4 credible 'January' songs by Minnesotans (plus 5 others)

This man made from snow — or "snow man" — epitomizes January in Minnesota.

This man made from snow — or "snow man" — epitomizes January in Minnesota.

No one writes music about January. What's to sing about? Brown snow? What you’ll boil to keep warm? The holidays are done; the concert calendar remains bare; inspiration freezes. The rest of the year is ripe for month-inspired tunes, but January is a sad, cold outlier. 

Dean Martin has a song called “June in January” about smelling roses in frigid air. And that’s about it, outside of songs like the Avett Brothers’ meteorologically misplaced “January Wedding,” which is a logistical nightmare (more on that below).

But Minnesota-based musicians have put a stamp on the month of mitten hand-warmers and trudging through slush to the gym. So here is a handful of truth-in-advertising songs by Minnesotans in honor of the month named for the god of two faces (plus a few other paltry standards by non-Minnesotans).

“Holiday” by the Hopefuls

On the second track of the Hopefuls’ debut, Fuses Refuse to Burn, Darren Jackson sings about passing out from Jim Beam in a stranger’s apartment and waking up on lackluster, dreary New Year’s Day. Picking yourself off the floor is a nice start to a bleak year-long journey. 

“January” by Tiny Deaths

Tiny Deaths frontwoman Clair de Lune repeats the phrase “My baby” and mentions some seasons, implying the singer must fend off the cold vibes without her lover. Then she howls sadly over the chorus. Same.
“January 28, 1986” by Owl City

This isn’t a song but just Ronald Reagan reciting his elegy of the Challenger explosion (wasn’t this written by Peggy Noonan?) over the top of Adam Young’s “I see fireflies”-style cooing. Even history hates January.

“January on Lake Street” by Atmosphere

I lived off East Lake right near the light-rail station, so I can credibly say Slug rapping about rolling down his window while driving down Lake Street and telling all the sad, parka-clad individuals to “put your hands in the air if you work at the bank” is January in Minnesota distilled. Deflated Santas smashed into the snow pile. Empty beer boxes piling up on your freezing porch. Weekends free of parties till your boozy, cheesy Super Bowl. That’s January. See you in April.

And here are some not-so-accurate, January-themed songs performed by non-Minnesotans who couldn't possibly "get it." 

“January” by Disclosure

This sounds like what H&M would play while you buy discounted wool-blend sweaters. It’s also about dating a Capricorn: a monochromatic plunge into a fizzy Alka-Seltzer of regret and amnesia. Plus, who dances in January?

“January Wedding” by Avett Brothers

Pretty bad. One of the worst songs I can think of. The cloying melody. The fix-your-furnace-and-bake-your-pie vibes of the Avett Brothers. Also, you can tell the Avett Bros aren’t wearing “North” stocking caps because a winter wedding just doesn’t happen. Unless you hate your guests and it’s a “destination” wedding ...

The Avett Brothers - January Wedding - I and Love and You from Banjo Music on Vimeo.

“January Hymn” by the Decemberists

The 19th century Welsh troubadour who sings for this band here laments when he saw his woman’s breath in the cold winter air. He then stretches the syllabic month’s name out over a dainty guitar ditty. This song will move you from the couch to the grocery store, and finally back to the couch to watch cooking shows.

“January” by Sir Elton John

Elton John released an album in 1997 that included lots of fake strings and guitar distortion equalized by the staff at your local Guitar Center. It’s a bizarre song. Bernie Taupin swings for the fences with, “January is the month that cares.” Yeah, right.

“New Year's Day” by U2

The top-charting single off the Irish rock band's third studio album, War, "New Year's Day" is the kind of angst-y, atonal new-wave song that feels perfect for the outset of this bewildering month ... or an anthem for trade unionization in Poland in the 1980s, whatever fits your fancy.