The Passion of the Weiss Winter Mixtape

Why a winter mixtape? Because your Wu mixtape with “Winter Warz” and “Cold World” cracked in half. Because London just got through the biggest snowfall in decades. Yes, this mixtape is being...
By    February 8, 2010


Why a winter mixtape? Because your Wu mixtape with “Winter Warz” and “Cold World” cracked in half. Because London just got through the biggest snowfall in decades. Yes, this mixtape is being posted on a website better known for summer jamz, but I’d argue that winter transcends weather. I’ve lived in Canada for most of my 21 years and you get used to the chilling winds, knee deep snow drifts and icy roads. But even if you’re walking around in shorts this season, hopefully this tape will give you the feeling of damp boots, red noses and the sharpness of January air. –Aaron Matthews, Feature Editor

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Soundcloud: The Passion of the Weiss Winter Mixtape

1. Boards of Canada – 1969


I don’t know if Boards of Canada specifically set out to make seasonal-sounding music. They do tend to have an undercurrent of outdoorsy atmosphere to some of their best work, hinted at in titles (“Hey Saturday Sun”; “In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country”; The Campfire Headphase) and the odd sensation of their music sort of sounding like it’s been left out in the elements to warp and wither. But to be honest, the wintry qualities of “1969” aren’t so obvious; this could very well sound like a sun-faded, heat-damaged, borderline-dubstep summer anthem to someone else who heard it for the first time in, say, July. It just so happens that Geogaddi came out in February, and when it’s February in Minnesota and you’re listening to this new, alluring but kind of uncomfortable music during a pre-dawn 75-minute bus commute to a temp job out in the suburbs, a trip where the eventual sunrise results in an overcast winter morning with a bleached-white sky the same color as the snow-covered landscape, well, that could do something to forge a particular association. And that ending refrain — “1969, in the sunshine” — felt like it was referencing two places that were a long distance in the past. — Nate Patrin

2. Bang Bang – Two Fingers


Sometimes a song comes to you from the very depths of your memory. I don’t think I have revisited French producer Bang Bang’s release Je T’Aime Je T’Aime since its initial release in 1999 and yet when assigned the task of picking songs for winter, the album’s opener “Two Fingers” immediately sprung to mind. Featuring distinctive vocals from Swedish performer Jay-Jay Johansson, the track’s easy electronic aesthetic and expansive sense of space call to mind the cold stillness of the season where the landscape is blanketed white and your breath visibly dissolves into the air. Johansson’s lyrics explore the nature of parental love, but ultimately it is the song’s gently shifting, vibrating production that makes this song essential for any connoisseur of the French electronic scene of the late 90s. —Dan Love

3. Pantha du Prince ft. Panda Bear- Stick To My Side


It’s overly simplistic but undeniable that there are certain binaries in life: light vs. dark, good vs. evil, Animal Collective vs. people who eat meat and are allergic to Kombucha. Pantha Du Prince, the German minimal techno master, operates from alpine shadows, with a permafrost glare and a permanent pallor. Panda Bear, the reclusive Lisbon-based member of the Zoological trio, sings honey-throated gibberish about his love of Patagonia sweaters and the Pottery Barn catalogue. Even their names are diametrically opposed: one is a fang-baring jungle cat, the other is a cuddly endangered animal used to hawk peanut butter-flavored Trader Joe’s cereal.

Yet their collaboration, “Stick to My Side,” strikes a perfect equilibrium. Noah Lennox’s ethereal Koans un-thaw Hendrick Weber’s iced-out Bavarian reserve, It’s the aural equivalent of the sun emerging during the cruel efflorescence of winter – providing a respite, a 50 degree day in February, a week without black ice. Of course, we don’t have that in the land of almost equatorial seasons. But the light is scarce and your nerves get attenuated and you question whatever it is that you’re doing. Drum beats throb, metallic bells shimmer, and the ursus ponders, “Why stick to my side, why stick to the things that you’ve already tried.” Immersed in its bleak surroundings, it’s a sliver of faith, an existential lament that gains a groove and gravity from the concrete moorings provided by Prince. “Stick to my Side” is a reminder that even uninvited guests must eventually leave. –Jeff Weiss

