Music

First Aid Kit and Nils Frahm's new albums will warm you through the winter

Explore the sorrowful soundtracks that will see you through to spring, in the form of fine new records from two Swedish sisters and a boffin-like German composer

As Christmas tree mass graves arbitrarily gathering upon the streets always serve to remind us around this time of year, the joys of the festive season have been grumpily chucked up an alleyway and left to rot, and the decidedly un-jolly end of winter is upon us. The weather remains awful, the nights remain long. Summer holidays seem so far away that, like your own funeral, why even bother planning for them? Not even slyly kicking the neighbour’s dog when nobody’s looking yields the sort of pleasure that it usually does.

It’s during the January blues that many turn to music for comfort and solace, and with good reason. Sure, Blue Monday has recently been upon us – the pseudo-scientifically determined ‘most depressing day of the year’, a date so rubbish that New Order released a single in its honour so lavishly overpackaged that it infamously lost them money on an untold number of its 1.2 million sales. But hey, with the right soundtrack, sadness can be something to savour – just like any human emotion. Find the art in your heartbreak, get down while you’re down in the dumps. Think of your melancholy as something cosy and familiar, like a comfy old jumper or a deep-seated jealous grudge against a friend.

Delivering respite from the wretchedness this January are records such as Nils Frahm’s ambient electronic opus All Melody. If there’s one thing you should know about Frahm, it’s that he writes his modestly indomitable spirit into the very narrative of his records. 2011’s Felt, for instance, saw him place felt upon the hammers of his piano out of courtesy to his neighbours when recording late at night in his old bedroom studio, while its follow-up, 2012’s Screws, was played with only nine fingers after he injured his thumb – standards of improvisation in the face of mild adversity which, frankly, I think we can all aspire to.

If you haven’t listened to All Melody in horizontal snow or a frozen mist then you probably haven’t listened to it properly

Made in his brand-new studio Saal 3, which he stripped back to the woodwork and electrics before rebuilding from scratch in the historical 1950s East German Funkhaus building beside the River Spree in Berlin, it’s the boffin-like German instrumental composer and musician’s seventh album to date and it’s a masterfully atmospheric listen, lovingly cultivated in his laboratory of sound. All drawn-out harmonium drones, searching soft piano twinkles, eerie choral voices and jazzy woodwind, occasionally broken by a crackle of electronic blips and beats, this is moody, epic, painstakingly textured music for long winter nights. If you haven’t listened to All Melody in horizontal snow or a frozen mist then you probably haven’t listened to it properly.

From another northern European capital comes the fourth album Ruins by First Aid Kit. What late 20-something Stockholm sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg don’t know about sweet sorrow frankly isn’t worth knowing. They come from Sweden, where winter lasts 13 months of the year. Doubling-down on their downer, they choose country music – truly the saddest of all music genres – to convey their anguishes, evidencing a commitment to being bummed out which, frankly, I think we can all aspire to.

When their voices lock in the airtight closest of close harmonies on the rousing chorus of It’s A Shame, it’s like a band-aid for the heart

To paint the Söderbergs as a pair of miserable sods would be wholly unfair, however – they do ages-old Americana-flavoured angst with youthful irreverence and freshness, and their singing is just an endless joy. When their voices loop and vault and cascade on the album’s ludicrously beautiful title track, these gifted sisters could sing your death certificate and make it sound kind of dreamy. When their voices lock in the airtight closest of close harmonies on the rousing chorus of It’s A Shame, it’s like a band-aid for the heart. With music this resplendently sad in your life, who would even want to be happy?

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