Music for short days: an annotated playlist

November 11, 2018


Here in the Upper Midwest, the days have become very short. Radio waves struggle to see in the dark, and the sun sets on top of us. Yes, we have entered a dreary and cold time. But do not fear! It has happened before. I invite you to listen to this special seasonal playlist covering the topic. Some songs relate lyrically, others feel like winter.


Make sure to scroll down for Spotify and Youtube links, and read the rundown here:


1. Sufjan Stevens - "Lonely Man of Winter"

It was released a few days ago by a well-known Christmas enthusiast, but it's just as good as a secular tune. Beyond that, it's a good marker for the start of the season of short days (and the start of this list).


2. Marisa Anderson - "Angel's Rest"

Like standing in a shelterbelt on the edge of a farm in late autumn. It's exposed after all the leaves have fallen, but you can stand behind a big tree trunk and look at all the soil. 


3. Saloli - "Ice World"

It has cooled. The title ice world may well be Minnesota, USA. I like to think this one takes place inside a big fish tank filled with ice.


4. Ryuichi Sakamoto - "solari"

It's probably adapted from a Bach chorale prelude, but here, you may picture yourself trying to jump into the sun before it sets to grab its last rays.


5. Jacqueline du Pré and the London Symphony Orchestra - "Elgar: Cello Concerto in E minor - I."

Before that same sun set on Edward Elgar, he composed this piece. Created in the aftermath of World War I, it is especially relevant on this day, the one hundredth anniversary of its end. du Pré's interpretation revived this lament-like work, and its multiple memorable themes give your mind somewhere to go.


6. Low - "Sunshine"

"Please don't take my sunshine away," they say. These Minnesota legends from way up North get to the heart of that feeling you get when you don't know what time it is. You're all mixed up. Yesterday, when you were eating dinner, the sun was shining. But now, it's dark and you realize you've had the lights off for hours. Oh, no. 


7. Vashti Bunyan - "Girl's Song in Winter"

A brutally sad ballad. But if you focus only on the instrumentation, you can see a parade of wildlife marching through the field.


8. Sibylle Baier - "Forget About"

A beautiful little address to time and how it allows forgetting. All its solemnity cannot contain its positivity, a good way to think when it's all so physically dark.


9. Gillian Welch - "I Dream A Highway"

Mesmerizing and warm with far-flung lyrics that require a few listenings. A long drive at sunset, maybe?


10. Mississippi Fred McDowell - "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning"

Delivering on both practical and philosophical levels, it advises precaution and preparation. Don't lose yourself in that long drive and forget to turn on the heat, but also don't so lose yourself in practicalities that you forget to think about things like air and "Why?"


11. Penguin Cafe Orchestra - "Zopf: In a Sydney Motel"

Another song for the confusion brought on by cold temperatures and alien landscapes. Sometimes, you find yourself slowly saying things that don't make any sense.


12. Britta Lindell - "The Next Sunrise"

Over the course of this song, we transition out of confusion and into bliss. What is winter but waiting for the sun to rise?


13. Laraaji - "The Dance No. 3"

We are still waiting for the sun to come out. St. Paul's dogs are all out at night without leashes, dancing and walking on two legs! They're waiting for morning too.


14. Beverly Glenn-Copeland - "Ever New"

We reach the morning! It's all okay. What a release.


15. Actress - "Don't"

...don't stop the music.


Full playlist on Spotify below,

or click here to listen on Youtube



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