Essentially a playlist

This is the last Essentially A Playlist of 2011, and as we head into the winter publishing break at the Manitoban, I considered doing a “best of” list like everyone and their dog (now there’s an idea, maybe I’ll get my beagle to select a playlist next year . . . ), but then I got hooked on the new Kate Bush record — 50 Words For Snow — and its winter theme and thought, “Why not songs about snow?” Relax, it’s not an out-and-out Christmas playlist because for the most part I can’t stand Christmas music.

Kate Bush – “Snowed In At Wheeler Street” [from 50 Words For Snow]

Like a certain other Bush, with Kate’s music you’re either for it or against it. I subscribe to the former position, and the new record is vintage Kate Bush with meditative, lengthy compositions that reveal themselves slowly and reward multiple listens. This particular track features a duet with Elton John, who I haven’t been a fan of since “Crocodile Rock,” but somehow here his maudlin delivery just fits the tone of the song.

Joel Plaskett Emergency – “Snowed In” [from EMERGENCYs, false alarms, shipwrecks, castaways, fragile creatures, special features, demons and demonstrations. 1999-2010]

Plaskett might be best known these days for the sprawling three-disc album (Three) he released in 2009, but the man has been writing the quintessential Canadian pop songs for years — and his recent collection of unreleased gems speaks to this. The title is a mouthful — EMERGENCYs, false alarms, shipwrecks, castaways, fragile creatures, special features, demons and demonstrations. 1999-2010 — and the songs, including “Snowed In,” are an earful.

Black Sabbath – “Snowblind” [from Never Say Die]

Nothing quite captures the spirit of the holidays like sludgy metal guitars and Ozzy Osbourne’s manic screech. Usually descriptions of snowflakes on trees are married to snooze-inducing melodies or saccharine songs that will give you a cavity. Not so Sabbath.

Stars – “What the Snowman Learned About Love” [from Heart]

If you haven’t heard this song from Stars off of their masterpiece, Heart, I’m not sure quite what to say other than go listen to it right now. I’ll wait ’til you get back and then we can talk about how swoon-inducingly lovely this five-minute slice of pop music is and how well it has stood the test of time.

The Skydiggers – “Good King Wenceslas” [from Unreleased]

I know, I know. I said this wasn’t a Christmas playlist, but this right here is one of the few Christmas songs I not only tolerate but actually love and look forward to breaking out at this time of year. Andy Maize’s vocals are perfectly suited to this tune, and the horns backing him on the studio recording are phenomenal.

The Skydiggers – “November in Ontario” [from Desmond’s Hip City]

Yup, you’re getting a double-shot of Skydiggers with this EAP. The band recently re-recorded this song from their 1997 album and made it available as a free download to promote their Christmas show at the Horseshoe Tavern and stir interest in their new studio album, due in 2012.

No video but the song can be downloaded here:

The Pretenders – “2000 Miles” [from Learning To Crawl]

If you’re fortunate enough to hear this one while you’re trudging through the mall like an extra in The Walking Dead, take a moment to stop your shopping and just listen to it. It’s a beautiful Christmas song and one of the best things Chrissie Hynde has ever penned or sung.