10 Records To Spin into Fall 🍂
That magical time is finally here: sweaters, warm drinks, leaf piles, and kicking back with your favorite music to soundtrack the change of season. We’ve compiled a list of 10 records with which to usher in the fall. Give them a spin and let us know your favorite fall vinyl records to listen to are.
We’ll kick it off with a classic. Neil Young’s Harvest Moon has a soft and gentle vibe throughout. The themes of loves, relationships, time passing, and things changing alongside Young’s acoustic guitar and harmonica lend listeners an easy casual listen or a contemplative moment with the music and masterful lyrics. Standout tracks are the unforgettable “Unknown Legend” and “Harvest Moon,” songs about life as people live it and a beautiful moment like on “War of Man,” which comments on the destructive capabilities of man. Harvest Moon expertly sets the stage for a change of season and the dark winter ahead, but allows listeners to revel in the beauty of the passage of time.
Magnolia Record Club’s September 2018 Record Of The Month Evening Machines is a lush, expansive piece that is the sonic equivalent of standing on a mountain as the leaves change below. Recorded in his home studio on his Colorado farm, the rich instrumentation, sophisticated arrangements, and poetic lyrics create a sound that is unique and approachable. The album examines both isolation and community, closeness and distance. Songs like “Caves,” “Dark, Dark, Dark,” and “Chemicals” have the feel of an expansive, wide-open space, and softer tracks like “Where You Gonna Go” and “Berth” have a more intimate and sparse nature. Isakov’s whole discography is well worth diving into, but Evening Machines is sure to be a standout of modern folk music.
Bad Debt is by Durham-based singer/songwriter MC Taylor, who records as Hiss Golden Messenger. Written in 2009 shortly after the birth of his son, and recorded in large part at his kitchen table in North Carolina, the album has a beautifully stark sound, with Taylor’s vocals barely above a whisper in some parts. Listening to it ,you can hear the vulnerability and the simultaneous strength in these songs about faith, family, and internal conflict. You’ll feel as if you’re in the room with him as he’s performing, as the album combines the warmth of Taylor’s voice and the muted plucks of his guitar strings, the hiss of the recorder, and the taps of his foot into an experience that in a way feels like home.
As the summer light fades, we’re reminded that fall is a time for changes, and while it is an ideal time for candles, sweaters, and coziness, it’s also sometimes bittersweet as winter approaches. Wendigo, the nest album from Penny & Sparrow, expertly soundtrack that bittersweet feeling, the melancholy that accompanies us through though times. Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke who make up the duo sing harmonies reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel - gentle, somber, and deliberate. Their literary lyrics can be read like a good book, particularly in the three-song vignette “Visiting,” “Smitten,” and “Moniker.” Narrated by the voice of death, the trio of songs examine fear of death itself, but also the fear of change, of loss, and of uncertainty. Overall, Wendigo is a beautiful examination of things we choose to look away from, and why sometimes looking at what we fear can change us.
A now quintessential modern indie-folk band, Fleet Foxes’ self-titled 2008 debut album helped set the precedent for a new generation of artists. Exploring a wide spectrum of styles, from gentle pop to Appalachian folk to driving rock, it creates a sound completely unique from their influences and predecessors, and is almost unmistakably their own. Though created in a studio, the album has the feel of a field recording; lead singer Robin Pecknold and the rest of the band create music that almost gives a voice to nature. Standout track “Ragged Wood” sounds almost like a season changing as you listen, with airy lilting vocals blending into a more driving, grounded sound. Fleet Foxes’ vocal harmonies and expansive arrangements on this record wrap around you like the sunshine through the trees or a warm blanket after a brisk morning walk.
A titan of folk music, Joni Mitchell’s unique songwriting style and unmistakeable voice can brighten even the gloomiest fall night. Her 1974 album Court and Spark expanded Mitchell’s range to include new sounds and jazz influences. Her gentle, lifting vocals and melodies turn surprising corners at the drop of a hat like leaves on the wind, and her unique arrangements keep you hooked at every turn. Her layered harmonies with her unique voice on “Help Me,” “People’s Parties,” and “Car on a Hill” feel warm and comfortable, and sometimes her performance incorporates a little humor, as displayed in “Raised On Robbery” and “Twisted.” Mitchell is a master at tender songwriting, and she’s always showed great strength in crafting intricate melodies and song structure; this holds true as strongly as ever.
Americana singer/songwriter Stephen Kellogg, formerly of the band Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, recorded South, West, North, East “all over the map,” traveling to a different region of the US to record sections of it and work with different co-producers and musicians in each locale. Sonically, the album reflects how it was constructed and the regions the songs were recorded in. It feels like a road trip through the country, starting with the twang and close harmonies of South, followed by shimmering, reflective, pop-leaning tracks in the West. Then Kellogg drives up North with a classic rock sound, and finishes in the East with soft, contemplative folk songs. Picture yourself in a car, watching the landscape change while you listen, and it’ll be like your own private seat to Kellogg’s view from the road.
John Paul White’s musical career blossomed when he was half of the duo The Civil Wars. After the group officially disbanded in 2014, White went home to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to start Single Lock Records and to focus on his own music as a solo artist, as he had when he started his career years before. What resulted from that work was 2016’s Beulah, a collection of both delicate and driving Southern folk songs about heartache, redemption, and peace within times of tension. His beautifully clear voice and delicate finger-picked guitar playing on songs like “Black Leaf,” “Make You Cry,” and “Hate The Way You Love Me” brims with melancholy, and that style is expertly countered by the driving resonator on “What’s So” and the classic rock-styled “The Martyr.” White brings his singular voice, his songwriting style, and Muscle Shoals tradition to Americana music, and his music will surely become a staple of the genre.
A Stalwart force in the indie-folk scene, Sufjan Stevens made waves with his fifth studio album, 2005’s Illinois. It’s a concept album stacked with references to places, people, and events relating to the state of Illinois, and it also tackles themes of spirituality, love, and loss. The sweeping strings and complex arrangements on what some critics have called a contemporary classical album make the listening experience almost cinematic, especially on tracks like “Chicago,” and this style is brilliantly countered by the more intimate and soft performances, such as on the heartbreaking “Casimir Pulaski Day” about a partner dying of bone cancer. Stevens’ delicate vocals and artful arrangements make this a great album to sit and let envelop you, but also remind you of the outside’s chilly air.
Eau Claire, Wisconsin’s Justin Vernon has had his hand in many, many musical projects, but none so well known as his band Bon Iver. The debut album For Emma, Forever Ago and the idea of band itself have both become synonymous with escaping your life to a cabin in the woods and letting your thoughts wander util you are creatively inspired. Vernon’s inspiration resulted in a beautiful, sweeping, poetic album that helped write the book on modern indie folk music. His falsetto vocals on many of the tracks lend a gentle feel to tracks like “Flume,” “Creature Fear,” and “Re: Stacks” while he intersperses a more direct approach to his singing on the album’s most well-known song, “Skinny Love,” among others. The arrangements and production on the record make it sound almost like it’s playing in a cave, and you can’t help but be captivated by Vernon’s innovative songwriting.