Thursday, October 01, 2009

Songs for October

Last spring, I ranked September #1 because it's both the thing itself and the anticipation of something greater; it's a consequence-free environment. You anticipate leaves changing. You track the cooler mornings. You wait for earlier nights. You settle in, meet up, and start the sprint. September's a furious opening act.

But October's the show. The leaves change, the nights come quickly, sweaters come out, mornings get brisk, Octoberfest lines the beer shelves. Every storyline from September's mad dash now has consequences. The plot thickens, the air thins.

If you love fall (and I do), then you live for October (and I d0).

Here now are 31 songs about change, songs written from the thick of it, songs golden then black, bright then fading, songs that sound like a skyline sunset and a world on fire. Here now:

31 Songs for October!

***Now with Clickable Playlist. Thanks Michael!

(Plus, iTunes' random pick.)
(Don't forget to comment and tell me your Songs for October.)

Green Day, "21st Century Breakdown"
The title track to the record because it sounds like the beginning and the end.

Band of Horses, "Islands on the Coast"
I'll be honest: I don't think Band of Horses are spectacular. I'm not sure they're great. But they do this very, very well.

Dropkick Murphys, "I'm Shipping Up to Boston"
What I imagine playoff season in New England sounds like...especially if Boston loses.

The Strokes, "Last Nite"

Teenage Fanclub, "About You"
Sometimes a band writes from a place nearing self-parody. Kings of Leon's anticipated single being "Sex on Fire." Bono singing about Jesus complexes. And Teenage Fanclub saying, "screw it, let's start every song with a ton of jangly guitars and layered harmonies and figure it out from there." Sometimes, you gotta double down.

Simon & Garfunkel, "Cecilia"

REM, "Me in Honey"
One of Stipes' strongest vocals, and one of his most honest lyrics. That's saying something.

Lucero, "San Francisco"
I pick this one with a caveat: their new record comes out October 6. It's possible 1372 Overton Park becomes my actual October Playlist.

Death Cab for Cutie, "No Sunlight"
Bright melody about fading innocence, complete with sunset imagery. It's a shoe-in.

The New Pornographers, "All the Old Showstoppers"
It sounds like October, and I have no clue why.

Belle & Sebastian, "If She Wants Me"
Consequences. Bonus points: rage has never been sung so sweetly.

Fountains of Wayne, "No Better Place"
Somehow, Fountains of Wayne have gone from "forgettable one-hit wonder" to "goofy popsters" to "sleeper favorite band" in a matter of months. They didn't change; I did.

My Morning Jacket, "Lay Low"
The song's beginning sounds like the start of a good night; its remarkable outtro sounds like the end of a bad night.

Daniel Johnston, "Devil Town"
I'd love to tell you I'm cool enough to know Daniel Johnston's entire catalog. I actually heard Bright Eyes' cover on Friday Night Lights. So, um, yeah.

Bob Dylan, "When the Ship Comes In"
He's singing about a day in the future, but he knows it's already come.

The Byrds, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
If someone asked me what the quintessential sound of October is, I would say "jangly guitars, sun-kissed vocals, some cascading guitar melody, flat-wound bass, light percussion, and thick harmony, and lyrics about change." I would then point them to three songs. This is the first.

Bruce Springsteen, "The Rising"
Bruce is almost always good, and smart, and earnest, and goofy. Here, he's just good, and smart, and earnest.

Tom Petty, "Waiting Is the Hardest Part"
Ah, more great songs by aging goofball legends! If you said I could only take artist's catalog for the entire fall, I would take Petty without thinking. He's got a monopoly.

Led Zeppelin, "Ramble On"

Bright Eyes, "Four Winds"
It's the fiddle. Something about fiddle feels autumnal to me. Savor the flavor, Bright Eyes fans.

Son Volt, "Drown"
Serious consequences can still sound cheery.

Pearl Jam, "Breath"
Specific memories here--let's move on!

Kings of Leon, "Notion"
This is #2 on the aforementioned list (The Byrds' "Turn!" being #1). It might not be an amazing song, but it's an amazing sound. Grandeur, excitement, sadness, joy--it's all there.

