Playlist: It’s Autumn

Playlist: It’s Autumn

· music · playlists
It’s finally autumn! Button up your most comfortable flannel and ease into fall with our favorite cozy (and oh so seasonal) end-of-summer tunes.

It’s autumn. Yep. Like it or love it, we’re feeling like fall. We’re feeling those melancholy, end of summer blues.

What’s a true wireless earbud company to do? Easy. Playlist through it.

So, button up your most comfortable flannel (careful not to spill that Venti Half-Caf Soy Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte, though) and ease into autumn with our favorite cozy (and oh so seasonal) fall tunes.

Press play to join us on a virtual early sunrise stroll through the changing leaves backed by an all-star soundtrack of jazz standards, soon-to-be standards, slow burning alt-rock, indie singer/songwriters, dusty and rambling Americana anthems and the legendary American Songbook.

Nat King Cole Trio — “‘Tis Autumn”

Nat King Cole has done the research and “‘Tis Autumn” is the dissertation. Autumn is officially here. On the first recording of songwriter Henry Nemo’s 1941 jazz standard—captured here in glorious mono—Nat King Cole closes the book on summertime with sweet, swinging melodies.

On this cozy number, Cole and his classic trio take us on a stroll through a series of wholesome fall scenes set to romantic bass, guitar and piano accompaniment.

Lana Del Rey & Father John Misty — “Buddy’s Rendezvous”

Lana Del Rey shines on her cover of “Buddy’s Rendezvous,” from Father John Misty’s Chloë and the Next 20th Century (2022).

Like a lounge singer during Hollywood’s golden age, Del Rey interprets Misty’s tune with the same Walk of Fame-worthy combination of gritty, down and out determinism and *wink-wink-nudge-nudge* irony that defined the best works from an iconic era of show business.

Between the big band, the string section and Del Rey’s unforgettable vocals

(plus a special backing vocal appearance from Father John himself), “Buddy’s Rendezvous” is an appointment you’ll want to keep.

Songs: Ohia — “Farewell Transmission”

Labor Day is the unofficial start of autumn, and songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Jason Molina flies the flannel for the working class on “Farewell Transmission,” a well-worn slab of dusty rust-belt Americana from Songs: Ohia’s 2003 LP Magnolia Electric Co.

With engineer Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies, the Breeders) working the tape machine and a rowdy seven-piece band ragin’ full-on behind him, Molina’s “Farewell Transmission” sounds heavier than an excavator in earbuds. The warm and clear production puts you right in the middle of the jamboree.

Elliott Smith — “Rose Parade”

Elliott Smith’s double-tracked acoustic guitar floats like golden autumn leaves falling in stereo on “Rose Parade,” from the Oscar-nominated singer/songwriter’s 1997 album, Either/Or. In earbuds, it’s easy to hear how Smith’s slight (but intentional) variations in strumming create a natural ping-pong effect. It’s the kind of production insight you’d expect from a veteran producer.

Plot twist: in addition to playing every single instrument on the album, Smith recorded, produced and mixed four of the twelve songs on Either/Or—including this one. In 1998, Smith took Either/Or on the road with powerhouse drummer extraordinaire Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney) and keyboardist Sam Coomes—aka Quasi, labelmates of Smith’s on the Portland, Oregon DIY mainstay, Kill Rock Stars. Coomes was also a member of Smith’s previous band, Heatmiser.

Meanwhile in Hollywood, director Gus Van Sant was enamored with Either/Or. Van Sant included three songs plus a new non-album single called “Miss Misery” on the soundtrack for his film Good Will Hunting, starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.

Kurt Vile — “Loading Zones”

School is back in session, and only commuter college students can truly understand the annual autumn parking spot struggle. Well, us and Kurt Vile, who didn’t go to college. But that doesn’t stop the easygoing Philadelphia songwriter and former War On Drugs lead guitarist from snagging a primo spot on “Loading Zones,” the rambling, ragtag lead single from Vile’s 2018 album, Bottle It In.

And the song’s title ain’t some kind of fancy MFA grad school creative writing metaphor, either. It’s about parking spaces. Free parking spaces, to be exact. The chorus goes, “I park for free!”

Can’t argue with that.

Rolling Stone’s Jon Dolan is certainly picking up what Kurt Vile’s putting down. Calling Vile “the closest thing our fallen age has to a Jerry Garcia,” Dolan loved the lead guitar on “Loading Zones.”

