Add a soundtrack to the falling leaves with our favourite autumn musicians
Once that first autumnal breeze completely ruins your hairstyle or the crunchy leaves reminds you to pull out your long-forgotten boots, it is time to refresh your seasonal playlist. It’s as though there was an auto-play button for that swinging jazz intro to Frank Sinatra’s September in the Rain. And if your local barista forgot to sprinkle some cinnamon on top of your chai latte, blasting Lana del Rey’s Cinnamon Girl on your Airpods just might do the trick.
“Music is storytelling. We want to hear what we see and feel,” says singer and performer Laura Nikola Silamedne, recent graduate of BA Popular Music Performance for Vocals at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute.
For many, autumn is the season for the soul (as claimed by experts on Pinterest). Winding down after summer madness is essential for bracing the cold months ahead.
“People like to revisit certain moments, or feel in a certain way,” Silamedne talks about songs evoking various associations. “We can all hear the same song, but we’ll each have different interpretations of it.” For example, hearing Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off instantly takes me back to my first night out in London. But Frank Ocean’s Lost reminds me of that time I left a puddle in the Starbucks queue after seeking shelter from the autumn rain.
The changing of the seasons involves moving forward with your life and creating new associations. But also going back to the things (and songs) that remind you of the season in the first place. Through our personal experiences, certain songs become season essentials. We can always return to them if we crave to immerse ourselves in that time of our life again.
While it is a relief to be the DJ of your own life, we must remember that there are higher powers that influence our music consumption. “In the end, music is also a business, and there are demands for musicians to write something that will program us in a certain way,” Silamedne reminds us that music consumption is tied to its seasonality.
An intriguing consumption pattern emerges once the holiday season kicks off. “When it gets to Christmas, not only do festive albums become popular, but also other albums by the same artist. People associate them with the same season,” explains Zack Holloway, shop assistant at Sister Ray Records store in Soho (visible on the cover of Oasis’ What’s the Story Morning Glory? cover).
No matter the season, the pressure for record stores to always have an impeccable soundtrack is real. “If people don’t like what we’re playing, they will let us know,” reveals Elizabeth Ashcroft, shop assistant at Sister Ray Records. For the crisp autumn morning on which I visited the store, she chose to play Sit Down for Dinner by Blonde Redhead, a song she describes as a melancholy and mellow record.
At Third Man Records, the soundtrack depends on the mood of the day. According to shop assistant Brian Ellingham, it can get quite melancholic in autumn. “I tend to associate albums with the time when I first listened to them,” he says about his approach to organising life with the help of music. For autumnal feels, Ellingham recommends listening to Olivia Jean or North Americans.
Here are the top autumn artists from Shift’s team.
Etta James for a rainy evening
After a long day of steeling the autumn winds and occasional rain showers, there’s nothing better than wrapping yourself in a warm blanket, and sitting down with a steaming cup of tea to the jazzy and sultry vocal of Etta James.
With Stormy Weather playing on in the background, romanticising cloudbursts has never been easier. The enchanting string melody over the smooth swinging rhythm will make your heart become warm once more.
Bob Dylan for a crisp morning
Alongside cinnamon and freshly picked apples, the freshness of a crisp autumn morning air is key to autumn. Bracing the drop in temperature will be as easy as falling off a log if you listen to Simple Twist of Fate by Bob Dylan.
Simply imagine yourself on the way to hang out with the Greenwich Village folks in the ’60s, and let Dylan’s storytelling take you to an era where the only correct answer to a cold breeze was an enviable leather jacket.
Van Morrison for a roadtrip
When you’re driving out of the city and notice the first autumn-coloured trees appear, listening to songs that feel like a warm bonfire is the way to go.
While it just might be the ‘70s aesthetic of Van Morrison’s album covers, his voice truly sounds like honey squeezed in the hot apple cider packed and ready for your nature hike. Driving far away from the hustle and bustle always feels like going back to your roots, and nothing will sound more calming and gliding on the highway than Into the Mystic.
Lana Del Rey for mysterious girl errands
When the initial pumpkin spice and everything nice frenzy has surpassed and all the colourful leaves have fallen for good, it is time to commence your mysterious era. The gloomy and misty evenings of late October and November were made for putting on a chunky scarf, grabbing your Daunt Books tote bag, and playing Mariners Apartment Complex on the way to your local library. Let Lana Del Rey help you go against the flow in the quest of certainly not being like the other girls.
Bill Callahan for being the coolest at the dinner party
The best thing about curating your own autumn soundtrack is the moment you surprise your friends with a completely new artist you’ve discovered in the search of the ultimate sound of autumn. Bill Callahan’s Last One at the Party will be suitable for almost any autumn-related situation. It will most definitely bring you closer to getting chosen as the DJ for the next party. With the rich sound of the guitar being reminiscent of ’70s mellow rock, you’re on your way to becoming an autumn rockstar yourself.
Bonus: Taylor Swift for healing seasonal heartbreak
There is no way this list would be complete without the ultimate autumn girl, Taylor Swift. In case autumn rain showers and falling leaves happen to coincide with a broken heart, nothing will help you get through the season’s melancholy better than All Too Well (the length of the version depends on the gravity of the heartbreak). With captivating melodies and heart-wrenching lyrics, you are sure to forget about your own troubles by the end of the season.