David Gray, "Babylon"
Very much in the spirit of the season.

Counting Crows, "Butterfly in Reverse"
Specific memories attached to this one, and the whole production of Hard Candy feels autumnal to me. I always thought this song could've been written for a Disney flick, played in the background while wolfcubs frolicked. Cinematic and light-hearted.

Ryan Adams, "Cannonball Days"
Eight years later: where did this lyric come from? Jiminy. Without fall imagery, its story feels like October, helped by the acoustic-plus-organ arrangement.

Bumpercrop, "Burn Everything"
At some point, you have to slow down.

Wilco, "What Light"
If Sky Blue Sky sounds like a very sad fall, this is the hopeful exception to the rule.

Pawtuckets, "Old Fashioned Way"
It sounds like the last sunset of the year.

Gin Blossoms, "Til I Hear It From You"
And here's #3. Two songs inspired me to start Milam's Monthly Playlist:
1) REM's "Nightswimming" (August) and
2) Gin Blossoms' "Til I Hear It From You" (October)

This isn't my favorite song of all-time, although I love it. It's not the best song of all-time, though it's remarkable. It's not the prettiest song in history, though it has to be close. But this song, more than any other, puts me back in a specific time and place so easily, so powerfully, so consistently, it's almost hard to hear.

They say music, at its best, communicates something intangible, that some combination of sounds can transcend their parts and speak the language of our soul. It's a language we don't speak but instinctively understand. It can take you somewhere, and you don't know why, and you don't know how. You're in one place and your heart is immediately transported. It's why I love music, and it's why I love this song.

Alison Krauss & Gillian Welch, "I'll Fly Away"
Maybe it's memories of going home for Thanksgiving or traveling for fall break. Maybe it's the drives on football weekends through the mountains in East Tennessee. But something about subdued Americana has always felt like late fall to me. This song caps off one stage of fall and introduces the next. We're always moving.

And the iTunes Randomized Bonus Pick is...

Bruce Springsteen, "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out"
Ah, Goofy Bruce--we meet again!

What are your Songs for October? Hit up the comments and let me know!

Take advice from fools,


Michael said...

I put most of those songs in a rhapsody playlist if anyone else uses rhapsody.

Michael said...

Click-able link to the playlist.

couldn't find the bumpercrops, pawtuckets, and i replaced the ryan adams song w/ halloweenhead cause they didn't have cannonball days.

Chris Milam said...

Rad! Thanks Michael...Halloweenhead is timely and delicious. Probably should've been on the list anyway.

me said...

to paraphrase a conversation I once had with a very opinionated Christ Milam, "Halloweenhead? Seriously? 'I've got a bad idea again?' You've got that right!"

would have never thought you'd put that song on a playlist after that convo...

me said...

and here are some songs (no particular order)...

Ryan Adams: Oh My Sweet Carolina--"the sunset's just my light bulb burning out"

Jump Little Children: Requiem

Oasis: Don't Look Back in Anger (personal connection...Oasis after football games mmmm)

House of Pain: Jump Around (speaking of football...played between the third and fourth quarter of every University of Wisconsin home game in Camp Randall since 1998. Go Badgers!)

Nickel Creek: Why Should the Fire Die (let the embers smolder)

Counting Crows: Anna Begins (I'm not ready for this sort of thing)

Jeff Buckley: Last Goodbye (personal connection here)

Kathleen Edwards: Summerlong (longing for something more lasting than the fleeting fancy of a tempestuous season)

The Killers: When You Were Young (we're entering the latter days, right?)

Landon Pigg: Last Stop (your last hurrah)

Shawn Colvin: Wichita Skyline (it's a fine, fine line)

Trent Dabbs: What's Golden Above Ground (is dirt the leaves changing in one last blaze of glory only to fall to the earth)

The Weepies: All Good Things (must come to an end...farewell Summer)

Patty Griffin: Useless Desires "How the sky turns to fire against the telephone wire"

Ryan Adams: The Sun Also Sets

Michael said...

Yeah, usually when I talk to Chris about Ryan Adams it involves him making a witty remark about how lame he is.

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