Icelandic singer-songwriter Ólöf Arnalds had this to say about coping with Nordic winters: “When it’s dark, what you do is, you light a candle. You play music.” I kept this image in mind while choosing the music for this mix, which includes several of the warmest, coziest voices I know. It also includes several Nordic artists, including Ólöf herself at track 12.
Gaussian Curve, an Italian-Dutch collective, sets the mood for the warm and engaging voices of Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack. This track comes from their only full album as a duo, released in 1972.
I don’t always pay attention to lyrics, and sometimes after I’ve chosen a song for a mix, I realize that the words don’t quite fit the mood I’m after. This has happened before with lyrics by Tracey Thorn of Everything But The Girl. I had to toss out one of their tracks from a previous mix when I realized that, despite the beautiful vocal and production, she was singing “It’s never gonna be alright”. Ouch! You might think I’ve fallen into the same trap this time: “With your troubled mind, you’re like a goods train running through my life” (I’m assuming that a “goods train” is what we Americans call a freight train – big and noisy). However, I think you’ll find that her concern for the person with the troubled mind is comforting indeed.
I recently revisited my Pat Metheny Group albums looking for midtempo tracks that would fit into a mix. I was pleased to find that one of the best has a convenient title for a winter mix, “Spring ain’t here”! Next up is the first Nordic selection. Kommode is a side project of Eirik Glambek Bøe, best known for being half of Norwegian duo Kings Of Convenience. In that group, Eirik is the quiet, smooth crooner to Erlend Øye’s hyperactive nerd.
Thanks to WBRU’s Exposure for introducing me to Japanese Breakfast, a.k.a. Philadelphian Michelle Zauner. Her 2017 album Soft Sounds from Another Planet is top quality from start to finish. Two more Nordic artists follow, Yagya from Iceland and The Legends from Sweden. The Legends is one of many projects involving prolific songwriter, musician, singer, and label head Johan Angergård.
Paul Buchanan, the singer for The Blue Nile, always has a cozy effect on me, although a hint of melancholy is usually present as well. (OK, sometimes more than a hint!) Their best-known music was made in the 1980s, but they maintained high standards through to their final album in 2004. This track is from that album, called High.
If instruments can be considered cozy, I’d say the vibraphone (a.k.a. vibes) and the harp should certainly be on the list. They’re represented here by two of the greatest on their respective instruments, Milt Jackson and Dorothy Ashby.
I wanted one of my Nordic selections to actually be sung in a Nordic language. I chose “Barn av en istid” (Child of an ice age), another appropriate title, by Det Vackra Livet (The Beautiful Life). Det Vackra Livet is a sort-of-alter ego for Swedish band The Mary Onettes.
I don’t usually find room in my mixes for my beloved 80s guitar bands and their various offshoots. However, for this mix, a song called “Candleland” by one of my heroes was hard to ignore. Echo And The Bunnymen is one of the mightiest 80s guitar bands in my world. If you know Ian McCulloch’s voice from songs like “Do it clean” or “The killing moon”, you might not think of it as exactly cozy; dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll find that his rich baritone can also be very soothing. “Candleland” is the title song from his first solo album, released in 1989. He gets help from Elizabeth Fraser of The Cocteau Twins, who adds her unique ethereal magic, as she did at the end of my Spring 2011 mix.
Listen to this mix at Mixcloud.
1. Gaussian Curve – Ride
2. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – When love has grown
3. Everything But The Girl – Troubled mind
4. Pat Metheny Group – Spring ain’t here
5. Kommode – Shoes
6. Isley Brothers – For the love of you
7. Omara Portuondo – La sitiera
8. Japanese Breakfast – Road head
9. Yagya – Crepuscular rays over the horizon
10. The Legends – Smoke and mirrors
11. Dusty Springfield – Who (Will take my place)
12. Ólöf Arnalds – Patience
13. The Blue Nile – I would never
14. Milt Jackson with Ray Brown and Al Aarons – Enchanted lady
15. Tinashe – Aquarius
16. Toco – Minas
17. Dorothy Ashby – Come live with me
18. Det Vackra Livet – Barn av en istid
19. Ian McCulloch with Elizabeth Fraser – Candleland