Had enough of the Monster Mash? Has Thriller lost its thrill? Well, whether it has or not doesn’t mean that you can’t expand your autumnal music selection and tune into some spooky/sultry/cozy vibes. You can still get down to Spooky Scary Skeletons and also dive into some atmospheric tracks you’ve never heard before.
Some of the albums we’ve picked you might have heard of, some you might not have. This is by no means the definitive list (what music list ever is?), but it’s got some mighty fine stuff on it.
And as always, if you are gobsmacked to discover that your favorite fall album just isn’t on this list, just let us know in the comments!*
Yo La Tengo – I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One (1997)
Nick Drake – Five Leaves Left (1969)
Produced by legendary producer Joe Boyd of the UFO Club on September 1, 1969, Nick Drake‘s Five Leaves Left is a walk down a solitary road to a haunted place. This moody and reclusive singer-songwriter had a tragically too-short recording career, but he left us with a quintessential autumn soundtrack that invites us to hold on to memories, before they’re gone forever.
Miguel – Wildheart (2015)
Wildheart, the followup to Miguel‘s 2012 Grammy-winning New York-centric album Kaleidoscope Dream, is a flipped-coin to Kaleidoscope with its Los Angeles inspired dreamscape that’s genre-defying, vibrant, and introspective.
Joe Sabourin – Dead Leaves (2020)
Dead Leaves is Joe Sabourin‘s fall instrumental release featuring original compositions and arrangements of traditional folk songs. These stunning, Autumnal tracks invite you to cozy up to a fire, drink a pot of rich herbal tea, and get lost in your own thoughts.
The EP ($7) is available for digital download on his website.
Stevie Nicks – Bella Donna (1981)
Stevie Nicks and her debut solo studio album Bella Donna hardly need any introduction. With a title track named after a deadly nightshade and a reputation for its wild witchy ways, Bella Donna will put you under its spell.
The Clientele – Bonfires on the Heath (2009)
The British alt-pop group The Clientele is known for its wistful, nostalgic melodies, but with Bonfires on the Heath we get the added benefit of bright, space-filling horns. The AV Club describes the record as having the “feel of falling leaves, fading light, and the distant smell of smoke.” We sort of agree, except for us it’s like the color orange came to dinner and lit up a pipe in front of us.
And it smells great.
Fleet Foxes – Shore (2020)
Fleet Foxes is a gift unto music, and their timely fall equinox surprise release of their fourth studio album, Shore, just cemented them in the minds of their adoring fans as one of the best things to ever happen to the planet. Described by the band with words like goofy, corny, and joyous – it’s a happy romp as soul-warming as stepping onto the world’s most crunchy leaf.
Ooo, so satisfying.
Tinashe – Aquarius (2014)
Breathy, etherial vocals mark Tinashe‘s 2014 studio album Aquarius. The tracks are as sweet as they are stunning, and juxtaposed with dreamy piano interludes and bright soundscapes, her performance and artistry has us simply starstruck.
Novo Amor – I Feel Better (2020)
Welsh producer, multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter Ali Lacey of Novo Amor has brought his hypnotic cloud-high falsetto down to earth for his newest EP I Feel Better, an honest reckoning with how to be a human on this planet right now.
With lyrics like “I feel better most of the time / Just tell me that it’s alright and I’ll be fine,” we’re all just nodding our heads and saying yes, us too.
Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher (2020)
Phoebe Bridgers’s long hoped for follow up to her 2017 debut – Stranger in the Alps has arrived in Punisher. Different from Stranger, but equally delicious, Punisher features dark cover art of Phoebe in a skeleton onesie brightly lit by red light and lyrics about mysterious disappearances of skinhead neighbors, ghosts, and being about as vulnerable as a skeleton can be.
Lucius – Good Grief (2016)
With Lucius it’s hard to tell if you’re going to a seance or a church service, and in Good Grief they don’t make pinpointing their genre any easier. With dazzling harmonies and lyrics that seem like there from a different era, Lucius brings us to the brink of madness and then laughs, honey sweet.
Mozzy – Occupational Hazard (2020)
The best way to describe Mozzy‘s recent release Occupational Hazard is in the artist’s own words: “With Occupational Hazard, I want to let people know it’s not always velvet or rainbows at the end of the tunnel. When you choose to maneuver and make your money a certain way, there can be consequences that come with that, but own it, embrace it, don’t dwell on it.”
