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Five albums for the depressed this winter

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is defined as “episodes of depression that occur at a certain time of the year, usually during winter” according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. While approximately 4 to 6 percent of the U.S. population has been diagnosed with SAD, just about everyone can feel the effects of the shorter days and colder weather bringing them into a funk.

And what better cure for a funk than the funk?

Well, maybe not the funk – maybe more like music in general. The following is a list of five albums that strike a perfect balance of melancholy and vigor to get students through this winter.

“Torches” by Foster the People (2011)

Foster the People’s recent mainstream explosion may have heads spinning with “Pumped up Kicks,” which has entered the dark realm of the grocery store soundtrack. But if people would give the entire album a chance, the anomalous track would quickly become an afterthought.

“Torches” is prominent in this list because it lacks that truly “sad” element, but it also happens to refrain from being the in-your-face, upbeat, so-happy-I-could-die kind of indie pop. “Helena Beat” can transport listeners back to the summer when copious amounts of sunlight and a total lack of responsibility kept spirits lofty. But the track is not so summery as to introduce resentment at the prospect of shuffling through a foot of snow in the near future. For readers who feel brought down by the winter weather, this album is a good selection if they would like a little glimpse of a warmer time.

“The Shepherd’s Dog” by Iron and Wine (2007)

Iron and Wine is notable for their soft, melancholic take on folk. Many fans use their ethereal sound to help them fall asleep or as background music for tedious tasks. However, “The Shepherd’s Dog” proves to be the perfect blend of brightness and gentle reflection, offering a much-needed reprieve from the flow of bad thoughts that may be running through the minds of the affected.

Sam Beam’s unobtrusive voice collaborates with organic instruments to bring a sound that personifies the feeling of being cradled. Listeners will feel transported into a quiet grove in the woods, free from the negativity that wracks their minds. Just be careful, because “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” is so shamelessly crooning that it may become the anthem to your melancholy days.

 

“The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me” by Brand New (2006)

Brand New’s album, “The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me” may not be the most uplifting entry on this list, but the band’s punk influences bring an aggressively emotive tone that can match the moods of the SAD-afflicted listener. With depressed thoughts lurking at every corner, this strenuous album will put listeners through the paces until they are practically raw. “Sowing Season (Yeah)” will help release some of that pent-up holiday cheer, while the softer “Jesus” will settle the spirits.

“Easy Tiger” by Ryan Adams (2007)

Alternative country singer Ryan Adams gained notoriety for his ability to channel intensely depressing music. “Easy Tiger” is the perfect soundtrack to the downtrodden, featuring a less devastatingly sad tone than that of some of his other albums. The lyrics on “Easy Tiger” gravitate towards questioning and self-loathing—themes that should resonate with SAD sufferers.

Some of the tracks with traditional country and folk influences contain instrumental sections that glow with euphonic warmth, even while Adams’ voice still drips with anguish. However, the final track “I Taught Myself How to Grow Old” with its lurching harmonica intro, could quite possibly be the most depressing song Adams has ever written. Only listen to this album if wallowing in self-loathing sounds like a decent idea.

“Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie” by Alanis Morissette (1998)

Alanis Morissette may be well known for her verging-on-obnoxiously happy radio hit “Hand in My Pocket,” but off the radio, much of her music speaks of deep-seated pain. Known for her struggle with eating disorders, Morissette’s music is the perfect catalyst for catharsis. In “Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie” she sings about relationship problems, death and insecurities. The vocals on this album feel as though they are constantly reflecting on troubled thoughts, making the music feel more like a diary than a piece of entertainment. The less poppy sound of this album makes it the perfect solace for the unhappy.

Acacia DiCiaccio can be reached at adiciacc@student.umass.edu.

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