The Playlists of Autumns Past

Happy first day of fall, folks! This season is, without a doubt, my favorite part of the year. And it’s not because of the proliferation of pumpkin-flavored treats. It’s the huge emotional upheaval that the drop in temperatures always seems to bring with it. All it takes is the smell of a burned out fire for the events of autumns past suddenly come swarming back to you in vivid detail. It’s how that first fall breeze carries memories of every fall that came before it, creating a weird mix of nostalgia, longing, and possibility. 

I have more playlists devoted to fall than anything else – that’s right, even breakups. So, now that summer is officially over, I’m ready to crank my mix CDs to full-volume and take a drive with my car windows rolled down and a sweater on. I live in Texas now, so that dream might still be a couple weeks (or months) away. Historically I’ve found the best way to usher in a new season is to adopt all it’s rituals until the weather follows. So grab a cup of hot cider, cozy up with a blanket, and put on on of the many fall mixes linked below. 

1. GOOD MELANCHOLY. For when you’re sad and want to be sadder. Listen to this one during a thunderstorm, with your window open and eyes closed.

2. TX. For crossing state lines. Listen to this one on the highway at night.

3. LONG SEPTEMBER. For when someone you love is really far away. Listen to this in perfect sync with whoever you’re missing and it will be like you’re together again (almost). 

4. AUTUMNAL BLISS. For walking outside to the first cool morning of autumn. Listen to this in headphones while agressively crunching leaves underfoot.

5. 7 REASONS TO DROP OUT. For six weeks into the semester. Listen to this while packing a bag, throwing on an overcoat, and skipping town without leaving a note.

6. OLE SEPTEMBER BLUES. For gently bidding summer farewell. Listen to this one during the strange in-between of summer and fall, when your heart says boots but the weather report says sandals.

7. FALLING FAST. For falling in love in the fall. Listen to this when you finally realize that it’s happening.

8. FOR LATE FALL. For preparing to hibernate all winter. Listen to this while thawing your cold feet against someone else’s warm ones.

Flashback: My Top 10 Albums of 2011, As Explained By My Mother

The Head and the Heart – The Head and the Heart

“Sounds like blah blah blah searching for himself, blah blah blah roots have grown, same ol same ol pay phones, telephones, lonely days, yep what everybody sings about these days. Show me something new, velvet voice. Blah blah blah.”

Bon Iver – Bon Iver
“I haven’t understood a single word he’s said. Not one.”

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
[pretends to fall asleep at the wheel, veers wildly into neighboring lanes]

The Decemberists – The King is Dead
“I didn’t wanna like it cause of some of your past musical debacles, but I love this. I’m just as surprised as you are.”

St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
“…can we switch it back to Glee Christmas now?”

My Morning Jacket – Circuital
“Sounds sort of like a ghost. Maybe several ghosts.”

Jessica Lea Mayfield – Tell Me
[begins strumming imaginary guitar and singing “wah wah wah” with exaggerated crying noises until I switch the song]

Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean
“Lane,” she says gently, like she’s talking to a baby or violent criminal. “This isn’t music.”

Tennis – Cape Dory
“Is this Selena Gomez? I think your sister has this CD.”

Young the Giant – Young the Giant
“Listen Lane. We, as a family, have taken a vote and regret to inform you that your iPod privileges have been revoked for the duration of this car trip. And probably every one after this, as well. Thank you for understanding.”

In Which I Wrote a Love Letter to Music

I wrote this love letter at the end of my freshman year. That year was a parade of dorm room windows, traveling to concerts, Alabama backroads, strangers turning into friends, and friends turning into strangers. I love that I have this letter, from the end of the year, when I emerged scraped and bruised and beaming and (as you can tell in the tone of this letter) profoundly awestruck by the world that had sprung up so far from home.

It’s funny to compare Freshman Lane and Senior Lane: how they said goodbye and what they were saying goodbye to. The end of my senior year (and beginning of an entirely new adventure) warrants its own goodbye, but I think the first one puts the last one in context. Plus, this one comes with its very own downloadable mix-CD circa 2011!

