The crackle of a log on the fireplace is nice for those with cozy log cabins in the woods, but for those of us who live in the city, the crackle of a well-loved album on the record player makes a similarly comforting substitute. Now that Halloween is over, Thanksgiving is still over a week away, and sunny, 67-degree weather seems just as likely as a few inches of snow (at least in New York), it’s time that we forced ourselves to embrace this transitional season. After the jump, in an attempt to help you do just that, we’ve rounded up 10 great albums that go perfectly with teapots, cardigans, and end-of-year contemplation.
Spiritualized, Songs in A&E
Jason Pierce is known for his psychedelic, orchestral rock; just about any of his Spiritualized or Spacemen 3 albums would be perfect for spacing out to on a lonely night. What makes his most recent record, 2008’s Songs in A&E, so perfect for fall is its intimacy. Pierce, who spent some time in intensive care during the recording process, sings in rich but weary tones and sneaks in elements of American roots music. The lyrics’ vocabulary is one of old-time religion, with “lord” and “devil” popping up frequently.
Mazzy Star, as we see it, is winter music. And Widowspeak, who have released one of our favorite debut albums of 2011, have often been compared to Hope Sandoval’s recently reunited band. We certainly see (and endorse) the similarities, but Widowspeak layer those wispy vocals over guitar riffs and drum beats you can bop your head to — meaning they’ve got enough life and warmth in them to power you through the days between summer parties and winter hibernation.
Yo La Tengo, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One
Yes, there’s an obvious reason to put this album on the list: “Autumn Sweater,” a gentle love song that makes a case for fall, rather than spring or summer, as the most romantic season. But the other tracks on I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One are the kind of sweet, odd compositions you can really curl up inside and get to know. Every new listen reveals something great you hadn’t noticed before.
Nico, Chelsea Girl
Is there a special variety of synesthesia that causes one to experience voices as seasons? Because nothing says “autumn” to us like the deep, full, German-accented tones of Nico, a heavy alto that goes down like a cup of black tea with honey. Chelsea Girl, her first and best solo album, is especially soothing for those enduring a painful break-up as the leaves are falling from the trees.
Califone, Roots and Crowns
Do you have a porch? You don’t need one to enjoy Califone’s Roots and Crowns, but if you do, be sure to slip into a warm jacket and haul out your boombox — oh, who are we kidding; laptop — while you enjoy its experimental Americana for the 21st century. The album is full of delicate, gorgeously plucked odes (“The Orchids,” “Pink & Sour”) and surreal vignettes (“Our Kitten Sees Ghosts,” “Black Metal Valentine”) best played while you watch the sun rise or set. If you don’t have the smell of hay or hot, spiced cider on hand, Roots and Crowns will conjure it.
Mississippi John Hurt, The Complete Studio Recordings
For some reason, autumn always feels like the most patriotic of seasons: We celebrate Thanksgiving, we bake apple pie, some of us even watch football (which, we would contend, is a far more typically American sport than our national pastime, baseball). That, perhaps, is why it also feels like the right time for Mississippi John Hurt, a late-1920s singer and guitar player whose music is at the crossroads of two wholly American forms: country and blues. Hurt’s voice has fall written all over it — deep, drowsy, often hushed, and poised to carry you off to hibernation.
Future Islands, On the Water
Although he sounds nothing like Mississippi John Hurt, Future Islands’ Sam Herring has another voice that says “autumn” to us: dark, throaty, and dramatic, but also somehow enveloping and inviting. Gerrit Welmers’ keyboards, by contrast, are almost uniformly cold and minimal. The band’s introspective lyrics, meanwhile, make them an excellent choice for those days when even getting out of the fetal position is a struggle. Listening to their music feels something like watching a violent storm through a picture window, from the safety of your fireplace-warmed living room. We suggest On the Water because it’s their latest, and we love it, but last year’s In Evening Air would work just as well.
Thurston Moore, Demolished Thoughts
Sonic Youth is sometimes a summer band (Thurston Moore’s sun-drenched, psych-noise guitar solos) and sometimes a winter band (Kim Gordon’s icy vocals). But if you’re looking for an SY-related album to get you through the fall, allow us to suggest Moore’s recent solo record, Demolished Thoughts. Produced by Beck, who knows a thing or two about stripping songs to their essence, the record mostly finds Thurston whispering his lyrics and gently strumming an acoustic guitar, often backed by muted strings. We never thought we’d see such a low-key album from Moore, but then, recent news has us wondering if we ever really knew him after all.
Patsy Cline, Patsy Cline
Although we have no evidence to back this up, we’ve always imagined Patsy Cline’s classic “Walkin’ After Midnight” taking place in the fall — a time of year when there’s a chill in the air but it’s still warm enough to “walk for miles.” In general, though, Cline’s debut studio album makes a fitting soundtrack for cozy evenings, both lonely and romantic. She has another one of those warming voices that make even gloomy torch songs like “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray” feel comforting.
Kurt Vile, Constant Hitmaker
Perhaps we’re going overboard on the Americana, but if you’re planning to roadtrip home for Thanksgiving, make sure you pack a copy of Kurt Vile’s 2008 breakthrough, Constant Hitmaker. The songs have the kind of luxurious flow and warm, ’70s rock vibe that make for smooth traveling, with a sparer, more relaxing vibe that sustains multiple back-to-back listens.