Fall in Mich. is a fickle thing. Every morning, from the Indian-summer beginnings of Sept. to the grey skies of Nov., I check the weather on my phone. I open the blue icon at 8:30 a.m., wondering if the world will be a sauna or a tundra when I walk out the door in an hour. No one knows, not even the meteorologists really do. In this state, precarious between total polar annihilation and a special kind of heat that makes one want to take a cold shower for about 10 years, prediction is only a ruse.
But there is a place in between those two extremes that only seems to last for about a month, maybe two. It is a time of fallen leaves, crisp sunsets and fresh air in the morning that smells like winter but doesn’t feel like it. Now, we have a fall in arrested development, clutching onto the humidity and brightness of summer with the last shred of sunshine it has left. Ann Arbor knows it’s autumn, but is a master at faking us out. Nonetheless, here we are in Sept., and the beauty of this time of year has begun, no matter what the heat index is. Everyone is back, milling to and from classes and meetings, talking and laughing and running into each other with shrieks of recognition. Fall is here, in some form, and it is good.
For me, the realization of autumn typically comes in waves; the first time I pull a sweater over my head, listen to my feet crush a stray leaf on the street, watch the sun go down with a hot chocolate in my hands. In this place where the temperature doesn’t match the markers, the season presents itself in different ways — namely, in the music that translates from year to year. Fall’s very particular feeling follows these songs throughout time, even without the indications of a change in the weather. Soon, the temperature will match, but for now this playlist is tiding me over. There is nothing that says “autumn” more than a mix of breezy folk, a few classic jams, some old soul and, of course, Kirk Franklin’s gospel arrangement of Earth, Wind & Fire’s timeless “September.” Everyone should listen to that one, whatever season it is.
So sit back, get yourself a pumpkin spice something without shame and go outside to enjoy the sounds of people passing by. There is not much that screams fall like listening to ’70s acoustic in a park, or walking the street to the gritty drawl of Eric Clapton’s “Layla.” This playlist is my attempt to capture an elusive season as it finally appears, and hopefully it feels like fall to you, too. It’s a mix of angst and happiness, of grit and featherlight beauty, just like fall is the strange lovechild of summer and winter. Of course, this is only the beginning, and different songs will more aptly nail down Oct. and Nov. as time moves on. But above all, autumn is a time to enjoy while it lasts — and listen for a faint “Monster Mash” on the wind.