Seasonal Playlist: 7 Albums for Fall

Let’s get deep: autumn is a particularly visceral season, and one particularly amenable to being painted in sonic strokes. Not to be too much of a bummer here, but death is literally all around us during fall; couple that with the warmth of summer slipping away and being replaced by chilly, resolute greyness—it’s a time for reflection, a reminder of our impermanence.

Of course, it can also be breathtaking. The colors, the crispness, the transformation of both physical and psychic seasons: whereas spring and summer are all vivid life, and winter quiet nothingness, fall provides a perfect balance of beauty and melancholy.

A good fall playlist reflects this, evoking warm and cool in equal measure. Below are seven albums I expect I’ll have in heavy rotation this season. Obviously, this sort of thing is highly subjective, and this is but a tiny fraction of my favorite fall-evoking music. Also, these are all relatively recent releases. What are your favorite fall sounds? Let us know in the comments.

Women: Public Strain

This Canadian post-punk group put out one of the decade’s finest records with 2010’s Public Strain, a chilly, angular feast of snaking sound. It would also be the band’s last: guitarist Christopher Reimer passed away earlier this year, a development that imbues a sad and unexpected feeling of finality to subsequent listens.

Four Tet: Rounds

One of several albums on this list that I consider the autumnal entry in these artists’ fall-winter one-two punch (2010’s There is Love in You stands as Four Tet’s starker offering). Labeled “folktronica” upon release, Rounds is equal parts organic and machinelike, a stellar portrayal of the aforementioned seasonal dichotomy.

Phosphorescent: Here’s to Taking it Easy

Aside from its out-of-place opening track (seriously, I still don’t know what this is), former Athenian Matthew Houck’s 2010 album is a wistful collection of tunes about wrecked love and the unavoidable weight of life. Still, it somehow feels weightless, the sound of brightly colored leaves floating slowly to the ground.

Yo La Tengo: And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out

One of my all-time favorite records, and one that can be listened to during any season, really. But it seems to come alive in fall. Its deliberate airiness, its floaty blend of quiet and loud makes for an impeccable late-year soundtrack.

Harvey Milk: Life… The Best Game in Town

The greatest Athens band ever? Another example of an artist with a nice fall-winter back-to-back—A Small Turn of Human Kindness being Harvey Milk’s more crushingly bleak affair. Really, in its own winking, macabre way, HM is perfect fall music: crank that shit up and ponder your own mortality. I dare ya.

Elliott Smith: Either/Or

There ain’t many things more autumn than this record. Smith’s hushed, layered vocal delivery, paired with his forceful, adept guitar strumming, provides one of the most affecting and effective sonic backdrops for the season I’ve ever heard.

Fabio Orsi: Stand Up Before Me, Oh My Soul

Avant-garde Italian composer Orsi’s music seems at once to decay and be reborn—particularly on this album, where looped live drums often provide a skeletal backbone to rich, swirling synth tones. Orsi exploits those tones to chillier effect on other albums, like this year’s haunting three-LP set The New Year is Over. (Play that one at your New Year’s party if it’s late and you want to bum everyone out and drive them away.)


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