Welcome to the inaugural edition of On The Record Player. Every other week, members of the On The Record masthead will curate a handful of songs showcasing what we think you should be listening to.
Fall is a period of transition. It’s the small window that bridges the gap between the hazy days of summer and the cold nights of winter. Leaves change colour, assignments pile up and new chapters in our lives take hold as we brace for the coming snow and ditch our iced coffee for pumpkin spice.
So, get bundled up in your favourite sweater, grab your coffee and breathe in the crisp autumn air as you listen to our picks.
“Eyes Open,” by Taylor Swift
While “All Too Well” may be the quintessential Taylor Swift fall song, “Eyes Open” — and its sister song, “Safe & Sound,” off the The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond soundtrack — radiates autumnal energy.
“Eyes Open” encapsulates a shift to a new way of living, where memories of simpler times are marred by anxiety about the battles ahead. The song parallels the uneasy transition from summer to fall, especially as a student, when the start of a semester feels like “everybody’s waiting for you to break down.” Maybe it’s the fiery warm tones of the album cover, or memories of watching the newest Hunger Games movie every November for a good chunk of my teenage years, but this will always be the song of the season for me.
Contributed by Annemarie Cutruzzola.
“Fall,” by Scenic Route to Alaska
When you hear the band name “Scenic Route to Alaska,” it’s safe to assume their music will connect listeners to the natural world. So, naturally, the indie-rock trio from Edmonton has the perfect song to reconnect you with the fall.
While most students spend the season distracted by their busy school schedules and getting back into their routines, “Fall” reminds listeners to take a moment to embrace the meaning of fall itself. The song is a thank-you letter to a leaf that falls from a tree; thanking it for living, but also for giving up its life for something else to bloom. It’s a call not only to embrace the meaning of fall, but also sacrifice; that is, the cycle of life and selflessness. The song’s rock ballad characteristics, with a slow beat accompanied with vocals, are a pleasant way to keep you grounded and connected to fall’s surroundings.
Contributed by Ambika Sharma.
“Spanish on the Beach,” by Andy Shauf
Autumn can sometimes be associated with death before the rebirth of spring. Leaves fall and the nights start getting longer as we clutch onto whatever sunlight we can manage to savour. So in preparation for the looming seasonal affective disorder, here’s a bummer of a song from multi-instrumentalist and Toronto native, Andy Shauf.
Over the course of his last three albums, Shauf has proven himself to be one of the most talented storytellers in indie music, deftly crafting songs with characters that are incredibly honest and full of life. “Spanish on the Beach” puts listeners on a vacation that takes place just before the death of a relationship. Shauf sings, “I wished it could be permanent” over soothing finger-picked acoustic guitar and accompanied by his signature clarinet harmonies — a fitting refrain as we try to hold on to the summer.
Contributed by David Warner.
“Middle of Nowhere,” by Vancouver Sleep Clinic
This song is a tribute to those of us who are daydreamers and wish our lives were a grainy film that never ends; those of us who long for human connection in a digital world of blank faces swiping left and right, moving from one person to the next without ever feeling whole.
Singer Tim Bettinson’s whisper-like vocals ease you along with softly strummed guitar, eventually building to a crescendo accompanied by drums and faint banjo. The instrumentation tears at your heartstrings and forces you to come to terms with the inevitable changing of the seasons, billowing up like the autumn chill blowing wisps of hair against your face. Bettinson’s lyrics reflect on memories and regrets long since passed as he tries to find his way in the world, singing, “I’m just passing through.” This song holds meaning, especially for those of us who always feel too much, and it’s the perfect addition to the somber fall mood.
Contributed by Elena De Luigi.
“Universal Truth,” by Opeth
As we unpack our jackets we stored away for the summer and brace for the winter, we look back at the past seasons to remember better times. “Universal Truth” is a moody eight-minute passage by Swedish progressive rock band Opeth, best listened to while writing notes and essays, or watching the leaves fall with a coffee in hand.
With autumn possibly being the first time meeting our classmates since the pandemic began, we see fewer faces. “Universal Truth” is a cathartic song that dictates “time won’t heal any wounds you bare.” Between the soft acoustic fingerpicking and syncopated drum beats, we embrace each feeling as it comes, pleasant or otherwise. Things may never return to normal but we keep moving on, wounded or not. “You made it through the night,” vocalist and songwriter, Åkerfeldt, muses.
Contributed by Kate Ng.
David Warner was a copy editor and reporter with an interest in arts and life for On The Record in fall 2021.