As the summer tides fade, a nostalgic feeling sweeps north along with the grey September skies that approach. School bells are echoed by Friday night marching bands in the evening and by crowded downtown bars and bonfires in farmers’ fields at night.
If you could bottle up the feelings that come with the fall, I bet you would. But instead, we must do our best to make the most of the season that brings us crisp air, breathtaking foliage and sweet, sweet football, while we can.
To assist you in doing so, I share with you the newest edition of “Powerful Playlists,” geared with fall-time classics and some soon-to-be seasonal hits.
1. “Sweater Weather” – The Neighbourhood
The Neighbourhood’s 2011 hit “Sweater Weather” is as perfect of a lead-off track as you could get to a playlist encapsulating the harvest-time vibe. Lead singer Jesse Rutherford’s strong opening lyrics, “I hate the beach / But I stand in California with the toes in the sand” paint an alternative, west-coast version of the season.
The track holds high-tempo moments, followed by chill chords toward its conclusion. It’s not the most energetic of songs, but it’s uniquely distinct, great for slowing down and embracing your surroundings.
2. “Closer” – The Chainsmokers
Young university alumni will remember this 2016 dance-pop anthem as a fall hit from their early undergraduate years. The electronic beats and drops on this track truly are on-of-a-kind.
The lyrics throughout are clear enough to paint a picture of an old flame that you met one evening on the town but are also vague enough to add some mystery to the song. The opening lyrics are particularly satisfying and relatable to many: “Hey, I was doing just fine before I met you/I drink too much, and that’s an issue, but I’m OK.”
Maybe the best thing about “Closer” is that it’s a dual-purpose track. It’s a great listen while unwinding by yourself, or with others, sharing good times on an autumn night.
3. “Missed Calls” – Mac Miller
While Mac Miller is one of those artists who belongs on just about every playlist, the fall is a particularly special time for the late artist’s fans, as Miller passed away on Sept. 8, 2018.
“Missed Calls” is a moody, fall-feeling jam that portrays the busy lifestyle of many adolescents and professionals during the season and the complications that can come with it. It’s a track I recommend listening to as you take in a September Saturday morning.
4. “august” – Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift’s pop-folk song “august” serves as this playlist’s bridge from pop and hip-hop into the back half that is more country-focused. The song tells a familiar story of a summer love that fades away as the parts drift back to school.
The lyrics “August slipped away into a moment in time” and “August slipped away like a bottle of wine” tell an untold truth. August is often a time of transition, whether it’s heading back to school, sports or whatever other responsibilities arise with the new season. This is a song I find hitting best on a peaceful afternoon or evening outside.
5. “A ROCK” – Hardy
Hardy’s “A ROCK” is a song that I advise everyone, even those who don’t like country music, to listen to at least once. Outstanding guitar melodies and clever song-writing take listeners through the progression of a person’s life, centered around the idea of “a rock” – whether it’s the one you skip as a kid or propose with when you’re in love.
This song makes mentions of all the more decisive things in life – war, drugs, fighting, teen drinking – along with some of the most beautiful aspects of it like love, legacy and, ultimately, growing up. It’s on this playlist in particular because many of life’s biggest and best moments happen between the months of September and November.
6. “Give Me Back My Hometown” – Eric Church
Eric Church’s “Give Me Back my Hometown” is set on a fall Friday night on which the intro ballet places him on a hillside overlooking a high school football game. The song tells the story of a man returning to his hometown, a place that used to be comforting and no longer is because of the memories left behind by a former love.
It’s a familiar feeling for many who left their home or college town but return for homecoming festivities. Luckily, as the song alludes to, we have certain things like old friends and music that can help us overcome this feeling of loneliness.
7. “Heartbeat of a Small Town” – Travis Denning
Travis Denning makes the cut for second-straight “Powerful Playlist,” and for good reason. “Heartbeat of a Small Town” is yet another song that takes listeners to a small town on Friday night.
Denning makes the connection that down the road from the Friday night football, there’s a Kenwood sub[woofer] shaking the door of a black half-ton pickup truck that is actually the heartbeat of a small town. For anyone who’s watched the sun go down from the cab or roof of a pickup truck, especially amid the foliage, knows just how magical it is.
8. “Drinkin’ in a College Town (feat. Jon Langston & Travis Denning) – Noah Hicks
Noah Hicks is probably one of the best up-and-coming country artists you’ve never heard of. On his recent track “Drinkin’ in a College Town,” he teams up with Jon Langston and Denning to deliver an upbeat country anthem.
In between the catchy hook that says, “if we’re going to drink tonight/let’s drink ‘em like we’re drinkin’ in a college town,” Hicks highlights some of the greatest moments the autumn brings college towns – tailgating, 21st birthdays and hangover breakfasts at the Waffle House.
It’s a quick listen at only 2 minutes and 22 seconds, but should be a crowd-pleaser at any of your adult functions this fall.
9. “You Would Think” – Tucker Beathard
NFL quarterback C.J. Beathard’s younger brother, Tucker, is another country musician you may have never heard of. Tucker Beathard’s music lies more within country-rock and brings a new sound to a genre that so often gets criticized for being repetitive.
Beathard’s 2020 song “You Would Think” brings this unique sound to the table as he sings “You would think this time of year/When the leaves begin to fall/That you would think of fires/And flannel shirts and I’d be worth a call.”
While it’s certainly not the most uplifting song that references the season, it’s one with a truer message than maybe a lot of us would like to admit and also a great conclusion for my song selections.
Per tradition of all “Powerful Playlists,” the 10th and final track is determined by you, the reader and listener. As the season changes and days in your calendar fill with the activities that make the season special, don’t forget to occasionally slow down and embrace it to its fullest.