An Aural Meditation on Autumnal Melancholia56>
I guess it’s fair to say that I love autumn partially because I’m a naturally sad person and autumn feels like a time when the world says that it’s okay, in fact it’s even a bit romantic, to be sad. I have a feeling these songs all reflect that part of my nature. So grab some headphones and nourish your soul with some sad, sad songs because honestly, we’ve all earned a little indulgent sadness.
“Dreams” by The Cranberries
From the album Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? It’s one of the first tracks that plays in the movie You’ve Got Mail, which sings of beginnings for me, a hopeful start. It comes on right when Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are musing about bouquets of sharpened pencils and decaf cappuccinos while going about their daily lives, barely passing each other as the leaves of the trees on the Upper West Side go from vibrant green to so many autumn reds and golds. I guess when I hear it, I just feel like I’m Meg Ryan and there’s a whole movie’s worth of endless possibility, waiting just around the corner for me.
“Autumn Leaves” by Bob Dylan
From the album Shadows in the Night, his album of croony old jazz standards. His cover is my favorite, spooky, haunting, and full of chords that hang just a little too long, causing hella ASMR vibes. Turn it on and watch those leaves slowly drift to the ground and think of everyone that ever came into and then left your life.
“Cold Cold Ground” by Tom Waits
From the album Frank’s Wild Years, which is actually also the soundtrack to a play that was performed by the Steppenwolf Company in the mid ‘80s. “Cold Cold Ground” dances along, with terribly sad lyrics, but a surprisingly upbeat tempo. You can imagine a man with a petite band, singing this song to a bar full of people in a small, chilly town, and the people all join louder and louder with each repeated chorus, all the while lifting their glasses. Fucking autumn, right?
“Because the Night” by Patti Smith
From the album Easter. There really isn’t a season that isn’t appropriate for Patti Smith, but there is something so deep and epic about this song that seems fitting for fall. Like you’re right on the edge of something about to turn dark, with a heartbeat so irregular that you actually become short of breath while listening to it. So go, put on a too-baggy overcoat, cut your own hair, smoke a cigarette, and declare that IT IS AUTUMN.
“All My Little Words” by The Magnetic Fields
From the album 69 Love Songs. While it is most definitely a love song, who’s to say that autumn isn’t a time for love? Besides, you could never get away with a lyric like “Now that you’ve made me want to die” in the happy, happy spring time. Stephen Merritt’s voice has such warmth that you can literally wrap yourself in it like a blanket while crying into your tea cup as you listen to him sing away your sadness.
“You you you you you” by The 6ths
From the album Hyacinths and Thistles. Leave it to Stephen Merritt to make a tribute band dedicated to himself, in which he writes and plays the songs that he then gets other artists to sing for him. This particular song is featured in the movie Pieces of April, Katie Holmes’ only triumph of a film. It all takes place on Thanksgiving Day, while you watch a family fall to pieces and pick itself back up again. This songs embodies some of the resilient characteristics of the film, a reassuring melody that suggests that while the world may feel like it’s crumbling around you, there are little bits of beauty that are so simple and sweet that you can’t help but hope for the best.
“A Postcard to Nina” by Jens Lekman
From the album Night Falls Over Kortedala. Lekman is a storyteller and autumn is the time of year that we start slowing down just a bit and make time to really listen, and a close listen to this song will prove so satisfying. The verses are extremely specific, so lean in, and then the moment that chorus hits, start walking and kick up every single pile of leaves you come across as you go.
“Bless the Telephone” by Labi Siffre
From the album The Singer and The Song. When I first heard this song, I was in a long-distance relationship. There is a feeling of emptiness that immediately becomes full upon hearing the phone ring when the person you love calls you from halfway across the world. Siffre captures that feeling perfectly, both in sound and with his words. It’s a simple song, saying very frankly what is absolutely necessary and then suddenly it’s all over. It reminds me of the season in that way. Autumn is funny, like a pear ripening; it happens gradually, slowly at first, then suddenly it’s perfect and if you don’t catch it, all too soon it’s winter. Anyway, that’s this song. A perfect moment.