4. Royksop – Remind Me

There’s a deep-rooted melancholia suffusing “Remind Me,” which makes it perfect for bone-cold winter days when spring is but a fading memory, slipping through your fingers as you try to grasp it. Erlend Øye’s vocals are distant and broken; they barely rise above a whisper, allowing you to zone out and let his wistful melodies wash over you, like muted light refracting off of snow—it doesn’t warm your soul, but it makes you feel better somehow. Renato Pagnani

5. Beach House – Apple Orchard

The warm drone of the organ ripples through the song like a cutting wind as the drum machine plods through the backdrop like your boots on the snow. “Apple Orchard” is the 3am march back to your house after the bar, the vindictive winds forcing you to sober up. When Victoria Legrand coos, ‘Hold your insides/’cause you’re cold at night’, she captures the loneliness of the city in the winter, the grey zone after midnight before the rest of the world wakes up. –Aaron Matthews

6. Bjork – Immature

She’s from Iceland so it’s a winter song. End of review. But seriously folks, years before The Knife somehow got the indie press going nuts by basically ripping her off (in masks!), Bjork was twisting IDM to fit her ethereal and emotional songs and redefining alternative music doing it. Written about her breakup with D&B kingpin Goldy, “Immature” features the singer’s trademark vocals; the kind that had alternative kids going nuts and average listeners impatiently waiting on the telecommunications act of 96 to save them from this madness. What truly gives the song it’s wings however is the chilly, looping track she sings over, sounding like something the Rza might have cooked up after partial anesthesia and post-traumatic stress disorder. Essentially little more than humming and bells to start with, the tracks builds and swells into something a bit more accessible but never loses its sense of space and emptiness. Truthfully, I could probably pepper the rest of this write-up with metaphors describing how cold this all sounds but let’s cut to the chase: this thing sounds like winter. It may have been recorded in Spain (WTF? Thanks Wikipedia) but the song’s genesis and inspiration clearly lies in Bjork’s frozen, now debt-ridden, sparsely populated homeland. It’s not the best song on the album or even the most exciting, but it’s definitely the one that I connected with most after residing in a Nordic country for my entire life. –Sach O

7. Prodigy & Nas – Self Conscience

There isn’t too much music that can evoke the cold of a Montreal winter. In fact, my theory is that New York boom-bap didn’t become this city’s Hip-Hop of choice due to geographic proximity, it won hearts and minds because a fare share of it is perfect for the deathly chill that grips this town for half the year. Mobb Deep’s sonic blueprint was a particularly frigid standout: bone dry drums, evocative minor keys and a general dissonance that echoed the North-East’s howling winds. This marriage of the Mobb and Montreal is one of the only things that made sense to me as a teenager: life sucked and these guys rapped about life sucking. My city was one giant skating rink and their music was the aural equivalent of an ice pick through the heart.

Years before Wiley invented “Eski beat,” The Mobb had already invented a sub-zero sound. As much as I loved The Infamous (and its seriously underrated follow up Hell on Earth), my favorite QB winter tune was “Self-Conscience” from the QB’s finest album. Grabbing a haunted loop from The Exorcist and twisting it into subdued backing for the song’s bouncy drums, producers Infinite Arkatechz were in on Havoc’s secret: “quietly menacing” is just as effective as “rah-rah violent.” Meanwhile, Prodigy delivers a stellar verse detailing an internal conversation between the ego and superego and Nas knocks the song out the park with his then typically brilliant descriptions of hood life. As a pissed off teen waiting for the bus in 30 below weather, nothing else sounded so appropriate. –Sach O

8. Blurry Drones – Winter Weather


I don’t remember when I made this beat. Maybe December 2008, maybe January 2009, maybe an entirely different period (in ’09, Western Washington even got hit with snow in March). But I don’t think I’ll ever forget what was going on around me on the night I made it. It was 4 a.m. on an eerily-quiet morning in my suburban neighborhood — the type of night where if you listened closely enough, you could practically hear the snowflakes falling on the ground, casting everything under a flawless sheet of white. No footprints, no tire tracks, just white, white, white.

