BY PAIGE MORSE //
There is nothing quite like listening to an album start to finish while sipping a hot coffee and taking in the fall foliage. Whether you are looking for a soundtrack to an autumnal drive along the Merritt Parkway or a masked stroll along the National Mall, these ten albums will heighten that cozy fall ambiance. Here are the best fall albums in no particular order:
- Moondance, Van Morrison
Van Morrison’s 1970 masterpiece is not only a perfect fall album but one of my favorite albums of all time. Songs like “And It Stoned Me,” “Moondance,” “Caravan,” and “Into the Mystic” evoke an easygoing, pleasant feeling in the listener. Morrison’s jazzy, bluesy Irish folk-rock sound is impossible to come by in any other artist’s work. The song “Moondance” gets extra points for the lyrics, “A fantabulous night to make romance/’Neath the cover of October skies/And all the leaves on the trees are falling/To the sound of the breezes that blow.”
- Blood on the Tracks, Bob Dylan
This album was rightfully ranked the ninth greatest album of all time by Rolling Stone last month. Dylan’s 1975 folk-rock tour de force deals with some gloomy topics, like the deterioration of a marriage, but it does so in a calm, comforting tone. This album is best enjoyed wrapped in a blanket with a candle lit, sitting by a window. My highlights of the album include “Tangled Up in Blue,” “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” and “Shelter From the Storm.”
- Red, Taylor Swift
Red is the quintessential fall album of the 2010s, no doubt about it. The title track includes the line, “Like the colors in autumn so bright just before they lose it all,” and “All Too Well” also pays tribute to fall: “Autumn leaves falling down like pieces into place.” The 16 songs are laced with references to cafes, New York City, fall wardrobe accessories (I’m looking at you, scarf in “All Too Well”), James Taylor records, groceries, and more. If you were like middle-school-me at all, this album takes you back to those days when you memorized every single line. And you still know every word.
- Songs in the Key of Life, Stevie Wonder
Everything Stevie Wonder makes is perfect, and this 1976 album is no exception. His sweet, soulful voice paired with relaxing, jazzy instrumentation transports you to a sunny, foliage-filled forest. Songs like “Sir Duke,” “I Wish,” “Isn’t She Lovely,” “Pastime Paradise,” are a familiar comfort. In “Summer Soft,” my favorite song on the album, Wonder sings, “You find it’s October and she’s gone/And she’s gone, summer’s gone.” Many of the songs also are coded with political meaning and advocacy, which is especially poignant this fall.
- Sounds of Silence, Simon & Garfunkel
The iconic folk-rock duo’s 1966 sophomore album is so overtly autumnal that I had to include it on this list. The song “Leaves That Are Green” goes, “Time hurries on and the leaves that are green turn to brown/and they wither in the wind and they crumble in your hand.” Like Morrison and Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel created a timeless folk piece that acts as a love letter to fall.
- Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?, The Cranberries
The ‘90s brought us all sorts of amazing artists, but none as peculiarly enthralling as the Irish alternative rock group The Cranberries. Their 1993 debut album is like a series of lullabies that will put you to sleep in your camping hammock on the National Mall. “Dreams,” “Linger,” and “Sunday” are refreshingly honest, whimsical songs that will definitely conjure up the fall vibe you are looking for. Lead singer Dolores O’Riordan’s distinct voice is also what makes this album so special.
- Blue, Joni Mitchell
Mitchell’s critically acclaimed 1971 gem is the perfect blend of soft rock and folk. Her attention to lyricism has transcended across generations and is still seen in singer-songwriters like Taylor Swift. Themes of homesickness and heartbreak paired with lyrics like “I want to knit you a sweater, want to write you a love letter,” are effortlessly fall. Nothing pairs with a beautiful autumn drive like an acoustic album with Mitchell’s comforting voice singing, “I am on a lonely road and I am traveling, traveling, traveling, traveling.”
- Let’s Get It On, Marvin Gaye
You probably know the iconic titular track “Let’s Get It On,” but upon a deeper dive there are so many treasures to be found on this 1973 album. Gaye’s soulful vocals complimented by unique instruments like the bongos, vibraphone, and saxophone create a funky, upbeat atmosphere. Put this album on and dance around in a sweater while you make pumpkin pie. Honorable song mentions include “Please Stay (Once You Go Away),” “Come Get to This,” and “Keep Gettin’ It On.”
- The Stranger, Billy Joel
Fall is all about comfort food, so what song is better to play while you eat hearty pasta than “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant”? This 1977 album is filled with familiar, comforting songs like “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song),” “Only the Good Die Young,” and of course “Vienna.” “Vienna” will sweep you away to a brisk fall day in Austria. Joel sings, “Take the phone off the hook and disappear for awhile/It’s all right, you can afford to lose a day or two/When will you realize Vienna waits for you?” Romantic ballads and energetic tunes mingle to form Joel’s quintessential album of his career.
- Ella and Louis Again, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
There’s something about ‘50s vocal jazz that always makes it feel warm and inviting, like a cozy autumn day. Jazz legends Fitzgerald and Armstrong teamed up to release a relaxing, intricate double album filled with fall vibes. One of the songs is literally titled “Autumn in New York.” One of my favorite fall movies, When Harry Met Sally…, features the song “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off,” so I will always associate that song with falling leaves in Central Park. Throw this album on while you enjoy a hearty, comfort-food dinner with friends or family.