It's that time of year once again. The kids are going back to school, the tourist hordes are migrating away from the beaches, and the daylight hours are shortening. Yes, Autumn is just around the corner. I for one welcome the transition from Summer's sweat-drenched days of listening to Top 40 pop hits and American Reggae in overcrowded tiki bars to a more melancholy soundtrack to match your self-diagnosed seasonal depressive disorder.
So here are my recommendations. Five albums of sad, earthy, organic music for you to enjoy this Fall, along with your pumpkin spiced beverages, flannel shirts, and overgrown beards.
5. The Sunset Tree - The Mountain Goats (4AD Records, 2005)
Singer/songwriter John Darnielle, better know as The Mountain Goats, has had a long and fruitful career telling stories about people, fictional or otherwise, to a backdrop of indie folk-rock. Yet on his 2005 release "The Sunset Tree," John delves deep into his personal life. The album deals with his troubled childhood growing up with an abusive stepfather and in my opinion, is some of the most deeply personal music I have ever heard. The themes of anger, fear, and rebelliousness permeate throughout the lyrics of "The Sunset Tree," while the music remains fairly light and folksy. I mean, how many songs about abusive marriages make you want to dance? "The Sunset Tree" manages to present rather dark and serious lyrical themes with music that allows the listener to enjoy the experience without being buried under the weight of topics at hand.
4. Tennessee - Lucero (Madjack Records, 2002)
The band Lucero, based out of Memphis, is a group of hardworking guys that have been releasing their own brand of tears in beers, sad bastard, southern rock for nearly 15 years. Their 2002 release "Tennessee" is thirteen tracks of gritty, melancholic, boozy reminiscing of past loves, regrets, and drinking problems all told through frontman Ben Nichols smoky and emotive vocal style. So while you are using alcohol to warm yourself up during the brisk months that follow, throw on some Lucero, shed some manly tears, and make these country boys proud.
3. Our Endless Numbered Days - Iron & Wine (Sub Pop Records, 2004)
If you're a sucker for soft, mostly acoustic, folk music, then Sean Beam, a.k.a. Iron & Wine is a must-listen. "Our Endless Numbered Days," the second full length album from Iron & Wine, is chock full of bright, finger picked guitars and Beam's signature soft spoken vocals. He sings so softly at times that it feels like he is gently whispering in your ear. And that's all you get on this record. Beam's voice, an acoustic guitar or two, and maybe a dash of percussion here and there. But that's all you need. It never ceases to amaze me what people can create with just a guitar and their voice. This album is full of beautiful tracks about love and loss. An album such as this would easily fit in a list of best albums to listen to in the springtime because of how uplifting it can feel at times. But lets face it, there's no wrong time to listen to music like this.
2. There's No Leaving Now - The Tallest Man on Earth (Dead Oceans, 2012)
Kristian Matsson, a.k.a. The Tallest Man on Earth, is a singer/songwriter from Sweden. Now this guy here...I cannot recommend him enough. Beautifully poetic lyrics, bright and passionate vocals, backed up by fantastic finger picked guitar along with the occasional piano or pedal steel. Realistically, I could've picked any of Matsson's work for this list. His work is truly a cut above others in his genre. Between his talent and finesse with the guitar or his powerful, just raspy enough, vocal performances, The Tallest Man on Earth has been consistently one of the best and most interesting artists in the singer/songwriter genre. For me, his music always manages to invoke images of forlorn wilderness and solitude. The Tallest Man on Earth, go listen to it, now.
1. Elsie - The Horrible Crowes (Side One Dummy, 2011)
The Horrible Crowes was a brief side project started by The Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon. In 2011 they released their only record, entitled "Elsie." Now I am very excited to end my list with this album, because I am a huge Brian Fallon fanboy. I absolutely adore all of his work, be it in The Gaslight Anthem or solo. In my opinion, "Elsie" is some of the best, maybe even the best, work he has done. While the lyrics stay true to Brian's style of heartbreak and nostalgia, it seems that Brian has let more of his Tom Waits influences shine on this record. The music is much darker than his previous work and he really lets his voice growl on a handful of tracks, especially on the live LP. But I have to stop there. If I talk to much about this record I will start to dive into fanboyishness and I will spare you all of that. Even if you have heard some of The Gaslight Anthem's songs in the past and didn't enjoy it I plead with you to give "Elsie" a spin this fall.
And there you have it! Five records of somber, down-to-earth sounds for your fall soundtracks. Enjoy!