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The Experience Playlist: Winter

A Spotify playlist of songs about the snowy season — from Fleet Foxes, Jason Isbell, Ray Charles & Betty Carter, Taylor Swift, and more.

By Erick Trickey

To evoke winter, a playlist of songs needs to get it just right: meditative but not too soft, pretty but not too sweet, occasionally sad but mostly uplifting. We think we got the mix right — listen for yourself. Starting with Simon and Garfunkel’s 1966 single “A Hazy Shade of Winter” (yes, we also like The Bangles’ version, but the original is classic), then “White Winter Hymnal,” from Fleet Foxes’ first album in 2008, we’ve created a soundtrack for hope and hibernation, for snowshoeing and watching snow fall.

Bon Iver, the stage name for musician Justin Vernon, is a phonetic version of the French phrase bon hiver, or “good winter.” Vernon recorded his song “Blood Bank,” included here, in a cabin in northern Wisconsin during the winter of 2006-2007, along with the songs on his breakthrough first album, For Emma, Forever Ago. The song, which Vernon has called “a fictional kind of love song,” captures stray moments of a long northern winter: “When the snow started falling/We were stuck out in your car/You were rubbing both my hands.”

Ever since songwriter Frank Loesser and his then-wife, Lynn Garland, began singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” at parties in 1944, more than 400 recordings of it have evoked playful flirtation amid a winter storm. “‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ is about the joy of [romantic] chemistry,” singer Debbie Gravitte said in a 2018 Experience essay, which addressed some modern listeners’ complaints about the song. “When ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ was written,” Gravitte says, “a so-called ‘good girl’ couldn’t say, ‘I would love to stay here and snuggle up with you.’ So the character in the song keeps prevaricating. It’s heavy, heavy flirting.” To our ears, Ray Charles and Betty Carter’s whispery 1961 version best captures that spirit.

Listen to our playlist when you’re thinking of winter — right now, or during the next snowstorm.

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