richards doesn’t actually feature at all. One time Stones member Mick Taylor played all of the guitars on this track, including the wistful slide guitar, and he more than likely lent a hand on song writing duties too. A beautiful string section helps to round out this slice of chilly, country tinged goodness. You walk to the window to peer out at the sun breaking through the clouds and turning the snow clad vista into a golden utopia, full of promise.
This was written by George Harrison and featured on side one of 1969’s ‘Abbey Road’. Harrison wrote this track at the end of a particularly difficult period in his life during which he briefly quit The Beatles, had been arrested and spent some time in hospital. It’s a gently hopeful track that marks the return of the sun and the sense of well being following in it’s wake. “It’s been a long, cold, lonely winter.” The clouds have cleared, the sun is high, children wrapped in scarves are outside snowballing. It’s time to put down that book, shake off the winter malaise and make the most of this most magical season.