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Usher in the harvest harmonies with this autumn playlist

Tyler Jackman

Managing Editor

As October begins, the wind turns crisp and the leaves fall around us, autumn brings both a sense of rejuvenation and a melancholic beauty to the atmosphere. Despite the cool air, a type of warmth tends to follow us all. We prepare for our Halloween and Thanksgiving celebrations, to bundle up in our cozy sweaters and to usher in the finale of another turbulent year.

Image via (photo by Katia Miasoed)

I’ve always appreciated the power of music and how it makes me approach the world with enhanced perspectives, and the advent of autumn harmonizes with this perfectly. A tradition of mine, in this regard, is growing my playlist to inaugurate the season. I encourage everyone to build their own, but these songs hold special places in my heart and help weave the whimsy of autumntime into every sunrise and sunset.

The moment I awake on my first October morning each year, “Leaf House” is my obligatory first song to inaugurate the new season. Animal Collective’s hypnotic freak-folk single, with its nearly tribal harmonized chants layered over acoustic guitar strums and percussion, evokes images of a fireside jam session amidst a spontaneous camping trip.

Hayden Pedigo, whose fifteen minutes of fame stems from his erratic City Council run, paints a portrait of the hills and plains of Amarillo, Texas with every fingerpicked strum of his acoustic guitar. An instrumental track and a poignant example of the American Primitivist style, “Carthage'' manages to be the perfect soundtrack for watching golden leaves dance across the before they crunch underneath your feet.

Choosing a track by Fleet Foxes for an autumn playlist is a herculean task, as every song by the indie folk band fits so well with the season that you would imagine you’re a main character in a movie. “He Doesn’t Know Why” is a hauntingly beautiful folk rock ballad, pairing lush instrumentation and choir-like backing vocals with emotional lyrics from lead singer Robin Pecknold.

In “Cosmia,” chamber folk artist Joanna Newsom embodies the solemnity of autumn with lush harp melodies paired with lyricism that rivals the greatest poets, with lines like “Water were your limbs / and the fire was your hair / and then the moonlight caught your eye / and you rose through the air.” “Cosmia” is a song of grief from losing a loved one, plucked straight from a fairy-filled forest. Newsom’s vocals are high and sharp, filled with heartache but also the same resolve autumn brings forth.

Before he died by suicide in 2019, David Berman made it known that he believed his work went unappreciated. “Random Rules” proves this wrong, as his raw and direct autobiographical lyrics continue to resonate with fans to this day. In the song, Berman laments the human propensity for order and the actual uncertain nature of life, with his husky Southern voice pouring out modern American poetry with an open-hearted humanity.

One of the most upbeat tracks in my autumn selection is still a musical equivalent to resting your head on your pillow after a tiring day. Despite its seemingly soothing nature, the song is anything but, as lead singer Bradford Cox stated of the lyrics “They’re a little heavy … a very pleasant atmosphere is insinuated, but it’s very apparent there’s a lot of darkness under the surface.” In “Agoraphobia,” levitating guitar riffs pair with the solemn and gentle vocals of Cox, singing about his desire to escape and be free from his own body with heartrending lyrics like “And after some time, I know I would go blind / But seeing only binds the vision to the eye.”

This may, at first glance, seem an unusual choice with its old-timey soundscape and minute and a half runtime, but it’s hard to find a track that pairs with the season better. “Into The Unknown” serves as the first song from the soundtrack to Over The Garden Wall, a ten-episode animated series about two brothers lost in a mysterious realm called “The Unknown” as they seek to find their way home. The song, as well as the series, are autumn mainstays, with both scenes in the show and song lyrics drenched in imagery of the season. Watching “Over The Garden Wall” to usher in autumn is a nearly mandatory tradition, but even without watching the series, the track manages to fill your mind with images of orange leaves and gentle moonlight.

Nothing completes the dawn of a new season like the right soundtrack to accompany it. These songs work in tandem with the changing weather and changing emotions of autumn, and no matter how many times they loop around my record player, the magic they radiate continues to permeate the air every year. True magic resides in the way each individual listener resonates with every song, and I highly encourage you to begin building your own playlist to reinforce autumn’s allure, but these songs are a fantastic starting point to settle right into the season’s mood like a warm blanket.


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