The Top Nine Long Winters Songs

You probably woke up this morning and thought to yourself, "Damn it, Andrew Marvin; You haven't written about The Long Winters in forever. What the hell is going on?"

And you would be correct. But fortunately, I'm here today to guide you through a small portion of the Long Winters discography. Prepare your ears for an auditory orgasm.

Since I've already detailed my discovery of The Long Winters, why you need to listen to them, and my thoughts on one of their albums, I thought I'd take a different route and offer my top nine Long Winters songs.

"Why nine?!" you exclaim with incredulity. Because I can't bear to pick a tenth. It's different on any given day. It might be "Sky Is Open", or "Samaritan", or "Rich Wife", or "Nora", or any of the other songs John Roderick has written.

See, the hard part about picking your favorite Long Winters songs is that they don't have any bad songs, and thus this is not so much a list of my favorites so much as it is a list of my most favorites. Each Long Winters song is unique, and thus each is the best in its own way.

And to be honest, other than number one, these are in no particular order. That would be like trying to pick my favorite child, of which I have none, thus only adding to the impossibility of such a task.

So without further ado...

9. Teaspoon

Best Line: I know I wasn't made to play on a team...

Album: Putting the Days to Bed (2006)

Length: 2:54


The introvert's anthem, "Teaspoon" is a concise little number, whose length belies its infectious groove and soaring personality. This is a sunny day song if there ever was one. Its chorus begs to be sung at full volume, and its horns are uplifting and celebratory. Featuring one of my favorite John Roderick vocal performances, the lyrics evoke a sense of longing, but one that gives you chills and makes you smile uncontrollably. This was my first favorite Long Winters song.

8. Delicate Hands

Best Line: I held you under / Wanting to feel you wanting to breathe...

Album: Ultimatum (2005)

Length: 3:59


The 2005 Ultimatum EP features just four studio tracks, accompanied by two live acoustic performances by John. Of note, three of my nine favorite songs can be found on it, which makes this little EP a musical treasure. John himself explains that the album is largely about disaster and dissolution, and "Delicate Hands" is no exception. The lyrics are vague, and we don't know to whom the singer sings. A lover in trouble? An aging relative? What we do feel is a sense of wanting to help someone who — for whatever reason — cannot be helped. Despite the melancholy subject matter, the music comforts and soothes, even as the speaker cries out for something he thought he knew.

7. Mimi

Best Line: Those flaming babies / Came down from the sky

Album: The Worst You Can Do Is Harm (2002)

Length: 5:06


Bonus! Acoustic performance by John Roderick

The lyric notes describe "Mimi" as a song about "a road in Alaska where beautiful and terrible things happen." It's a slow song, with lyrics indicative of tragedy and music befitting a silent, winter landscape. It's haunting and gorgeous and powerful. I love it.

6. Clouds

Best Line: The ground is so proud just to hold us up

Album: Putting the Days to Bed (2006)

Length: 3:34

[Damn! Can't find it on YouTube. Guess you'll just have to buy the album.]

A stark contrast from "Mimi". "Clouds" is a fitting title; the song is wandering, whimsical, and light-hearted, best enjoyed on a beautiful day with a big blue sky. Listen for the banjo (or is it a ukelele?). It's hard to pick a favorite line, as each is delivered so perfectly, imbued with the uplifting-yet-slightly-sad tone found throughout Putting the Days to Bed. This one always makes me smile.

5. Ultimatum

Best Line: And I hope I can keep seeing you / Just as long as you don't say you're / Falling in love

Album: Originally appears on Ultimatum; rocked-up version appears on Putting the Days to Bed.

Length: 3:38 and 3:06, respectively.


"Ultimatum" is the only Long Winters song to appear on two albums: first as a quiet, acoustic, string-laden number on the eponymous EP, and second as a soaring, dynamic rock song on Putting the Days to Bed. I will admit that I prefer the up-tempo version a bit more. Like most Long Winters songs, this one demands to be sung aloud, preferably on the highway with the windows down. The lyrics are pained, yet cautiously optimistic, as if the speaker is climbing his way out of the depths of heartbreak, ever upward towards the sun.

4. Carparts

Best Line: Baby wasn't down with the heist!

Album: The Worst You Can Do Is Harm (2002)

Length: 4:05


Bonus! Acoustic performance by John Roderick

More Bonus! Merlin Mann's thoughts on "Carparts"

What can you say about "Carparts"? It's a classic, and a monument in the Long Winters canon. The inhale at the beginning, the brilliant lines, the soaring music, the mischievous bridge, the vocal delivery... It's hard to beat. Listen, learn it, and sing your heart out. See Merlin's post above for more.

3. The Commander Thinks Aloud

Best Line: The crew compartment's breaking up...

Album: Ultimatum (2005)

Length: 5:26


John's beautiful elegy, "The Commander Thinks Aloud" is about the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. According to S1E31 of Back to Work, John felt that such an event was too big to be turned into a metaphor, hence the lyrics' literal quality. The song is sparse, featuring just three piano chords, swelling synths, and a somber, marching drum beat. But this space allows the song to be filled with tearful emotion. The song's imagery is unparalleled as John describes the Commander's last thoughts, and the fact that we know the shuttle's fate makes our hearts ache for him and his crew. Easily the most powerful song in the Long Winters catalog. You will be moved. Don't miss it.

2. Hindsight

Best Line: And if I hold you now will I be / Holding a snowball when the season changes / And I'm craving the sun?

Album: Putting the Days to Bed (2006)

Length: 4:07

[Damn! Can't find it on YouTube. Guess you'll just have to buy the album.]

Arguably the strongest track on Putting the Days to Bed, and certainly one of John Roderick's finest pieces. In some ways, "Hindsight" seems to be a follow-up to "Stupid" on When I Pretend to Fall. Whereas the voice of "Stupid" is clearly heartbroken — he has to be held back from calling her — "Hindsight" sees the singer in recovery. He asserts, "In hindsight / You're going to wish you were here", and we get a sense we're all going to be OK. One of the most lyrically dense songs in the Long Winters discography, every line is flawless, delivered with courage and backed by uplifting harmonies. There's so much depth here. My heart feels better every time this song comes on.

1. Scared Straight

Best Line: You were cursed, and scolded, and scarred!

Album: When I Pretend to Fall (2003)

Length: 4:18


I love everything about "Scared Straight": the organ intro, the groove, the celebratory horns, the this-song-was-written-for-me lyrics, the perfect vocal delivery, the arrangement, the bridge... It's a masterpiece. There's not just one good part — every part is so good, and they come one after another. "Scared Straight" speaks to me. It's one of those songs you wish you could play for someone because it so perfectly expresses everything you wish you could say to them. It's my favorite Long Winters song, and I'll never skip it.

Change Your Life

And there you have it. Let me remind you that each Long Winters' record is full of musical gems from start to finish, and I could have just as easily listed my top forty songs here. Once you've digested each album as individual entities, feel free to put the entire discography on shuffle. You can thank me later.

iTunes Links

$36 for a lifetime of love? C'mon.

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