Throughout childhood, the holiday season is a celebration of jubilation. The freedom of winter break hovers on the horizon, family members come together to share meals and exchange gifts and cold weather is welcomed with fuzzy caps and puffy coats. But, as time stretches on, that holiday magic begins to fade. By the time college rolls around, it becomes clear that feelings of doom and gloom don’t disappear when the semester ends — more often, being home for the holidays only exacerbates the blues.
For those who loathe the darkness of December and disparage dwindling temperatures, the holiday season is less than merry and bright. Here are six songs to soak in as the season’s sorrow begins to strike.
“These Days” by Nico
An enduring classic, “These Days” is the perfect tribute to seasonal disillusionment. With smooth fingerpicking and stunning violin backings, the track describes the quiet dejection that many associate with winter. “I’ve stopped my dreaming,” Nico confesses. “I don’t do too much scheming these days.” Poignantly harmonic yet deceptively simplistic, “These Days” is an avowal of the emptiness that comes as trees turn barren and the cold creeps in.
“Hallway Weather” by NIKI
“Hallway Weather” encapsulates feelings of nostalgia through its wistful sound. NIKI reminisces on a time when the holiday season brought comfort rather than despondence, with soft acoustics imposed over the melodic chiming of bells. The indie-pop artist aches for solace much like the ways in which one yearns for childhood amidst the loneliness of maturing. “And you wonder how your parents did it,” she sings. “When do you know somewhere is home?” With gentle riffs and bittersweet hums, “Hallway Weather” struggles to accept the disintegration of blissful youth.
“Funeral” by Phoebe Bridgers
Phoebe Bridgers’ signature anguish reaches new heights on “Funeral.” Beginning with apt distorted notes before transitioning into unrelentingly downcast chords, the track explores the existential dread that comes with growing older, in addition to abiding symptoms of abjection. “Last night I blacked out in my car,” Bridgers warbles, “And I woke up in my childhood bed.” Mourning the past and loathing the present, “Funeral” evokes the torment of navigating adulthood, a fitting theme for returning home for the holidays.
“Anything” by Adrianne Lenker
Adrianne Lenker understands the pain of braving a breakup during the holiday season. Anchored by lulling vocals, Lenker divulges the heartbreak of leaving a failing relationship behind, despite not being ready to do so. “Christmas Eve with your mother and sis,” she recalls, “Don’t want to fight, but your mother insists.” Serving as a dispirited memory of separation, the grievously sirenic nature of “anything” ensures that listeners feel Lenker’s plight as acutely as if it is their own.
“Homesick” by Noah Kahan
Despite its title, “Homesick” is an anthem not for missing home, but for being desperately tired of it. Through building percussion and a biting croon, Kahan commemorates the dormancy that comes along with spending time in his hometown. “This place is such great motivation,” he sings sardonically, “For anyone trying to move the f— away from hibernation.” Stirringly cynical, “Homesick” acknowledges the stagnant feeling of being home for the holidays.
“Last Words of a Shooting Star” by Mitski
Through imagining a turbulent plane crashing, “Last Words of a Shooting Star” is a recognition of mortality. With minimalistic production that accentuates her lyricism, Mitski reflects on her indifference toward her own life, seemingly at peace with her demise. “They’ll never know how I stared at the dark in that room with no thoughts,” she admits. Fitting for a holiday season fraught with bleak contemplation, “Last Words of a Shooting Star” should be saved for only the most morose moments.