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8 Great Winter Songs (That Aren't About Christmas): Kate Bush, Arcade Fire, Modest Mouse, And More

by Joey DeGroot   Dec 21, 2014 01:59 AM EST

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It's the middle of December, which means you're probably sick of all the nonstop Christmas music you've been forced to hear for the past few weeks. If you want to take a break from the holiday tunes, but still enjoy their wintery spirit, try checking out these eight songs instead. Happy winter solstice!

1. Leonard Cohen - "Winter Lady" (1967)

Leonard Cohen's debut album Songs of Leonard Cohen overflows with a sort of mystical, old world charm, as if each song is being sung in a cabin without electricity. The album's shortest track "Winter Lady" tells the simple story of a wandering woman who briefly visits a lonely man, presumably in the dead of winter. Though the lyrics only briefly reference snow and cold nights, the flutes and chiming pianos in the background suggest even more than Cohen's word do.

2. Yes - "South Side of the Sky" (1971)

The lyrics to Yes's "South Side of the Sky" tell the grim story of a failed polar expedition, in which the explorers ultimately succumbed to hypothermia after being stuck in the cold for what seemed like "all of eternity." This isn't exactly "Winter Wonderland" territory.

3. Galaxie 500 - "Snowstorm" (1989)

Though most of the other songs on this list seem to use snow and wintery imagery as metaphors, Galaxie 500's "Snowstorm" seems to literally be about watching the weather forecast of an oncoming snowstorm, and not much else. It may not be very dense lyrically, but the band makes up for this with the song's hypnotic, serene atmosphere.

4. Belle & Sebastian - "Fox in the Snow" (1996)

Remember in the last entry how I said that snow is often used as a metaphor? Well that's probably what Stuart Murdoch was going for when he wrote "Fox in the Snow," which like most of Belle & Sebastian's early songs is about shy, alienated young people living in Glasgow, though I imagine it still gets cold quite often there.

5. Modest Mouse - "The Cold Part" (2000)

While Modest Mouse's first two albums were steeped in Americana, its third album The Moon & Antarctica is where the band's scope moved beyond America and up towards the stratosphere. As you can expect from an album with such a title, a cold front runs through the entire thing, particularly when it comes to "The Cold Part," which is carried along with guitar riffs that sound like they've been bouncing off glaciers.

6. Arcade Fire - "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" (2004)

Like "Fox in the Snow," Arcade Fire's "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" uses a snowstorm (of which I imagine there are many up in the band's hometown of Montreal) to tell a story about the struggles and confinements of adolescence. "And if the snow buries my neighborhood," Win Butler sings in the song's opening verse, "then I'll dig a tunnel from my window to yours." Even the song's slow-building arrangement sounds like an attempt to shake off cabin fever.

7. Fleet Foxes - "White Winter Hymnal" (2008)

Fleet Foxes' breakthrough single "White Winter Hymnal" is sweet and snowy enough to have been covered by a cappella group Pentatonix for its recent Christmas album, though that group probably overlooked the lyrics about a child's head falling off into the snow (at least that's how I interpreted the lyrics).

8. Kate Bush - 50 Words for Snow (2011)

Instead of listing just one song from Kate Bush, it would be more appropriate to mention her entire 2011 album 50 Words for Snow, which consists of seven songs "set against a backdrop of falling snow." Consisting mostly of spare piano, drums, and vocals, the album is the aural equivalent of standing in a dark forest while snow gently falls to the ground.

What are some other wintery, non-Christmas songs? Let us know down in the comments section below!

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