To those freshman students experiencing their first Michigan winter: Heavy coats alone will not save you from what’s about to come. Trust me.
As a Michigan native, I have successfully evaded a hypothermic death for 19 straight years, and I can testify that in order to retain your sanity until spring, you really need to develop your own winter survival soundtrack.
Obviously, this collection will need to be large enough to span several months (March is often torn between two seasons, but I suggest throwing it in the winter column), and since you will need it to simultaneously reflect your feelings of desolation and inspire you to trudge through a snow-covered Diag, it will have to be a playlist that caters to your tastes and emotions. As a veteran of these treacherous Michigan months and a connoisseur of winter music, though, I’ll make some recommendations to help alleviate imminent pain and suffering.
First of all, December is the least of your worries. The majority of the month is dominated by holiday cheer and kept relatively warm by the festive sounds of Mariah Carey, Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby, but if looking for a less sappy solution to the trials of early snowfall, look no further than Fleet Foxes’s self-titled debut album.
Fleet Foxes is one of the world’s finest indie bands, and the group’s resonant, folky music is tailor-made for wintry walks through the woods. Listening to “White Winter Hymnal” will help you become one with the snow, and “He Doesn’t Know Why” will surely make your daily voyage to Angell Hall a bit more pleasant.
Once the illusory warmth of the holidays has passed, however, you’re in for some real shit. January is a sad month and a SAD — or Seasonal Affective Disorder — month. Count on ushering in 2013 with either bronchitis or an overwhelming and persistent uncertainty about life’s purpose (most likely both), and therefore needing a multi-faceted song collection to help you endure.
In order to purge January grief, I recommend the music of Bright Eyes. When you are enveloped in snow and an unrelenting hatred of your own existence, listen to Conor Oberst lament on “A Perfect Sonnet,” bawl your eyes out, revel in your pain for several minutes and then move on. Once you’ve wiped your frozen tears, quickly shake things up with some Wu-Tang Clan. The best way to feel empowered and in control is to learn every word to “Bring Da Ruckus” and walk down State Street spitting verses like you have a monopoly on all of Ann Arbor’s swagger.
On Feb. 2, when you’re contemplating groundhog assassination, calm yourself down and prepare for six more weeks of winter with the music of Iron & Wine and Bon Iver. Take deep breaths of brisk winter air as you listen to “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” and ignore the “Twilight” fans who claim the song as their own. If you grab a coffee and listen to For Emma, Forever Ago straight through, I promise winter won’t seem nearly as bad.
Finally, March might seem like winter’s end, but chances are it will still be rough. In order to deal with this month’s deception, try the versatile and peaceful songs of Beach House and Andrew Bird — both will help you appreciate the last weeks of winter and the burgeoning days of spring.
If you’re still alive and well by the time April comes, you’ll know that your winter survival soundtrack was a success, and your future Michigan winters will henceforth be infinitely more bearable.