After turning on the light to my patio, I peered as far as the light would allow to watch the snow fall, and suddenly became inspired to create an appropriate soundtrack. Playing in the background was Grouper’s stunning Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill, the perfect score for a quiet, lonely night. Track ten, the fittingly-named “Wind and Snow”, made its way through the air in my room, and ultimately into my brainwaves. Bingo. Taking that, a brief clip of Fuck Buttons’ “Sweet Love for Planet Earth”, and a subtle breakbeat, I punched up this beat in fourteen minutes flat.  It’s still one of my favorites. –Douglas Martin

9. Marvin Gaye – Inner City Blues

It may not address the seasons specifically, but “Inner City Blues’” stark substance can often feel like a West Grand Boulevard wind brushing the back of your neck. The final shot on Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On? was of course more concerned with the social winter demoralising the United States during the late 60s and early 70s, but its careful rhythms, quiet, bass driven melody and soulful delivery make it perfect grist for a weather-bound night in. —Matt Shea

10. Radiohead – Airbag

WOW, it’s cliched to pick a song off OK Computer, but whatever, this song is the winter. It has sleigh bells in it. Sleigh bells! And the guitar riff is all angular and arpeggiated like sleet or freezing rain or some other precipitation metaphor. Plus it’s about car crashes, and people get in lots of car crashes during the winter. —Trey Kerby

11. Wu-Tang Clan – Jah World

As the album closer to the brilliant The W, Wu-Tang Clan’s “Jah World” featuring Junior Reid sounds like a corpse crying in his grave. Ghostface and RZA fight through tears as they did on “Can’t Go to Sleep”, begging for forgiveness, internalizing the pain of slaves before them, and spotting heretics and snakes who snatched the truth away. The beat could soundtrack the beheading of a samurai or the loss of a child in Vietnam–an eerie and mournful flute loop rolls slowly while explosions pop off and guns blast on schedule. RZA uses violent sound effects as textures a la GZA’s “Cold World,” and this track is even colder and more desolate, the sonic equivalent to Feburary days when the sun vanishes at 4:30pm and your eyes start drooping unknowingly. You’re tired and cranky, wondering what happened to the day that seems to haved passed already. You are helpless. Moaning and wailing, Junior Reid moves in and out acknowledging his frail humanity in the face of Jah. Him speaketh in tongues into the hearts of all flesh…Oh Jah, only you comfort me. Zilla Rocca

12. The Cinematic Orchestra ft. Roots Manuva – All Things to all Men

Winter lends itself to introspection, and music doesn’t come any more brooding than “All Things to All Men,” Cinematic Orchestra’s majestic artistic highpoint. From the opening reeds that flicker like licks of flame in a log fire to the cascading harp that closes out the song, All Things carries throughout its length a bubbling darkness tempered only by the warmth of Roots Manuva’s troubled, defiant rap. –Matt Shea

13. Walkmen – Blizard of 96


When Hamilton Leithauser croons in his drunken Sting-at-last-call voice, “We’ve begun to work things out again,” you can tell things won’t change. He says, “Let’s forget those things I did last winter,” yet he’s surrounded by sleigh bells and tinkling Guaraldi pianos. Spring feels imminent, but there’s more weeks left off trudging through grey slush and the memories of last year. –Aaron Matthews

14. Real Estate – Fake Blues

With its super-similar-but-not-identical guitar lines– one sprightly and the other semi-downcast– “Fake Blues” sounds like the perfect winter soundtrack for a city that never gets snow. I’d imagine Los Angeles, a town I haven’t visited since I was an infant, would sound like this during the holidays: Bright and picturesque with a vague undercurrent of emptiness, like a college town during the summer months. In the distance, you can almost hear one of the slurry, daytime drunks singing to himself, “But I’ve got to find a reason to sing this song.” Then, the sun hits that angle where it beats down on you even harder, the volume raises, and the song sings for itself. But it’s still wintertime, and the streets are still empty. —Douglas Martin

15. A Guy Called Gerald – Hekkle & Koch


It’s 5.45 on a distinctly frosty British morning in December. It’s pitch black outside and the luminous glow from the street lamps is the only thing that permeates the fog. An alarm bell rings repeatedly. After a few minutes of resistance I rise from bed for the 68th consecutive morning (but who’s counting?), put on something warm, throw my Discman in my pocket, and head out with two large bags of newspapers in my possession, one slung over each shoulder. Dark days.

