Scene Selections: Songs to survive the polar vortex
Mike Donovan, Dessi Gomez, Nora McGreevy, Ryan Israel and Ethan Utley | Tuesday, January 29, 2019
Forecasts are bleak. School is canceled. The Office of Campus Safety recently outlined survival instructions for the week: walk in groups, dress warmly and appropriately, stay dry — basically, avoid being outside at all costs. While you’re huddled indoors, fending off frostbite and eating your way through your stores of week-old Poptarts and canned soups, Scene has curated a playlist to keep you company.
“Harmony Hall” — Vampire Weekend
By Dessi Gomez, Scene Writer
Vampire Weekend’s “Harmony Hall” invokes nostalgia for the summertime with the simple guitar strums that begin the new single. The light and airy guitar strings give way to cheerful piano keys, building up a warm beat. The lyrics, “We took a vow in summertime / Now we find ourselves in late December,” captures the stark transition from summer to winter at Notre Dame. While braving the snow-coated paths of campus, students may resonate with the words, “I don’t wanna live like this / But I don’t wanna die.”
The addition of a steady tambourine and base beat rhythm contributes to the song’s climactic crescendo. The slow buildup of the full harmony reflects the transition of spring into summer with just the right amount of mellow energy. The slower pace of the song conjures the feeling of leisure often associated with summer. Its gentle sounds promote comfort and relaxation, which can be difficult to find in winter weather. Listening to this single in the heart of Notre Dame’s winter should help all students combat the polar vortex by infusing them with a sense of sunshine.
‘’Blood Bank” — Bon Iver
By Ryan Israel, Scene Writer
The title track of Bon Iver’s debut EP — the one created before Justin Vernon holed up in a Wisconsin cabin to create the masterpiece “For Emma, Forever Ago” — perfectly encapsulates the winter cold. First there’s the album cover — a picture of a rusting abandoned car, door ajar and covered in snow — and then there’s the lyrics — “Then the snow started falling / We were stuck out in your car.”
“Blood Bank” is the archetypal Bon Iver tune. A gentle guitar strums, an ethereal voice hums in the background and a peaceful calm emerges. Vernon brings together fragments of memories with a love — a conversation at a blood bank, a kiss in a car — and a hauntingly beautiful chorus to create a blissful love song. “And I know it well,” he repeats as the track draws to a close, inviting the question of whether it’s the cold of winter or the warmth of love that he knows so well, or if perhaps it’s something else entirely.
“I and Love and You” — The Avett Brothers
By Ethan Utley, Scene Writer
This song reflects winter in an optimistic manner. Just as the first snowfall is something truly awe-inspiring, “I and Love and You,” utilizes beautiful harmonies and warm folk-undertones to make the perfect song to listen to while walking among freshly fallen snow. However, the beauty and simplicity of a wintry landscape comes at a price — the cold. In a similar sense, The Avett Brothers bring listeners through a lovely composition that yields an overwhelming nostalgia.
We find a man at the end of his rope, reaching out for some sort of help from his hometown —
“Oh Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in / Are you aware the shape I’m in? / My hands they shake, my head it spins / Oh Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in.”
As The Avett Brothers close this track, the last line says, “Three words that became hard to say / I and Love and You.”
This song can be painfully sad at times, somewhat comparable to the pain of walking underneath the arches of the law school during a snowstorm. Yet, even The Avett Brothers keep their return to warmth in sight. As you try and survive this next week, please remember it is the temporary cold that makes warmth so precious.
“I’m From Further North Than You” — The Wedding Present
By Mike Donovan, Associate Scene Editor
Two students stand in the middle of South Quad. Mr. Thermometer issues a warning: “It is cold.” One student quotes The Wedding Present to clarify, “No, I’m not from the South / I am from further North than you!” He zips his anorak all the way up. “And that was when I knew,” the second student (also quoting The Wedding Present) thinks as she adjusts her toque. “But how did one night turn into six crazy weeks? / How can we be going out if neither of us speaks?” she questions in her head and not out loud. She then tells him that he is crazy, that she will listen to Mr. Thermometer and go back inside, that his obsession with cardinal directions is frankly alarming. She says these things out loud with words and starts to walk away. “All right the night we walked into the sea, I guess that was okay,” he yells, still quoting The Wedding Present and making very little sense. He decides to be sad and also cold. She is confused but soon to be less cold. Don’t be cold. Be confused.
“Light On” — Maggie Rogers
By Nora McGreevy, Scene Editor
Why am I crying in the club right now? Probably because I requested that the DJ play Maggie Rogers’ “Light On” on repeat. In a sweeping track, Rogers pairs bittersweet lyrics about her newfound fame — “Crying in the bathroom / Had to figure it out / With everyone around me saying / ‘You must be so happy now’” — with an uplifting chorus that swells with emotion. “Oh, would you leave the light on?” she implores her listener; “I’m vulnerable in oh-so-many ways.” Rogers’ raw, confessional lyrics contrast with the infectiously danceable hook, where she spells out a message of resilience despite an overwhelming world where “everything kept moving and the noise got too loud.” “I’m still dancing at the end of the day,” she cries. As you’ll listen, you’ll want to light a candle, jump up and down or cry — or all three. You’ll dance around your room with Rogers, as the snowflakes dance and twirl with the beat of the music outside your frosted window. (And, if you’re really trying to lean into the melancholy on your snow day, try listening to the pared-down acoustic version.)