Winter music: 37 S.A.D. songs
We asked some friends to tell us about their favorite winter songs. They offered songs, and a few entire albums, that are the diagnosis, cueing their seasonal depression, and the cure, an escape through music. Here is a list of their choices, with commentary.
GILBERT O'SULLIVAN - "ALONE AGAIN (NATURALLY)"
Jessica Suarez, a writer and editor, on the diagnosis: "My S.A.D. symptoms are oversleeping, feeling tired, and not wanting to see friends and family or even leave the apartment. When I feel that way, I like to cultivate that feeling, encourage its worse aspects, the loneliness and self-pity. Nothing works better than 'Alone Again (Naturally).' From the title down to the last verse, when, finally, his mother's death follows his father’s, it wallows in sadness and seventh chords. The series of events in the song: his fiancé ditches him at the altar, then his father dies and his mother feels lost, then she dies. If you try to enjoy this song in the company of others, it's embarrassingly maudlin and indulgent. But it works in the winter, because it reinforces what's already swirling around in your brain: your family leaves you because they have to. Everyone else leaves you because they want to."
THE WALKMEN - "THE BLIZZARD OF '96"
Jonathan Liu, a freelance writer and Capital contributor, on the diagnosis: "Winters always seem apocalyptic in the living, but the real terror of snow and scarves is how they deaden the faculties into an undifferentiated whiteout of nostalgia. Though Wikipedia tells me it was released in 2002, six days after the spring equinox, for this listener 'The Blizzard of '96' is a Proustian madeleine (or dining-hall sugar cookie) to the dreary winter of 2006, when a February storm broke the Central Park snow record set ten years earlier. The instrumentation, alternately twinkling and clanking, sounds like it might be from 1869, when city meteorological records started being kept. The sentiments are familiar to anyone who's ever needed a snow day, not least blizzard-scarred mayors: 'We've begun to work things out again / There's no other way around it.'"
KANYE WEST - "NEW WORKOUT PLAN"
Jonathan Liu, a freelance writer and Capital contributor, on the cure: "Man, remember when he was a messianic figure who hadn't entirely convinced himself of that fact? (At 33, West is in his Jesus year.) This trifle from The College Dropout is sonic Wellbutrin for anyone craving swimsuit season (though perhaps the spectators more than the participants). Aspiring gold diggers—Jill, Lasandra, and Alamae among them—receive a crash course, physical and metaphysical, on landing a rapper, an NBA player, or 'at least a dude wit a car.' Thus spake Kanye: 'Get them sit-ups right and / Tuck your tummy tight and do your crunches like this / Give head, stop, breath, get up, check your weave.' There's also the historical interest—he rhymes 'your breath is harsh' with 'you got SARS!' You did get a flu shot this year, right?"
THE CURE - "THE FUNERAL PARTY"
Tom McGeveran, an editor and co-founder of Capital, on the diagnosis: "My early adolescence was spent catching up with the back-catalogs of bands that mostly older people liked. It's an easy list to rattle off: The Cure, The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Psychedelic Furs, The Jesus & Mary Chain. In that way you do at that age, I kept exploring other music but I had my 'top list' and that was it until The Pixies, Husker Du, Galaxie 500, Ride, Lush, My Bloody Valentine, etc. came along. Anyway, as you can imagine, that group had its fair share of depressing music, which suited me since I was a bit of a somber kid given to black turtlenecks and giant grey overcoats and floppy hair and other forms of 'New Wave' pretension. As much as I flatter myself that my tastes have become more sophisticated, I still am not sure that when I want to nurse a bad mood I can do better than some of the songs I loved then; maybe it's the time and place I associate with the music, or maybe the reason so many sad teens loved the stuff was because it was perfect. Anyway the result is it's hard to pick the favorites—but not that hard. The Cure's Faith is like a great gray wash of sound, with little brilliant moments of major key that tinge it with hope. If I'm wanting to listen hard to this album, something's definitely not good. Somewhat at random—I once had a version of this backed with the Cure's soundtrack for an experimental film called Carnage Visors and I liked that a lot too; this really is a full-album experience—I'll choose 'The Funeral Party.' (Later I kinda thought the beginning theme of 'Twin Peaks' was kind of a ripoff of it, if that gives you an idea.)"
