Sound Choices

Alex Schaaf

Fall is here. In my world of listening to music, the season change means turning down the breezy summer beats in favor of a more insular, intimate-yet-pointed sound. Who wants to listen to the Beach Boys sing about surfing while a cold drizzle is hitting the window and football is on the television?
With this idea in mind, I have compiled a list of songs that I believe may fit in well with the Wisconsin autumn experience. Yes, it’s still warm outside and the golf courses are open, but before long you’ll be huddled inside with the windows shut, and these songs will guide you into a more comfortable place.
1. “Still,” Volcano Choir
The side project of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, the current king of all things autumnal and woodsy, this song is the highlight of the album, as it blends layers of acoustic blips and tones with Vernon’s auto-tuned declaration of “I’m up in the woods / I’m down on my mind.”
2. “Periodically Triple or Double,” Yo La Tengo
Taken from this year’s “Popular Songs” album, this track picks up the energy a bit, with a little bit of organ boogie courtesy of Ira Kaplan and friends. One of the tightest grooves of the year is punctuated by a brilliant organ solo and tight drumming from Georgia Hubley.
3. “VCR,” The XX
This song falls more into the door-closed, late-night category, as this very young British band spews softly spoken lines of youthful ambition and trust over a delightfully simple instrumentation, creating a perfect late-night atmosphere.
4. “Hey Joni,” Sonic Youth
The energy comes back in a big way on this track, as Thurston Moore sings an ode to Joni Mitchell over a quick, propulsive beat that refuses to relent.
5. “Modern Mystery,” Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
This track is one of the more contemplative on SSLYBY’s fantastic “Pershing” album, as the narrator tries to explain that there is no great mystery that explains everything, that believing in a predestined fate will just leave you disappointed. A great example of how this young band from Missouri can be impossibly catchy and emotionally deep at the same time.
6. “Clover,” Ramona Falls
The side project of Menomena’s Brent Knopf, this track is one of the finest off of his debut album, which came out this fall. Continuing on the theme of reflection and hope for a better outcome, “Clover” is persistent and relentless in its pursuit of an answer that makes sense: “My heart wants just to know that / it exists.”
7. “Stop Breathin’,” Pavement
You may have heard that Pavement is reuniting for a tour next summer — it’s not a fairy tale, it’s happening. This is one of my favorite songs off of “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain” and it’s one of the slower-moving tracks, which makes it perfect for this playlist. But keep breathing, trust me.
8. “Wood Paint Rainbow,” Oh Fortuna
Oh Fortuna is a relatively obscure, young band from Florida, but with songs like these, their obscurity is sure to be fleeting. Mixing elements of MGMT with bits of Arcade Fire, this song is a good example of why they won’t remain unknown for very long.
9. “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels),” Arcade Fire
When I was making this playlist, the first three bands that popped into my head for fall music were Bon Iver, Wilco, and Arcade Fire. I could have picked any track off of the tremendous debut album from this group, but the opening song seems to fit the mood best.
10. “Impossible Germany,” Wilco
As was just mentioned, Wilco seems to fit right into the changing of seasons. This isn’t my favorite Wilco track, but it’s the best song on “Sky Blue Sky,” which I consider their most autumnal album, so there you have it.