Five songs for the bleak, midwinter blues

Winter's kind of awesome -- at first. Well, for a couple weeks, anyway, until Christmas and New Year's are over and it quickly becomes apparent that there's nothing else to look forward to, in terms of the season, besides blizzards and black ice and cold snaps and low, glowering expanses of sky that underscore your wholly irrational, innermost fear that winter will never actually fucking end. If that's your present mood, 5ingles has your back -- and you have our deepest sympathies. Marcus Fischer, "Nearly There"

Nearly there. So close. But, no: no green on that grass, no leaves on that tree, no 70 degree temperatures, and it's the ice scraper to the rescue again and again when you'd really be using your arm strength for intramural Ultimate Frisbee competitions. If you're familiar with the minimalist electronic textures of 12K Records, you're already hip to what Marcus Fischer's on about: warm frequency tugs and distentions, hushes so expectant they hum, the occasional piercing guitar note. This Portland, Oregon artist sets himself apart from a pack that includes the likes of Taylor Deupree and Richard Chartier by lending his low-impact drone a slightly stronger pulse, and by leaping naked into Sasquatch-sized snowdrifts prior to entering recording studios.

Yeah, I totally made that last fact up.

Noveller, "Alone Star"

What's scarier than a squeaking mass of machinery inching by your crib on a blustery winter day? The sound of a squeaking mass of machinery inching by your crib on a blustery winter day, but, like, no actual squeaking mass, man. And it's not like the aforementioned squeaking mass is an integral aspect of "Alone Star," but it does help usher us into Sarah "Noveller" Lipstate's flickering Sterno-can Siberia-of-the-soul. With each successive album -- this song is from Glacial Glow, disc number three -- Lipstate somehow manages to make more out of less. A good jam for that day when your flu spikes but you nonetheless glue yourself to the window to watch other people force themselves through the tundra, to work.

Plankton Wat, "Dark Temple"

Dewey Mahood's dark, spider-webbing chords contain multitudes: ice-coated tree branches thrashing, midnight blackouts in remote mountain regions, the end of White Fang. But there's a spookier, My Cat Is An Alien tinge to the effects and feedback drenched figures he's sketching in the exhaust-blackened snow overlaying the vacant lot next to your house. And, notice: he's looking right at you, staring deep into your eyes, weighing your very soul, accusing.

Staalkracht, "Inner Struggle"

Ah, yes: nothing clears the sinuses like six minutes of cannibalistic, erosion-primed noise-drone. While on one level "Inner Struggle" suggests a storm breaking, demonic thunderclouds exploding to unveil a torrential-cum-biblical downpour, I like to think of it as an expression of emotional desolation and devastation so entirely all-encompassing that the sufferer can't quite wrap his head around it, let along approach it or try to understand it from any objective angle. For a lot of people, this is what winter's really like, believe it or not.

Sharon Von Etten, "All I Can"

To say that "All I Can" is the best song on an exceptional album isn't really enough, somehow. The plugged-in among you might be thrown by all the the ink Van Etten's garnering for Tramp, but it's important to keep in mind that sometimes, hype is warranted; I mean, I can only handle like 20 minutes of Adele's 21 per day, tops, but even this late in the game I can grok what brought on the mania. (Tune-Yards? Not so much.) Van Etten won't rake in the same plaudits, but she's certainly in the indie-rock ballpark equivalent, and "All I Can" is the hungriest, most torn, just plain painfully human slow-scorch balladry I've encountered in eons, snowballing by degrees into something majestic, epic, tortuous. It doesn't really have much to do with winter in a direct sense, but one downside of the immobilization that this season engenders is that we're forced to really examine our choices, our desires, our very selves in a way that it's easy to sidestep during the year. In the winter, though? Shit gets real.

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