I’ve had two autumns already this year, so this tape has been in the works for ages. For the first time in my life, this past spring was fall. In Chile the fall is a lot different than it is here, or at least where I was, more than halfway up the long coast. March’s eighty degree days quickly turned into the sixty degree days of April and May. Overcast clouds in skies that had been clear for months on end replaced the familiar fall foliage I had grown up with as the aesthetic cue to my autumn mind. I listened to some of the following songs cruising north on Highway 5 towards Calama and the high desert, and others crossing the Andes, and on buses to the dunes. Some of these songs really figure prominently in my memories of Chile. Having spent a fall abroad, this current fall has become a saturated sort of emotional experience, as I relive my past autumns through the wistful lens of Chile. Sometimes all I can do is gaze upward and get lost in the reminiscences of a time in my life, a fall, that doesn’t quite fit into the seasonal chronology of my life.
As always, I’ve included links to mp3 searches in elbo.ws.
Kurt Vile: “Freeway” This song is the perfect opener to this tape, it’s reverby and noodly, loose and reflexive. It sounds kind of like summer but maybe a little more downtrodden, with more on it’s mind. There’s no better song than “Freeway” to take on a 25 hour bus ride. And that line “There was a kid in the tree among the birds and the bees / between beehive and birdnest and I think you know the rest”? Unreal.
Deerhunter: “Revival” The Athens, Georgia band put out one hell of a record at the end of this past September, a record that was a pretty significant departure in many ways from their previous undertakings. The lead single “Revival” has become the soundtrack to my past two months, it jangles and creeps, and it has this great organic feel that finds it not far removed from the leaves and windy sunsets of October and November.
Tapes ‘n Tapes: “Freak Out” “Freak Out” rocks – props to Andrew Wilcox (of Playtonic favorite Time Travelers) for tipping me off to this fucking gem back about a month ago. The Minneapolis group has their third LP slated to drop this January off the very mysterious and tiny Ibid Records label. Stoked for the album, to say the least, if this lead single is any indication. It makes every fall day I’ve ever lived plus some other dramatic shit flash before my eyes – a must-listen.
Dan Mangan: “Robots” Canadian folk rocker Dan Mangan got a little bit of attention last year for his second full-lenth release Nice, Nice, Very Nice. He sounds kind of like Stephen Malkmus or Jeff Mangum, and the influence of the latter is certainly evident in the deliberate tempo and ecclectic instrumentaiton of “Robots”. This song is evocative and nostalgic, and, as long as the eponymous robots is a metaphor, beautifully written.
Cymbals Eat Guitars: “Indiana” Cymbals Eat Guitars sometimes represent a polarizing force in rock music today. It’s easy to get after them for Joseph D’Agostino’s occasional emo-line tiptoeing vocals and the apparent recklessness with which some of their songs are put together, but in “Indiana” D’Agostino’s voice is rugged and transcendent, and the tune favors pop simplicity over formal experimentation. This song is a triumph of adolescnece and nostalgia – it’s awesome.
Neutral Milk Hotel: “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” When I think of fall music, I think of Neutral Milk Hotel’s 1998 masterwork In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. This, the title track, captures all of the facets of Aeroplane that makes it such a classic. Weird instruments feature promintently (including a famous use of the theramin), lending to the song a sense of liminality, of not belonging, that also characterizes fall; a stage of inbetweenness. The lyrics, like the brass orchestration, are absurd and jarring, and their majestic delivery invokes instant feelings of autumn.
Department of Eagles: “While We’re Young” This track came out a few years ago from Chris Taylor’s Grizzly Bear side project Department of Eagles, and its sick (props to Ed, also of Time Travelers, for the reccomendation). Griz fans out there will recognize plenty of that group’s influence in “While We’re Young,” although the song comes across as somhow looser and less rigid. The driving tempo and reflective lyrics place it right in the autumn aesthetic.
The Walkmen: “Juveniles” This lead track off of the Walkmen’s 2009 LP Lisbon set the tone for the whole album as reserved and down-trodden, which isn’t a bad thing considering the intimacy and earnestness that the tune gains as a result. I imagine this song set to a scene of fire-side lazing during a late-fall first snow. Super autumnal, great band, great album.
J Irvin Dally: “Salt Water” I was first clued into this song at the end of the summer. The blog that I came across it on described J Irvin Dally as the heir to the freak-folk sultanate made vacant by Devendra Banhart’s mainstreamization. “Salt Water” certainly carries a freak-folk vein, but it expands and engulfs and achieves a hearty sound that goes beyond the sparseness with which that genre is usually characterized. The folk elements of the song lend it a distinctly fall feel, but the progression and complementary electic instrumentation make “Salt Water” rock.
The Bats: “Castle Lights” The Bats’ “Castle Lights” is a song that will forever evoke memories of the fall in Chile. I think maybe that’s because no song I’ve ever heard has a more instantly nostalgic sound. The rhythm and harps and strings of this song make it stand out from the indie pop pack. And the line: “And the room comes into view, and I guess I’ve had a few / and one more wouldn’t help but I could be wrong” makes “Castle Lights” really awesome.
Mumford and Sons: “Little Lion Man” Mumford and Sons are from North London, but sound like they’d maybe be more at home on a front porch in the Ohio River Valley than sipping tea in the Square Mile. “Little Lion Man” shouldn’t be new to anyone – it’s driving banjo line and kick ass lyrics grabbed the attention of international bloggingheads just about a year ago when Sigh No More Dropped. A real autumn gem.
Meursault: “Another” Mersault is the brainchild of Edinburgher Neil Pennycock, whose Spring 2010 release All Creatures Will Make Merry was a folktronica tour de force. “Another” is probably the second sparsest song on the reocrd, but any sparser and it would have to be put off for my next winter tape. “Another” is another example of a song that scored my fall in Chile. All Creatures was an aweosme find last year, and I really encourage anyone and everyone to look it up and give it a listen, it won’t disappoint.
Ola Podrida: “Jordanna” I’ve been listening to “Jordanna” for a few years. It’s a folk song about lost love, which I guess situates it pretty firmly in fall territory. It’s a straightforward folk pop song which puts extra emphasis on the lyrics that are really pretty devastating. “I don’t know if there’s any point to it all,” concludes the song, “but I sure love hearing your voice.” Perfect for a grey-sky day at the end of autumn.
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson: “The Sound” I originally wanted to wrap up the tape with “Jordanna” but I figured better to finish things off on more of a high note – and I say more of a high note rather than an actual high note because this song still does touch on some pretty bleak shit ( you may remeber this tune from a sweet post I wrote last winter.) I think its sound (no pun intended) is suited pretty well to a reflectivefall tape like this, and I think its sick, plus it’s been knocking around in my itunes for almost exactly a year now so I figured I’d give it a little recognition.