3 Cold Albums for Winter


The other day when I was in Starbucks, Christmas music was playing. That’s not at all unusual for this time of year, but I wasn’t in there for even half an hour and I heard two awful renditions of “Little Drummer Boy.” I’ll spare you a rant on why that’s the worst possible Christmas song to cover.

Picking on Christmas music is a bit of a cliché at this point. All of it is overplayed and a good amount of it was lame to begin with. So here are some alternatives to Christmas music for winter listening.


1. The Residents – Eskimo

Filled with chanting, cold synths, drumming, and field recordings of wind, this album sounds like a recording of an alien ice planet. Each of the tracks is meant to accompany a fiction piece, included with the album, that tells deliberately absurd tales about the Inuit. The album as a whole is a satire of the ignorance of Native American cultures, telling ridiculous stories that someone who knows absolutely nothing about the Inuit may believe. Of course, when they start to talk about things like arctic locusts and women being impregnated by the full moon, you know they aren’t trying to be convincing.

Even without the stories, Eskimo is an excellent atmospheric album. The Residents have a huge discography, and this may not be the best place to start. If you’re looking for a strange album that evokes images of the arctic circle, however, “Eskimo” is the perfect album.


2. SleepResearch_Facility – DEEP FRIEZE


This ambient album is a trek across the desolate, snow covered mountains and fields of Antarctica with each song named after a coordinate on the continent. A fun thing to do when you listen to this album is to go to Google maps and look up each one, imagining wandering alone through the arctic terrain. No life for miles around, nothing but the ice and snow, no sound but the whistling wind. It would be sensory derivation but for the cold relentlessly beating against you. Then when all seems lost, you come upon one of the few scientific settlements, only to find it abandoned.

That may not be most people’s idea of a good time, I admit. However, if this sounds appealing to you, “DEEP FRIEZE” is well worth your time. At the very least, you’ll find that whatever the weather is outside, it doesn’t feel nearly as cold as this album sounds.


3. Thomas Koner – Permafrost

This is another ambient album meant to invoke the sensation of frigid weather. Thomas Koner has done several albums with an arctic theme, but this one is widely regarded as his best. You pretty much have to listen to this album with headphones. The mixing is intentionally very quiet and nearly every sound is in the lower register. This is a subtle album that’s not as intensely dark as SleepResearch_Facility’s. Instead of feeling like you’re freezing to death, this one will just give you some pleasant chills. It’s great for reading to as well.

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