Seasonal Songs: January | PITH + VIGOR by Rochelle Greayer

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Seasonal Songs: January

1/14/2011

Studio ‘g’ has a new contributor!! He’s a super-cool guy, kinda cute, wicked smaaat and has the best collection of music I have ever seen.  Couple that with an encyclopedic knowledge of tunes and you have someone who is perfectly suited to create a ‘Seasonal Songs’ playlist that will hopefully inspire you (or at least give you something new to chew on while stuck inside). I have graciously given him the gig of coming up with a new playlist related to a theme for the month and he has taken to it with his regular cool excitement (never one to over-react). Our inaugural set is inspired by winter and the cold quiet month of January. We are thinking February’s set will be inspired by the floral theme of the month – roses, unless we come up with something more interesting. We would love to hear what you think, if you like this new feature or if you have suggestions for future seasonal themes.

With that, I turn it over to Rob Greayer (aka Mr. Studio ‘g’). :

Now that we’re past the holiday period, selecting ‘seasonal songs’ becomes an interesting challenge. January, at least in my part of the world, is cold, often dark, and a bit bleak. Although the New England countryside can be wonderful looking in the dead of winter,interacting with it is often a wet and bone-chilling experience. It can make me miss the city. London, even darker in this time of year than New England, is nevertheless very alive in the dead of winter, with pockets of warmth everywhere — the pub, the cafe, the shops and theaters. So the first song for the dark winter season is “Dark Streets of London” by the Pogues (‘and the winter came down and I loved it so dearly / the pubs and the bookies where you spent all your time / and the old men they were singing when the roses bloom again /and turn like the leaves to a new summertime‘).

More apt for the countryside — and a countryside even colder than the New England countryside — is Jens Lekman’s “Cold Swedish Winter”. Definitely a song to listen to when you’re outside shoveling snow. Jens Lekman is probably the only songwriter in the world who could rhyme ‘chilly’ with ‘chili’, and keep a straight face.

Sticking with a northern theme (winter just isn’t winter anywhere else, really) brings me to Bob Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country”. Many, many versions of this song have been recorded over the years, including two classics by Bob Dylan himself — the original and a famous one with Johnny Cash:

But January is the month when the sun begins its long, slow return. It’s all about starting out fresh and looking forward with a bit of optimism. In that vein, I give you “January Wedding” by the Avett Brothers:

Frightened Rabbit’s “Living in Colour” is not as optimistic as ‘January Wedding’, but determined. Lead singer Scott Hutchison sings of soaking in a ‘winter of mixed drinks’ which makes the song suitably seasonal, as does the fact that they’re the most northerly band in the list (though their Scottish home town may not match Bob Dylan’s Hibbing, Minnesota for wintriness.).

Finally, January marks the beginning of burn season here in New England. Farmers and gardeners clear the accumulated scrub, brush, deadfall and the wood from orchard pruning this time of year, and gather it into bonfires. It is a seasonal smell, the burning of applewood and fallen pine, in our town. In that spirit, I present Ben Harper’s “Burn One Down”, which must be about bonfires (“If you don’t like my fire, don’t come around / cause I’m gonna burn one down”):

The song is almost enough to warm you up on a cold January day.

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  1. And let’s not forget ….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iU7CKaNhziM

    Some good songs here – I especially liked the Jens Lekman which was news to mw.

  2. Denise says:

    A wonderful “High Fidelity” idea, and an interesting playlist to explore. Was just thinking of The Pogues yesterday and wondering why I don’t listen to them anymore. Welcome, Mr. Studio ‘g’!

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