Numerous times during this month I’ve heard people comment on how they love fall, how the cool, crisp weather is a welcome from the dog days of summer. The leaves are colorful, Halloween decorations are up, and you can almost feel the anticipation of Thanksgiving and Christmas.
For the pessimists and Goths, autumn can also symbolize death – leaves falling from the trees, leaving the bare branches exposed to the cold, cruel winter. A bit macbre, if not poetic.
For me fall seems somewhere in between – a bit of anticipation and beauty, contrasted by sadness and loneliness. It all hearkens back to my junior year in college, the year I moved away from home. I knew very few people at the school, but I was looking forward to a new opportunity and a chance to begin to make my mark upon the world.
A few days before Halloween, I was invited to a fall festival in a nearby town. I remember getting ready to go and listening to “The Last Beat of my Heart” by Siouxsie and the Banshees, a haunting yet charming ballad. Twenty years later, whenever I hear that song, I instantly recall the homesickness I felt, a feeling that was gradually being replaced by new friends and a new environment. I still feel the chill in the air that seemed to represent the excitement I was feeling. (For more on this feeling, visit my post on music and memory.)
Siouxsie and the Banshees’ song is beautiful and sad, warm and chilling. The instruments consist mainly of a single accordion, accented by strings and tom-toms rolling in 6/8 time. While Siouxsie’s voice has never been pretty, it’s softer and more fragile if not in tune.
I only play this song during the fall, and I love the feeling that comes along with it. And over the past two decades I’ve collected other “sad but beautiful” songs that seem to fit the bill. I’ve shared them in the mix below. Experience the beauty, or if you’re a pessimist, gaze at your shoes and wallow in the despair that awaits you.
- The Birds Are Leaving – Boo Hewerdine
- Everything in its Right Place – Radiohead
- Prince Valium – Joe Pernice
- Place to Be – Nick Drake
- Planet Telex – Radiohead
- Somebody That I Used To Know – Elliott Smith
- The Last Beat of My Heart – Siouxsie & the Banshees
- Sunrise – Pulp
- Sweetness Follows – R.E.M.
- How Kind of You – Paul McCartney
- If These Walls Could Speak – Amy Grant
- Explain it to Me – Liz Phair
- October – U2
- Different Names for the Same Thing – Death Cab for Cutie
- Have a Little Faith in Me – John Hiatt
UPDATE: You can now find an updated playlist at http://www.hooksandharmony.com/need-autumn-playlist/.