October means we’re happily knee-deep in baseball, surrounded by seasonal pumpkin ales, and, regrettably, wrist-deep in the slimy insides of jack-o-lanterns. Music has been my quiet oasis. I figure it’s high time I stop futzing over my autumn mix and share it already.
The fall mix is one of my favorites to make. In addition to being generally hyperaware of everything around me in life, especially subtexts and undercurrents, I notice an acute sharpening of my senses every time the seasons change. It’s why I make you guys these seasonal mixes: as everything in the natural world around me transforms, I have this nerdy compulsion to soundtrack it, to sharpen that moment. Autumn for me often hits like a jetstream of melancholy, and I’ve found after listening to this mix a few times through that (coincidentally) many of these songs have themes of: bones, rivers, empty beds, and gospel backing vocals. Make of that what you will.
Suddenly the hedonistic humidity and verdant ease of summer is replaced, seemingly overnight, by a chill in the air that makes you take in a sharp and marvelous breath. Sweaters come out of the back of the closet and it becomes much harder to get out from underneath the down comforter in the morning. These are the songs for that.
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
-Robert Frost, Yale Review, Oct 1923
NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY ::
THE FUEL/FRIENDS AUTUMN MIX 2011
The Wind – Cat Stevens
This is probably and very possibly the most perfect song ever written, coming in at under two minutes and sounding just exactly like twirling orange leaves drifting to the ground.
Do You Remember – Ane Brun
I picked this big song here because it boldly sounds to me the way that autumn looks - all vibrant and audacious, thumping right into your lush summer and startling it with crackly fiery colors. It sings of us finding the first position (ballet reference, i think) and every muscle resting, but also knowing it was the last time. You also must watch the video.
Sorrow – Tyler Lyle
After posting the title track last month, “The Golden Age and The Silver Girl,” I cannot stop listening to this whole album. Seriously, you guys — it’s one of my favorite discoveries of the year. Tyler’s timbre and vulnerability in his voice when he climbs an octave at 2:45, over that longing banjo and strings, keeps killing me every time. If I could run away, I’d run away, drag you back to my bed / It’s the sweetest memories that hurt the worst in the end…
Always Gold – Radical Face
This is my favorite new song on this mix, and it speaks directly to the title of the mix/poem also. From the latest Radical Face album ‘The Family Tree: The Roots’, I love the way that Ben Cooper can weave stunning melody and woolly atmosphere together so effortlessly, with the warm shuffly handclaps and choirs of humming.
California – Iron & Wine
Sam Beam is the epitome of autumnal music, isn’t he? Along with Elliott Smith and Bob Dylan, he’s a seasonal prerequisite for me. This early demo somehow references both California and the Springsteen riff from “Glory Days,” in warm, slow tones. Never thought I’d see that pairing in a Sam Beam song, but I love it.
Kitchen – Vinyl Skyway
This song feels warmly burnished to me, and when those harmonies burst in all “oooooh”ing, it reminds me of Colorado Octobers, shot through with seriously gorgeous sunlight. Very Teenage-Fanclubby and golden nostalgic.
River Song One – Wooden Sky
I keep cueing this one up on repeat and just letting it play. No seriously, like fifteen times in a row. It’s a bittersweet slowburner of a song, from The Wooden Sky, out of Toronto. Thanks, Adam (who also has an ace fall mix).
Dark Turn Of Mind – Gillian Welch
The new album from Gillian is on constant repeat for me this season; it is amazing, as is she. I like the way this song wrestles with the shadows that unkind love can leave on our psyche (“I see the bones in the river”), but also the gentle embracing of those dark currents and how the nighttime is so lovely, and how the nightbirds sing so sweet. Haunting song.
When You Are Still (live on WNRN) – David Wax Museum
With this song that celebrates that welcome stillness that I rest in this time of year, the flawless harmonies of David Wax & Suz Slezak get their third consecutive seasonal appearance on my mixes this year, from spring to summer to now. This means I am listening to their album a heck of a lot, and also that there’s a variety on there that strikes me in just the right ways (reference: The Head and The Heart, the only other band I can remember featuring three seasons in a row). I chose this live version of the song since the album version doesn’t have Suz’s superb harmonies (that I like to sing along with).
The Ground We Stand On – Hawksley Workman
This is the third song that coincidentally ended up on this mix that speaks of climbing back in bed / too much space in my bed / too much now that’s vacant. Hmmm. First off: stop it, Autumn. Lay off. Secondly: perhaps it’s the awareness that happens as the temperatures start to drop — you want to spend more time huddled under the covers, but maybe you also realize with a sharp stab that you don’t necessarily want to do it alone. Hawksley’s Canadian. He gets it.
