When initially planning a special fall entry, I was torn between wanting to focus on film or music. Coincidentally, I recently wound up in a conversation with a friend about records that reminded us of fall, and was inspired to choose something trickier than a few quick horror movie write-ups. What follows is a list of ten of what I believe to be are the most objectively autumnal records I have to offer. Some are obvious and timeless – some I hope to sway you on. Since rating “fall-ness” is absurd, here they are in alphabetical order. Happy Halloween!
AFI – All Hallow’s EP (1999)
I admit this one’s a little on the nose, but over its four aggressive Halloworshiping tracks (including a cover of the Misfits’ seminal “Halloween”), ALL HALLOW’S exudes an almost unrivaled amount of late-October eeriness. The band’s second release with the lineup that remains intact to this day is bursting with backing vocals howling from beyond that accentuate singer Davey Havok’s signature wail. Even at just four songs, it still remains a horror-punk masterpiece. Check out the video for closer “Totalimmortal” here.
ALKALINE TRIO – From Hear to Infirmary (2001)
Another solid bar of goth-punk gold, Alkaline Trio’s FROM HERE TO INFIRMARY is perfect for exercising (spelling intended) those depraved, autumnal thoughts. While touching on all that’s ghoulish (corpses, chainsaws, and self-mutilation, to name a few), dual vocalists Matt Skiba and Dan Andriano power through twelve pop-punk joyrides that won’t be quick to leave your head. Check out “Mr. Chainsaw” here.
THE BLED – Silent Treatment (2007)
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes The Bled’s SILENT TREATMENT so fall-laden. Over eleven angular, breakneck barn-burners, guitarist Jeremy Ray Talley somehow establishes a tone that cuts razor-sharp while maintaining warmth in its timbre. It’s an all-out assault on the ear, yet tinted by oranges and browns. But what really makes SILENT TREATMENT autumn fare, is vocalist James Muñoz, who is absolutely possessed on this record. His demonic aggression breathes urgency and horror into lyrics that dance on the fine line dividing egotism and self-hatred. Try the expressionistic video for opener “Shadetree Mechanics” here.
BRAND NEW – The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me (2006)
Released in November, THE DEVIL AND GOD ARE RAGING INSIDE ME immediately established itself as essential fall listening, and not just because of its cover art. Every single song is immense, building tremendously only to fall again (pun intended). It’s at times off-putting, at times deranged, and always unpredictable. An acoustic intro can swiftly be obliterated by a wall of feedback, a repeated line will entrap you before you’re pummeled with explosions of noise – I mean, hell, the end of “Luca” and all of “Welcome to Bangkok” – need I say more? While there may not be anything distinctly autumnal in its lyrics (well, maybe “Sowing Season”) TDAGARIM evokes the crisp, overcast scene depicted on its already iconic cover. If you somehow haven’t heard “Sowing Season” yet, do so here.
DILLINGER FOUR – C I V I L W A R (2008)
This could just be a personal one, but hear me out, because this record bleeds fallen leaves. On C I V I L W A R, which remains D4’s latest (hopefully that changes soon), the beloved punk kings sacrificed a bit of their speed and vinegar to deliver a more nuanced, emotive record. It’s clearer, more mature, and its tones are warm as all get out in color. Patrick Costello’s signature bouncy bass lines are more prominent than ever before, and while you may not love the vocals (Costello’s hefty bark and Erik Funk’s whispered rasp are a fascinating and polarizing combination), there’s a distinct catchiness here you can’t deny. Check out the album closer and my personal favorite, the somber yet uncompromising “clown cars on cinder blocks” here.
THE LAWRENCE ARMS – The Greatest Story Ever Told (2003)
Those who know me may call me biased, but just because THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD is my favorite record doesn’t mean I’d misrepresent its aesthetics. Its applicability to autumn is rooted deeply in its romantic circus theme and reverb-ridden minor keys. With near-constant literary references and burnt-brown imagery, the record’s portion of songs helmed by guitarist (and resident Holden Caulfield) Chris McCaughan makes THE GREATEST STORY EVERY TOLD perfect for that crisp, dreary day. Hear what I’m on talking about on “The Raw and Searing Flesh” here (but don’t watch the idiot’s video).
THE MISFITS – Static Age (1978)
No-brainer. There will never be a better horror-punk act better than the Misfits. There just won’t. It was difficult to choose exactly which release to include here (because every Misfits song fits), but I chose STATIC AGE because it was actually the first full collection of songs the Misfits recorded in 1978 (although due to funding problems, the album was never released as intended until 1996 in a vinyl box set). Even though it doesn’t have “Halloween,” it does have some of the Misfits’ all-time best tracks, including “Hybrid Moments,” “Bullet,” “She,” “Teenagers from Mars,” and “Last Caress.” If you’re unfamiliar with the Misfits, you owe yourself a listen, because frankly, I don’t think anyone could dislike these songs thanks to vocalist Glenn Danzig’s dreamy ‘50s-style croon. Do yourself a service and check out one of my personal favorites, “Hybrid Moments,” here.
O’BROTHER – Garden Window (2011)
I was surprised when this record jumped out at me when choosing this list, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it may be one of the most apt choices of all. The eleven songs that make up GARDEN WINDOW sound as if they were tilled from the very earth – not written, but harvested. Each is distinctly eerie, with haunting melodies and layers of vocals and fuzz that more often than not coalesce into a devastating wall of sound. If you’re going on an autumn hike through a gnarled, twisted wood, this is the record to spin. Check out the (very good) video for “Lo” here.
UNCLE ACID & THE DEADBEATS – Blood Lust (2011)
This is another no-brainer. Uncle Acid’s BLOOD LUST may just be the be-all end-all of fall music. Recorded live in an dilapidated barn in the UK known as “The Slaughter House” using only lo-fi equipment and a lot of fuzz pedals, Blood Lust sounds like the soundtrack to a late-‘60s exploitation film. It is simultaneously psychedelic and groovy, eerie and disturbing, and most of all, a blast. If you love horror movies and early Black Sabbath, this may just be your new bible. Check out album opener “I’ll Cut You Down” here.
UNDEROATH – Lost in the Sound of Separation (2008)
Something about underOATH’s LOST IN THE SOUND OF SEPARATION absolutely reeks of decay. It’s like that smell in your old apartment you could never find the source of. The musicality itself evokes a sense of deterioration, of paint peeling off walls as mold & dust pollutes the air. The demonic Spencer Chamberlain trades in his frantic, almost melodic screams found on the band’s previous record, DEFINE THE GREAT LINE, for an approach much more hollow and deadening. With lyrics focusing not only on wrestling inner demons, but on mankind itself as a failure, an infestation, LOST IN THE SOUND OF SEPARATION is what you need on that dark November day when you’ve just had enough of everyone. Check out the album’s awesome opener, “Breathing in a New Mentality,” here.