The holidays have ended, the temperatures have plummeted, and we have all descended deep into the grey, frigid slump that is January. There are guns in the news and Christmas lights to put away, the wind chill is subzero and our throats are sore, and it all makes us want to curl up in a ball and hibernate until things get better. We’re all a little prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder, especially in New York — its hard grey buildings and hard grey concrete and impenetrable grey sky make it especially susceptible to winter blues. So when we feel ourselves succumbing, getting more than a little depressed as the forecast serves up yet another week of too damn cold, we turn to this playlist. This is our winter lifeline, a string of sunshine droplets wrapped in song. They lift our spirits, add a bounce to our slushy step, and remind us of warmer times. Like a shot of Vitamin D to the heart.
Stuck Like Glue: Sugarland – Sweet as the peaches of this duo’s home state, this song is pure sunshine, making even the most Polar Vortex-y of days a little brighter. Kristian Bush describes this pop confection as “bungee jumping and eating chocolate cake.” So, there’s that. Also, he’s at least 50% responsible for making mandolins cool again (we have to give Chris Thile and Marcus Mumford some credit, too).
You and I: Ingrid Michaelson – This is one of our all-time, favorite, turn-any-bad-day-along, so-cute-if-you-don’t-smile-you’re-made-of-stone songs. When we were both 22, we saw Ingrid in Kentucky, and she closed out her concert by pulling two volunteers up on stage and leading a crowd-wide singalong to this number, complete with foot stomping and a cappella clapping. And everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.
Jenny: I’m From Barcelona – One of Zelda’s go-to pick-me-up songs. She may be biased because a. she used to live in Paris and still harbors an undying passion for it and b. it’s kinda about her name (although she has never, not ever, been a Jenny…except in Italy). But there’s just something so sweet about its simplicity, and the tenderly loving act of putting someone in a little bowl upon a tray and whisking them away from their troubles.
Australia: The Shins – Just try to listen to this song without bouncing. Go ahead, try. Unsuccessful? That’s what we thought. We (especially Zelda) love the Shins, and this song in particular sounds like outdoor amphitheatres and summer evenings at a sidewalk cafe, slurping down blood orange juice or something a little stronger. Also, it is summer in Australia, which is either terribly depressing or brings hope that there is in fact sunshine somewhere in the world.
Anna Sun: Walk the Moon – The ultimate dance around in the grass, jump up and down, get way too close and sweaty with strangers song. Walk the Moon played at our favorite hometown music festival a few years ago, and even at 3:30 in the afternoon they had us jamming out like the field by the Ohio River was the hoppin’-est dance club. Pairs well with face paint and beach balls.
My Time: Wheeler Brothers – A sunshiney playlist wouldn’t be complete without a little Texas, and this sweet tune puts us in mind of baseball diamonds and freshly mown glass, fireflies and amazing technicolor snow cones that dye your tongue. And on a personal note, it throws us back to the first time we encountered this brotherly quintet, on a muggy July night on a paddle boat on the river, with bandanas in our hair, face paint chipping off our cheeks, and sweat dripping down our backs as we bounced along.
Daylight: Matt & Kim – As soon as we settled on the theme for this month’s playlist, we knew this track needed to be on here. An infectious tune from the always effervescent Matt & Kim — this Brooklyn duo never fails to have us jumping around, whether we’re under an overpass at a music festival or grooving around our kitchens in our pajamas.
Some Days You’ve Gotta Dance: Dixie Chicks – We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: There are very few ills in this world that cannot be cured with a kitchen dance party, and the winter blues are definitely included. Turn up this nostalgia-tinged tune, jump around like only your bestie’s watching, and remember the smell of a June breeze as it whooshes in your car window, green hills whizzing by.
Strong as An Oak: Watsky – New York is a hard city to be poor (which in New York means “not absurdly rich”) in, and this is particularly true in the winter months when the brutal cold cuts you off from 99% of the city’s free activities (ah, the days of park weather…). And when you’re broke and down on your luck, George Watsky is there for you. (Note: George Watsky makes Scout feel better about most things. It’s amazing this blog has lasted this long without her declaring her love for him.)