“Hero” by Ghost Quartet
Sung by Brittain Ashford, from the album Ghost Quartet. Ghost Quartet is a song-cycle written by Dave Malloy, self proclaimed to be “about love, death, and whiskey.” When the cycle is performed live, the actor/singer/musicians invite the audience to join them and drink along. At this particular moment in the cycle, a single light falls on Ashford’s face and the rest of the room is the darkest dark you’ve ever seen. It’s an easy moment to recreate. All you have to do is pour a glass of bourbon, close your eyes, and turn the volume all the way up. But be warned: you might realize upon opening your eyes that your whole face is drenched with tears.
“Hyperballad” by Bjork
From the album Post. I don’t care if you call me typical for this one. This song’s too good for me to hear any criticism from the likes of you! (But apparently open game for me to criticize you, dear reader? Oh well, I’m salty.) Bjork’s not afraid to go dark, but the song’s not bleak, and that’s why it fits in autumn. She goes and exorcises her suicidal thoughts so she can return to the bed of her lover having already dealt with her shit to be a better partner. We should all be so thoughtful, and we should all release so fully into our own darkness.
“Everybody’s Talkin’” by Harry Nilsson
From the album Aerial Ballet. This song is actually a cover, made famous by being featured in the movie Midnight Cowboy. I feel like there’s a Nilsson song for all seasons. “Coconut” for summer, “Without You” for winter, “Think About Your Troubles” for spring, and “Everybody’s Talkin’” just happens to be perfectly autumnal. When Harry Nilsson hits those high notes, you can just shut those eyes, tilt that head back, and let the fire within you burn slow and low.
“400 Lux” by Lorde
From the album Pure Heroine. This song is probably going to be the sexiest song on this playlist. Autumn is kind of a season that people don’t necessarily think of as sexy, even though it TOTALLY IS. Sure, it’s a time to start eating for “winter body warmth” and wearing bulky layers, but it’s also a time for popped collars on trench coats and a chill in the air that causes a certain amount of aloof “cool.” This song is exactly that. Aloof cool. Long drives through abandoned streets that have just lost their leaves while that smell of a fire burning somewhere in the distance seeps in through the cracks in the windows. If that’s not sexy, I do not know what is.
“April Come She Will” by Simon and Garfunkel
From the album The Concert in Central Park. Do not be fooled by the title, this is an autumn song. It maps out the course of an unsuccessful relationship, going month by month from April through September, seeing how someone can grow distant over time. It’s a short song and when it’s over, I find myself thinking, “Wait wait, was that it? Is it really over?” which is also how I feel every time a relationship that I wasn’t ready to have end, ends. I’m absolutely the kind of person that will put a song on repeat and play it until my ears go numb, and the number of times I have done exactly that with this song has been often enough to be considered embarrassing.
“You Wanted To Know My Name” By Lindenfield
From the album The Experience. Admittedly when I first heard Lindenfield, that was also around the time that I developed a massive crush on the man behind the music, Colin Hatch. Listening to this song, I remember thinking, “I hope someday someone loves me as much as he loved this girl.” There are so many perfect lyrics: “You only wanted to know my name, but I wanted to know everything about you,” and “walk in all my rooms and leave your scent on my couch.” His voice is so gentle and when he goes for the high notes, you get the sense that he’s taking care of them, cradling them. Don’t you also want someone to feel like this about you?
“Try A Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding
Not from an album, but a single. Otis Redding gets a lot of credit for this song, but it’s actually a cover. Redding’s version, though, is so specifically its own thing, weaving together a number of different elements and styles to make a quilt of a song that you can just wrap yourself in on a day when you also need a little tenderness. The best part about this song, though, is that it lets you indulge in its warmth at the beginning, but then picks itself (and you) up midway through and before you know it, you’ve been tricked into dancing. And believe me, you’re not mad about it.
“Wake Me” by Bleachers
From the album Strange Desire. The first time I heard this song, it reminded me of the ending of a John Hughes movie. Like, it’s easy to imagine teenagers in love making eye contact and having a whole conversation between their eyes to this song. It feels epic and contemplative, and when the swell happens in the middle, I don’t know what it does to you, but it picks me up like a cool gust of wind, carrying leaves and me somewhere very good and very far from where I am.