From the editor
I ask a lot of my playlists. For me, as it is and should be for any child of the 90s and mid-00s, the composition of a mix (tape) (cd) is an artform, a craft. And like any other art, it should undermine & surprise; any playlist that aims to capture a feeling, mood, experience, or season should likewise aim to provoke a change of thought about exactly how that feeling, mood, experience, or season should be captured. I do not want all of my fall playlists to be recreations of the When Harry Met Sally soundtrack, perfect and autumnal as it may be.
So, when I asked writers to submit their essential fall playlists, I asked them to surprise me. I wanted unexpected choices, but I wanted them to be true ‘fall playlists’, whatever that means. The results were two entirely different playlists, with varying genres and moods, both crafted for what everyone knows is the best season of the year.
Fall is intrinsically linked in my mind with a particular set of college-era recollections: the yearly prairie burn, the feeling of clay under my hands at the wheel, the walk to the church under a canopy of color, the abandoned train that sat on the tracks from September to November one year.
I think there’s something about each one of these songs that has a place in our mythic and/or natural understanding of fall: a healthy respect for the workings of the natural world (“Forest”, “The Wilds”); the desire for malleability, to strip away the unnecessary and return to the bare branches of ourselves, perhaps changing what we are along the way (“Saint”, “Not Those Kind Of People”, “All the Best”); nostalgia for the past (“A closeness”, “The Old Churchyard”) and expectancy for the future (“As Tall As Cliffs”); and of course the death and rebirth of the fire (“__45___”, “The Fire”).*
As it turns out, the prairie burn happens every April; wheelthrowing is a spring semester class; I stopped going to church pretty early on in my college career; the train chugged away before I ever got to go see it. Memory, though, is the story we tell ourselves to make sense of our lives. The prairie burn — orange flames against blue sky, the smouldering black field with its promise of regrowth — will never be separated for me from the concept of fall.
* “Tired as F**k” is in this playlist because this year I’m, well, tired as fuck.
- __45___ Bon Iver
- A closeness Dermot Kennedy
- Let England Shake PJ Harvey
- The Fire Bishop Briggs
- Tired as F**k The Staves
- Forest Folly Tree
- Not Those Kind of People Bombadil
- Saint Jordan Mackampa
- The Wilds Henry Jamison
- The Old Churchyard Offa Rex
- All the Best Saintseneca
- As Tall As Cliffs Margot & The Nuclear So And So’s
J Silverstein is a software engineer, teacher, and artist. She lives in Brooklyn with her wife and very old, very fat cat.
In our house, autumn begins with Christmas. In mid-September I make a huge fruitcake, feeding it brandy over the next three months. It’s too early to listen to carols, of course, but the situation calls for something at least a little wintry, while being upbeat enough to take you through a seven-hour bake. “September” was the first song I heard when I moved to university. I was sat in a kitchen surrounded by people I didn’t know – lonely, if not alone – but when this song started and evening sunlight bounced in, illuminating the cramped room and my flatmates’ faces, and I began to think that I could settle in.
I’m not terribly fond of gentle acoustics as a sonic stand-in for autumn. If you must use them I think they should at least have an edge; a hint of something otherworldly. I live in the middle of nowhere and my walk home takes me past a graveyard, the kind where the oldest headstones have sunk so deep into the ground they’re almost completely hidden. “Devil’s Spoke”, which seems to me so rooted in my and Marling’s part of England, is dark and cold and perfect at first frost.
As the nights draw in I find myself listening to songs I remember my parents playing when I was small. It’s driven mostly by nostalgia, but there’s also a sense of looking forwards: to the fruitcake, to coming home, to a new year. Fagen’s “I.G.Y.” is its own version of this. The name refers to the International Geophysical Year, when from July 1957 to December 1958 scientists from both sides of the Cold War collaborated; the lyrics speak of a ‘beautiful world’ with solar power and spandex, and the production sounds fresh decades later. But there’s a bittersweet taste, as when the song was released a quarter-century later the Berlin Wall still stood – although there was, at least, spandex.
- White Foxes Susanne Sunfør
- Roses Carly Rae Jepsen
- September Earth, Wind, & Fire
- Backatown Trombone Shorty
- Don’t Wait Up Diane Birch
- Spirit Walks Nerina Pallot
- Devil’s Spoke Laura Marling
- At The Chime Of A City Clock Nick Drake
- She’s Gone Hall and Oates
- I.G.Y. Donald Fagen