A sound track for gray days
There's a Sylvia Plath quality to late-January days: gray skies, cold toes, bleak hopes. You can embrace it -- or huff out the pilot light. Here's a toast to the former! So flush your Prozac, call in sad to work, and put on the Utne depressing days sound track. If you're looking for background music, these CDs will do -- but take a closer listen and you won't be disappointed.
7:00 a.m. Call in sick. Go back to sleep.
12:30 p.m. Coffee. Save the hard stuff for later: Start the day instead with A Thousand Days (Kontext-records), piano music from the legendary producer Mitchell Froom (Pearl Jam, Elvis Costello, and Froom's wife, Suzanne Vega). Nothing here to harsh your vibe -- just Chopinesque piano mellowness.
1:45 p.m. Back to bed.
4:05 p.m. Stay in bed. Plug in Winterpills (Signature Sounds), the self-titled debut from a collection of oddball obscure folkies. The haunting intimacy of backup singer Flora Reed on tracks like 'Found Weekend' causes swoons.
5:30 p.m. Dress for cocktails. Face the task with the trance/techno/jazz (and appropriately named) Hybrids (Golden Beams Productions) from the Ripple Effect. Not content to fade away after backing acts like Miles, Coltrane, and Sonny Rollins, drummer Jack De Johnette breaks new ground with a new genre.
6:45 p.m. Mix hot toddy. Lose yourself in the intricate harmonies of the porcelain-voiced Trio Mediaeval from Norway, singing 12th- and 13th-century songs (and commissioned work) on Stella Maris (ECM).
7:30 p.m. Doze.
8:45 p.m. Wake up with David Lang's moody Elevated (Cantaloupe). Elevated, it isn't. Lang is one-third of the experimental Bang on a Can (friends to D.J. Spooky and Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore), who blend rock's energy with classical's high-mindedness.
10:00 p.m. Bring the evening to a climax with spine-chilling trance-traditional music on Prototyp (NorthSide Records) by Hurdy-Gurdy. It's performed entirely on the Swedish hurdy-gurdy -- with a little help from Macintosh.
12:00 a.m. Time for a walk? Blow out the cobwebs with I Believe to My Soul (Rhino). Five of our greatest soul musicians -- Ann Peebles, Billy Preston, Mavis Staples, Irma Thomas, and Allen Toussaint -- recorded all new material in a marathon live studio session. The results are just too tender and fragile to bear.