Five Essential Albums for an Autumn Experience
Written by Erik Svensson on October 14, 2016
Photo courtesy of play.wimpmusic.com
Fall is a season with many facets to it, and there’s music to match it all. We see the death of nature around us as trees as flowers turn from green to brown and end up bare. Contrasting this is the beauty in the reds and oranges of the season. Just as Fall contains multitudes, there are many albums and songs that span the range of emotion and feeling, making listeners feel the season.
Here are five albums that are essential for capturing the many feelings of Fall.
It could be argued that many of Sufjan Stevens’ albums work perfectly to complement the mood of Autumn, but Carrie and Lowell is an album that vividly illustrates the feeling of the leaves coming off of the trees and turning brown in late October. It is the most autobiographical of Stevens’ discography, being about the death of his mother, the titular Carrie. Every single song on Carrie and Lowell works incredibly well in conveying the feeling of deterioration and at time explicitly reminding the listener, “we’re all gonna die.” Essential songs for getting that walking-in-the-wind-and-stepping-on-leaves-and-weeping feeling include “Death with Dignity,” “Fourth of July” and “No Shade in the Shadow of The Cross.” However, listening to the album in its entirety is truly worth it. It’s incredibly beautiful, and may even be his best yet.
When The Thermals released Personal Life, many were disappointed at the soft turn the band had taken. While the band ditched the fast and frenetic style of albums past for Personal Life, there is just as much passion as ever. This album is like the beginnings of Fall – there is still sun and warmth, but a gray seems to creep into everything, and an unexpected wind brings the first chills of Autumn. The band still holds onto some of their usual summery brightness, but the content of the songs lets cold creep in. The death that permeates Fall is pushed to the front on some songs like “A Reflection” and “Alone, a Fool,” the latter focusing on the theme of relationships going to hell, which spans the entirety of Personal Life. Essential songs for that oh-so specific mood of Things-Have-Fallen-Apart-And-It-Is-Your-Fault-But-Probably-Mine-Too are “I Don’t Believe You,” Never Listen To Me” and “Your Love Is So Strong.”
Modern Vampires of the City stands out among most of the albums on this list because it captures a different type of Autumn feeling than many of the others on the list. Vampire Weekend manages to capture a brighter slice of the season. It is a collection of songs excited for the future, willing to embrace new, idealistic and young love, but not naïve about the world it exists in. It’s incredibly hard to choose what parts one ought to grab onto, but to hold onto that precious The-World-Is-So-Blindingly-Beautiful-And-I-Ought-To-Tell-People-How-I-Really-Feel-More feeling for a little longer- even just for a second, check out “Unbelievers,” “Hannah Hunt” and “Ya Hey.” Once again, this is an album worth diving into fully for the first time, or even if it’s just been a while.
Major Arcana is the debut album of Speedy Ortiz’s full band incarnation, and it carves out a space for the freaks and outcasts, fringed with crunching orange leaves – and with a name referencing tarot deck divination – allusions to the occult. The lyrics of every song are intricately arranged to create something approximate to a puzzle, allowing listeners to decipher them and try to learn about growing up, hunting ghosts and letting scars heal. Band singer and songwriter does not make figuring out the lyrics easy, but it does feel worth it. To grab that sense of I-Am-Ready-To-Grow-And-Try-To-Survive-and-Maybe-Kill-A-Demon and hold it close, press play on “Casper (1995),” “No Below” and “Plough.” If you listen to no other song from this phenomenal album by Speedy Ortiz, listen to “No Below.” It is a song about remembering childhood pain, and celebrating survival – something anyone who has had their share of scars can appreciate.
Get Lonely is an album for the gray days of fall when clouds cover the sky in a thick swirling blanket, turning darker and darker. It is an album about death and isolation and coldness and it flenses hearts with gently crushing lyrics and beautiful, sad melodies.
The Mountain Goats have a flair for cutting hearts to pieces in unexpected ways, and do so in new and exciting fashion on this record. Singer-songwriter John Darnielle capture vignettes of desperate narrators in torturous isolation. Listening to the album is recommended for when listeners are feeling cut off from the rest of the world – and don’t want to be there- but need somewhere to feel the way they do. Isolation does not need to be hopeless though, as in several spots on the album, Darnielle’s narrators revel in their alienation – newfound or otherwise. Essential songs for getting the optimal dose of I-think-I-may-be-broken-but-I-don’t-want-any-help-I-just-want-to-wander-around-and-maybe-sleep-later are “Wild Sage,” “In The Hidden Places” and “Woke Up New.” “Woke Up New” in particular is a lonely song about hopeful ideas- it is about looking to the future. Much of the album is very dark and sad and perfect for lying face down in bed while crying uncontrollably, but it is not without hope. If in need of a little of both, Get Lonely is perfect.