It’s November, which means in some places it’s snowing while other places are just starting to dip into the low 80s (#FloridaProblems). Halloween costumes are being pushed to clearance aisles and giant fuzzy spider decorations are being replaced with happy inflatable snowmen.
Winter isn’t coming, it’s practically already here.
If you’re anything like me, the approach of a new season means that it’s time to start work on a new seasonal playlist. Reluctantly, I skip ‘Monster Mash’ after a month of listening to it insistently and begin my winter-themed playlist. All the usual Christmas songs aside, there’s something incredible about finding songs that capture the magic of winter without actually being winter or Christmas themed.
Naturally, I turned to music queen Taylor Swift. Like most of the internet, I’ve had Folklore on repeat since its release, and when I’m not listening to Folklore, I’m revisiting her older albums (the country albums do, in fact, slap you guys, and I’m not a big fan of the genre). This meant that it didn’t take long for me to find five songs that invoke that wintery vibe.
‘Haunted’ is a song that follows two people slowly falling and fading out of love according to Taylor herself. Since winter can often symbolize the end or death of things, it makes sense thematically for the song to invoke that strange energy that lingers in the air in the coldest months of the year: where endings and beginnings are intertwined.
It also focuses on looking back on where relationships went wrong, which is a natural thing to focus on close to the end of the year. Although the relationship in the song is undoubtedly romantic, Haunted can also remind you of failed or faded friendships from the past year – and it ends with all the disbelief one would feel at the end of a relationship.
‘Afterglow’ follows the aftermath of a blowup between two lovers, fueled by miscommunication. The song follows one half of the relationship realizing that they were wrong and feeling remorseful for blaming and hurting the other half.
The echoing drums definitely make ‘Afterglow’ a good contender for a winter playlist, it makes you think about taking a long walk on a cold December day, mulling over where you are in life or in a relationship — or, hell, even nursing a fanfic hangover for your OTP (of course I’m not speaking from experience, what are you talking about?).
I would be utterly remiss not to include some Folklore gems. This album was practically made for winter months with the emphasis on introspection, the cottagecore vibes. Although the only season the song directly references is summertime, it’s still made its way onto my playlists.
The tranquil, calmness of the song combined with the mature and candid exploration of a relationship makes it a perfect listen for when you’re nice and cozy in front of a fireplace under a soft blanket or two.
How is one not supposed to include a song that opens with “we could leave the Christmas lights up ‘till January”? The slow, steady, and beautiful love ballad quietly shouts about a soft romance that makes it a perfect listen if you happen to be a bit of a romantic.
There’s a distinct winter romance energy to the song, even though it’s supposed to be a general love song. It speaks of a long-time romance, but there’s a beautiful sense of a honeymoon period in it still which makes it a truly magical experience to listen to.
One of the most stand-out songs off Folklore was ‘Exile’, which featured Bon Iver in a hauntingly beautiful duet that focuses on the end and aftermath of a relationship, exploring the devastating miscommunication that happened between the two exes, and the feeling of exile that happens after a break-up.
This song is wintery in a different way from the rest of the songs on this list; it emphasizes the sadder, darker side of winter. While it’s easy to picture the rest of the playlist playing in quiet or happy moments during the movie that is life, this song feels like what would play at the most heartbreaking moment. It’s a feels-y song to add to any playlist, but a beautiful one at that.