APPLES IN STEREO - "WINTER MUST BE COLD"
Tom McGeveran, an editor and co-founder of Capital, on the cure: "Later, I got into Athens music, and in fact my BFF for concerts and sitting and smoking and not talking and listening to albums together put his money where his mouth was: he moved to Athens to be a radio D.J. The whole 'Athens scene' has morphed so many times and has been defined by so many different sounds I'm never sure it's really a 'thing' to say to people anymore (are we now supposed to refer to this stuff as 'Elephant 6' because of the record label there? Or are these sorts of regional-musical distinctions just another sign that I'm old and don't understand how this works anymore?) Anyway, I kept 'in touch' with lots of those bands as they kept producing over the years, not always happily and not always successfully. Neutral Milk Hotel, nominally an 'Athens' band, was a thing I could not stand until several years after their albums came out and I came around to them. This, however, which is both topical and from the South, came along as I was hitting a serious neo-psych streak: Apples in Stereo's 'Winter Must Be Cold,' from the album Fun Trick Noisemaker. I love that guitar sound and the banging of the rhythm guitar. To me, music that pulls you out of a bad mood has to have a tincture of sad to it, or else it's just annoying. Here's a tincture that works for me."
WOLF EYES - "STABBED IN THE EYE"
Christopher Weingarten, an author, writer and critic at 1000TimesYes, on the diagnosis: "I don't get the winter blahs, I don't listen-to-Morrissey-in-my-snuggie, I don't stare misty-eyed from my window and play Low on a rickety turntable. My winter emotions are ugly, petulant. The itchy feeling of being cooped-up, stuck indoors, bored, forced to contend with my own headachey brain for company. Instead of sad, this makes me irritable, obsessive, uneasy, restless, angry, childish. I let it consume me like a blackened wave of hatred. The only release is to match wits with it, fight noise with noise, engage with something equally unpredictable and erratic and dissonant and terrible. In conclusion, 'Stabbed In The Face' by Wolf Eyes is a great song."
NOOTHGRUSH - "HATRED OF THE SPECIES"
Zach Baron, an editor at the Village Voice, on the diagnosis: "Band name and song title say it all, probably. Numbingly repetitive, stunningly misanthropic, enthusiastically dark, and without any redeeming social value, personal or otherwise—it’s right around this moment, this song playing for maybe the fifth morning running, that I know it’s happened, the last defenses fallen, winter well and truly set in."
CORRUPTED - "ESTAR EN VISPERAS DE ULTIMO"
Zach Baron, an editor at the Village Voice, on the cure: "The only antidote to side A of this record I’ve ever known is side B, not that it’ll make you feel better or anything."
TIM HECKER - RADIO AMOR
Nick Sylvester, drummer of Mr. Dream, on the diagnosis and the cure: "Every night for two years, usually around two or three in the morning, I walked back from a building shaped like a sphinx to an uneventful bedroom in the ugliest house on campus. I thought Cambridge was supposed to have better winters. There was snow, but it went slush by midday. It reflected no light. My father bought me a pair of construction boots one Christmas and these helped, mentally, not unlike how owning a good plunger can make you excited for a broken toilet. Soon enough the temperature rose. People starting calling frisbees 'frisbos' again. It was April. Then it snowed. I had been in the basement of the sphinx for most of the day, unaware of what was happening. It was the first and only time the weather really ever teared me up. Radio Amor was, as far as I can remember, the music I chose for the long walk back home that night. Listening again, I’m guessing I found it to be 'indicative of my surroundings,' a 'salve to my temperament,' some combination of the two, 'the sickness and the cure' and so on. I plead guilty to 300-level self-soundtracking. More likely I was blotto. Out the door already, mid-walk, too nervous about water damage to pull out the player and skip on through."
