Late Fall Music
In my grateful list this year, I mentioned that I was grateful for Spotify, a software that allows you to listen to any music you want whenever you want and share that music with others via Facebook or direct messages. You can create playlists, import your iTunes library and all kinds of other neat stuff. If you haven't checked it out yet, you totally should. Anyway, before Spotify, my music was stuck. I didn't have time to listen to as much music as I did before, seek it out, read Paste or Rolling Stone or even music blogs. But now I've been able to break out of my music rut and discovered all kinds of new music and sounds and bands that I love and don't know how I lived without.
Since I moved to Illinois, I've marveled at the change in seasons, actual seasons which don't really exist in Alabama unless you count hot and hotter. Here, my mood changes and I have seasonal clothes, sweaters and jeans. I begin to search for boots and long for hot cider which I only drink about twice a year.
I also change the cds in my car and update my iPod because Summer music has a very distinct sound and once the season is over, I crave music that fits my changing mood. Of course, there is music I listen to year round, no matter what season it makes me think of. Now some might argue and say some of these songs/albums are not Fall at all because we each have our definitions of Fall and our own unique set of needs for Fall music. Some of these are on the list because I'm listening to them right now and it's Fall but I tried to think about quintessential Fall and what would make a good Fall song, also. I thought about songs that would accompany drinking tea, reading books, watching the leaves change as you drive, swathing one's self in sweaters and cardigans, and reflecting on the year behind.
Los Campesinos! Hello Sadness
The entire album is amazing and if you're familiar with the band, you will hear both familiar and new, distorted guitar chords, rising xylophones, heady lyrics and the full, frantic sound of the band at full tilt. There's much more melancholy here than on their previous albums, though the "By Your Hand" starts off full of all the promises of a new romance, by the time you get to "Baby, I Got a Death Rattle" the relationship has become flawed and unravelling though the tune itself becomes peppy, juxtaposing the anger and sadness of the lyrics with up-tempo beats. The melancholic tone fits the mood of Fall, particularly "Hello Sadness," "Hate for the Island," and "The Black Bird, The Dark Slope" but if you have to choose one song from the album for your Fall playlist I'd choose "To Tundra" with its haunting lines: "Take a body to water/Take a body to tundra/Just take me with you as well.”
Real Estate Days
This may seem like an odd choice for a Fall playlist considering the band has been characterized as a kind of retro beach-pop. However, I find the album charming and full of perfect songs for cool weather. I particularly like "Green Aisles" and find it incredibly well-suited to Fall and reflection, especially in the bittersweet and nostalgic lines "All those wasted miles/ All those aimless drives through green aisles/ Our careless lifestyle / It was not so unwise." The sound is sophisticated and layered, purposeful. "Out of Tune" feels like the last warm days of sun, reflective and shimmering, full of awareness that all the fun and carefree days are about to end. The entire album has a similar feeling, a yearning to get back to what is almost ending before it actually does. As "Wonder Years" so aptly puts it, "I'm not ok, but I guess I'm doing fine." The nostalgia continues with "All the Same," which matches the transitional nature of Fall but also reminds us that while things change, they don't change as much as we would like them to, sometimes. I would add "Green Aisles" and "Wonder Years" for sure, but my suggestion is to put the whole album on shuffle and lean in to the crisp, cold days ahead.
Buried Beds Tremble the Sails
I first heard "Steady Hand" during an NPR interview with the band. And while I like the song, this album makes the list because of "Just Hold Me" though it almost dips into a winter song with its sparse piano and searing lyrics. "Don't hold me up/ Just hold me." The song is pensive and yearning and is the most soulful of all the tracks on the album. I am more fond of the songs that feature the piano or cello or the acoustic guitar like on "Home," though I really like "Heroes to Liars." This is an easy album to parse out and depending on how much melancholy you can take, you can add any of the songs I mention here. For me, "Just Hold Me" is the standout.
Ryan Adams Ashes & Fire
I'm really glad this album was released this Fall so it can be in my Fall rotation. Admittedly, I'm a huge Ryan Adams fan. I adore this album and am just happy to be able to listen to new tunes of his. This album is unlike any of his others and it's really, really perfect for Fall. It is gentle, meditative, and in some ways content. It feels sure and deeply felt and includes appearances by Norah Jones, Mandy Moore and Benmont Tench.