Years/Cleo’s Song – JBM
JBM is another artist that is just completely quintessentially an artist for the autumn time. Close your eyes and listen to this and tell me that all you can see is yellow aspen groves.
Open Air – Lemolo
These two ladies are from the Pacific Northwest and have known each other since they were kids, naming their band after a street in their childhood neighborhood. They completely blew everyone away in their sweaty yoga studio set at Doe Bay Fest this year (I’ve watched this video too many times). [Sidenote: in addition to being incredibly musically intuitive, drummer Kendra also made the raddest slip-and-slide accomplice that I've ever met. We rocked it at that fest, and had the brutal bruises to prove it.]
Ohio (Damien Jurado) – Strand of Oaks
Somehow Tim Showalter (Strand of Oaks) takes what is already a devastating song and makes it almost moreso, from that resigned opening sigh. I just found out that my paternal great-grandfather worked in the steel industry in Zanesville, Ohio (I’m totes claiming this song now), but we can all relate the the feeling of searching for a home, and wanting to come home. Been a long time.
Hope You Know – Megafaun
I still think this band would have the perfect name if they were very, very metal, but as you can hear here, they are not. But rad nonetheless, this track is from their new album on HomeTapes Records. The heavy, clear evocative resonance of piano also plays strongly throughout my fall mix this year.
At The Bird’s Foot – City and Colour
From the cowboy-sounding-but-actually-Canadian Dallas Green (City and Colour), this mysterious and gospelly song is about the burning fires of oil spills. I saw Dallas perform under gorgeous skies at Sasquatch this year, and I think his music sounds better with woodsmoke and October in the air.
Golden Days (acoustic) – The Damnwells
Me never featuring this on an autumn mix before is a grotesque, abhorrent oversight. God, I love this song, and this version somehow even improves on the original. It makes me long for things that haven’t even happened yet.
Into The River – Portage
More river imagery, more gospel voices rising strong. I think I need to go spend some time in a cabin (or a tent) by a powerful river again, before stuff starts freezing. Proclivities in my listening habits are trying to tell me something.
Northbound 35 – Jeffrey Foucault
Another song that should have been on every fall mix ever made since long ago. I am not sure if I’ve ever raved adequately about how much I love this song. Some days I will leave it on repeat and just sing along and feel that deep lingering sadness. This song seeps and burns. There are two lines that will always, always get me, no matter how many times I listen: “And we fought all night and we danced in your kitchen, you were as much in my hands as water or darkness or nothing could ever be held,” and “what’s beautiful is broken / and grace is just the measure of a fall.”
Things I Never Needed (acoustic) – Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
This is a song about brutal realization of our shortcomings and a shedding of the things that we’d be better without. As such, it is a perfect soundtrack to this season and also works well for masochistic late nights. [video]
Hear The Noise That Moves So Soft and Low – James Vincent McMorrow
McMorrow gives me chills like Jeff Buckley and Bon Iver and Patrick Watson and other men who sing falsetto but are yet are fine specimens of men. His whole album is gorgeous and haunting.
I’m Losing Myself (featuring Ed Droste) – Robin Pecknold
The voices of Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear team up for a woodland autumnal spectacular. Lonely, darkly introspective, and self-damaging, this song is. “All alone at the end of the day I am just like the gathering fog.”
A Minor Place (Bonnie “Prince” Billy) – Fanfarlo
Fanfarlo takes a kicker of a song from Bonnie “Prince” Billy (oh wait, they’re all kickers from him) and make it their own during their iTunes Session. They’ve got a new album coming out too, and I am excited since I loved their debut thoroughly.
The Loneliest Place I’ve Ever Been (Is In Your Arms) – Damien Jurado
The most wonderful thing about Damien is that I think he just pens songs this marvelous by the dozen and posts them on soundcloud, like a terrific overstock sale of heartbreak. I’ve been thinking of this song a lot lately, the bald-faced way he nudges “don’t you know / it’s time that we let go.” Yes. It is.
Graveyard – Feist
This is the track I’m stuck on the most on the terrific new Feist album, unable to get enough of the choir that swells all around in the later half of the song, “Whoa-ohh, bring it all back to life.” As it pertains to our seasonal wanderlusts, it’s just a reminder that after everything green dies, there’s gonna be the quiet icy silence, but someday all will be brought back to life.
ZIP IT ALL UP: NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY MIX
PS: Last year’s autumn mix is also still available.
To stream this year’s mix on 8tracks (for android users and other streamers), click here.
[cover image is of the tree outside my house, a gorgeous combination of red and gold / many many thanks again to Ryan Hollingsworth for the great graphic cover design!]