Summer and Autumn collided together very suddenly. Chicago went from sunny and balmy to cloudy and cold in the span of a couple days, and it feels like the cool weather is here to stay. Autumn is my favorite season, and usually by the time it arrives, I’m ready for it. I tend to change a lot of things with the seasons, the obvious suspects being food, wine, and clothes. In the fall, grilled chicken gives way to roast pork, rosé turns into red, and thin dresses are tucked away and replaced with cashmere and wool. For years, my music rotation has also changed with the seasons, and without realizing it the tone of my recent playlists has shifted towards something a little mellower that what I was listening to over the summer.
There are a few albums that I find myself coming back to every autumn. Some are suffused with particular memories from the season: the xx in a vaudeville theater in late-October; REM during family drives through a Hudson Valley ablaze with red, orange, and yellow; the National while checking out Halloween decorations on Brooklyn brownstones.
Other albums simply evoke the sense of the season. The gentle crispness of acoustic and electric in Junip’s Fields makes it perfect for a late afternoon outside with cider and a farmer’s market cheese platter. Junip is unique at creating ambient-style music whose rhythms and harmonies won’t lull you to sleep.
Agnes Obel won’t put you to sleep either. She’s mentioned Roy Orbisson and Claude Debussy as influences, and her subtle and sophisticated brooding is so perfect around Halloween. I have the best memories of turning up the Aventine album in our country house at night with the wind howling outside and empty branches scratching against the windows. It’s spooky and wonderful. Less brooding is The Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack, and in many ways I think this is the most “autumnal” of them all. It’s playful, reflective, soft, and celebrates both endings and beginnings, not unlike autumn itself.