There are two winters. There is the one that exists between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve. It’s filled with late nights out, family, friends, sweaters, bonfires, weekend trips, and drunken work parties. When people talk about how much they love winter, these are the things that come to mind. The second winter starts the morning of January 2nd and last until spring, i.e., forever.
Surviving the first winter (Winter: New Moon, let’s say) requires a well-known list of supplies: lots of layers, a good multivitamin, scotch tape, Tupperware, a half-dozen flawless outfits, and steady access to your hangover cure of choice. Enduring Winter: Eclipse, however, with its quiet social calendar, depleted bank accounts, an annoying shortage of work-free days, and impending tax season, has a slightly less publicized survival strategy. Maybe no one knows how to get through without some degree of vitamin D deficiency depression. But it would be a good start to have a playlist that is simultaneously representative of and antidotal to the desolate, heavy, oddly beautiful feelings these days invoke.
“17” – Youth Lagoon
Late winter is good for almost nothing, save for being needlessly, casually, frequently nostalgic for vague, non-specific things. The first half of winter is a ceaseless series of massive exercises in input; food, presents, alcohol…you consume late nights, inhale new people and old friends visiting, accept eager new hands under your clothes, and put forth your own with equal enthusiasm…you say “yes” and “more” until the words lose meaning. By mid-February, everything is silent, still, simmering, sleeping, recovering, used up, spent, gotten back on a plane, put back in a box, been salted and melted. Yet it’s still too cold, and the days are too short to yet be proactive about the new year. Nothing feels new yet. The last part of winter is the perpetual ringing sound in your ears in the silence after a loud noise. You’ll find yourself walking or driving alone a lot, to and from nowhere interesting, and this is the song you should listen to.
“Oh, Naoko” – Sun Airway
This song is someone moving Christmas tree carcasses out of your path as you walk down the sidewalk together, even if they weren’t wearing gloves. This song is someone worshipping every part of your body until they almost shake, vomit, and die. This song is a lamentation for every minute they aren’t inside you, every minute they have to get out of bed and go out into the awful, stupid ass world outside, which might as well be outer space, for all the life-sustaining qualities it holds for them right now. This song is the rapturous moment they get to unravel their layers of insulation, and get back into bed with you, where everything is warm, fleshy, and holy.
“Icarus” – White Hinterland
Way after I fell in love with this song, I found out it was used for a Revlon commercial and was featured on Pretty Little Liars, which I haven’t watched, but can only assume is the absolute worst show ever. I was bummed to find out these things, but there’s no going back. By naming her band “White Hinterland”, helmslady Casey Deinel was clearly trying to embody winteriness and she did so very nicely. (I am shocked that MS Word isn’t putting squiggly “stop making shit up, Jessica” lines under “winteriness”.)
“As Bright As Your Night Light” – Nerves Junior
There’s no shinier, more polished sex scenario than bedding someone post-holiday party, after executing a flawless seduction routine. You’re like some kind of finely preened winter bird, as soft, electric, bright and good-smelling as the festive atmosphere you inhabit. There should a Discovery Channel special on how pristine and touchable you become during between Thanksgiving and New Years, your prime mating season. But despite all your gameness for sex-sport, you’ll end up with a random holiday crush who you never quite caught under the mistletoe. This person will reappear – fucking of course — two months later, at a lukewarm party on some random February night, when you’re rocking 2 weeks worth of leg hair under dirty jeans, last night’s eye makeup and an overall countenance of a person who barely decided to show up at all. The glamorous part of winter is long gone, but you’ll be damned if you’re failing with this person again, so you’re going for it, in the laziest way possible. Be the dirty, hungover, cocky cousin of your pretty holiday self. It’s acceptable, if not preferable, if the first words you say to them are “you coming?” as you walk past them at the very end of the night on your way to the door. They will come. It might not be the “first footprint in freshly fallen snow” sex you might’ve had a few months ago, but you don’t even want that anymore. It’s grimy, eat-you-alive sex, and this is the song for it. This song is the audio embodiment of this gif.