“The layered guitar gorgeousness is insanely rich even by [Vile’s] high standard,” he writes. “… a meld of languid gothic-folk fingerpicking, watery strumming and some weirdly soulful talkboxy wah-wah jive that suggests Joe Walsh by way of Future.”

Willie Nelson — “I Never Cared For You”

The chilly autumn winds kick up clouds of angst in Willie Nelson on this 1998 recording of “I Never Cared For You” from Teatro, the forty-fifth (!) LP from the unstoppable country music legend.

Nelson first released “I Never Cared For You” to little fanfare in 1964 as a single on the label Monument Records. The song failed to make an impression outside Nelson’s native Texas and it was his first—and last—single on Monument. But it would take a lot more than a single flop to stop Willie Nelson.

Thirty-four years later, producer Daniel Lanois (U2, Bob Dylan) and legendary vocalist Emmylou Harris joined Nelson at a makeshift recording studio inside an old movie theater to create the atmospheric and percussion-heavy version heard here.

And it would be unfair to discuss Willie Nelson’s music without making a special mention of his lifelong guitar companion, Trigger, who sings beautifully on this track beside Willie and Emmylou.

Mazzy Star — “Blue Light”

Pour another cider and cozy up to the warm and gentle sway of Mazzy Star’s “Blue Light,” a psychedelic, slow-burning waltz from the Paisley Underground pioneers’ 1993 breakout album, So Tonight That I Might See.

On this album cut, the California dream pop duo invoke autumn with soft Hammond organ drones, jangly reverberating guitar arpeggios and understated vocal performance by the unmistakable Hope Sandoval.

Stan Getz, João Gilberto & Astrud Gilberto — “Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars)”

Saxophonist Stan Getz joins the guitar/vocal duo of João and Astrud Gilberto on a stroll through “Corcovado,” from the iconic Getz/Gilberto. The 1964 LP helped popularize música popular brasileira, a style of mid-1960s Brazilian music which combines traditional styles like Bossa Nova with jazz, pop and rock.

Composed by pianist Antônio Carlos Jobim (who also plays on the track), “Corcovado” is a friendly invitation to pop in your favorite pair of true wireless earbuds and bask in the warmth of delicately fingerpicked classical guitar chords and softly sung melodies in English and Portuguese.

Despite a reluctant record label, Getz/Gilberto was a crossover hit. The album, delayed for a year due to concerns about its commercial appeal, won Album of the Year at the 1965 Grammy Awards. It was the first jazz album and the first non-American album to receive the title.

Unwound — “Lifetime Achievement Award”

Autumn is the start of awards season. Or, depending who you ask, it’s Halloween, which apparently is an entire season now. Both are scary.

Olympia, WA noise rock trio Unwound are feeling a little stage fright on “Lifetime Achievement Award,” a subdued, chilly track which looks forward to the spooky season with eerie production by engineer Steve Fisk (Car Seat Headrest, Nirvana).

On this tune from 1998’s Challenge For a Civilized Society, drummer Sara Lund, guitarist/vocalist Justin Trosper and bassist Vern Rumsey roll out the red carpet for listeners. Trosper’s guitar is crunchier than a bed of autumn leaves and Lund’s snare leaps from the speakers with log-splitter force. And from 3:25 on, Unwound crank up the creepiness with ghastly reversed background vocals and droning minor key synthesizer strings.

Neko Case — “People Got A Lotta Nerve”

Twangy twelve-string guitars twist and turn like Appalachian mountain roads throughout “People Got A Lotta Nerve,” the hit lead single from alt-country songwriter Neko Case’s 2009 album Middle Cyclone.

Middle Cyclone soared into the number three slot on Billboard’s Hot 100 upon release, making it Case’s first top-ten album and (at the time) the highest charting album released by an independent record label.

In a review for Spin, critic Melissa Maerz writes, “Middle Cyclone finds its haunted heart in the tension between rootsy twang and man-made squall.” Yeah, it sounds like fall.

Rilo Kiley — “Go Ahead”

Rilo Kiley just wants what’s best for you on “Go Ahead,” the fingerpicked country-folk tune which kicks off their 2001 debut, Take Offs and Landings.

An unseasonably warm key change at 1:50 takes vocalist/guitarist Jenny Lewis’ acoustic breakup song for a detour, traveling the scenic route with verse after verse of scorchin’ hot burns in the driver's seat.

Hear and feel the difference. Love them or your money back.

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