The start of the mostly-virtual fall quarter brought an end to any warm and untroubled feelings students had from summer. Days are becoming colder, shorter and more stressful, with numerous tests and projects to focus on.
Most normal humans are emotionally sensitive beings. Some precipitation and a lack of blue skies and unobstructed sunlight can derail an otherwise productive day.
The minor changes to our environment, the influx of responsibilities, general stress, and uncertainty about the future manifest in our music choices.
While you may hear “Juice” by Lizzo or “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X blasting from a house party at three in the morning, these songs do not reflect students’ and other Americans’ moods during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recent KCPR article examined students’ music preferences shifting from sparkling and forceful genres such as rap and EDM to more reflective and introspective genres such as classical and city pop because of the pandemic.
The abrupt end to all in-person activities brought a sobering reality that the university experience would change, at least for the foreseeable future.
Instead of watching live shows at the Fremont Theater, discovering Central Coast’s natural beauty on spontaneous adventures and soaking in the sunlight during outdoor activities, we spent spring isolated at home.
Returning home, where I had spent years grinding to have the best college experience possible in San Luis Obispo, was challenging and confusing to deal with. I couldn’t see my friends, sit down in my favorite restaurants or relieve stress at the gym.
Even in isolation at home, I still had the undeniable remedy to everything: music.
Artists provide me with solace I otherwise would be unable to provide for myself. I am not a musically gifted individual, but I can connect with the concepts and feelings artists convey through their music.
Since autumn’s arrival, I have shifted my primary listening to more thoughtful, introspective, low-key, and sincere works. The following albums, both new and old, fit the season and need to be listened to at least once.
Shore – Fleet Foxes
“Shore” by Fleet Foxes was released on the autumn equinox as if it was the season’s personal greeting. In fact, the first words sung on the album are “Summer’s all over.” The album possesses a smooth glow throughout and provides listeners the feeling of drinking a cup of cocoa without having one.
Frontman Robin Pecknold’s displays his earnest writing on “Sunblind.” He recognizes songwriting legends Elliott Smith, John Prine, Bill Withers, Judee Sill, Richard Swift, and others who profoundly impacted him before they died. This song will resonate with everyone who’s lost someone they’ve cared about this year.
“Shore” is fitting for a relaxing day at the beach or on a nature escapade.
Essential highlights: “Wading In Waist-High Water,” “Sunblind,” “Can I Believe You,” “Jara,” “Maestranza,” “Young Man’s Game,” “Going-to-the-Sun Road,” “Cradling Mother, Cradling Woman,” and “Shore”
Red Headed Stranger – Willie Nelson
Recorded in 1975 at Autumn Sound Studios outside Dallas, TX, “Red Headed Stranger” by Willie Nelson remains the most important and most prestigious country album of all time.
Nelson masterfully conveys the tragic and dark story of a preacher who, rife with rage, murders his wife and the man she left him for. Haunted by his actions, the preacher wanderers the country longing for a chance at redemption that may never come.
The record is bare and contrasts with the modern wall of sound heard on “Shore.” The album’s spareness is what makes it outstanding. Nelson fills the record with his vocals, acoustic guitar and a few other musicians’ backing.
This album should be played when driving around San Luis Obispo’s countryside, preferably shortly after sunrise or close to sunset.
Essential highlights: “Time of the Preacher,” “I Couldn’t Believe It Was True,” “Medley: Blue Rock Montana / Red Headed Stranger,” “Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain,” “Just as I Am,” “Down Yonder,” “Remember Me (When the Candle Lights Are Gleaming),” “Hands on the Wheel,” and “Bandera”
Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves
Kacey Musgraves’ “Golden Hour” is a rich and inviting album that brightens listeners with uplifting yet melancholic and subtle yet complex moments that are “Happy & Sad.”
This record is fitting for a challenging year. It doesn’t keep listeners dwelling on the past; instead, it keeps them moving to a brighter future.
Anyone who gives “Golden Hour” a listen will come out feeling more accepting of life’s difficulties and ready to face them head-on with newfound strength.
Musgraves’ writing paints the natural world as magical and stunningly beautiful throughout the album. Play this album when on top of one of SLO’s scenic peaks.
Essential Highlights: “Slow Burn,” “Lonely Weekend,” “Butterflies,” “Oh, What A World,” “Space Cowboy,” “Happy & Sad,” “Wonder Woman,” “High Horse,” and “Golden Hour”
Rubber Soul – The Beatles
“Rubber Soul” was The Beatles distancing themselves from their familiar love songs in favor of more realistic, intricate and experimental pieces. The group diversified their songwriting and instrumentation while exploring the artistic possibilities of the recording studio.
The sublime songwriting from Paul McCartney and John Lennon focuses on more solemn and realistic topics compared to their early commercial hits, which envision untouchable and unrealistic love. McCartney examines, and in some ways, makes light of his failing relationship while Lennon expresses self-doubt and insecurity about himself.
Bob Dylan, other folk artists and Indian music influenced the band’s sound in “Rubber Soul.” The music’s earthy quality, realistic subject matter paired with the woodsy album cover, makes it a proper album to listen to this autumn.
Essential highlights: “Norweigan Wood (This Bird Has Flown),” “You Won’t See Me,” “Nowhere Man,” “The Word,” “Michelle,” “Girl,” “I’m Looking Through You,” “In My Life,” and “If I Needed Someone”
Flower Boy – Tyler, The Creator
“Flower Boy” is Tyler, The Creator shedding his old, angsty self and accepting his own skin. He is no longer masking himself behind bygone characters. “Flower Boy” is Tyler Okonma.
Tyler’s vulnerability allows him to be sincere and deliver a fresh and authentic experience to listeners. Listeners can connect to his honest and bittersweet subject matter instead of being divided. The mature and passionate themes of disconnection, unreturned love, and self-acceptance make for a more accessible piece of art.
The record is diverse and colorful, featuring moments of luscious strings and soulful piano playing. It would be disingenuous to call “Flower Boy” a rap album. This glowing album mixes hip-hop, soul, funk, and R&B with excellent production quality and stellar features.
While the album does not possess an identifiable “fall” sound like the previously mentioned works, it does not need to be an appropriate album for now. Listen to this album to reminisce, self-reflect, let off steam, and bloom. There is a track for every mood.
Essential highlights: “Foreword,” “Where This Flower Blooms,” “See You Again,” “Who Dat Boy,” “Garden Shed,” “Boredom,” “I Ain’t Got Time!,” “911 / Mr.Lonely,” and “Glitter”
These timeless classics are enjoyable, accessible, and easily revisited. Five albums are not nearly enough to be the only classics worth listening to right now. Comment down below some albums we should be listening to!