9 bittersweet songs about autumn

Sorry to do this to you, people, but summer's gone

You remember, summer – those few days of sun a couple of weeks back when it was all Beach Boys and Fixers and you didn’t have a care in the world. Well now it’s over, officially. Today (September 22) is the autumn equinox, the first day of autumn. The nights are drawing in, the leaves are withering on the branch and everything’s going to die.

So as all the birds say, “So long, suckers!” and head south for sangria and meaningless holiday romance, we’re stuck here wallowing in the greyness and ephemerality of life. But autumn can be beautiful, can’t it? All those reds and golds and stormy yellows. There’s splendour in the gloom and here are eight songs that express the – hey – duality of the season.

9. Simon & Garfunkel – ‘Leaves That Are Green’

Ripping off Billy Bragg – “I was 21 years when I wrote this song/I’m 22 now but I won’t be for long” – Simon and Garfunkel spot that autumn is, you know, a bit like the end of a relationship. What was flowering is now crumbling and “the leaves that are green turn to brown”. Hello turns to goodbye and Paul Simon sings with a soft regret, but there’s a hint of acceptance too. I mean, what are you going to do?


8. Green Day – ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’
The end of summer is more than just the passing of a season to Billie Joe Armstrong, it’s also an annual reminder of the death of his father – so if it’s all the same with you, he’d like to sit this one out. Affecting and painful, ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’ grows ever more intense, and that’s before the misery of October’s come around.

7. The Vines – ‘Autumn Shade’
Australia’s finest (after Mental As Anything, obv) go all Beatley – or Elliott Smith at the very least – on ‘Highly Evolved”s second track. While it has a touch of the new season about it, mainly in its title, it’s more about transition, “fallin’ through another plain”, and its faint melancholy hue feels like the drift from light to dark.

6. Buffalo Tom – ‘Summer’
There’s rage and remorse in Buffalo Tom’s tumbling reminiscences. “Summer’s gone”, the game’s up and it’s all been wasted generally dicking about. Still, what’s a summer for if not to be wasted? When you were a kid – and that’s what ‘Summer’ seems to be about – those few months were for swanning about doing nothing much but piling up the memories. Now, as “the leaves burn”, summer’s over and childhood is too. It was a blast though, right?


5. Animal Collective – ‘What Would I Want? Sky’

It’s not explicitly about autumn, although read into it what you will. The thing for me is this is the standout track from the autumnally titled ‘Fall Be Kind’ and synaesthetically speaking (as we were, of course) it’s all those browns, reds and golds – it’s very full and colourful, basically. Not that those shades are visible – “Grey is where the colour should be” – but Avey Tare wants all that to roll away.

4. Neil Young – ‘Harvest Moon’
Then again, you could revel in the season and take the time to see that years may pass, the wind might change, but romance can linger. Neil Young shows his lightest touch in the pattering rain of guitar and swishing drums, and crinkles his eyes as his beloved dances in the moonlight. Not like Toploader.

3. Earth, Wind And Fire – ‘September’
Bittersweet? Sure it is. Maurice White, Philip Bailey and the rest might have been going tight-crotched disco manic, but strip away all that ecstatic falsetto and choppy, blasting brass and you’ll hear EWF harking back to the September of their love. Now December’s found it, it’s all gone tits-up. Autumn’s all they had.

2. Don Henley – ‘The Boys Of Summer’

Don thinks he’s thrown us off the scent with ‘”summer” in the title but listen, “The summer’s out of reach”. Those balmy days are gone and so too have the 60s and all those summers of love. Still, it’s not all doom – Don’s “gonna get you back/I’m gonna show you what I’m made of”. Can you turn back time though? Aqua couldn’t.


1. Malcolm Middleton – ‘Autumn’
“Piss off, you’re chucked/I’m going out with Spring”. Yeah.

So there’s a few. Which songs say autumn to you? Which songs sum up the essential crapness/beauty of those blue skies fading away? Let us know in the comments section down below.