Freshman year is over and I’m woozy with nostalgia. I’m remembering how I dug my roots deep into the Auburn soil and how beautifully my life here has blossomed over the past nine months. Looking back makes my heart simmer with affection and I’ve finally managed to pin down the source: this is a love letter to music.

When music pulled me to Atlanta with my best friend, when it nudged us into conversations with strangers, when it picked me up and dropped me into the middle of a reveling crowd — it occurred to me that music has become a more powerful force than I ever expected.

Music led me into the lives of those I love most and to places I’d never been before — and may have never seen. My most beautiful moments of the year have that same golden thread running through them: cold winter nights were spent with coffee and crackling vinyls and crossword puzzles, warm evenings we dashed down dark country roads with the windows down and music blasting.

And it wasn’t just that music accompanied me in a routine of madness, and misadventures. Music was the reason I was there — like I’d uncovered a compass pointing me to the people and places and passion hiding all over this tiny city. It put me on rooftops and fire escapes. Music pulled me deep into underground tunnels and up onto bright stages. It set me down on one hundred back porches. Music shuttled me from town to town and across state lines. It coaxed me through hard conversations; it spurred straight-talk about souls. It propelled me down endless ribbons of highway. Music introduced me to some of the weirdest folks I know, and some of the most wonderful.

My year was colored, charted, and marked by music and I loved that. Share in my awe and gratitude with this playlist: a soundtrack for your countless adventures. Summer starts now!

Download: Summer Starts Now Mixtape – Mediafire

– Lane

In Which It’s The Rhythm of a Southbound Train

This song: Southbound Train – Jon Foreman.

Sounds like: The hum of a language I don’t understand at the airport when I land. The sight of Thomas when he found me in the crowd; he was suntanned and grinning from a summer in Spain. How seeing him running toward me felt undeniably like coming home. Taking the slow train from Bilbao to San Sebastian, holding tight to one another in late afternoon light while the Spanish countryside rolled by. How the train took us three hours when a bus would have taken one, but gave us a reason to sit close together, quiet, listening to the rhythm of a southbound train.

In Which We Make Auburn Weird

Album review: Gnu’s Room Christmas (feat. Adventure the Great, Low June, The Hedgerow Folk, Dave Potts, Ellington Way, Lydia Cash and David Mueller, and Teacup and the Monster)

In even my most gleaming reviews of Auburn as a freshman, I always added in the same breath: plus-Atlanta-is-right-there-whenever-we-want-to-see-some-good-music. Like a tic, I would explain away the pitiful showing of local artists in Auburn as the symptom of a self sustaining college town.

Flash forward two years and I’m listening to the Gnu’s Room Christmas album, a compilation of carols covered exclusively by local acts. All seven artists have a decidedly sweet, folk-fueled take on these familiar tunes. Listening to the sampler, I really feel like the community-centered aspect has shaped the music of local talent in a way that is completely unique to Auburn. So, while it’s easy for our reaction to be relief, I think it should be an emotion closer to awe, like the way you might feel after successfully stacking a card tower or constructing a gingerbread house out of mostly frosting.

The challenge for these bands was not to break into Auburn’s music culture but to create one. They had to make a way for themselves communally before they could make a way for themselves individually. This shared struggle not only created a tight community of both musicians and music-lovers, but it defined the way we value music here. Whether you’re listening to soaring harmonies under strings of Christmas lights or packed tight at a house show, there’s a sense of ownership. It’s the basics of supply and demand: this experience exists simultaneously because we sought out beauty and because our friends provided it.

By some standards of comparison, Auburn has a long way to go in matching the artistic proliferation of an Atlanta or an Athens. But my argument is this: Auburn has not make it possible to do anything half-heartedly. Encouraging local talent, patronizing local venues, and applauding local bands was a deliberate, not incidental, show of support. Ours is a proven loyalty. What you hear when you listen to the sampler is the heart that has made it possible.

Sounds like: bare wreaths made of rosemary, gifts wrapped with brown paper and twine, the Christmas celebration that you host in late November (before everyone has left for break) with an endless supply of hot tea and new traditions, a slightly misshapen but otherwise structurally sound scarf you tried to knit yourself.