“Winter Lady” by Leonard Cohen
Listening to renowned soft-rock singer Leonard Cohen has always been a melancholic yet soothing experience for me. Cohen’s raw, emotional voice feels so familiar, and I always seem to find myself gravitating toward his albums when the weather outside starts to cool down. Playing Cohen’s records while looking out the window at the snow falling is habitual — dare I say, customary — for me back in my home state of Minnesota. Cohen’s best album, in my opinion, is his 1967 “Songs Of Leonard Cohen,” featuring the standout track “Winter Lady.” My favorite line from this track is, “You chose your journey long before / You came upon this highway.” The first time that I listened to this track was a little over a year ago when I had no idea where to apply to college. I found immense comfort in this line. Perhaps I would figure out where I wanted to apply before I had to start typing those monotonous details of my high school career into the ominous Common App. I was hoping I’d choose my journey before coming upon the highway.
“The Biggest Lie” by Elliott Smith
I would argue that the entirety of late American singer-songwriter Elliott Smith’s self-titled album has a distinctly autumnal feeling to it, but the closing track, “The Biggest Lie,” strikes me as the most autumnal song of them all. Smith is one of my favorite singers of all time, mainly because his songs convey so many intimate and profound emotions but also because they remind me of cooler temperatures and seasonal changes (if you can’t tell after reading this article, my favorite season is winter, more specifically the change from autumn to winter). My favorite line from this track is, “The subway that only goes one way / The stupid thing that’ll come to pull us apart / And make everybody late.” I’ll be honest in saying that the hopeless romantic in me adores this album, especially this track. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of a relationship blossoming in the frosty, sometimes bitter winter months; do those in the relationship find emotional warmth existing between them, even when they are apart?
“Blue Light” by Mazzy Star
Mazzy Star’s “So Tonight That I Might See” is another go-to album in my collection that always makes a reappearance every time the leaves start falling outside. The beginning of this track feels numb; the noise is almost ambient, as Hope Sandoval, the lead singer of Mazzy Star, fills my ears with her spine-chilling yet cloudy voice. The “blue light” that she sings about reminds me of those quintessential dark winter nights in Minnesota when I’d walk around in my puffy coat with my headphones plugged into my ears. My favorite line from this track is, “There’s a world / Outside my doorstep / Flames over / Everyone’s hot.” Last winter, I listened to this album an unhealthy amount. If you’re familiar with this Mazzy Star record, you will definitely get what I mean when I say that this album is more or less painful to listen to. Last November was, to put it lightly, an awful month for me personally, hence the ever-present magnetic force between this album and me, the depressed listener with too much time on their hands. This lyric brought me a sense of consolation. There is a world outside, a world with flames and happiness.
“Savior Complex” by Phoebe Bridgers
I think it’s fair to say that indie musician Phoebe Bridgers’ second studio album “Punisher” is an essential “cold weather album,” even if “cold” in California is 60 F while “cold” in Minnesota is 15 F. Regardless, “Savior Complex” always brings about an icy feeling in my heart. This song describes the pitfalls of a toxic relationship over a dark and moody yet sensual beat to create a hauntingly beautiful song. My favorite line from this track is, “All the bad dreams that you hide / Show me yours, I’ll show you mine.” There’s something so powerful about being vulnerable with someone you have feelings for, especially if that vulnerability is hard for yourself to reconcile with. To reveal your flaws to someone who likely sees you as the most perfect version of yourself is, quite frankly, terrifying to me. So until my fear of intimacy ceases to exist, I will enjoy listening to this track amidst the cool winds and early sunsets of winter.
“Pink Frosty Demo” by Fugazi
American punk-rock band Fugazi’s 1999 “Instrument Soundtrack” is a masterpiece in so many ways. The record’s opening track, “Pink Frosty Demo,” is a beautifully orchestrated instrumental with a guitar interlude that strums in the background at various points in the song to keep the listener on their toes. Every time I listen to this track, I find myself inexplicably tapping my foot on the ground and bobbing my head. “Pink Frosty Demo,” as well as the rest of “Instrument Soundtrack,” is a perfect listen for the chilly treks around campus during the cooler autumn months.
“Wheat Kings” by The Tragically Hip
The 10th track on the Canadian rock band’s 1992 album “Fully Completely” reminds me of car drives with my dad in the fall when I was in high school. Inspired by the true story of the wrongful conviction of a 16-year-old boy named David Milgaard, this track is one of my dad’s favorite songs, and so it has also become one of my favorites, too. “Wheat Kings” consists of a simple strumming pattern, and the gentle voices singing over the guitar are very relaxing and the ideal addition to any autumn-inspired playlist. My favorite line from this track is, “There’s a dream he dreams where the high school’s dead and stark / It’s a museum and we’re all locked up in it after dark.” As I mentioned earlier, my dad and I loved listening to this song together when he’d drive me to and from my high school, hence my enjoyment of that set of lyrics. To be frank, I am extremely homesick. I miss those little moments I’d experience every day with my parents, moments that I definitely took for granted now that I’m 2,000 miles away from them. So for me, listening to this song brings me much comfort because I am reminded of my home in Minnesota and the small but happy moments I shared with my parents.