I certainly don’t miss the paper round, but there was undeniably something magical about listening to music in such conditions when the rest of the world slept. Black Secret Technology provided the perfect soundtrack to those moments at dawn when the mist cleared on suburban streets and the sun briefly peeked between the horizon and the low slung, threatening rain clouds of Blighty’s deepest winter. Alone in the darkness with print-covered fingers, ‘Hekkle & Koch’ was a track I regularly turned to for comfort, and for me it will forever be associated with the season and my adolescent experience of it growing up in London town. — Dan Love

16. Doves – Black & White Town

Doves’ third album, Some Cities, is a quintessential winter album to me (the first four songs are still “impregnable,” as Sam Ubl correctly described them in his Pitchfork review of the disc). The album is suffocated by the season, but is also a stand against it. The winter of “Black and White Town” is not one of desolate landscapes or endless taiga, but an urgent, urban one where the risk of cabin fever is just as great as it is in some abandoned cabin in the middle of nowhere. Built on one of the most memorable piano loops in a 00s rock song, the song pushes forward with all its being; it wards winter off and at the same time draws from it for what is one of the most charged, blustery tunes to soundtrack a snowstorm, one that can make winter almost life-affirming, if not bearable. –Renato Pagnani

17. The Chi-Lites – Coldest Day of my Life

As far as this mix’s theme goes, this is sort of both a gimme and a leftfield choice. Leftfield because this song isn’t one of the Chi-Lites’ bigger pop hits (“Have You Seen Her”; “Oh Girl”) or notorious sample sources (“Are You My Woman? (Tell Me So)”). To beat nerds, it might hold the most familiarity as the source of Quiet Village’s “Victoria’s Secret,” which strips out the vocals and the dynamics and leaves nothing but the sweet, almost-saccharine strings from the intro. It’s a sly bit of misdirection, something that might leave reverse-engineers to track the Chi-Lites song down and discover that it’s actually as anguished as it is opulent — not mellow, but downbeat and heartbroken. And then it’s a gimme because damn, you want to pull your jacket tighter around yourself hearing that wind and those waves; it’s got to feel like daggers coming off Lake Michigan. And as the last track of A Lonely Man — a loosely conceptual record about being abandoned by love and pretty much everything and everyone else — you can hear Eugene Record’s wounded voice hanging in the bitter air like vapor. The moment where his lead starts a call-and-response with the backup singers (“It just couldn’t be that bad…” “Oooh, down below”) as the winds swirl around is enough to freeze your eye water. –-Nate Patrin

18. The Grateful Dead – Cold Rain & Snow


The beauty of the Dead is that they operated without seasonal constraints. Depending on the decade, the night, the set, or the substance, they oscillated between baleful wintry blues to sun-dappled acid-ravaged bliss. Stoned enervation and oracular clarity co-existed in a shaky cease-fire. Like all of us, they were capable of surprise, disappointment, and fleeting moments of transcendence. Thankfully, the decision to tape every moment—made 40 years ago by an addled scientist—allows us to revisit necrotic nights that should only rightfully exist in the residue of Keyseyite casualities.

“Cold Rain and Snow” transports us to Oakland, December 26, 1979. It’s the Dead at the height of their disco dreariness, but there’s no cocaine, polyester or Donna G. Not on one of their oldest songs, with its genealogy stretching back to Appalachian hillbillies strumming ancient British folk. This cut almost didn’t make the mix. Sach said it sounded like reminiscing about winter on a summer’s day. But that’s how it goes in the Bay, that ocean-blue and salt-white wind tunnel where Mark Twain spent his coldest summer. I listen the Dead from October to March because they radiate heat—they’re all heart and hearth familiarity. The live sets allow you to catch the contact high; phonographic evidence that these weird waves once washed over our alien and wireless world. Distill the lyrics to one sentence: I’m going where those chilly winds don’t blow. Sometimes you don’t have to go anywhere; sometimes, all you have to do is stay warm and ride the rest of the season out. –Jeff Weiss

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