Music is deeply, deeply personal. That’s why I don’t write much about it. There are pieces, I swear, if someone walked in to shoot me when I was listening to them I wouldn’t even notice. This effect is amplified in autumn. I don’t listen to music all the time. In fact, I rarely do. The reason is, counterintuitively, I fear that music may cease being meaningful to me. Good things have a way of running out. The music I like is only very slowly supplemented. So as the clouds encroached this month, I put on some tunes and I began thinking of appropriate songs of the season. I’ve heard attempts of more recent artists to sound spooky, but their lyrics don’t match the mood I’m seeking—remember, it’s deeply personal. So what is autumnal music?
Despite being a fundamentalist, I was raised on rock-n-roll. My favorite artist growing up was Alice Cooper; in fact, to this day Alice is the only secular rock artist I’ve seen in concert. Two tracks on Welcome to My Nightmare are among those eerie autumn songs: “Years Ago,” and “Steven.” This album was profoundly sunk in my psyche before I discovered others. While not scary in the same way, “Brilliant Disguise” from Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love hits a similar chord. The melancholy of autumn must be appeased and this song begs to bring it on. Many of Leonard Cohen’s songs are like the angst of this season bottled up for a restorative tincture, but I was quite a bit older when I discovered Nick Cave.
The Boatman’s Call with its willowy sound and occasionally explicit lyrics, walks that line between a deep-seated spirituality and fear. There are others, of course, some even fairly recent. Imagine Dragons’ “Demons” from Night Vision certainly qualifies, as do the first two tracks on Muse’s The Resistance. But this is my list, and I fear to reveal too much. Someone who knows your music knows very much about you. I hear some people discuss music as if it’s a throw-away commodity. For others of us it has become part of our souls and we’re reluctant to reveal too much. New members of this autumn music club are added only very slowly, and I reacquaint myself with the long-term members not frequently enough to rob me of their impact. So it was as the clouds thickened and the cold wind began to blow as the leaves were beginning to turn that I put on my personal songs of the season. And there was transcendence, but it was, as transcendence tends to be, deeply personal.