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28 December, 2023

Fall quarter is over, and winter break is here! KCSB’s Executive Committee assembled a playlist of the chillest songs they know to accompany your winter activities. Whether you’re ice skating, decorating cookies, or walking on the beach (Santa Barbara Winter is very similar to Santa Barbara summer, let’s be honest), this playlist is the perfect way to stay in the Holiday spirit. 


“Winter A-Go-Go” by Yo La Tengo

  • I love listening to Yo La Tengo in the wintertime. Something about their gentle voices and noisy instrumentals fits a California winter day so well. A song about winter on an album about Summer, the sound provokes the feeling of a brisk December day. The Hammond organ, the main instrument, is backed by jazzy drums, giving the song a sleazy feel. When I listen to this song, I picture meeting a stranger in a dimly lit, smoke-filled jazz bar.

“Winter Lady” by Palace Songs

  • Something about this Leonard Cohen cover feels so cozy and familiar. The slurry lagging beat, melancholy vocals, and ensemble folk instrumentals make it feel like you’ve stumbled upon a pub on a frosty night only to find a community of wayward patrons all seeking comfort from their fellow man. 

“The Midnight Clear” by Sufjan Stevens

  • Sufjan Stevens has an incredibly expansive collection of Christmas songs (over 100!), so in hopes of getting a reader to check out his collection, showcasing one of his songs was imperative. Many songs are altered versions of traditional Christmas songs, often juxtaposing exceptionally religious lyrics with Sufjan’s haunting vocals and instrumentals. Though not a cover, this song has the same religious tone as many of the songs. The vocals are layered as Sufjan sings of the rapture over delicate bells and banjo picking, giving the impression of a devout group waiting in the cold of winter for a sign from God. It’s eerie, it’s delicate, it’s Sufjan Stevens.


“Winter Place 2” by Cleaners From Venus

  • This one is super eerie. There are no lyrics, but the bells remind me of Christmas songs. I love how what seems to be a bass guitar is passed through fuzz pedals. I also love how the music seems to possess a vintage quality – it feels like some kind of old cassette tape that you found in your parent’s basement. Definitely a mix between Halloween and Christmas vibes.  

“Coming Up Roses” by Elliot Smith

  •  Most Elliot Smith songs remind me of winter. However, this one has been on repeat for me ever since the seasons began changing. I love the chord organ featured throughout the song, and I am absolutely enamored by the melodies of both the bridge and chorus. Whenever I listen to this song on my way to class in the morning, I surrender to a whole 24 hours of it being stuck in my head. It is one of the few songs I would call almost perfect. Fun (and slightly embarrassing) fact about me- I listened to Smith’s self-titled album for the first time this past year… I know – lame. But I totally fell in love with it! Hopefully, that makes up for it.

“Hazy Shade of Winter” by Simon and Garfunkel

  • The original version of this song by the Bengals is the opening track to the movie Less Than Zero. The film takes place throughout winter break when a college student returns home to find things very different. I love this movie and the writer of the book that it was based on – Bret Easton-Ellis. For that reason, this song always reminds me of winter break – I can definitely relate to the weird feeling one gets when coming home from college for winter break and finding that home doesn’t feel quite the same as the first time you left. 


“A Holiday Song” by Starflyer 59

  • Coming off one of my favorite albums is this seemingly randomly placed holiday song by shoegaze band Starflyer 59. You won’t find any distorted guitar sounds in this song – instead, Christmas bells and an unusually poppy sound for the band. However, don’t let that take anything away from the music. It has a cool melody paired with Jason Martin’s beautifully longing voice.

“You’re Beautiful” by Mojave 3

  • During the winter, I find myself listening to a lot of slower, more stripped-down songs. I suggest any and every song off Ask Me Tomorrow by Mojave 3 for a playlist meant to characterize a winter feeling. Neil Halsted and Rachel Goswell’s vocals intertwine and separate from each other to create such a soothing, cozy sound. A benchmark album for this kind of sound; I highly suggest listening to it in its entirety.

“Sets The Blaze” by Hope Sandoval and The Warm Inventions

  • The song’s title perfectly describes how Hope Sandoval’s voice creates a warm, lush atmosphere. The acoustic guitar, mournful cello, and amazing production complement her vocals in a song that evokes the familiarity of a cold and dark winter’s day while simultaneously keeping you as serene as a fire. The track comes from the album Through the Devil Softly.


“Ever New” by Beverly Glenn-Copeland

  • Although this song talks about the summer breeze and spring flowers, it still gives off a winter vibe. This may be because I discovered this song last winter in my friends’ KCSB shows (shout out to Amar and Penny Lane!). After that, this song became a staple on my winter break rotation. It’s pretty long, at about seven minutes, which is the perfect time to drive from my house to my grandma’s. This song is the soft snow falling on sleepy mornings, the cups of tea alongside falling rain, feelings of nostalgia that you can’t precisely pinpoint that make being home in the winter so sweet.

“Gole Yakh” by Kourosh Yaghmaei

  • I obviously had to add a Persian song to this list. The title of this song translates to “flower of ice,” which lends itself to a wintery feel. The overall vibe of this song is super lonely as Yaghmaei sings about the tears flowing from his eyes and the youth and voice leaving him. The solo piano is just enough to carry the melody. Still, with nothing to accompany it, it contributes to the wintery isolation of the song.

