Autumn really is just one big bold drawn out heartbreak. You think you’re getting a beautiful happy-ever-after and in reality it’s just a flashy finish before you’re alone in the cold. In fitting fashion, this mix is dedicated to heartbreaks in all their autumn forms and glory.
For me, heartbreak is a very comfortable autumnal subject. (It COULD be that I’m an Enneagram 4). It could also be that the troupe of a summer fling has to eventually fizzle out. Summer is a world without consequence. Autumn barges in to remind us that summer love isn’t really practical or sustaining. The changing of these particular two seasons really does flip a switch that makes reality look very different. Can you tell that I had several autumn break ups in my formative years? Maybe that’s for my therapist to help me hash out.
One thing I wanted to do on this mix is have it move through time as you move through the tracks. The references to summer’s ending are all front loaded in the first 6-7 tracks. Then September starts getting mentioned more. Once October is mentioned in track 12 we leave September behind. Finally November gets it’s time nearer the end. The whole album gets a bit more sad as you go through and the hurt cuts a little deeper. Just like walking through the autumn season.
The other thing I wanted to do with this volume is move a bit out of my comfort zone as to what songs I allow to live together. I’m usually very particular about maintaining a steady genre feel. Volume 13 however, is very much topic driven. 21 vignettes about autumnal heartbreak. This allowed me to include a few sounds that usually wouldn’t find a home on my autumn mixes.
So enjoy dwelling in the hurt awhile as we let autumn break our collective heart a bit:
Autumn This Year 13: October is a Breaking Heart
Death Cab for Cutie - Summer Skin (2005)
This song is such a fantastic Track 1. I honestly think DCFC made a mistake not opening Plans with it. In an effort to right this injustice, “Summer Skin” gets it’s proper prime front row seat on Volume 13.
If I remember my high school writing teacher correctly, you should always have a strong thesis statement in your first paragraph. This song has a near perfect one for this collection:
“Cause the season’s change was a conduit.
And we’d left our love in our summer skin.”
Mike Edel - More Than The Summer (2015)
In my college days I was fortunate enough to do a couple summer-long work projects and trips. There’s a mind-boggling feeling that can occur when you form a deep bond with someone in the midst of a heightened or unnormal condition or place. After it’s over and you see them in the light of real life they can appear to be a complete stranger… and there’s a moment of terror…
“Oh then in your place - filling your body space
It wasn’t you! It wasn’t you! It wasn’t ohhhhhh!!”
Eliot Bronson - If You Need To Be Free (2011)
Sometimes neither person can cut the cord… so it’s just gotta be thrown out there: Is this over or what?
I’m very fond of how Eliot’s voice slightly crackles under the strain coming out of the breakdown:
“If you NeEd TO BE free!”
Jonathan Coulton - Summer’s Over (2006)
A summer fling is great until you realize you’ll be in two different places come September. My buddy Christian observed that this song sounds like it belongs in a musical and I agree. Especially when the chorus of voices and accordion come in to heighten all those bittersweet goodbyes.
David Sylvian - September (1987)
I love how much David does with a tiny minute of music. Perfectly encapsulating that growing sense of dread when you know something is over but you can’t quite admit it yet.
“We say that we’re in love… while secretly wishing for rain…”
Dar Williams - End of the Summer (1997)
This is such a vivid back-to-school-time song and many lines evoke very particular moments for me.
Like the moment I moved out of my parents house and went off to college. One night you are asleep in the bed you’ve been in for 18 years and then 24 hours later find yourself restlessly awake with nerves and excitement on the edge of an alien world.
“It’s the end of the summer - when we send our children to the moon.”
Jim Bryson - Changing Scenery (2016)
Your entire universe can completely change from one autumn to the next.
“It became you against me instead of you and me against the world…”
Jets to Brazil - Autumn Walker (2002)
This is one of those tunes that previously might not have found a home on one of my mixes. It’s a bit outside my usual genre and it’s a bit long. But I really dig it. My brother introduced me to Jets to Brazil way back in the day but I didn’t realize how much autumn imagery they employed in their last two albums until working on this mix.
