Music For Cold Weather
I genuinely love the cold. Maybe my father’s Dutch-Canadian heritage has something to do with it, maybe my Austrian upbringing, maybe because my parents didn’t beat me as hard as they should have as a child, but if there’s a part of me which is perpetually disappointed by living in Britain it’s not the lack of a decent Summer, it’s the lack of a decent Winter.
I want Winter to be well below zero, for there to be snow on the ground for months at a time, for it to sting the tips of my fucking ears when I leave the house, for football to be abandoned for five months, for mulled wine to be served everywhere and roast potatoes and chestnuts to be available. Given that Scotland is responsible for something as awesome as a hot toddy (see Wikipedia here, although ignore the bit about ‘usually’ including alcohol, they all have alcohol, this is Scotland) you know that it used to be proper cold here at some point.
Nevertheless, despite the generally accepted inadequacy of the British Winter (places in the very North of Scotland excused, I hear it’s fucking freezing there) and despite the fact that last year got kinda chilly, prompting Benni Hemm Hemm to quip in Glasgow that he loved the weather because we seemed to think that a couple of degrees below zero was actually cold, I am always left a little disappointed by the tepid drizzle which passes for Winter in these parts.
Just as hot weather induces a certain mindset in the people who live in it, so cold weather brings on a certain mentality. Look at Finland, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Britain, Denmark, Germany and Canada and that seems to be alcoholism and a tendency towards either extreme liberalism or extreme violence, but for me it is something slightly different – probably the emotions from which the Christians parasitically appropriated Christmas.
As soon as things get really fucking freezing outside, the home becomes a massively important place. Sanctuaries of warmth and light take on a very different quality, which people from warm climates cannot possibly understand. Wherever you’re coming from, by the time you get in the house, your fingers and thumbs aren’t really working properly, you’re wrapped in ludicrously excessive layers of clothing, and it’s painfully obvious that without all this shite – the clothes, the central heating, the blankets, the warmth – you will die, really really quickly.
So being indoors on a dark evening in Winter, when you’re cosy and it’s fucking Baltic outside (one of Scotland’s best ever expressions – fuckin’ Baltic by the way!) becomes an intense treat. And of course people like me, and I assume you, listen to music. And for all it’s fun to dally with Summer fun and so on, there is no greater treat than spending a dark, cold evening inside the house with music.
And it’s a different kind of music too; I think something of the sanctuary of being indoors in the freezing cold permeates into what you choose to play. As it gets colder and darker outside, I seem to progressively lose interest in new stuff and regress to my favourite music. This, in turn, reinforces the idea of Winter time as being when you go back to your family, back to what really makes you who you are, and simply wait things out for the more carefree and laissez-faire days of Summer.
In fact, it’s a genuine mark that music will be with you forever, when you want to play it at eight at night on the eighteenth of December. This year’s graduates, I think, are probably Timber Timbre. Micah P. Hinson is there, and I think The National’s new album is probably there or thereabouts too. But in general I prefer to listen to music I’ve been listening to for years, probably much the same as we all like to watch Indiana Jones for the four hundredth time on Boxing Day every year.
So I know Scotland doesn’t really have real Winters – well, most certainly not in Edinburgh, that’s for fucking certain – but there’s a reason I really welcome the first really bitey nip on my ears when I go outside, the first frost, the first frozen puddle to crunch underfoot. It means it’s time to close up shop and spend time cosy in your home, snuggle up with someone on the couch, read books, play records you know you love, cook rich, thick food, and just enjoy being inside for a change. Coming inside from the freezing cold outdoors – no feeling like it!
Timber Timbre – No Bold Villain
Micah P. Hinson & the Gospel of Progress – Beneath the Rose
Leonard Cohen – Master Song