JOHN COLTRANE & JOHNNY HARTMAN - JOHN COLTRANE & JOHNNY HARTMAN
Cosmo Baker, a D.J. with The Rub, on the diagnosis and the cure: "I must have been 18 years old when my mom gave me a copy of the eponymous album John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman. As a kid, Coltrane was a constant in the air of my house, so approaching this as a hip-hop minded teenager wasn't really much of a stretch for me. That winter was a cold one, with constant ice storms blanketing the city, paralyzing it, and I was holed up in my little upstairs apartment smoking pot and devouring all the records in my jazz stacks. I kept returning to this record time and again. Hartman's velvet voice perfectly complimented Trane's powerfully understated sax. It warmed me, the combo acting like an aural burning log in an imaginary fireplace. I was in love for the very first time that winter, a love that was doomed but was just so perfect at the time. Outside was the deep freeze while we struggled against it, nude under the covers with nothing but our body heat and 'Lush Life' to keep us warm. She was gone the next winter and I was never the same. That was a lifetime ago, but when the air gets cold and the days grow short, every once in a while I'll put this album on. It feels just right, and when those smooth sounds come through the speaker, feeling the cold next to a warm body, looking at the lights of my room twinkling in reflection off of frost-coated South Philly windows doesn't seem that far away."
GRACHAN MONCUR III - "WHEN"
Matthew Perpetua, a writer at Fluxblog and RollingStone.com, on the diagnosis: "I'll be honest with you: I have never experienced Seasonal Affective Disorder. Or, if I have, I am somehow attuned to the southern hemisphere because I am almost always miserable in the summer. The winter, though—that's my time! I can always count on the fall and winter to pull me out of whatever depression or misfortunate inevitably comes my way in the summer months. That said, when I started thinking of music memories tied to winter and depression, something specific immediately came to mind. A few years ago, I was in this terrible rut and feeling hopeless pretty much across the board. I went out wandering out of boredom and ended up walking into the Kim's that used to be on St. Mark's Place. I was idly browsing while listening to this melancholy, mesmerizing jazz song played over the store stereo. It was kind of a profound moment—I had no idea what the song was or who it was by but it was exactly how I felt. Right place, right time, right mood. I asked the clerk what it was, jotted the name down on a piece of paper and made my way back home.
The song was 'When' by Grachan Moncur III, from the album New Africa. I ended up buying the digital album from Amazon. (Don't get all 'but you were in a record store' on me; the people at Kim's didn't have a copy to sell me. They were playing it just to be teases, I guess.) I went back outside and listened to it a few times over on my headphones, walking on streets slick with black ice. I wrote about the song on my site not long after that night, and I think I got it right: "The song walks in aimless circles, somehow lost in a place it knows too well. It doesn’t matter what the other instruments do—if they pull off in another direction, if they whine and moan and protest, if they cool out and nod gently—they can’t escape the gravity of that unchanging piano motif. It’s an anchor, and even if its chords are calming, by the end of the piece, it becomes clear that it has kept the song contained within a stifling perimeter. It grinds down on hope, and reinforces pessimism. It’s a beautiful performance full of inspired improvisations, but that just makes the piece more terrifying and seductive."
BECK - MIDNITE VULTURES
Matthew Perpetua, a writer at Fluxblog and RollingStone.com, on the cure: "As far remedies for winter sadness goes, I recommend Beck's postmodern funk masterpiece Midnite Vultures. I find myself circling back to it near the start of every year, and it never fails to fill me with joy and I always find something new to appreciate in it both musically and lyrically."
BILL EVANS - "TURN OUT TO THE STARS"
Devin Leonard, a writer for Bloomberg Businessweek and a Capital contributor, on the diagnosis and the cure: "The pianist Bill Evans, who died in 1980 at the age of 51 after years of drug abuse, brought something new to jazz—an impressionistic vulnerability that the music lacked before. Miles Davis loved him, and as we now know, it was Evans, not Davis, who wrote 'Blue in Green' and 'Flamenco Sketches,' two of the most poetic songs on the trumpeter’s famous Kind of Blue. But perhaps his greatest composition was 'Turn Out The Stars.' The pianist penned it after his father died in the early '60s. The song has a heartrending emotional arch. The melody begins in the low register of the keyboard with a four-note minor phrase that is full of sorrow. Several bars later, the pianist repeats it in the middle register. Now it is positively anguished. Then Evans introduces a shimmering, waltz-like theme that is full of hope. It can’t last. Slowly, 'Turn Out the Stars' winds its way back the depths where it began. But after repeating the song’s Beethovenian opening melody, Evans longtime sidemen—bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Marty Morrell—enter and the piece is transformed into a swinging affirmation of life. It’s all there: intoxicating sadness and defiant optimism, however fleeting it may be. Who could ask for more from a song on a gray January day?"
