By Daniel Ford (From Blown Speakers) and the Fayettechill Staff
Autumn in the Ozarks is unparalleled – a gorgeous swath of reds, oranges, and yellows in which jubilant hipsters can build bonfires and drink cider out of mason jars. Released from the stranglehold of summer’s heat, we can venture out into the overwhelming options Mother Nature affords us in search of the perfect Instagram. Anything seems possible when buoyed by the caffeinated euphoria of the six Pumpkin Spice Lattes you drank over the course of the day.
There is something about this autumnal glory of the final months of the year that lends itself to the acoustic stylings of folk, bluegrass, and Americana music. The tableau of a perfect fall evening is somehow incomplete without these gentle strums and vaguely nostalgic harmonies. Good fall music captures the feeling you get when the sun is beginning to set and you’re decked out in your finest flannel and the hundred of problems that bombard you on a daily basis suddenly seem completely inconsequential.
I’ve compiled some songs that I think pair nicely with my favorite fall activities and put them in a playlist along with the selections of some of your favorite members of the Fayettechill team (you can find a link to said playlist at the bottom of this post). So throw on an oversized sweatshirt, light that overpriced cinnamon apple candle, and enjoy.
BEST SONG FOR WHEN THINGS START TO GET A LITTLE CRAZY AND THAT ONE GUY WON’T STOP TRYING TO JUMP OVER THE CAMPFIRE
“Wait So Long” by Trampled By Turtles
Trampled By Turtles play the kind of foot-stomping modern bluegrass that is sure to get your blood pumping and your hands clapping. “Wait So Long” in particular builds into a feverous jam fueled by impressive banjo and steady upright bass. Perfect for when everyone is getting a little too quiet and staring into the fire without saying anything, this song and the rest of the band’s discography is a rush of suspender-clad adrenaline sure to get the porch furniture thrown into the bonfire.
BEST SONG FOR STANDING ON THE EDGE OF HAWKSBILL CRAG AND PONDERING YOUR PLACE IN THE UNIVERSE
“Comrade” by Volcano Choir
This side project of Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon pairs his yearning and inimitable falsetto with soaring crescendos and instrumental bombast, making for an outstanding soundtrack to that feeling you get when you look out over the rolling patchwork of the Ozarks from one of the most iconic spots in Arkansas. Building from quiet blips into something with immense power, this song is pretty much guaranteed to send shivers down your spine, especially when paired with the unmatched vistas of the Whitaker Point Trail. Don’t make eye contact with your friends because literally all of you will be on the verge of tears and it’d be super weird to have to talk about it.
BEST SONG FOR WHEN THAT GUY FROM EARLIER THAT WAS JUMPING OVER THE FIRE HAS PASSED OUT AND THE FIRE IS DYING AND YOU’RE SUMMONING THE COURAGE TO MAKE A MOVE
“Dark Autumn Hour” by Frontier Ruckus
I know, I know... this one is a little on the nose, considering the word “autumn” is in the title and everything. That said, I couldn’t resist promoting a song this darkly gorgeous. Perfect for finishing off the last of your spiked cider and staring into the glowing embers of a fire while slowly moving your suede chukka boot towards her suede chukka boot. Frontier Ruckus is a hugely underrated folk band that I wish more people knew about.
BEST SONG FOR SITTING ON THE BACK PORCH IN A ROCKING CHAIR AND THINKING ABOUT THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY
“Don’t Change Your Plans” by Ben Folds Five
Ben Folds Five was one of my first forays into music that I didn’t hear on the radio, so it’s a built in nostalgia machine for me already. This song in particular, however, is particularly well-suited for thinking about your ex while you drink coffee wrapped in blankets on the back porch overlooking a dewey field (we all do that right?). The lyrics are the real reason I picked this one: “Don’t change your plans for me/I won’t move to L.A./The leaves are fallin’ back East/and that’s where I’m gonna stay.”
BEST SONG FOR WHEN THINGS GET A LITTLE TOO NOSTALGIC AND EMOTIONAL BECAUSE YOU’VE BEEN LISTENING TO MY PLAYLIST AND YOU NEED TO LIGHTEN THE MOOD
“In Spite of Ourselves” by John Prine and Iris DeMent
A delicate folk duet that has the funniest lyrics I may have ever heard, “In Spite of Ourselves” is one of my very favorite songs. John Prine is a legend and I could have put about twenty of his songs on this list, but this one gets the nod because it has such classic lines as “She thinks all my jokes are corny/convict movies make her horny” and “He ain’t too sharp but he gets things done/drinks his beer like it’s oxygen.” This is a simultaneously hilarious and moving ode to those “little idiosyncrasies that only I know” (to quote Robin Williams’ character in Good Will Hunting) that make a relationship special.
Now I’m going to pass the baton to some of my fellow Fayettechillosophers (Fayettechillains? Fayettechillotians?) so that they can share with you some their favorite fall tunes. Full Spotify playlist at the bottom of the post for your listening convenience.
"WHAT WOULD I WANT? SKY" BY ANIMAL COLLECTIVE
One of my all time favorites songs by Animal Collective, “What Would I Want? Sky” off the aptly titled EP “Fall Be Kind” captures the gradual anticipation and relief of Fall. Building over the first three minutes with gradual drums and soft vocals, the song then flourishes with a Grateful Dead sample fueled chorus complemented by synthesizers and traditional instruments alike. It then follows a goofy 7/8 meter populated by playful and light lyrics. They pose short simple questions to the audience and back to the singer himself, and center on the desire for outdoor beauty while in the everyday bustle of life. This song always makes me smile, and I wholeheartedly recommend it for those seeking a strange but peaceful tune for the Fall.
*Special Note - The sample used by Grateful Dead from “Unbroken Chain” was actually the first and only use of one of their songs for which the band gave permission.
"NAG CHAMPA GOLD" BY AKUA NARU
I'm all about some sultry women's vocalists, and this confident hip hop diva takes things to a whole new level. Playful and full of movement, this song will light a flame your soul whether you're cruising down long dirt roads, greeting the new day with a mug of hot tea, or dancing the night away on your friend's back porch. A blend of top notch word-spitting, vocal collaging, saxophone interludes, and disc scratching, you'll find yourself intrigued all the way through. Beneath an intricate and somewhat flashy facade, the lyrics encourage a shift in perspective, closing simply with: "they say that peace is a step away/they say that justice is a step away/they say that love is a step away."
AND WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, HERE'S THE ENTIRE AUTUMN-TUNES WONDERFULNESS:
Photo beauty by Heno Head.