River Whyless – A Stone, a Leaf, an Unfound Door (2012)
North Carolina quartet River Whyless has a folk sound that you think you’ve heard before, until the foghorns and screeching violins come in and the story reminds you of something you’ve lost. These lyrics get under your skin and melodies walk along the back of your shoulders, letting you know that the days are getting shorter, and time isn’t a place you can find solace in.
Stay – O Starling
This 4 track debut EP from Boston-based O Starling is a journey through the underworld. Each track is about death, loss, and longing, from the first track “Ravens” about Anne Boleyn to the final track, the title track “Stay,” about how no matter what people say, no one can ever really stay.
Deftones – Ohms (2020)
The Deftones are a band that just continues to put out good music decade after decade. Their most recent release, Ohms, is no exception. In this album the band retraces the steps which made them so groundbreaking in the 90s, roving between hard hitting post hardcore and ironic dream pop.
The album feels like a coming home.
Feist – The Reminder (2007)
Every barista from Portland, Oregon to Miami, Florida was bopping their heads to The Reminder when it was released in 2007. These folk tinged euro-inspired bops designed by Canadian chanteuse Leslie Feist continue to bring warmth and a bit of wistful eclecticism to pumpkin spice drinkers in 2020.
Tom Waits – Blue Valentine
If there was ever a human who would be caught actually whistling in a graveyard, it would be Tom Waits. This bardic neo-beat Grunkle brings a chaotic yet predictable soulfulness to the table with Blue Valentine. It’s bluesy, it’s weird, it’s Waits – which is about what you would expect.
Pity Sex – Feast of Love (2013)
Harmonically distorted guitars meet dreary melodic intent and emo sensibilities in Pity Sex‘s debut album Feast of Love. Is this Jimmy Eat World? Is this the Pixies? Is that you mom? Whoever it is on the other end of the line, you want to hear from them. It’s all good vibes.
First Aid Kit – The Big Black and the Blue (2010)
Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg of First Aid Kit do modern Americana in such a breathtaking, albeit eerie way. The Big Black and the Blue offers strange vignettes, strangers passing in train cars, mothers in department stores, and shadows in windows. The Big in particular is an evening around a fire, telling stories, passing terrible whisky.
Whitney – The Light Upon the Lake (2016)
Warm and just delightful, Whitney‘s The Light Upon the Lake doesn’t expect listeners to do any work to access it. You just show up and it’s there to whisk you a way to an afternoon stroll by the lake. It’s such a pretty lake, doesn’t it make you feel sad?
Jeremy Messersmith – The Reluctant Graveyard (2010)
Jeremy Messersmith is just good. Who else but a good human would write a song where everyone gets a kitten every single day? That’s right. So when Jeremy Messermith wrote The Reluctant Graveyard about a bunch of people who were quite possibly dead, we went with it, because it’s just good.
Don’t believe us? Listen and just see how happy you get listening to songs about ghosts.
Molly Pinto Madigan – The Ballad of Tam Lin (2020)
When North Shore-based chanteuse Molly Pinto Madigan sits down to write an album, she has the aids of sirens, faeries, and otherworldly spirits. The Ballad of Tam Lin, a story album based on the Scottish ballad “Tam Lin,” is no different, and features a cast of characters who have wild adventures and meet rather brutal ends.
The album is available from digital download from Bandcamp.
Bill Withers – Just As I Am (1971)
Does anything express the feel of seasonal affective disorder more than Bill Withers‘ “Ain’t No Sunshine”? In all seriousness, Just As I Am is full of tracks that put you in the mood to shuffle your feet to get warm. This classic album is a staple for every season, but it definitely shines brightest in light jacket weather.
Slow Pulp – Moveys (2020)
Midwestern-based Slow Pulp released their impressive debut album this month, and this prescient post-punk masterpiece is reminiscent of an era decades past. And although it might seem bright and uplifting on the surface, the lyrics explore darker themes of loss, heartache, and impermanence with lo-fi riffs and shoe-gazy melodies.
Joe Wong – Nite Creatures (2020)
Existential Dread? Weird night visions? Peculiar monsters? Joe Wong‘s debut Nite Creatures takes a close look at it all. Pairing bizarre lyrics with sweeping instrumentation that feels as much movie soundtrack as late night psychedelic disco, Nite Creatures wants you to camp out for a while, ask the big questions, and maybe stay for dessert. Except that the dessert is made of fruit flavored air and you can’t find your glasses.
*We will not be including The Neighborhood’s “Sweater Weather” no matter how hard you try to convince us.
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