“Natascha – Main Theme” by Peter Thomas Sound Orchester

  • Sometime in March, I found the album Van De Velde: Die Vollkommene Ehe & Das Leben Zu Zweit and immediately became obsessed. After some research, I realized it was a soundtrack from a 1960s German movie (something of a sex education film) by composer Peter Thomas. I listened to this album so much that it ended up on my end-of-year streaming stats, which led to my re-listening to the album. The main theme is my favorite from the album. The way the instruments twinkle reminds me of driving to see Christmas lights in pajamas with my cousins. I love songs that remind us that winter can be a fresh start. Something to look forward to instead of dreading cold weather and long nights.


“Plainsong” by The Cure

  • Both the lyrics and the instrumentals convey feelings of the cold of the dead of winter.

“Tonight the Streets Are Ours” by Richard Hawley 

  • It’s not explicitly about Christmas, but the bells and whistles (literally) sound very Christmasy. It’s one of the handful of songs I listen to when I get sick of traditional Christmas songs a few weeks into December.

“Lorelei” by Cocteau Twins

  • Again, not specifically about winter or Christmas, but it sounds like how the snowfall from a window view feels. 


“I’m Gonna Be Warm This Winter” by Connie Francis

  • It’s like you can hear Connie Francis smiling as she sings this sweet, upbeat, and overlooked Christmas love song. Her famously saccharine voice is a perfect accompaniment to a holiday montage with that person, real or fictional, you dream of holding close.

“A Marshmallow World” by Darlene Love

  • The musical personification of “bright and merry,” this song is a highlight from an already phenomenal album (Brian Wilson even named it among his favorites!). Phil Spector’s famed Wall of Sound products add a lush, warm touch to Darlene Love’s dazzling vocals.

“Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” by Larry Clinton and His Orchestra

  • The best holiday music is big band holiday music, and I’d die on that hill. Listen to this great cover of the Nutcracker classic, and imagine you’re swinging the night away at a 1940s downtown New Year’s Eve party. Here’s looking at you, kid.


“Quiet, The Winter Harbor” by Mazzy Star

  • In my humble opinion, with their reliably dreamy dark sound and lyricism, the band Mazzy Star is the quintessential winter artist. This song is about seeking refuge in someone (whom you really shouldn’t) when, as Hope Sandoval sings, you’re “sinking.” But who can blame you? It’s December, and when it’s cold and bleak, it’s only natural to seek warmth where one can find it.

“Are You Kissing Anyone?” by Saturday Looks Good To Me

  • Perhaps the onset of the holidays, alongside the gloominess of winter, draws me to melancholic songs about pining. Such a theme can be found in Saturday Looks Good To Me’s very intimate, indie pop song titled “Are You Kissing Anyone?”. This song beseechingly asks “Will the summer ever come?” and “Are you kissing anyone?” — two questions which, to me, succinctly capture what longing is in December.

“Daylight” by bôa

  • Winter brings shorter days, darker moods, and subsequently, a near desperation for the sun after 5 PM. In this song, bôa empathizes. One expects intense, folksy guitar riffs in bôa’s music, and “Daylight” delivers. Over a cinematic bridge, vocalist Jasmine Rodgers calls over and over for daylight, hoping to keep shadows and memories at bay.


“I Can See The Sun in Late December” by Roberta Flack 

  • What better song about winter than one that has “December” in the title? The harmonies in this song make me think of colors I associate with winter—blues, purples, greys. If you want something a little moody, a little experimental, but gorgeous just the same, this is your song. 

“Misty” by Errol Garner 

  • This piano only version of the Jazz standard (one of my favorites at that) is perfect for gazing out your window on a foggy or rainy cold winter’s day. 

“Stormy Weather” by Etta James 

  • This is perfect for anyone who wants to wallow during winter time. I am joking (sort of) but the beautiful voice of Etta James and the minor strings in the background create such a winter feel. 


“Winter Must Be Cold” by Apples in Stereo

  • The vocals on this track embody the fun and merry mood I crave during winter. If I knew how to crochet, I would crochet the perfect pair of winter gloves while listening to this song on repeat.

“New Year’s” by Codeine

  • If you are feeling sad on New Year’s day… this song is for you. Love you bro. 

“Rudolph – Live” by MJ Lenderman

  • The best non-Christmas, Christmas song ever. I recommend blasting this song through your (hidden) headphones at a Catholic Christmas mass.


“White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes 

  • This song is a quiet conversation between two versions of winter. The first, haunting, isolating, sharp as ice, is infused with acapella harmonies, resounding crescendos, and deviant lyrics. The second takes you by the hand as if you’re 6 years old again and about to play Ring Around the Rosie in a powder-adorned backyard. Warm, homely, and full of childlike wonder. 

“Cigarettes and Coffee” by Otis Redding 

  • Winter playlist aside, this is one of my favorite songs of all time. There’s a transcendent yearning in Redding’s voice that makes me want to cathartically scream amen at the top of my lungs (I’m an atheist). I also just feel like this song belongs in a sequence in Love Actually? Someone hire me as music supervisor for a Christmas themed romantic comedy. I beg of thee.

“Snowfall” by The Manhattan Transfer 

  • Heals my inner child. Feels like magic. That’s all.

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