FRANZ SCHUBERT - "DIE LIEBE HAT GELOGEN"
Matthew Gurewitsch, a music critic for the New York Times and Capital contributor, on the diagnosis: "On the assumption that everyone will be sifting through the two dozen songs of Schubert's Winterreise for the perfect choice, let me propose a free-standing Schubert song that touches the right chord: 'Die Liebe hat gelogen' ('Love lied,' as in 'told lies'). There is nothing specifically seasonal about it, but it captures desolation and emotional exhaustion with an economy that makes me shiver."
FRANZ SCHUBERT - "IM FREIEN' ("OUTDOORS")
Matthew Gurewitsch, a music critic for the New York Times and Capital contributor, on the cure: "The antidote? 'Im Freien' ('Outdoors'), a song of summer and starlight and amorous expectation that gives me a shiver, too, for contrary reasons."
RED HOUSE PAINTERS – “NEW JERSEY” (ACOUSTIC VERSION)
Miles Klee, a writer, on the diagnosis: "It’s about life being over before it starts, the end described in each beginning, and Mark Kozelek’s finger-picked arpeggios are as bleak—are as gentle—as a human being can stand. It’s a misted sound, something to hear while lying face-down on a cold hardwood floor, inhaling particles of dust, the last layer of self you shed. It’s the pale, aqueous light of late winter, stark against gray windowless malls and acres of iced parking lot, strong only for an hour each day. You’re 'not as good as your mom' and 'not as bad as your dad,' Kozelek tells us, 'living in a freckle on the face of the world.' Home is a tiny, pretty imperfection; all we have to measure ourselves by are those who called it home before we arrived."
RED HOUSE PAINTERS - "NEW JERSEY" (ELECTRIC VERSION)
Miles Klee, a writer, on the cure: "On Red House Painters’ second self-titled album, New Jersey reemerges as a gleaming prayer. The added percussion is propulsive, practically march-like. The electric guitar is all frost, with a thin coat of shimmer—the cold now an incubator for sharpened thought, feats of the survivalist spirit. A city of factories bleeds white smog, the highway rolls on into another crumbling valley, and yet: 'New Jersey ain’t the whole world,' Kozelek intones. No longer does it sound like a faltering hope. This time he may actually mean it."
KEYSHIA COLE - THE WAY IT IS
Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, an associate editor at AlterNet and freelance writer, on the diagnosis: "Before Keyshia Cole had a reality show, fixed her tooth-gap (sadface) and got pregs, she was rebounding with Young Jeezy and selling merch emblazoned with her dramatic arm tattoo, an aorta pierced by a dagger. This was her sole super-depressed/super-relatable album where she perfectly emoted through one jilted love song after another, and even though there are no goth tempos, winter betrayal and bittersweetness cuts deeper than out-and-out mopery. HOPE CAN ONLY DIE IF IT EXISTS. You're not truly expressing your woes, though, unless you lipsync the lyrics in the dark while covered by 23 polyester blankets you jacked from airplanes."
CORMEGA feat. PRODIGY - "THUN N KICKO"
Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, an associate editor at AlterNet and freelance writer, on the diagnosis: "Perspective changer: you could also just be Nas on the fist end of this classic Queens dis track. I'm just gonna go out on a limb and say that no matter how bad most of us have it, we've never been mocked for being an exploitative poseur by the hardest member of Mobb Deep. This is one of the meanest sleeper New York rap songs, total Vitamin D for rowdy blood-pressure sustenance over a creeping-on-you beat. Also good for dolo living room workouts since it's like, impossible to run laps outdoors in a wintry mix. Cardio pump required on the all-caps lyric: 'I'M COR-MEGA. RAW 4-EVA. Y'ALL KNOW MY STEEZ, I'M REPPIN FOR QUEENS.'"
MESSY MARV & MITCHY SLICK feat. TINY D - "TRYN TO GET A DOLLA"
Skinny Friedman, a D.J., on the cure: "San Diego rapper and long time Blood affiliate (in that order, just barely), Mitchy Slick puts his menacing reality raps aside to talk about gettin' paid over a flute loop. OK, he's still pretty menacing but flute loops make any rap song cheerful. Word to Herbie Mann."