“Bells Ring” – Mazzy Star
This whole album should be taken like vitamins in all seasons.
“Love is Won” – Lia Ices
This song sounds like the Baby Jesus ringing a single bell into a clear night sky to signal the first flake of snow falling. I believe this song has actual restorative powers. Like, I’m pretty sure I’ve managed to offset some of the liver damage I incurred in December by listening to this song. Sidenote: Do I feel obligated to declare that I loved this song for fully TWO YEARS before it was on Girls? Yes, obviously I do.
“The Other Side of Your Face” – Twin Sister
If you own some fancy NASA science wizard device that will play any song you want as a wake up alarm, pick this song. I despise alarms that violently, suddenly announce that your safe, cozy sleep space is under attack, a feeling that is especially brutal when you have yet another cold winter day looming. This song will ease you from sleeping to wakefulness gently and…mystically(? Why not.) The difference between this song versus any standard loud alarm tone is like the difference between someone who knows how to do anal sex and someone who does not; One will leave you to start the day with a bleeding asshole and an inescapable feeling of having just been violated, while the other leaves you with an almost good feeling about waking up like, “Ya know, I didn’t think I wanted it, but this is actually kinda nice.”
“Yellow Light” – Of Monsters and Men
This song sounds like leaving the home of someone you just slept with and either shouldn’t have, or didn’t even really want to, but it doesn’t matter because in the void of late winter, no one can hear you self-loathe over having not learned one goddamn thing in all these years. By the time the song builds to its peak, you’ll be almost rushing home, with the word “enough” echoing in your head, firm but forgiving. (Of course this band of beautiful monster men are from Iceland. I’m so mad I wasn’t born Icelandic.)
“The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” – Birdy
You know what you haven’t done in a while? Cried about your high school boyfriend. You were in love, and going to different colleges couldn’t touch that, except that it did, and you grew apart. The moment you realized it was the first time you encountered that acute hollowness where intimacy used to exist, an absence of feeling that you would go on to experience again, after every time you outgrew a love. It was when you learned to accept the inevitability of evolution, that all you could do was hope with each new love that this time it would be with someone who would evolve along the same wavelength as you, which is a vastly more rare thing than finding someone to love in a vacuum of personal stagnation. You realized you were not the kind of person who would ever freeze, to stop growing, for any love. This is when “hope of finding love” turned into “hope of finding love that lasts.” Upon understanding what makes those different, you realized how bleak that shit seemed, and started learning how to be happy alone, hopefully without needing to become bitter and hateful. This song will take you back. This song will make you feel old, dull pain with renewed focus before you remember the details of its origin. Sometimes you should go back there, to remind you of the first simple scenario where the choice between “love of another” and “love of self” was clear, because it’s never been as clear since. But you need to remember that it hurts, and to make sure it still hurts, because it should. Not enough to derail you, just enough to still feel it. Several months of hardening yourself against the seasonal elements can make other parts of you hard as well (I know. Like a dick. Move past it.) This song is good diagnostic test to ensure your insides are still vital, still uncomfortably human.
In 2013, the only remaining use for the Postal Service is to reduce you to the unformed ball of feelings you were 10 years ago, and covers make it you don’t actually have to listen to the Postal Service to do it. (Please disregard all of the above if you were, like, 8 years old in 2003.)
“Until We Bleed” – Kleerup feat. Lykke Li
Because your basic “there’s nothing better to do”, end of winter cocaine binge needs a soundtrack. You can even name your coke party after the song: “Until We (Get a Nose) Bleed”. #wompwomp.
“Here Comes the Sun” – Nina Simone
Listening to Nina Simone is like Prozac-soaked kittens licking your weather-worn soul. She should be prescribed medically as a cure for chapped lips and bummers.