Executive Content Editor
January is arguably the most surreal time of year. We exit what many consider the greatest, most joyous three-month stretch of the year and are immediately, involuntarily, thrust into four cold, holiday-barren weeks. In Southern California, this season is also an especially rainy one, relegating us to our homes in addition to the surge of the Omicron variant. Unless you have a birthday in January and have some sight of celebration on the horizon, many of us must find ways to either hyper-romanticize the vast, empty landscape of January or duck our heads until Groundhog Day.
It is also entirely possible that I am alone in my aversion to the month. In either case, I curated a collection of songs, films, and books to keep you company or offer some warmth in an otherwise frigid, liminal, and lonely time while the rain beats down outside your window.
With an almost mystical sound to rival that of Imogen Heap, Ivy’s “Edge of the Ocean” is sure to put you in a transformatic trance. This song brings a peculiar image of wandering a vast tundra, but not being worried about it. Maybe even romanticizing it a bit.
One can never get enough of Led Zeppelin’s melodic ballads. “The Rain Song” contrasts its somber, sleepy pace with tender, romantic lyrics. And when Robert Plant sings, “It is to you, I give this tune,” we are inclined to believe him.
- “Bulletproof … I Wish I Was” – Radiohead (Or their entire discography)
Who better captures the feeling of liminality while maintaining an intense emotional dimension? Arguably no one other than Radiohead. This song is an excellent rainy/liminal day anthem; it maintains Radiohead’s signature ambiance, and when those few guitar strums come into the chorus, we are ready for them.
The heavy guitar sounds of shoegaze make for ideal background music on a cold, foggy day where it feels like the universe may as well cease to exist. Its soft vocals drowned out by its more impending composition, “Sometimes” is like being cradled in a heavy blanket.
The entire “Getz/Gilberto” album is a worthy candidate for any rainy day playlist, but this tune stands out to me specifically as a jazzy contender. You really can never go wrong with a good Bossanova track, rain or shine. However, something about the gentle guitar and the soft voices of both João and Astrud feels like a warm blanket against the pitter-patter of rain outside. Given my previous picks, it can be easy to gravitate towards moody or glum songs when it rains. A little comfort would do us some good.
- “Vanilla Sky”
Cameron Crowe’s “Vanilla Sky” is perhaps the most underrated surrealist film of the 21st century. Starring Tom Cruise as David, a narcissistic, affluence inheritor of his father’s successful publishing company, the film begins as a slanted love story. It quickly takes a twisted and psychedelic turn into the dangers of our own projections and offers a critical examination of the many masks we wear in the world. The film maintains an overall liminal atmosphere and tone, but viewers are guaranteed to feel a sense of further disorientation while watching, as their confidence in the film’s chronology is tested. Not to mention, it has a killer soundtrack. It is the ideal watch to match a mood of overall disreality, and may make you ask yourself as we trudge into the new year: what is happiness to you?
- “Norwegian Wood” by Haruki Murakami (or any Murakami).
Murakami’s body of work is best described as an exercise in magical realism. He tells familiar stories of aimlessness in life and love; of wandering the Earth with no goals in sight. His characters seem to exist out of time themselves, offering intense and perspicacious observations of their circumstances and relationships via narration. “Norwegian Wood” in particular captures this mood, with an introspective and seemingly aloof narrator. Murakami invites you to sit in your discomfort or disorientation, as opposed to providing refuge from it.
It is my hope these picks can accompany you through the liminal and rainy landscape of January and into a more embodied February. I’ll see you there.