BAD AZZ feat. DOGGY'S ANGELS - "HOW WE GET DOWN"
Skinny Friedman, a D.J., on another cure: "Slightly obscure West Coast party music from Snoop Dogg's buddy Bad Azz. It's like the best fake Coolio song ever made, by which I mean it's a dude rapping over Lakeside about living in L.A. That's the exact opposite of stepping in a slushy puddle in Herald Square."
KENDAL JOHANSSON - "BLUE MOON"
Chris Hires, a D.J. and Capital contributor, on the diagnosis: "Kendal Johansson's cover of Big Star's 'Blue Moon' somehow manages to be, in my opinion, even more heartbreaking than the original. If you look at Alex Chilton's lyrics, the song may appear to be an earnest love song. But when Johansson sings it, the desperate tone of her voice betrays the fact that there is nothing about this love that's requited. I can definitely see myself singing this in my room in the darkest the depths of February after a few too many whiskeys, and I'd like to apologize in advance to my roommate if that does indeed happen."
THE NAKED AND THE FAMOUS - "YOUNG BLOOD"
Chris Hires, a D.J. and Capital contributor, on the diagnosis: "I guess this one came out last summer and became a No. 1 charting song in New Zealand, but if you don't live there maybe it's as new to you as it is to me. 'Young Blood' is just a catchy-ass bit of synth-pop, and when I hear it I get this feeling that's somewhat comparable to running and laughing at the same time (is there a German word for that?). I'm sure it's only a matter of time before we're hearing it in ads that feature young, attractive people drinking light beer."
THE MICROPHONES - "THE MOON"
Jamie Granato, a D.J. and co-founder of Group Tightener Records, on the diagnosis: "I grew up on an island in Washington State. Usually people try to talk to me about grunge and then about the area’s reputation for rain. While it’s relatively easy to explain that it’s not the amount of rainfall that is the issue, but the persistent darkness and dampness that blankets the region, it’s difficult to convey how it effects the attitude of everyone who lives there. Pretty much up until the time I graduated high school, I would get bummed when the sun came out. It threw me off. It was an anxiousness that made me want to hide in an attic with the blinds closed. As I got older, I realized that people generally experience the opposite effect.
Phil Elverum, who records as The Microphones and now Mount Eerie, also grew up on an island in Washington State, but one further north. I feel a certain kinship with The Glow Pt. 2 because it explains the feeling of damp gloom that I can’t really put into words. It is inexplicably tied to the environment it was created in and presents the idea that melancholy doesn’t have to be negative. Light and dark might be opposites but they don’t have to be represented on the same scale as happy and sad."
LAURA VEIRS - "ICEBOUND STREAM"
Carrie Battan, a freelance writer and a Capital contributor, on the diagnosis: "It’s one thing for a song or an album to represent winter in sheer melancholic sentiment, but Laura Veirs—a Portland-based chanteuse with a serious academic background in geology—has a knack for making her songs actually sound glacial, drawing up all kinds of seasonal imagery in her lyrics and instrumentation as she expresses, very delicately and somberly, just how sad she is. Veirs' entire catalogue is filled with wintry fare, but this track, in both nomenclature and sound, is the most fitting in a literally seasonal sense."
R.E.M. - "IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT"
Carrie Battan, a freelance writer and a Capital contributor, on the cure: "A few years back I used to babysit a seven-year-old girl who’d start whimpering at the drop of the hat, and after a number of failed attempts at thwarting her whine sessions, I finally just decided to look her in the eye and say: 'OhHHHH, your life is just so hard, isn’t it?' Surprisingly, I succeeded—she broke down in giggles. That’s sort of how this song works for me; listening to Michael Stipe’s manic rattling off of worldly ills followed by the declaration that, 'It’s the end of the world as we know it,' but he feels fine, is like saying, 'shit happens' and then laughing about it. It’s a nice way to snicker in the face of petty problems that become overblown in the fog of winter doldrums, and—bonus points—it always makes me think of a brace-faced Gwen Stefani performing it live on MTV as the clock struck Y2K."
