It’s funny how many routines from our childhood stick with us into adulthood. For me, I don’t know if I’ll ever shake the feeling that fall means it’s time to start a new school year. As soon as Labor Day slides by and the temperatures start to dip under 60 degrees, I start examining my wardrobe and pitching clothes I don’t wear anymore, raiding the “Back to School” section of the store for supplies for my office, and generally getting my life back in order after all those chaotic weeks spent vacillating between summer festivals and distracted, heat-induced ennui.
Part of this annual fall frenzy also entails finally organizing all the stacks of CDs and cascades of digital music files I’ve accumulated so far this year and catching up on all of the music I should have listened to months ago. You would think, living this life surrounded by music, that I should always be up on the latest albums and always be looking for the next hot thing. But I have a confession to make: I’m just not that kind of gal. Sure, I know how to quickly sift through and screen music for my job, but to actually sit with it, ponder it, let it soak in? That kind of appreciation requires both spare time and solitude—two things I always seem eager to stake out more of in the fall.
In my mind autumn is all about re-aligning and reflecting, finding a little peace and stability, and I suppose, if we’re being honest, nourishing and preparing myself for what could be another long winter ahead. And it occurred to me that while the songs and the artists certainly change year to year, I always seem to seek out the same kind of soundtrack as I reboot and mentally head back to the classroom.
So far this year it’s been Ryan Adams new self-titled record, one of his finest and most clear-eyed releases in years; the War on Drugs’ new Lost in the Dream and their 2011 album Slave Ambiant, which I finally got around to listening to last week; PaviElle’s Fear Not; Trampled by Turtles’ Wild Animals; and that Sylvan Esso song, “Coffee,” on repeat. Plus pretty much anything by my old standbys Ani DiFranco, Nina Simone or Otis Redding.
While the songs on my playlist don’t share a lot of similarities on the surface besides all being vaguely tied to the roots rock or soul genres, I realized that what I really crave around this time of year is music that draws me in and feels intimate and warm. I’ve always been a sucker for melodies, but around this time of the season I want the human voice to be at the very center of my music, singing to me and speaking to me and giving me something to hold onto. I’m pulling out all my sweaters and scarves and pulling those voices in close, practically snuggling with my music as I bundle up for the cold.
At the War on Drugs show at First Avenue last night, the band filed out onto a stage made hazy by fog machines and dark blue and yellow lights and laid down an ambient bed of guitar tones and synths, and then all of a sudden Adam Granduciel stepped up to the mic and his voice—so pure, so singular, so easy to connect with and so highly elevated above all the other din—shot straight through me and touched me on my spine. It was just what my autumn brain was craving, and that one moment energized and comforted me in a way that goes beyond words.
So if you need me, I’ll be stealing away little slices of time, holing up with my headphones and taking an extra lap around the lake on my way home so I can commune with the music that speaks most clearly to me and hits me squarely between the collar bones. Or, as Ryan Adams sings on that single of his that I can’t get out of my head, “Gimme something good, gimme something good, gimme something good.”
What’s your favorite music to listen to in the fall?