Ah, fall. The season of sweaters, apples, campfires, and crunching leaves. Now that autumn is officially here and the song of the summer has run its course, it’s time to snuggle up with an appropriately seasonal playlist.
Songs for fall are distinctive: They’re nostalgic and sweet, with a simple, earthy quality that evokes hayrides, corn mazes, and bonfires. They’re meant to keep you warm when the air starts to get colder, and make you just the slightest bit contemplative as you transition from the full-on fun of summer to the cozier lifestyle of winter.
With that in mind, here are 13 songs to get you in an autumnal state of mind.
1) “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” by the Byrds
This easy ’60s track feels like something your dad would play on an autumn road trip. The song is a Bob Dylan cover, but the Byrds slow it down and countrify it just enough to make it seem totally different. Couple that with Dylan’s poetic lyrics and you’re ready to hit the road.
2) “Act Nice and Gentle” by the Black Keys
Before the Black Keys were selling out arenas with raucous jams like “Gold on the Ceiling,” they were playing some slightly toned-down, sweeter songs — like 2004’s “Act Nice and Gentle.” This little love song is perfect for wooing your September crush.
3) “I’m Writing a Novel” by Father John Misty
Father John Misty might have a reputation for his odd performance style and complicated relationship with “celebrity,” but that doesn’t mean his music suffers. This standout single from his 2012 album Fear Fun captures the urgency of fall: It’s your last time to run around outside before the sky gets dark early and you’re stuck donning a bulky winter coat just to check the mail.
4) “These Boots Are Made for Walking” by Parquet Courts
Of all the wonderful aspects of fall — hot apple cider, pumpkin picking, leaves changing colors — one of the best is the clothes. After spending all summer in sandals, it’s time to let your feet get cozy in those boots that have been collecting dust for months. Parquet Courts cover this Nancy Sinatra classic with a little sarcasm, adding a slight edge to a tune we all know.
5) “When My Time Comes” by Dawes
If there’s any song out there that can instantly induce nostalgia, it’s this one. Dawes — a four-piece rock band from California — build from verse to chorus in one big swell, asking the dramatic question: Will you be ready to act when your time comes? A nice big, thinky song for those early autumn sunsets.
6) “We’re Going To Be Friends” by the White Stripes
Even though most of us are a bit beyond the back-to-school days, this song will send you right back to the first day of fifth grade. You might not have to worry about who you’ll sit with at lunch anymore, but Jack White’s crooning voice and a simple guitar will make you want to pull out your Jansport and sharpen a bunch of No. 2s.
7) “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
The lyrics of this song are hard to catch in Alec Ounsworth’s signature drawl — I like to think they’re about seasons changing and trying new things. A shift in the weather is the best time to try something new (like the excellent 2005 album this song appears on).
8) “Every Time the Sun Comes Up” by Sharon Van Etten
Fall is the perfect time to start dipping into a roster of sad songs without going full-on winter wallow. The essential pretty-but-gloomy artist is Sharon Van Etten, whose lyrics will stab you in the gut and then twist the knife around, but whose beautiful voice will make you want to come back for more.
9) “Just A Friend” by Biz Markie
Just to be safe, balance out those sad songs with a certified happy one — this Biz Markie classic, for example. There isn’t a pumpkin-carving-party playlist that won’t benefit from this song — plus, when was the last time you heard this 1989 track? The answer is, “Not recently enough.”
10) “Hang Me Up to Dry” by Cold War Kids
One thing autumn calls for is a little rock ’n’ roll. The tone of this classic Cold War Kids song screams fall — and will satisfy your itch for a heavy bass line as you stomp on every crunchy leaf you see.
11) “My Silver Lining” by First Aid Kit
With this song’s searching lyrics, Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit capture the feeling of being stuck and needing to make a change. “My Silver Lining” has a violin-like intro that sustains itself throughout the song — something about it sounds like it’s coming from deep within a yellow-and-orange forest.
12) “Walking With A Ghost” by Tegan and Sara
Not only is this song ideal for a season that includes Halloween, it’s also a perfect track to listen to while walking home on a chilly day. Tegan and Sara’s voices blend into a seamless harmony as the song repeats itself over a steady guitar line.
13) “For Emma” by Bon Iver
This playlist closes out with the ultimate fall song. The trumpet, the strumming guitar, the bittersweet lyrics, and Justin Vernon’s gentle voice all come together to make it one of the only tunes you need for autumn.