Fall triumphs in its ability to both enchant and disturb. The onset of fall invites a whirlwind of vibrant hues. Crops generously ripen, providing ample opportunity for nourishment. Cups are filled with hot chocolate, and drinkers snuggle into cozy sweaters. Yet, a sense of cruel barrenness accompanies this abundance. Leaves decay and depart from their beloved source of sustenance. Sun-soaked days of lakes and lemonade are replaced by harsh winds and crisp air. Images of ghosts, witches and the undead creep into the human mind with ease. Fall manages to exist in this special, liminal space between life and death. Here are six songs that encapsulate the hauntingly beautiful yet eerily bleak spirit of fall.
“Work Song” by Hozier
Pieced together with gentle percussion and soft tambourine, “Work Song” exudes autumnal comfort while telling the bittersweet tale of undying devotion. Hozier emphasizes how love brings him to the brink of pain, stealing his appetite and leaving him with toothaches. His unwavering worship for his lover leads him to resist death itself. Hozier cries, “Lay me gently in the cold dark earth/ No grave can hold my body down/ I’ll crawl home to her.” Somber and woodsy, “Work Song” highlights the divinity of decomposition.
“We Fell in Love in October” by Girl in Red
Fall signifies a time of fleetingness. Trees shed their green coats, and the sun sets with a transient, golden glaze. “We Fell in Love in October” encompasses a feeling of nostalgia for something not yet lost. While Girl in Red strives to immortalize the connection she experiences with her partner, only the perfection of an October night they shared together remains engraved in her memory. This hazy song highlights the sorrow of hoping a pretty moment will last.
“Blue Velvet” by Lana Del Rey
The skies in Autumn appear especially deep and striking. Silky and mournful, Lana del Rey’s rendition of “Blue Velvet” evokes a darkening twilight and forsaken love. The lovely celestial imagery, combined with the delicate strength of Del Rey’s serenading voice, adds a strange element of delight to a song dedicated to loss and anguish. The singer reflects, “And I can still see blue velvet through my tears.” Combining elegance and melancholia, the result is a pleasing yet disconcerting ballad thematically aligned with fall.
“Reaper” by Clairo
Clairo characterizes the beginning of life, rather than the end, as eerie. In “Reaper”, she explores the pressure to reproduce and her conflicting feelings towards motherhood. Clairo cleverly toys with the dichotomy between life and death, creating an ironic masterpiece well-suited for Autumn. She appears to derive inspiration from the infamous Grim Reaper, a menacing, hooded figure representing death. However, she presents this ominous entity as instilling life rather than taking it away. Softly, she sings, “There’s a claw on my shoulder/ And she’s saying the obvious/ ‘You know eventually you’re gonna have to be a provider, too.’ ” Her subdued vocals and folksy instrumentals reflect the woodsy, pensive nature of fall.
“Wait by the River” by Lord Huron
Commencing with twinkly yet disturbing instrumentation, Lord Huron’s “Walk by the River” paints a picturesque scene of standing near a moonlit body of water. He romantically pines after his lover, urging them to join him. While the song’s setting stuns, a sense of urgency progressively builds, creating a distressing undertone of apprehension. Lord Huron suggests that his hope for rekindling love will only be extinguished upon death. At the song’s conclusion, when the object of his desire fails to appear, he considers taking his own life. He inquires, “If we can’t be together, I will leave this world behind/ If I can’t touch your body, can I touch the sky?” With this simple yet breathtaking lyricism, Lord Huron exemplifies the beautiful tragedy of fall.
“Harvest Moon” by Neil Young
With its angelic background vocalizations and bouncy beat, “Harvest Moon” possesses a distinctive essence of childlike innocence. Neil Young portrays his love for his partner as eternal, tying them together even as strangers. He provides a saccharine-laced proposal for them to dance with one another beneath the autumnal moonshine. The image of two lovers swaying on a heavenly night saturates this song with an ethereal quality. “Harvest Moon” leads one astray from the realities of everyday life, opening a portal where birth and death cease to exist altogether — only the seraphic waltzing of ageless love matters.