Alright, let’s kick off this winter playlist project, shall we? First up is Miranda from The Good Groupie, a blog you should most certainly be following and reading and loving. A whole, WHOLE lot of old favorites of mine are on this here playlist, and I’m so happy Miranda has let me share it, and the process behind it, with you. Enjoy!
I used to think creating playlists was a daunting task – one better left to the likes of Rob Gordon with his encyclopedic eye to detail. We, as music fans, put so much stock in the perfect mix tape – in fiction and in reality – that it’s become an unattainable thing, a Holy Grail of our fandom. Can anyone ever truly put together THE perfect collection of songs?
The answer, in a word, is yes. Absolutely. I used to see playlists as something you spent hours carefully curating, obsessively trying to create the perfect order of songs for all the right rises and falls in the melodies and emotions. Then I realized playlists are actually telling a larger story.
They aren’t just there to evoke emotions or share your favorite songs. They’re a snapshot of you as a music fan. I’m a devout believer that the music you listen to says a lot about you – and does so in the best way possible. The songs you choose for a playlist capture your mood, a feeling, even a season. Playlists become a collection of who you were at a precise moment in time. I think just as much fun to build a collection of songs you need right now as it is to go back years later and revisit them.
My favorite winter playlist is one I originally created more than two years ago and continue to revisit each year.
Winter Tunes Revisited is a condensed version of the monster Winter Tunes playlist I started to create for myself in late 2012. One day at work, I was suddenly craving quiet bands like The National or Sea Wolf and decided rather than jumping from album to album, I would make a collection of all my favorite songs. Winter Tunes was born.
I tend to keep my playlist names pretty generic, but I was very deliberate with the decision to call it tunes instead of songs or a playlist. I loved tunes because to me it implies something a little softer than a typical song. Tunes are more personal, more intimate. They’re something you can curl up with under a blanket to stay cozy on a cold night.
But the name was the last thing to come – first I had to build my collection of songs. I’ve realized lately that I’m very seasonal in my music listening habits. Spring is for new music discovery, just in time to pop over to Austin for SXSW and see my favorites. Summer is reserved for the 60s music I grew up on. Fall is all about rock (the louder, the better), and winter? Winter is for quiet, acoustic songs.
Knowing that, I had a clear vision for this playlist. I’m incredibly lucky to have a (non-teaching!) job that allows me the week off between Christmas and New Year’s. For the past two years my parents have invited me to spend that time in the Northwoods of Wisconsin with them at the log home they’ll retire to eventually. It’s like living inside a snow globe for seven days, and I’ll never see snow like that living in Texas.
So when I started selecting my songs, I pictured myself sitting on the couch, fireplace burning bright and book in hand as I looked out the huge A-frame windows at the freshly falling snow. And I decided every song I added to this playlist had to be something I would listen to in that exact setting. Some songs are more poppy acoustic, others are dead quiet. But they all have this soft, cozy quality to them. The songs I picked for Winter Tunes Revisited are some of my very favorites off that longer master playlist.
The Order & Completion
Because all the songs were added with that specific Wisconsin setting in mind, I’m a little unorthodox when it comes to the order of this playlist – I didn’t really create one. I put songs on the playlist never intending to listen to them in order. I’m perfectly content to put them on shuffle and let the magic happen.
I’ve also fully embraced the endlessness of the playlist as compared to the mixtape. The original Winter Tunes playlist is four-and-a-half hours long to date, and I continue to add songs I love as I hear them throughout the year. I’m never done with my mixes. (See: my 11 hour 45 minute Halloween playlist.)
For this little project, however, I was tasked with a limit of 80 minutes of music. (And I squeak in just one minute over the mark.) I started by pulling all my favorites from Winter Tunes, which brought me closer to 120 minutes, and then slowly removed songs that didn’t fit quite as well. It took a few iterations (and some embarrassing math) to get it just right.
The Favorite Tunes
In the end I think I came up with a lovely little collection you could listen to on a snowy day. While it’s hard to pick your favorite when you start with the premise of “a playlist of your favorites”, there’s three songs in particular I want to point out:
“A Song For A Winter’s Night” by Gordon Lightfoot
This is one of my dad’s favorite artists, so ol’ Gordo holds a special place in my heart too. Gordon’s voice paired with that beautiful acoustic guitar is the defining sound of this playlist. Plus, those sleigh bells? Makes it absolutely magical.
“Home/Dirty Paws” by the Gardiner Sisters
If you aren’t familiar with Hailey, Allie Mandi, Lindsay, Abby and Lucy…you should be. These sisters from North Carolina are unsigned and gained notoriety with their YouTube channel. Most of their music that’s available are covers or mash-ups like this – and they do both flawlessly. Their cover of “White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes is divine as well.
“Hearing Damage” by Vitamin String Quartet
I fell in love with Thom Yorke’s “Hearing Damage” the first time I heard it, but when I ran across this instrumental version…I fell for the song even harder. The original was a touch too rock for this particular playlist. But a string cover? Perfection. I feel like this song is one of those hidden gems that once you discover it, you can’t get enough of it.
Tunes I Cut
There were, of course, songs I initially added that I pulled. “Would You Please” by Rachael Yamagata is quite and moody and depressing as hell. It’s my favorite song by her, hands down. I love the tinkling piano in the background. But it was too quiet for this collection. I cut “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” by Iron & Wine for no good reason, and I would have kept “Falling Slowly” by The Swell Season if the live version I love wasn’t so dang long. There were a few more I cut purely because I decided I could live without sharing them.
And there you have it! The Good Groupie’s secret sauce to a great winter mix. I hope you enjoy my little selection. And if you listen to it while near a fire and watching it snow…I’d love to see a photo of your view! Tweet it to me: @thegoodgroupie