We’ve seen the start of fall before: leaves falling, miniature pumpkins on flannel picnic spreads, plaid pajamas, dry wood in the fireplace, coats for the first time in a long time. We’ve also heard the start of fall before: Bon Iver, Bright Eyes, folklore, anything that Sufjan Stevens breathes on, you get the idea.
This is typically what people mean when they refer to the quintessential “fall aesthetic.” While this clearly entails the typical folksy ballad and indie alternative jam, the music beat would like to offer for consideration the warmth found in pop-punk and Chicago house, the autumn nostalgia in breezy slowcore and sample-based hip hop as well as the comforting excitement of Bowie and The Clash.
In an attempt to capture the cozy sincerity of the changing season beyond alternative and indie, the music beat has compiled an untraditional yet essential Alternative Fall Playlist (pun intended). Besides, who wants to listen to Nick Drake when it’s 80 degrees in October?
“Livin’ Loose” – George Clanton
George Clanton slides into my ears like clockwork as soon as the temperature drops below 70 degrees and I can weather dry sweating in a thick crewneck. With layers upon layers of soothing jazz samples and melodies and a thousand pop symphonies going off in your head, the song is like a blanket of groove for your ears.
What’s so fall about it? Maybe it’s the warmth of the synths wobbling back and forth, or maybe it’s the name “Livin’ Loose” that speaks less to the pleading lyrics for sympathy in love and more to the loose sound breathing throughout. Or maybe it’s more simple than that; maybe it’s because I first listened to the track in autumn and I can’t escape that feeling.
— Conor Durkin, Daily Arts Writer
“Monster” — Paramore
The changing seasons have been accompanied by nostalgia for the punk genres that defined the early 2000s. While punk has fizzled out of mainstream music over the past decade, the end of the Vans Warped Tour felt like a definitive end to the genre. Despite claims of the death of punk, emo stans still find solace in the grunge and angst of the genre, and what better way to remember punk’s legacy than to blast Paramore? With its gripping, melodramatic sound, “Monster” is an autumn ghost from the punk glory days.
— Kaitlyn Fox, Music Beat Editor
“Rytm to Nieśmiertelność II” — Jacaszek
The autumn season has long been viewed as a time of contemplation. As the environment undergoes rapid and inevitable change, we break from our retroflection to examine how our lives have and will continue to change. Genres like indie rock and folk have a natural tendency toward this type of rumination and have deservedly been given free rein over the season; however, plenty of other music offers similar meditations.
Polish electroacoustic producer Jacaszek has built his reputation as someone whose synthetic vernacular and modern classical sensibility act as both a stimulant for reflection and an existential purifier, thus a perfect contributor to this “fall effect.” The song “Rytm to Nieśmiertelność II” is a prime example. Much like leaves, luscious strings and charming vocal hums float gently upward until they briefly suspend themselves in the air, only to fall back down and settle on the earth as remnants. The variation of electronics and live instrumentation provides an ever-shifting palette of sound that blends the foregrounds of reality and the landscape created in the mind. It’s the soundtrack to solipsism.
“Rytm to Nieśmiertelność II” loosely translates to “Rhythm of Immortality,” and it’s hard not to think of the patterned crackling of boots walking across a floor of dead foliage, knowing there is an infinite cycle of seasons on either side of time.
— Drew Gadbois, Senior Arts Editor
“Space Oddity” — David Bowie
Autumn always feels like it sits on the cusp of something both somber and hopeful. On the horizon is the promise of the holidays, warm sweaters and picturesque foliage. Yet, the change in season also marks the end of the sunny summer days and lazy mornings. As the leaves fall, there is a sense of untethering. For a brief moment, we drift, without an anchor: Who are we? Where are we? Who do we want to be? These questions echo with the closing of the year.
David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” reflects this sense of disorientation. As Bowie calls out “This is Ground Control to Major Tom,” it can feel like our own “ground control” has lost connection with the self in the flurry of these final months. Preparing for resolutions and grand ambitions of the New Year — to be spontaneous, eat more kale, eat less kale — like Major Tom, “now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare.”
And yet, while “Space Oddity” is appropriately moody for a fall playlist, it’s also a little weird, a lot of fun and delivers an expected dopamine boost of nostalgia. The origin of the song, too, is quintessential Bowie: Inspiration hit while watching Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction hit film “2001: A Space Odyssey” while “(stoned) out of my gourd,” Bowie revealed in a 2003 interview. The song went on to become an unofficial anthem for space travel and exploration — and perhaps unintentionally, a song that symbolizes hope and ambition as much as it recalls the unnerving feeling of being weightless and adrift in time and space.