Pity Sex - September (2016)
I love this one for the fact that it’s all nostalgia and most of it is good. That’s sometimes the roughest part of heartbreak… all you are left with are these memories of better days and delicious mullberries.
Gus Black - Autumn Days (2006)
This song is so beautifully over-the-top-intense that you can’t help but feel a mite sorry for the singer. Dude, get out of that Laundry Mat and take a walk under the falling leaves. You’ll feel a bit better, mmkay.
Joseph Arthur - September Baby (2002)
I want Joseph Arthur to sit in my room and sing “Yeah yeah - yeah yeah - yeah — yeah yeah - yeah yeah - yeeeah” while a tender giant rocks me to sleep like a baby… A September baby…
Escondido - Cold October (2013)
Escondido’s tune is certainly the most rollicky on the mix and is a sleeper of an ear worm. (You may wake up in a few months and strangely have the chorus in your head).
Heartbreak can happen regardless of your status as the breakupee or the breakuper. Our protagonist gains some confidence in leaving a bad situation but loses the ability to keep her heart completely open. Peak autumn duality.
Blackie & the Rodeo Kings - October Lies (2006)
Oh Lawdy, how quickly the joy can flipflop to sorrow.
August you’re in love, September you’re getting hitched… man, then October brings on the pain.
Better to have loved and lost??? Maybe?
Whim - Okay (2015)
Another teensie track that does so much with so little. As “It’s gonna be okay” gets repeated a few too many times we get the uneasy feeling that she’s trying to convince herself (and us) of something that’s not true. Before we can console her the song is gone like a life on the wind…
Stephen Day - Autumn’s Song (2016)
It’s strange the way we relive moments as the years carousel back around. The sights and sounds that surrounded a heartbreak reopen the wound and it’s like no time has passed.
“I’m on my way… just not today…”
Mia Doi Todd - Autumn (2002)
I’ve had this Mia Doi Todd song and the following Diane Birch song in my pocket for 8 years. I knew they belonged together but couldn’t find the perfect spot to drop them in. I think this is it and I’m super excited that they finally have their moment. Every year I listen through the autumn songs I’ve collected though not yet used and so these two feel like old friends that have finally come home.
I particularly love how Mia can say no three times and have it be it’s own word:
“Nonono I know…”
Diane Birch - Rewind (2010)
I heart everything about this song and it’s execution. The piano, that voice, the horns, and the breakdown-getdown where Diane really lets loose the feels.
Zachary Lucky - Leaves are Falling (2012)
Tracks 18 and 19 may not be about the heartbreak from a kaput relationship. I can’t exactly tell but I know for sure there is plenty of heartbreak in them. I like to interpret “Leaves are Falling” as processing the heartbreak that can exist within a relationship that is still ongoing. We feel heartbreak in those situations too but it’s less often that this kind of heartbreak makes it into song.
Lizzie No - The Killing Season (2017)
This song gives me eerie foreboding chills. And unanswered questions! What’s the Killing Season? When is it coming? I don’t know exactly but it sure feels like autumn holds the key… and these two people aren’t gonna make it through intact.
The Reverb Junkie - Growing Away From You (the leaf song) (2011)
I love this simple-little-leaf-relationship-metaphor-of-a-song. I lament that it’s not on Spotify and thus not on that playlist but I’m including the video below.
“Maybe we’ll get to November…”
Passenger - Golden Leaves (2014)
Passenger always does such a brilliant job of saying what I can’t with words I use all the time. This is his second entry in the Autumn This Year Anthology. You can hear another of his melancholy heartbreak tunes on Volume 4.
He has some fitting questions to end our journey through the heartbreak of autumn:
What’s left to say? What’s left to see? What’s left to do?
What’s left to break when our hearts are broken?
The only answer I can find is to let go of the branch and let winter come… all the while hoping that spring finds us in better shape on the other side.
There you have it! 21 tales of heartbreak to accompany and accentuate your autumn. I hope you enjoy dwelling in the melancholy side of the season as much as I do. As always, feel free to #listenloveshare this mix and give whatever love, money, and support you can to the artists that make beautiful things for us to partake in. Happy (or heartbreaky) autumning to you all!
Songs Not On The Spotify Playlist:
Track 20: The Reverb Junkie - Growing Away From You (the leaf song)