Welcome to Keeping Track, a column where we indulge our inner music nerds with the kinds of pop culture lists we all love to make and the pop culture debates we all love to have. Today’s list: Five Songs For Fall.
Keeping Track: Five Songs For Fall
by Chad Jewett
Jets To Brazil – “Autumn Walker”
Three-quarters of Jets To Brazil’s oeuvre sounds like its about fall anyway, but “Autumn Walker”, from the band’s gorgeous 2002 tour de force, Perfecting Loneliness makes the album’s general autumnal aura literal, the song’s crisp, airy indie-rock underlining lyrics like “The birds fly south, the summer sets, the lights go out / Leaves on the ground, autumn walker, you just walked out”. “Autumn Walker” is bittersweet and wistful, letting the season’s new weather stand in for a general sense of passing time and gradual life changes (“All things must end / But did you know what that meant?”; “And it shouldn’t be so hard / To see your friends, that’s who they are”). Like much of Perfecting Loneliness you’re struck with how nuanced an approach Blake Schwarzenbach has to songs that are at once quietly optimistic and deeply sad.
Yo La Tengo – “Autumn Sweater”
Yo La Tengo may have made their real “Fall” record a few years later with 2000’s And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out, but as the perfectly textured, spacious centerpiece of the band’s masterpiece, I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One, “Autumn Sweater” provides the (slightly) sunnier album with a gorgeously cool centerpiece. While less about its titular apparel than a general sense of youthful romance and nervous angst (“When I heard the knock on the door / I couldn’t catch my breath / Is it too late to call this off / We could slip away, wouldn’t that be better / Me with nothing to say, and you in your autumn sweater”), there’s nevertheless a certain seasonal appropriateness to the song’s chilly air and its hypnotic organ. Yo La Tengo has enough of this type of song to fill one of their legendarily capacious live shows, but they’ll probably never come up with a title as perfectly apt for this particular sound as “Autumn Sweater”.
Joie De Vivre – “Autumn In New London”
The final song on Michigan emo band Joie De Vivre’s great 2010 LP, The North End, “Autumn In New London” actually underlines its equinox theming by alluding to the album’s opening track, “Summer In New London”. While both songs are spare and ruminative and delivered barely over a whisper (indeed, “Summer” might actually be the quieter, more still arrangement), “Autumn In New London” is nevertheless a striking, lovely finale for the album, a hushed exhale after the bombastic outro of penultimate track “We’re Equals”. As with both Jets To Brazil and Yo La Tengo, Joie De Vivre actually excel at making songs that evoke fall in general – such is the effect of the band’s cycling guitars and mournful horns – but the placid intimacy of “Autumn In New London” is exceptional.
Saves The Day – “My Sweet Fracture”
As with much of the band’s 1999 breakthrough, Through Being Cool, “My Sweet Fracture” is devoted to Saves The Day airing grievances through a high-concept, impressionistic metaphor. In this case, Chris Conley likens a friend’s fair-weather fidelity to the changing of the seasons, singing: “Called my mom last night / She said, ‘Sweetie, you don’t need someone who’s more fleeting than fall’ / Don’t you love those leaves? / Don’t you wish the orange stayed forever? / And crickets sang in the night / All through winter”. It’s a smart, beautifully imagistic rendering of an abstract feeling – something Conley long excelled at — and partially makes up for a lot of the song’s otherwise ugly spitefulness (“Could you tell me the next time that you’re choking? / I’ll run right over to shove some dirt right down your throat”). It speaks to the general sense of place and time that defines Through Being Cool, as smart (and, at times, uncomfortably honest) an album about growing pains as punk has ever produced.
Neil Young – “Harvest Moon”
Graced with a cover that features a black and white image of Neil Young, standing scarecrow-like in an empty field, Harvest Moon found the legendary singer-songwriter at his most pastoral, returning to the sepia-toned country-rock that marked his first great run of albums in the early 70s. “Harvest Moon”, the album’s title track and one of its finest moments, feels like the archetypal aural equivalent of that cover image, a sashaying, unbelievably gentle country shuffle complete with a snare that rustles like drying leaves and a lonesome, echoing slide guitar. With lines like “We could dream this night away / But there’s a full moon rising / Let’s go dancing in the light / We know where the music’s playing / Let’s go out and feel the night”, “Harvest Moon” feels like an ode to the quiet romance of autumn evenings, as crisp and bright as its title would have you think.