Autumn: the season of fireworks and bonfires, digging out your scarves and giving in to months of solid, glorious carbs. Glorious, glorious carbs. Though you might be mourning the ever-diminishing cheery sunshine, Autumn can be a joyful thing too – not least because of its soundtrack. To get you in the full leaf-crunching, marshmallow-toasting spirit, here are 25 tracks that celebrate the season in all its glory.
The White Stripes – ‘Dead Leaves and The Dirty Ground’: On ‘White Blood Cells’ cut ‘Dead Leaves…’, Jack White takes to tinting the autumnal ideal in a gloomy and hopelessly lonely shade, singing that “I didn’t feel so bad till the sun went down”. Cheer up Jack, it’s not all bad.
Manic Street Preachers – ‘Autumnsong’: The alt-rock Manics provide a rather more uplifting view of the season on their 2007 cut from ‘Send Away The Tigers’, telling us to “wear your hair in bunches, and your jacket loose”. Bet Nicky Wire could absolutely rock a good pair of bunches.
The Kinks – ‘Autumn Almanac’: The 60s quartet give their take on a old English autumn with the classic ‘Autumn Almanac’ – a chirpy, playful thing full of quintessentially British references to tea and toast, current buns and the pleasures of Blackpool.
Jake Bugg – ‘Country Song’: Young Bugg delivered one of his most sweetly evocative tracks with ‘Country Song’, adopting a romanticised simplicity and painting a folksy picture of countryside autumns.
Green Day – ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’: Another band drawing some bleak parallels between autumn and death, here. This time, Green Day associate the season with the death of singer Billie Joe Armstrong’s father; autumn here is so dismal that he wishes to skip it completely.
John Coltrane – ‘Autumn Serenade’: The legendary jazz saxophonist teamed up with singer Johnny Hartman for this sweet, sad ode to the season: “Thru the trees comes autumn with her serenade / Melodies the sweetest music ever played / Autumn kisses we knew are beautiful souvenirs.”
Yo La Tengo – ‘Autumn Sweater’: This mellow indie track from the American trio acts as a pleasant balm (or a snuggling hug from a nice bit of knitwear) on a chilly autumnal eve. Follow their advice and “slip away”…
Eva Cassidy – ‘Autumn Leaves’: For those days when self-indulging in a melancholic despair seems the desirable – nay, only – option, Eva is here to supplement you with a dose of empathetic sadness. After all, there’s nothing like a bit of communal wallowing to start the month, eh?
Moody Blues – ‘Forever Autumn’: The melody – which was originally written to be a jingle in a Lego advert – might sound a bit like a medieval pipe tune, but there’s still something gloomily soothing about ‘Forever Autumn’. “You always loved this time of year,” they lament to a long lost lover. Blue by name, blue by nature…
Johnny Cash – ‘I See A Darkness’: The Man In Black’s cover of the title track of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s 1999 album perfectly evokes the drawing in of the colder months. Few come more suited to brisk, chilly nights than Mr. Cash.
Simon & Garfunkel – ‘Leaves That Are Green’: A typically harmonious folk song by the American duo, in which a lovely, tranquil image of “leaves that are green turn[ing] to brown” gets twisted into an extended metaphor for a deteriorating relationship. Boo, Simon and Garfunkel. Boo.
The Vines – ‘Autumn Shade II’: A beautifully psychedelic tune by Noughties Aussie favourites The Vines, who made four versions of this song and put each one on different albums. Now there’s a band that are really, really into autumn.
The Cure – ‘Last Days of Summer’ We can always rely on the ever-maudlin Robert Smith to bring a little emotional, forlorn atmosphere to proceedings. The last days of summer? They “never felt so cold”. Put on a bloody jumper and stop moaning then, mate.
Neil Young – ‘Harvest Moon’: This is what autumn, in all its dusky, porch-side glory, sounds like in the romantic fantasy world of our dreams. Folksy strumming, delicate vocals and a melody so simple and sublime it needs no complications. Job done.
Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong – ‘Autumn in New York’: A gorgeous evocation of the season in America’s most bustling city from two vocal legends was never going to end up bad: “Autumn in New York / Why does it seem so inviting / Autumn in New York / It spells the thrill of first-nighting”. Ahhh.
The Small Faces – ‘The Autumn Stone’: From ‘Itchycoo Park’ to ‘Lazy Sunday’, The Small Faces have always focused on day to day pastimes and goings on. ‘The Autumn Stone’ is no different – using the metaphor of autumn as a time for change to reflect the changing nature of relationships. One that everyone can relate to.
Donna Summer – ‘Autumn Changes’: Disco heavyweight Donna Summers stops feeling love for a moment to cast her eye over the changing nature of the seasons. Thankfully, however, it’s still as much of a banger as you’ve come to expect from the singer.
Broken Bells – ‘October’: Formed of Danger Mouse and James Mercer of The Shins, Broken Bells combine seemingly disparate influences into a joyous whole. ‘October’ – taken from the pair’s 2010 debut LP – sets its story against the “autumn moon” and remains one of their finest tracks to date.
Earth, Wind & Fire – ‘September’: You can always rely on disco stalwarts Earth, Wind and Fire to kick anything off with a bang, so it goes without saying that their ode to the first month of the season is all you need to start it in style.
Don Henley – ‘The Boys of Summer’: Move over DJ Sammy and your bloody awful Noughties dance cover – Don Henley’s original is the only version you need to signify the end of the sunny season.
Fleet Foxes – ‘Sun It Rises’: Just as ‘White Winter Hymnal’ soundtracks the final season of the year, then the track that precedes it on Fleet Foxes’ self-titled record is unmistakably the sound of autumn. Clever boys.
U2 – ‘Autumn’: U2 – aka the band everyone loves to hate – go all soft in this emotive track. It clocks in at just under two and a half minutes and mopes about how “the trees are stripped bare”, probably because he’s nicked all the apples, eh? Apples? Like Apple, because they had their album put on all the Apple phones… oh forget it.
Future Islands – ‘Seasons (Waiting On You)’: The seasons do indeed change, as Future Islands noted on their 2014 smash, but we reckon frontman Samuel T. Herring should be alright heading into autumn. According to the latest exercise DVDs, the onstage punching gorilla dance is actually a highly effective way of retaining body heat in the colder months.
Kanye West – ‘Blood On The Leaves’: Autumn is more the setting than the subject of this ‘Yeezus’ cut as we intercept our protagonist mid-dilemma: “I just need to clear my mind now/ It’s been racing since the summertime”.
Bombay Bicycle Club – ‘Autumn’: And we end with another seasonal metaphor for change and moving on. The London quartet’s ‘Autumn’ makes no verbal reference to the season, but its messages of walking away and not turning back make their point clearly enough.