Think outside the boombox: Songs for an autumn hike

Music Columnist Patrick McKenna discusses his favorite songs for the fall.

I am someone who believes an environment can mesh well with the music in between my ears. With summer days spent aimlessly longboarding empty streets flushed with sunshine, I would direct someone to the indie-rock, surf sounds of Real Estate or California-lovin’ Crosby, Stills and Nash. In the midst of a hailstorm on the highway, a more chaotic and lively Animal Collective cut would do.

But for the days of cardigans, the evenings of brutal breeze and hoping for another second of Missouri warmth, and the mornings of those darling leaves changing, I never know where to turn musically. The hybrid of summer heat and winter frigidness leads me to a hybrid of hearty rock, mellowed-out guitar strumming and sweet, melodic voices pouring passion into their songs.

Below is a list of my songs for the fall season, songs sure to please any guitar-loving biker relishing in the days before ice storms, or really anyone in love with a stroll through Columbia’s nature. Enjoy.

The White Stripes –– “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”

With one of the most gnarly guitar-only choruses, Jack and Meg White sweep away any summer regrets alongside those dead leaves and leave listeners wondering how so much power and beauty could come from a blues-rock duo. Don’t freak out after that piercing guitar opening — it just goes up from there.

Neutral Milk Hotel –– “Oh Comely” This brooding, lo-fi folk track comes from legends of independent music attitude, with Jeff Mangum heading the eight-minute tale of conjoined twins and alienation. This track represents what I would consider the last day of comfortable ‘60s warmth, where all you want is to plead with mother nature to change her wicked ways, only to be unheard and forgotten.

Wilco –– “Impossible Germany” If you’re still priding yourself on not professing your love for these Chicago rockers, it’s time to reconsider your musical life. The tantalizing guitar solos off this “Sky Blue Sky” track were enough to change me into a Wilco lover, and something about the guitar work makes this my favorite “last day of windows down” song for tranquil drives in the fall.

Foxygen –– “No Destruction” I can personally attest to the wonders drifting through a scenic hiking trail while taking in this retro-pop jam will bring. Songs this flowering may work into a summer playlist, but those melodies mean introspective strolls while avoiding any sort of academic work to me.

Mac Demarco –– ”Let My Baby Stay” After becoming hailed as indie-rock’s ultimate goofball, Mac returned with a touching and gentle collection of sweet ballads with this year’s “Salad Days.” On this acoustic gem, Mac provides his most impressive vocal range as he begs that his Canadian girlfriend be allowed to stay in New York with him.

Weezer –– ”Undone (The Sweater Song)” Break out the crewnecks and bob your head along to this ‘90s classic that helped Weezer transform into alternative-rock’s biggest success stories. If you’re not yelping along to Rivers Cuomo’s simple and boundless instruction to destroy his sweater, then I have nothing more to say.

Neil Young –– “Harvest Moon” If I were located in a more nature-filled area, those harmonica lines that sound like they were pulled from a cowboy’s mouth would feel even more personal. Nonetheless, this is one of the most beautiful Neil Young songs, appropriate for bonfires with friends as the moon twinkles above.

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