— Madeleine Virginia Gannon, Daily Arts Writer
“Doll Parts” — Hole
For me, fall is about transition — from warmth to coldness, sunshine to darkness, loud summer days to quiet wintry nights. The song “Doll Parts” by Hole, Courtney Love’s infamous ’90s alt band, embodies the descent into cool gloom, both musically and lyrically.
In “Doll Parts,” Love tells a story of feeling disposable and angry. She sings, “I am doll eyes, doll mouth, doll legs,” over melancholy guitar strums, convincing herself that she is now a plastic figurine. Love is looking back and reflecting on who she has become, much like we do in the liminal time between summer and winter. “Doll Parts” feels like autumn, too, with Love’s whining vocals and slow, scratchy guitar evoking a bittersweet sensation. After a rambling build-up, Love screams, “someday you will ache like I ache” — a proper warning for both an ex-lover or a southerner venturing north for the fall.
— Bella Greenbacher, Daily Arts Contributor
“Time of the Season” — The Zombies
As if the name of the band wasn’t obvious enough, “Time of the Season” has consistently been my favorite autumnal song for the last four or five years. The shift between the deep and haunting verses to the more uplifting chorus has always put me in the mood for the Halloween season. The song exists as one of the staple psychedelic rock songs of the ’60s, and despite the radio popularity of the song, the content and sound of the track reference the trials of the ’60s — how the era of hippies and sexual awakenings came in the shadow of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. While the song itself is inherently sexual and teasing, its sound fits the fall mood like a glove, slow and even a little bit sinister. Interestingly enough, the song was written in and about the summer. Nonetheless, it puts me in a groovy, spooky mood.
— Gigi Ciulla, Daily Arts Writer
“Fragments of Time” — Daft Punk (ft. Todd Edwards)
“Fragments of Time,” a pedal steel guitar-infused electronic/pop song by Daft Punk and Todd Edwards, is all about reflection. Twelve years after Edwards’s first collaboration with his acolytes on Discovery, he returns to collaborate on what was ultimately the duo’s swan song. Lyrically, Edwards reflects wistfully on his previous memories of Daft Punk and expresses joy to reunite with them: He never wants the happy feeling of recording music with them to end, so he’ll replay his fragmented memories to capture his emotions forever. It’s a lovely song that perfectly concludes the musical relationship between two legendary house music names while capturing a distinct autumnal mood. By mid-September, as a new school year begins, daylight hours wane and temperatures slowly drop, I often find myself replaying warm summer memories in my head, wishing the feeling could last forever (especially this year, as summer-like temperatures are seeming to last forever).
— Jack Moeser, Daily Arts Contributor
“November” — Tyler, The Creator
Fall seems to live in a state of perpetual nostalgia. As our outside world begins to rapidly change around us, we naturally retreat inside to ponder our evolving selves. Tyler the Creator’s “November” perfectly captures this reflective state. “November” represents our rose-tinted view of the past and the fear that the best times are behind us. It’s a mood that can only be felt when the crisp autumn air painfully reminds us of the future’s uncertainty.
As we prepare for another long Michigan winter — this time with one foot out of the pandemic — the future can seem more unpredictable than ever. All we have is the collective regret that we didn’t appreciate the good ‘ole days as they were happening. However, “November” ends with the line “My November is right now,” a subtle reminder not to dwell too heavily on what we can’t change and to make the most out of the hand we’re dealt.
— Kai Bartol, Daily Arts Writer
“Limerence” — Yves Tumor
After a string of rainy days in Ann Arbor, this song’s mix of ambient synths and raindrops feels like a fitting soundtrack to autumn. I usually let it play on a loop while doing homework or walking to class to detach from the day’s more mundane moments for just a little while. “Limerence” has a kind of soft glow to it that reminds me of my neighborhood street lamps flickering through the fall leaves, warm and comforting but a little lonely. It’s perfect all year round but particularly assuaging as we slip into months of darkness and biting cold weather.
— Nora Lewis, Daily Arts Writer
“Ride or Die” — Boys Noize, Kelsey Lu (ft. Chilly Gonzales)
This song is the wind: its subtle presence grows and shrinks, and at certain points you have no choice but to surrender to it. Kelsey Lu might seem like a typical choice for fall, with her stunning arrangements of cello and harp in her solo songs. Still, the collaboration between her and Boys Noize beautifully meshes her stunning vocals and lyricism to their unexpected electronic turn, where Lu’s symphony and reflections transform into techno. The song encapsulates the uncertainty of the future and the presence of freedom and change.
— Katy Trame, Daily Arts Writer
Listen to the music beat’s Alternative Fall Playlist on Spotify.