Sight of the Sun: Fun. – From the soundtrack to everyone’s favorite zeitgeisty millennial Brooklyn show, this song never fails to make us feel a little better about our lives. After all, no matter how grim things may seem, at least we’re not doing coke on a Wednesday night.
Got To Get You Into My Life: The Beatles – And by you, we mean sunshine. Also temperatures about 50 degrees higher. Please and thank you.
The Jackson Pit: Xaphoon Jones – Formerly half of the hip-hop duo Chiddy Bang, producer Noah Beresin (a.k.a. Xaphoon Jones), lays out some sick remixes. Back in 2010, Scout saw the aforementioned duo play at her college’s ubiquitous spring-party-music-weekend-thing (Scout called it “GIG,” Zelda “Spring Weekend,” every school seems to have one). She was immediately hooked, downloading every track available at the time, and her favorite was this Passion Pit/Jackson Five mash-up, which went on everything from her Field Hockey team’s warm-up mix to her midnight-dance-party-while-writing-an-epic-paper playlist.
Fidelity: Regina Spektor – One of our favorite commuting songs. Regina’s hopscotching vocals never fail to add a bounce to our step, turning even the the greyest and grimiest of blocks into montage material. After all, this East Village stalwart knows from depressing urban landscape, but that never stopped her from hearing music wherever she goes.
Sydney (I’ll Come Running): Brett Dennen – One of our favorite singing gingers, Brett Dennen looks like what would happen if Arnold from “The Magic School Bus” grew up to become an indie folk rocker. His California roots shine through in breezy melodies made for beachy strolls or windows down, PCH drives. This relentless tale of love in the face of the law will propel you down the sidewalk, though hopefully the doors you’re busting through lead to coffee and not a court date.
Blister in the Sun: Violent Femmes – Zelda and Scout were both involved with theater in high school (Zelda mostly acted, Scout mostly took pictures, sometimes they both danced and sang, good times were had by all). As with most artsy/nerdy teen groups, there were many odd traditions that accompanied this particular extracurricular activity. There was no pants o’clock. There was the insertion of the word “corpse” into warm-ups. And there was this song, danced and sung along to with gusto, with the whole gang crouching lower and lower as Gordon Gano’s voice gets softer and softer, before exploding at the final chorus. And then transitioning into I’ll Make A Man Out of You. Because obviously.
Kick Drum Heart: The Avett Brothers – One of the happiest tunes from our go-to happy music makers, the brothers called Avett. Maybe it’s their North Carolina twang and skillful melding of Americana roots with modern folk rock; maybe it’s the happy outdoor memories we hold of singing along in a crowd of sweaty, exhausted festival goers as the last of a summer rain storm floats away and the sun sets on the Ohio. Either way, this sun brings sunshine to our hearts, and once Seth starts stammering, we can’t help but clap along.
Safe in L.A.: Gold Motel – A true California grooving song, full of dreamy surf beats and bursting with golden rays. From the first glass clinks, this song puts us in a seaside state of mind, sipping our favorite cilantro-infused beer and listening as the waves get rebuffed by the sand. Cause even when things seem grim, Gold Motel is here to whisk our fears away and remind us that sunnier times are ahead.
I Like Giants: Kimya Dawson -We could lie back and tap along to Kimya’s cheery guitar and philosophical musings all day. This song came to us via the Evening of Awesome. (Scout was in the third row. Zelda was regrettably on another continent, but the internet is an amazing thing.) John, Hank, Kimya, and The Mountain Goats (we’re getting there) are the perfect way to cure our seasonal affective disorder. This song is a constant reminder that we are small and the universe is great, but it’s okay if that’s scary, because we’re all human. Sometimes it’s nice to just be a speck of dust inside a giant’s eye.
This Year: The Mountain Goats -The ultimate, life’s got you down, but you’re going to pick yourself up and kick its ass anyway, song. This is how we like to start our year: with John Darnielle and a sense of renewed purpose. Yes, last year had its bumps. It was hard and sad and demoralizing and sometimes just downright shitty. But this is a new year, a crisp calendar fresh from the wrapping tacked up on our wall. And we will leave the broken things behind, roaring into the future and the good things still to come.