One of my favorite things about music is the way we attach it to a specific time and place in our life. In college, I began making mixes at the end of each semester so I could remember what I was listening to years later. But it wasn’t just about remembering what music I liked at the time; it was about finding the songs that carried weight.
To put it another way, “what song can immediately put me back in the summer of 2005?” When I want to remember what that period felt like, I can just play Lucero’s “Sixteen” and remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, and how it felt to be there at that time. I hear those opening chords and I’m back on Walnut Grove Rd in Memphis, driving home late from the Blue Monkey. I can feel the sticky July air blowing through the car, and I can smell the honeysuckle from Shelby Farms. It’s the way I track–and make sense of–my memories.
Each season usually takes shape around one favorite album or artist that dominates my earbuds. I listened to a lot of music last fall, but the artist that most defined that season is the Avett Brothers, specifically their song “I And Love And You.”
Because I’m desperate for fall and already anticipating the new music I’ll hear in the coming months, I want to look ahead by looking back. Here’s a little window into my favorite songs from the past five falls, and how they impacted my life.
Feel free to chime in the comments and tell me your songs of falls past!
2005: My Morning Jacket, “Anytime“
I had just finished college, spent a summer in Memphis, and moved back to Nashville to release Leaving Tennessee and begin a career. Even though I’d already spent four years in college in Nashville, I felt like it was moving to a brand new city. I was quickly consumed by new groups of friends, new places to explore, and new things to do. There was always a reason to go out, always another event to attend, another trip to take–it was an exciting time. My Morning Jacket’s Z had just come out, and stayed in my car. Anytime I hear “Anytime,” I’m back in my car, about to go to a concert, about to meet new friends. It’s the sound of that post-grad, wide open with possibilities, seemingly free of consequence.
2006: Scott Miller, “Goddamn the Sun“
Really, this should be a co-winner with Miller’s “Loving That Girl.” Those songs told two parts of the same story–a story that played out for me that fall. I always remember the fall of 2006 as having daily perfect weather–sunny, crisp, and cloudless. The sparkling pop-rock and acoustic production on Thus Always To Tyrants was simply the sound of that weather. The lyric “my window creeps across my wall” was a familiar image in my bedroom (the window faced south and the shadows crawled across my wall every afternoon). Sometimes a song finds you the moment your life resembles it.
2007: The Hold Steady, “Stuck Between Stations“
I wanted this pick to be My Morning Jacket’s cover of “It Makes No Difference,” because that song meant the most to me in the fall of 2007. But when I hear “Stuck Between Stations,” I’m immediately transported to one time and place. My brother had just moved to town and we got a house together on the East side. For the first time, I had to drive across the river to meet friends at night. Every time I hear “Stuck Between Stations,” I’m on 440W circling the skyline, driving with my brother to show him my favorite places and people in this new home.
2008: Kings of Leon, “Notion“
Everything about this song–the arrangement, the guitar tones, the wide open song structure, the measured energy–simply sounds like October to me. Which is great, because I hit it hard in October 2008. I thought I was listening to “Notion” because of the sheer fun and fallish beauty of it; I realize now the song’s lyrics (about a cyclic relationship that just isn’t right) characterize my life at the time. I felt upbeat, but not content; I enjoyed my life in Nashville, but I was ready for a change. Whenever I hear “Notion,” it sounds like a kickstart, a wake-up call–the moment I knew I was headed somewhere else.
2009: Avett Brothers, “I And Love And You“
I first heard this on Letterman the day after I’d left Nashville and the night before I moved to NYC. By the time they reached the chorus (“Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in/are you aware the shape I’m in”), I was a wreck. No song better characterized what I felt when I left, what that journey looked like, and what I anticipated when I arrived.
2010: Who knows? TBD
That’s one thing I love about music, and what I love about making these mixes: something will emerge. There’s always another song waiting to meet us. Maybe we’ve heard it before and are about to hear it in a new way. Maybe it’s a brand new song. Either way, it’s there, somewhere down the road, chronicling the season and informing our memories.
What are your past Songs for the Fall? What will you be listening to this fall? Let me know what favorite tunes can put you in a certain time and place.