"Come Home" is optimistic and gentle with Adams' almost-falsetto vocal and Jones and Moore on harmony. The string quartets on "Rocks" read like a series of haiku: “I am not rocks / I am not rain / I’m just another shadow in the stream / That’s been washed away / After all these years / I am not rocks in the river / I am birds singing, tears falling / And the day is dawning.” As the title of the album suggests, when the songs are stripped down, they become about the elements, nature, water, fire, rain. What's more Fall than noticing the world around you? "Chains of Love" and "Lucky Now" are straightforward and catchy, standing out among the darker pieces like a day of sun among days of precipition. "I Love You But I Don't Know What to Say" is illuminating and hopeful: “When I met you / Clouds inside me parted / And all that light came shining through.” And it does shine here, the way Fall will if you let it.
Florence & the Machine Ceremonials
I listened to their first album for months on repeat so I'm a bit biased on loving their sound. M is less enamored with their sound, as a whole but still loves particular songs on this album, especially ones with the Tori Amos-y vibe like "All this and Heaven Too". My favorite and the most fall embraced is "Breaking Down," probably because there are bells that remind me of Christmas. "Shake it Out" is the first single and will probably be overplayed in about 2 months. So, while it's a good song and showcases Welch's voice, it's also the most predictable, the most like "Dog Days" from the previous album. I prefer "Leave My Body" with its robust sound and background choir. It sounds dark and eerie, but never quiet.
This is a fantastic Fall album with nods to all kinds of musical influences and predecessors, most notably the Iron and Wine sounding "Cicadas and Gulls," which explains why feels so familiar. It's unabashedly Fall, pared down with a low guitar and Leslie Feist's voice seeking, yearning, longing for redemption, perhaps. "Graveyard" builds slowly to the hook, "Whooah, bring them all back to life," a refrain created by Feist layering vocal tracks of herself into a Feist choir. "Comfort Me" tricks you with its lightly strummed, acoustic guitar and erupts with drums. "When you comfort me / It doesn't bring me comfort actually" hints at the bluesy undertones of the entire album. "Anti-Pioneer" speaks to restlessness of traveling, the feeling that adventure leaves you lonely that never quite settles on the album. "How Come You Never Go There" is both sassy and sultry recalling Fleetwood Mac as a blend of folk and blues. It doesn't flow easily or sweetly but lurches through its verses. My absolute favorite, “Caught a Long Wind” is captivating and ethereal, emphasizing Feist's vocals in the same way "Comfort Me" does. It is breathtaking and balanced at the same time. It should emerge as a hit, not because I can't get it out of my head but because it's so damn good.
Ryan Driver, Who's Breathing
Ryan Driver is a singer/songwriter in the folksy/country genre. He's an amazing songwriter, a poet really. On "Am I Still Too Late," he sings “Am I always waiting for the perfect time to hesitate/ I miss you most at least when I’m lost/so my clock won’t tick or talk to me.” The momentum he begins here continues to "Everything Must Spin," a song which spins both lyrically and musically with a frenetic, finger picked guitar assaulting the emotive and stylized vocals. "Tell Me True" is sparser and possibly my favorite on the album. It's beautiful and sweet and sad. If you only listen to one song on this album make it "Tell Me True" though I would not dismiss "On a Beautiful Night Like Tomorrow" which is evocative of Paul Simon in its artfulness.
If those new(ish) Fall albums don't get you all the way through Fall, here are some suggestions to fill out the rest of the season.
Califone, "Our Kitten Sees Ghost"
Kurt Vile, "Baby's Arms" a heart-wrenching and gorgeously picked song designed to convince us that despite our lonesomeness we'll "never ever, ever be alone." And though much of the album, Smoke Ring for My Halo feels like the end of a very long vacation, "Ghost Town" feels like the beginning of something, something like Fall. "Raindrops might fall on my head sometimes, but I don't pay 'em any mind. Then again, I guess it ain't always that way."
Raevonettes, "Forget That You're Young" from their new album feels like a chill, just waiting or a frosty morning in slow motion. "Last Dance" from "In and Out of Control" is also a great Fall song, though more end of summer than late Fall.
You Say Party, "Dark Days" is less melancholic and more disco-y than the other suggestions on this list. But every once in a while, you need something to groove to even when it's unbearably dark and cold outside. I particularly like the Teen Daze Mix but the original also works well for an autumn sock groove around your living room, or maybe that's just me.
Timber Timbre, "Lonesome Hunter" with its creepy, gothic melodies, nothing is better for lessening the shock of dropping temperatures. Trust me.
However, if you don't want to sign up for Spotify, you can also view my Playlist here.