NANA GRIZOL - "VOICES ECHO DOWN THEE HALL (FOR JARED)"
Joe Coscarelli, a Village Voice writer, on the diagnosis: "The most common winter fantasies in New York, at least on Gchat and in offices without natural light, are about leaving. Home to California for the holidays, spontaneous tropical vacations, even a drive somewhere with equally dismal weather (but to a house, with a fireplace), because nothing is as oppressive as hitting a slush puddle and still having six blocks to walk, plus stairs. Then there's the walk back, and it's later, so it's colder. And so songs about leaving are the saddest when it's not an option, and sadder still when they're about unfulfilled summers and new places that aren't any better than old places. Nana Grizol's 'Voices Echo Down Thee Hall (For Jared)' is deceptive with its horns and talk-to-shout narration because any hope in sound is undercut by the words, which are clear: 'Remember when I said I had to get away? I was just looking for something to say.' Unlike a slow and smokey seasonal song, it could pass as a romp but only if you're not paying attention. You're as happy now as you will be, it insists, so keep trudging, season aside."
ZOLA JESUS - "POOR ANIMAL"
Joe Coscarelli, a Village Voice writer, on the diagnosis: "For more inspiration and less wallowing, I paradoxically prefer something darker, Zola Jesus' 'Poor Animal,' probably because most of the words are impossible for me to discern. 'It's the same every time,' I hear early on. Later, the word 'perfect.' I believe it's all in English, but no message reveals itself, so I create my own: keep walking. Instead of the unexpected introspection catalyzed by the aforementioned Athens indie rock, the electronic opera of 'Animal' is uplifting, especially at night. Her voice rises with layered synthesizer, tom drums and eventually strings, the sound alone thick and fortifying. Crunching ice under your feet adds to the orchestration."
BEAT HAPPENING - "INDIAN SUMMER"
Marisa Meltzer, author of Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music and a freelance writer, on the diagnosis: "A friend of mine recently told me that my self-diagnosis for S.A.D. was a made up white girl disease. She's probably right, but mid-winter is when I start to listen to summer music obsessively. This is the song I turn to while spending time bundled up in a duvet, eating Pillsbury biscuits, pouting about how much I hate boots. I like to plot about summer perfection—how this is going to be the year I bike everywhere, go to outdoor yoga and, like, learn to barbecue corn. But mostly this song reminds me of idealized summers in college swimming in lakes and picking blackberries, even though I probably spent the majority of my time in far less idyllic fashion, watching '90210' reruns while hungover."
CAT POWER - "KING RIDES BY"
Joe Pompeo, a writer for Yahoo!'s Cutline blog and a Capital contributor, on the diagnosis: "When I was 19, during the dead of February, I would sit on my bedroom floor chain-smoking Parliament lights and listening to What Would the Community Think? by Cat Power. Vitamin D-oriented this album is not. In fact, I’m pretty sure that when Chan Marshall wrote these songs, she was locked up in Old Man Winter’s basement for a few months, surviving on nothing but candy cane crumbs and dirty snow, 'Avalanche' by Leonard Cohen looping 24/7. 'King Rides By' is arguably the most brooding track. It sounds like how the darker moments of winter feel—melancholic, lethargic, never ending. I mean, the song’s so depressing that the only video I could find on YouTube consists solely of blackness! But during that time of year when the sun goes down at 4, and it’s so cold your hair hurts, and you can’t stop thinking about how summer won’t happen for another 127 days or so, and the only holidays to look forward to are St. Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s, Marshall’s tormented wail feels like a warm afghan to me. 'Needing love more than you’ll ever know,' she bawls. 'You don’t miss your water ‘till your well is gone.' Yup. Pass the Abilify!"
ANTARCTICA - "ABSENCE"
Joe Pompeo, a writer for Yahoo!'s Cutline blog and a Capital contributor, on the cure: "On the other hand, there is Antarctica. Antarctica was the shoegazey, synth-poppy, 'grew up and moved to New York in the late '90s' extension of the seminal Midwestern emo quartet Christie Front Drive. They are a total cold weather band. (I mean, hello – the name!) 'Absence,' the first track on the double CD they released in 1999, is their best song. It has a poppy New Order vibe. Snow starts falling whenever it comes on. It is the type of music that ice sculptures listen to. It makes me want to cruise through Narnia on a giant sled pulled by huskies. If I ever live in a Swiss Chalet in the Alps, this song will be on repeat as I lay around drinking White Russians and playing Scrabble. It makes winter sound not so bad."
