What Makes for a Great Autumn Album?

My favorite season has officially arrived. On a crisp Sunday morning, I’ve found myself cooking pumpkin pancakes in the kitchen, sipping my coffee as cool air comes in through the open window. Yes, I’m “that” guy. But perhaps my favorite part of the morning is listening to the sounds of one of my favorite fall albums: Copeland’s In Motion spins on the turntable as I cook.

But what does In Motion have to do with autumn? This is the question I’ve been seeking to answer ever since someone put me on the spot a few weeks ago, asking me what I mean when I talk about my favorite fall albums. I realized that I didn’t have a good, succinct answer. Maybe there wasn’t one.

Listen to our podcast: The Best Music of Autumn

I’m convinced that this idea is extremely subjective and differs from person to person, but nevertheless, in order to at least answer for myself, I’ve been able to define four variables that impact my tendency to listen to an album when the leaves turn and the temperature drops. Take a look below and feel free to share your thoughts in the replies!

When it Was Released

This one is obvious. I’m drawn to dates and anniversaries, so if an album came out a certain time of year, I’m inclined to revisit it during that timeframe. A great example is Mayday Parade’s self-titled release, which dropped in October of 2011. The album really doesn’t meet any of the other criteria outlined below, but every fall, it’s one of the first albums I reach for.

When I listen to Mayday Parade, it takes me back to the early dating days with my wife and how often I played the album on the hour-long car ride to her home in Bloomington, Indiana, during our first fall together.

Other times, release dates align perfectly with the sound of an album. My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade arrived a week before Halloween in 2006 and is almost custom-made for the season with its themes of death and imagery of hellish characters. It’s now my go-to album to spin during our annual pumpkin carving.

How it Sounds

We now move to a much more arbitrary point, but I would argue that some songs and albums just “sound” like the season. Here, I think of cool, sometimes dark, music that reminds me of shorter days and how I feel when I see my breath in the air early in the morning.

A few albums that come to mind here are Armor For Sleep’s Dream to Make Believe and Chiodos’ Bone Palace Ballet. Armor For Sleep is a summer band for many, and their second album, What to Do When You Are Dead, is a warm-weather staple of mine, but Dream to Make Believe has a raw, harsh quality that sets it apart. A track like “Frost and Front Steps” is nearly impossible not to associate with the season.

Likewise, Bone Palace Ballet, with its crunching guitars and theatrics reminds me of the looming darkness of the season, checking the boxes of both sound and lyrics, with its eerie and spooky themes.

What it Has to Say

Speaking of lyrics, perhaps the most obvious delineator of an autumn album is what it has to say. Here, I think of albums or songs that call attention to the most visual and visceral aspects of the season. While many equate Cartel’s Chroma to summer, it’s a distinctly transition-to-fall album for me, especially with a track like “Luckie St.” serving as an autumn anthem.

With Halloween being my favorite holiday, many albums qualify simply for their creepy subject matter. Think My Chemical Romance’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge or The Devil Wears Prada’s Zombie EP, along with several tracks from Showbread’s first two albums (“Dead By Dawn” from their debut is a Halloween staple of mine).

Not to be outdone, He is Legend has their own history of horror-filled tales. Suck out the Poison is a go-to for me this time of year, due both to its release date nostalgia (released October, 2006), and because of its subject matter, with songs like “Attack of the Dungeon Witch” leading the way.

How it Looks

Anyone who knows me knows of my insistence that the visual presentation of an album matters. My vinyl collection started years ago as a way to still admire the artwork of my favorite albums, even as our transition to streaming made full art and liner notes less accessible and robust. Thus, albums that incorporate autumn colors and visuals can’t be forgotten when determining their seasonal placement.

All of this brings us back to Copeland, whose album In Motion features yellow/brown leaves on its cover and captures the colors of fall throughout the album artwork. Likewise, Anberlin’s debut Blueprints for the Black Market, with its reddish brown tones, harkens of late autumn, capped off with cool-sounding guitars and references to cold.

So there you have it. It’s not a science, but there are certainly real factors that determine my own interest in an album by season, particularly when autumn rolls around. Here’s to another season of late nights by the campfire, horror movie sofa sessions, and pumpkin pancake cooking with the sounds of fall.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Podcast: The Best Music of Autumn

Another fall season is upon us, which means it’s time to break out the hoodies, crack open a few Oktoberfest beers, and enjoy some of our favorite autumn music. On our latest podcast episode, Kiel and Kyle chat about the favorite albums to spin when fall rolls around and why they’re so nostalgic for the season. They also discuss what makes for a great autumn album and share some of their favorite seasonal activities. Bands included in the conversation include: Mayday Parade, The Early November, Anberlin, AFI and more!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What is your favorite album to listen to in autumn? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck