Currently, depending on your living situation, you might be unable to see friends, family and loved ones. Social and sporting events may have been severely curtailed. Work may have changed radically as some have increased workloads or operate from home, if they’re lucky enough to be working at all. You likely can’t even stop into the local watering hole for chats and refreshments. Compound this with the shortened days and the longer nights, the ice and the snow, and the darkness and the melancholy of winter. Traditionally this time of year was feared because of its effects on the land, farming and gathering food. It was believed that evil spirits darkness walked the earth during this season.
We’d kill to be able to walk around freely like those evil spirits now.
The Overblown staff have assembled the albums emblematic of both the COVID-induced isolation and winter. Below is a list of the music that has comforted us, inspired hope and matched the mood of the tumultuous times.
The Cranberries – Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?
This year was the shits. I moved three times trying to figure out how to be sane under the circumstances. Each time I crossed the country alone, I thought endlessly about how I could redefine success for myself this year and if my Prozac was the right dosage, all the while listening to The Cranberries’ Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? over, and over, and over.
The Cranberries are celestial punk faeries whose ethereal voices and grungy vibrations are the perfect soundtrack for every occasion of one’s feeble life. Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? is a chameleon of emotions both calming and chaotic. There are few albums ideal for every situation, from pulling over on the side of a rainy road to dirty cry, to hiking mountains and climbing trees to be a little closer to the sun, to stalking gothic cemeteries to pass the time in style. The Cranberries held my hand for every moment this year, helping me get through nightmare fueled nights and solo car trips down many country roads.
As I write this in The Middle of Nowhere, Wyoming, it has been snowing for three days. It’s a typical western -14 degrees outside. I’m balancing a fat, grey cat on one knee and a dented Mac on the other. Tonight, I plan to close my eyes and listen to The Cranberries on repeat and cycle through the rainbow of emotions this album elicits while plotting my next fantasies for when the world begins to bloom. – Emma Laurent
Deafheaven – Sunbather
Almost eight years ago Deafheaven set the music industry up with what would come to be one of the most incisive and defying records in contemporary metal. Sunbather’s release came in grandiose fashion, with a cosmic scale and dynamically transcendent moments. As a blackgaze band, Deafheaven steadied their trademark sound on black metal and shoegaze alike, but to label Sunbather in such simple terms would be anything but productive. The album dwells among long-winded, incessant sonic gusts of fury and melancholic, carefully arranged movements. Although Sunbather tends to slowly burn its way to its most frenetic and awe-inspiring segments, it’s the journey it sets you upon that renders it so ethereal. It is certainly not an album for everyone, as it associates components of cultures that were ultimately disjointed up until more recent times. Even then, it promises utter elation to those who allow themselves into it.
But how does this relate with our current state of affairs if Sunbather seemingly resembles the opposite of frigid winters, constriction, and isolation? It reminisces in hopefulness through its poetic splendor and gorgeous arrangements. And hope, that all of this gets sorted out soon enough, is something many of us could desperately use right now. – Jose Garcia
Junior Boys – Last Exit
Pandemic isolation saw many people seeking comfort in throwbacks from the past. Music-wise I found myself listening to one of the biggest hidden gems of synth-pop: Last Exit by Junior Boys, which is among my favourite projects of all time. This debut album by the Canadian duo fits current weather conditions (it’s around -15°C in Poland on a daily basis) particularly well. With its icy, minimalistic beats, top-notch production and Jeremy Greenspan’s delicate vocals it works best on a frosty yet sunny Sunday morning while you stroll through your neighbourhood without anyone in sight. I feel like Junior Boys have been one of the key inspirations for the alternative R&B genre, yet are rarely mentioned when it comes to early 00’s greats. A shame as they’ve created some of the best pop tunes of the 21st century. – Bartek Zaparucha
A Winged Victory for the Sullen – A Winged Victory for the Sullen
This eponymous debut album from ambient duo A Winged Victory for the Sullen is the ideal winter listening record due to the fact that its beauty and tenderness will keep you warm. It is a crackling fire. It is a glass of whiskey. It is a stew. This album accompanies me in the winter while I engage in one of my favourite activities; reading. These are the things that make the short days and the bitterly cold weather tolerable. It is the opposite of winter. Winter is cold. This album is warm. Winter symbolises death. This album is full of hope. Winter is dark. This album is bright. – Jamie Coughlan
Winter – Into Darkness
When Into Darkness came out in 1990, its concept alone was completely unique. Winter retained the apocalyptic feel of standard death metal but were indebted to the likes of Amebix, Hellhammer and Antisect, along with aspects of no wave. The themes of alienation, oppression and darkness in tracks like ‘Oppression Freedom Oppression’, ‘Godon’ and ‘Eternal Frost’ may have sounded juvenile in another’s hands but Winter’s presentation is what set them apart.
Into Darkness straddles the line between rawness, due to the thin production, and precise, tight atmosphere. The riffing and guitar work by Stephen Flam sounds like Kerry King if he had taken a handful of Quaaludes, Joe Gonclaves’ drumwork is not flashy but packs immense weight, and John Alman’s death bellows synch up perfectly with the droning guitar and bass. The presence of keys increases the unsettling tone. The aesthetic and mood of Into Darkness defined it as unlike no other. Stick it on some gloomy evening and soak in the grime and filth. – Philip Morrissey
Mono – Hymn to the Immortal Wind
Winter is an invitation to find tenderness in the spaces safe from frigidity. It is a season to celebrate thick blankets and early sunsets and revel in the warmth afforded by 21st century housing standards. COVID-19 perverted that serenity into a molasses-thick sludge wherein the delicacy of a snowflake is lost beneath snowbanks of separation. Hymn to the Immortal Wind is the synapse between isolation and avalanches. Its climaxes roar with the severity of arctic snowstorms but between each crescendo is human connection. Mono imbue a fragility mimicking the state of isolation during winter. They chart a course through snowsqualls and a vast sound to saunter off the snowfall. – Colin Dempsey