JAWBREAKER - "ACCIDENT PRONE"
Jessanne Collins, an editor at Out magazine and a Capital contributor, on the diagnosis: "In 1995 I was driving home late, alone on a dark country road, and this song came on the college radio station. It was spooky, like Christopher Walken was riding shotgun—or was he narrating from inside my head? Needless to say, it was winter, or it would be soon, and this song always brings me to that time of year, that state of mind. I’m vaguely aware now that it’s maybe a tad melodramatic? But I don’t care. I still think 'I built this life and now it’s mine,' is one of the most devastating sentiments."
LEONARD COHEN - "FAMOUS BLUE RAINCOAT"
Jessanne Collins, an editor at Out magazine and a Capital contributor, on the diagnosis: "Some people will give you funny looks if you tell them Leonard Cohen is your favorite Christmas music. But I break out his Best Of album annually just before Thanksgiving and it doesn’t stray far from the record player until April. There’s just the right amount of coziness peeking through the pathos: tea and oranges, Jane asleep in the post-holiday dawn, etc, to make the inevitable bleak times seem a little sweet. This one is about getting over it. And at some point in the last decade 'New York is cold but I like where I’m living,' became my winter mantra."
LEONARD COHEN - "FAMOUS BLUE RAINCOAT"
Max Abelson, a reporter for Bloomberg News, on the diagnosis: "No one will ever write better lyrics about wintertime in Manhattan than Leonard Cohen. 'Famous Blue Raincoat' isn’t only the perfect song for solitary wallowing, it’s music that makes you put on another layer. It’s gray haired. It’s balding. It is blue lipped. I’ve always figured that the third line, 'New York is cold but I like where I’m living,' was half a lie, and not the part about the cold. Everything else is true—the torn jackets, train stations, failed Scientologists and pulled-out strings of hair."
KATE & ANNA MCGARRIGLE - "MY TOWN"
Max Abelson, a reporter for Bloomberg News, on the cure: "And then when I’m ready to march out of the old rut there's a song on Kate & Anna McGarrigle’s first album called 'My Town' that does it every time. I think it might be about the late Kate leaving Loudon Wainwright because he was a big drinker and thrower-of-guitars, but it’s still as pretty as can be. And there’s a line about coming 'back with the birds in the spring' that might be my favorite little gem on an album full of them."
NELLIE MELBA - "DONDE LIETA USCI" FROM PUCCINI'S LA BOHEME
Zachary Woolfe, a writer and editor at Capital, on the diagnosis: "There is no famouser winter in opera than the one that chills the third act of Puccini's La Boheme. As the snow falls on a tavern on the outskirts of Paris, the characters overhear each other's conversations, argue, separate, come together. Puccini evokes perfectly both the lethargy and the sharpness of those long, cold months, and the drama encapsulates the intense longings and petty frustrations of people cooped up together in a tiny apartment through December, January, February. Near the end, before the troubled lovers agree to stay together until the spring comes, the fragile Mimi sings her goodbye, the gentle aria 'Donde lieta usci.' This recording, from 1907, features Nellie Melba, one of the great singers of operatic history and one of the world's most famous celebrities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The audio quality of the early phonograph record—poor to our modern ears—has the unintentional but perfect effect of making it seem as though we're hearing Melba through the snow."
BLINK 182 - "DUMPWEED"
Zachary Woolfe, a writer and editor at Capital, on the cure: "I've barely heard this track in over a decade, but in the summer of 1999, I was in high school. I had an internship at a company at Columbus Circle, and the hot new album was—oh, yes it was—Blink-182's Enema of the State. I thought that I was on top of the world, the coolest person in town, and my Discman was playing 'Dumpweed.' It is, without a doubt, mortifying, but it is the very opposite of S.A.D."
LEATHERFACE - "SPRINGTIME"
Gillian Reagan, a writer and editor at Capital, on the cure: "Not even the highlight track off Leatherface’s 1992 magnum opus Mush, but an anthem nonetheless—an ode to the forces that tear us apart as we get older: nostalgia and denial, loyalty and ambition, redemption and hope. Our captain Frankie Stubbs sounds like he has been chomping on a rusty engine, but he's not shouting us down with punk aggression so much as he's fighting to be heard. This urgency—the ferocious determination thrashing all over Mush—is exactly what I need when I catch myself pouting through the daily inanities. In the bare bones of winter, find me feeling a glittering kind of aliveness, my arms around the people I love, screaming every lyric to 'Springtime' until our throats get sore. Then we’ll play it one more time."
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