Illustration by Josh Villanueva, University of Southern California, San Bernardino

With autumn drawing nearer, we begin to tuck our favorite summer anthems away and look for new inspiration in cooler sounds. Whether or not you’re still savoring the last bit of summer, below is a collection of 10 songs for the inevitable coffee shop trip for a pumpkin spice latte.

Everywhere” by Fleetwood Mac
The slowed-down guitar intro to Fleetwood Mac’s 1987 single “Everywhere” immediately transports the listener into a technicolor world of tender storytelling. Christine McVie’s breezy lead vocals (blended with the backing vocals of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham) carry the listener up into the clouds as she details a fervent infatuation. As she sings the song’s hook, “I want to be with you everywhere,” no one can help but to hold their loved ones a little closer. 

Out of the Woods” by Taylor Swift
Sure, “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” might be the obvious choice for an autumnal Swiftian anthem, but the final single from her blockbuster 2014 album, “1989,” vividly encapsulates the volatile yet sparkling intensity of a passionate relationship. Booming drums and bass carry the listener through a vivid tale of a romance “in screaming color” that starkly contrasts the rest of the world. Swift craves clarity in the midst of relationship-induced anxiety, repeatedly asking, “Are we out of the woods yet?” The intensity of her frustration is unleashed during the bridge as she screams out, “But the monsters turned out to be just trees/When the sun came up, you were looking at me.” 

Easier Said Than Done” by Thee Sacred Souls
Rare is it to come across a voice so soulful that it sounds straight out of the ‘70s. Josh Lane, frontman of Thee Sacred Souls, wraps up this song with a syrupy falsetto that leads the laid-back instrumentation to great heights. The song renders a simple and evocative nostalgia that many contemporary artists often overdo. Even in the most complicated of times, sometimes all one needs is a simple tune that reminds you it’s all “worth it in the end.”
The Roof (Back In Time)” by Mariah Carey
Built around a sample from Mobb Deep’s 1995 song “Shook Ones (Part II),” Mariah Carey’s third single from her brilliant 1997 album, “Butterfly,” oozes with cool night-time sensuality and yearning. Carey’s voice sparkles with a light rasp as she tells the story of the fateful “warm November night” on which two souls found each other. Her hindsight proves to be vivid as she details going back in time, “To relive the splendor of you and I/On the rooftop that rainy night.” 

Help Me” by Joni Mitchell
The guitar chords alone on this 1974 Joni Mitchell hit exude warmth in every way. Coupled with her high-pitched lilt, the song evokes the feeling of warm nights by the fire as the outside world turns cold. Even the great Joni Mitchell evidently gets frightened by the occasional crush: “Help me, I think I’m fallin’ in love too fast/It’s got me hopin’ for the future and worryin’ about the past.”

Fine” by Kacey Musgraves
To round out her sophomore album, “Pageant Material,” Kacey Musgraveswallows in the absence of her partner as time slips away. She finds herself keeping busy to distract from her longing, wandering up and down the halls of her home all dressed up in the hopes that her sweetheart will return soon. The song’s simple acoustic guitar allows Musgraves’ sleek voice and lyrics to take center stage as she croons, “I try to sleep, I just lie here awake/I’ve stopped counting sheep, now I just count the days.” Her honeyed words float alongside ascending guitar scales that evoke a sorrow-tinged sentimentality. Though she doesn’t make direct mention of it in the song, it’s safe to say that she watches the leaves change colors as she “lie[s] here awake.”

Buddy’s Rendezvous” by Father John Misty
This jazzy cut from Father John Misty’s 2022 album, “Cholë and the Next 20th Century,” gives way to his crystalline voice and details a forlorn attempt at reconciliation. Before debuting the song live in April 2022, he explained that the song’s story follows a man who, upon release from prison, meets his daughter at a deli and gives her some “really shitty advice.” Josh Tillman’s plaintive narration of the story, combined with the gloomy dive bar sound, makes for an endearing autumnal listen—despite Tillman’s own acknowledgement of his character’s flaws. He speaks earnestly to his daughter, aiming to take credit for some part of her success, “Telling the losers and old timers/How good I did with you,” before ushering out a shred of self-awareness, “They almost believe me, too.”

40 Shades of Choke” by Ari Lennox
Ari Lennox propels her soulful rasp to great heights on this 2018 stand-alone single. Lennox comes out the gate swinging, immediately pointing out that “It’s nice to be in love,” before quickly asserting that “I just want your hands around my throat.” Her irresistible raunch paired with gritty R&B production make for a steamy assertion that lonely nights just won’t do. 

Close Your Eyes” by Kim Petras
Most people have a favorite Christmas song, but what about a favorite Halloween song? Kim Petras has been answering the call for Halloween music with a spine-tingling take on electro-pop ever since the release of her 2018 mixtape, “TURN OFF THE LIGHT.” Opening with a haunting auto-tuned intro, “Close Your Eyes” gleams with ominous bass and synthesizers. Lines like “You’ve got nowhere to run/There’s no way you’ll make it out alive” evoke images from the horror movies that return to most watchlists each autumn. 

ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?” by Tyler, The Creator
The final track on Tyler, The Creator’s 2019 album, “IGOR,” flawlessly interpolates old-school sounds into a retro-yet-contemporary contemplation of a relationship’s future. Al Green’s 1977 song “Dream” is sampled throughout, which does much of the leg work in creating the song’s timeless quality. The simple lyrics emulate the resounding questions that circle through one’s mind after the end of a relationship, whether friendly or romantic: “Are we still friends? I’ve got to kno–know/If we can still see each other/Shake your hand, say hi,” Tyler, The Creator cries. Some relationships come and go like the seasons do, and the questions that follow these changes often drive one to keep asking, “Are we still friends?/Can we be friends?” over and over. 

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