California Dreamin’: Winter Songs from the West Coast

California is not my home, has never been my home, and (most likely) will never be my home.  But as the winter here is getting colder and snowier, I am finding myself drawn to some “California-esque” music.  Perhaps it’s a trend lately among some artists, but indie songs are sounding more harmonic, shorter and just plain sunnier.  I’m used to sub-zero Chicago winters, but that doesn’t mean I love navigating streets blanketed with ice.  These songs have been providing me with some much-needed comfort as I plow my way through the snow:

California Dreamin’ (The Mamas & The Papas)

The song that started it all! I was always familiar with the harmony of this song but never paid close attention to the lyrics until listening to an interview with Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast (see song choice below).  My mind only really comprehended the words “California Dreamin'” as the rest of the dreamy harmony swept me away. But the song is actually about the winter and wanting to be someplace else — in this case, California.  “All the leaves are brown/and the sky is grey/I’ve been for a walk/On a winter’s day/I’d be safe and warm/If I was in L.A./California dreamin’/On a winter’s day.”

Boyfriend (Best Coast)

Best Coast is led by former child actress Bethany Cosentino, who spent a few months studying creative writing in New York before moving back to L.A.  She definitely has the sunny girl-group sound down but there’s an irony and edge to her music that I admire.  Her voice reminds me a lot of Courtney Love, and I can’t help but smile when she sings, “the other girl is not like me/she’s prettier and skinnier/she has a college degree/I dropped out when I was seventeen.”

Floating Vibes (Surfer Blood)

The members of Surfer Blood are from West Palm Beach, Florida but they definitely have a somewhat California vibe to their music, albeit a lot fuzzier and grungier.  I downloaded this song (legally, from iTunes) after Rolling Stone described it as “Beach Boys-style surf tune with Nineties alt-rock riffs.”

Just Like Zeus (Jenny and Johnny)

This song was all over Tokyo for some reason.  The Jenny from Jenny and Johnny is Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley.  I’ve been a fan of Rilo Kiley and Lewis’ solo work for some time now, so this song is a nice addition to her repertoire.  She sings this with her boyfriend (Jonathan Rice), and I like how the somewhat nonsensical lyrics compliment the cheery beat.  My favorite line is, “you’ve been sniffing up that mercury/from a broken thermometer.”

Dancing on My Own (Robyn)

This isn’t “California-esque” music, but it’s a lot brighter than the depressing stuff I normally surround myself with!  I’m normally not a fan of “club music,” Euro-pop or any other genre that might describe this song.  But I’m a sucker for girl-power songs, and “Dancing on My Own” is a prime example of an awesome anthem for women (and men).  I love how Robyn sings a story about a lonely girl watching everyone around her at a club.  “I’m in the corner/watching you kiss her/I’m right over here/Why can’t you see me?” But, she keeps dancing anyhow, even if she’s alone.

Sometimes, in the dead of winter, that’s all you can do.

Author: Sheila Burt


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