I thought I had exhausted my repertoire of wintry, holiday-adjacent music after creating a thematically appropriate playlist last year. I thought one set of songs with passing mentions to December and generally being cold would be enough for, as I put it then, “zooming down Snow Road or turning onto Christmas Tree Lane.”
Then I discovered the existence of The Seasons neighborhood.
Yes, it’s a small quadrangle of suburban homes in southwest Bakersfield, delineated roughly by Ashe and Stine roads between Panama Lane and Woodmere Drive. But more importantly for my purposes, it contains Winter Crest, Winter Grove and Winter Ridge drives plus a slew of hibernally titled courts. (As a San Fernando Valley native, I couldn’t help but feel a bit affronted by the inclusion of a Laurel Canyon Drive.)
Clearly the need for winter-themed driving playlists is far more exigent in this city than I had previously believed. Here are a bunch of more songs suitable for the season, just not in the way you might traditionally expect.
Yes We Mystic
Visibility can be tough when driving in the winter, and you may well find yourself needing to deploy more intense headlights. Personally, I’d recommend staying home and listening to this band’s new farewell album, “Trust Fall,” instead. (If you must, keep driving and turn on “Higher Beams,” a song by another band I love dearly.)
‘Call Me Snowflake’
My hot Middle Kids take, if anyone is cataloging such things, is that this 2019 EP, “New Songs for Old Problems,” is the best project they’ve released. To me the melodies are much catchier, and the instrumentals more forceful and impactful, than on either their 2018 breakthrough debut “Lost Friends” or 2021 follow-up “Today We’re the Greatest.” Between its driving, distinctive drumbeat and low, moody guitar, “Call Me Snowflake” quickly became one of my favorites of theirs.
I always feel like I’m being yelled at when I see this song come up. But then again it’s important to pay immediate attention to any frost that might be forming on your windshield.
I could have settled for “Tea” by Brendan Benson, an artist I featured in last year’s playlist, and still made reference to this beverage I consider a winter staple. But I feel like the hot-tea-drinking experience isn’t really worth it if you’re not going for the sort of strong cup connoted by “builder’s tea.” Plus — and this certainly helps — this song is better.
The Temper Trap
This track occupies an interesting place in the catalog of this Australian band as the most memorable song from a sophomore-slump second album. It pairs the theatrics of Dougy Mandagi’s booming vocals with a sparse, well-produced instrumental. More to the point of this playlist, your hands can get really cold in the winter, and that’s when you need a nice pair of gloves. And like this:
I think “Invisible” is a great and extremely hooky track. I was hoping to find a Winter Gloves song with a somewhat more pertinent name (“Let Me Drive”?) but I must always hold true to my rule of recommending music I actually like, and the fact is that most of this band’s production makes it sound like they were assembling songs from GarageBand loops. This song is the exception, not the rule.
Jukebox the Ghost
Ah, mistletoe, society’s most acceptable parasite (besides the 2019 best picture winner of the same name.) What I enjoy about the song for the purposes of this playlist is that it has very jolly, Christmas-y verses, interspersed between one of the most striking minor-key choruses this band has developed. It’s a bit tonally dissonant but in an extremely effective way. That goes for much of this excellent album, “Safe Travels,” which has unfortunately been forgotten as the band has taken a poppier turn over the last eight years or so.
‘The Crane Wife 3’
An album opener as a playlist closer, as a twist. And a repeat appearance for the perfectly named Decemberists, who have a knack for writing what feel like ageless folk songs — it certainly helps that this one is based on a Japanese folktale — that really just spring from the brain of the world’s most Portland-ish Portlander, Colin Meloy. “Sons and Daughters” also feels like it has existed forever, though maybe that’s just because people never stop talking about “The Office.”
Reporter Henry Greenstein can be reached at 661-395-7374. Follow him on Twitter: @HenryGreenstein.