Winter Chills

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

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

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.

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