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Six back to school albums to get you through fall semester

From indie-folk to shoegaze to neo-soul, these records are sure to invoke fall spirit

It’s that time of year again when the College Hill air starts getting cold, and we all get into a nostalgia-tinged mood. It’s ambient, it’s wistful, it’s sometimes melancholy — it’s autumn. Indeed, the annual excitement over fall music has arrived. Here, I’ve compiled a short roundup of a few of my favorite new and old albums to get you through the fall semester.

“Any Shape You Take” by Indigo De Souza

I stumbled into the world of Indigo De Souza recently after a recommendation from a friend. When I heard the crunchy guitar from her track “Darker Than Death,” I knew I was hooked. The North Carolina native released her sophomore album “Any Shape You Take” in late August, a project that cemented her status as a staple in the burgeoning indie-rock scene. The album is full of catchy beats, witty lines and rich, raw, Alanis Morissette-esque vocals, all with hazy guitar arrangements that border on shoegaze territory. “Pretty Pictures,” in particular, proves both addictive and pensive, while “17” is utterly gut-wrenching. It is the perfect album for a fall walk around campus.

“songs” by Adrianne Lenker

I can’t even begin to count how many late nights I’ve spent listening to this album. Though it was only released last year, the record is already one of my fall staples. One of two solo projects Lenker released last year, “songs” was written in spring 2020 in the wake of a breakup. The result is one of my favorite pieces of melancholy-folk to date. “instrumentals,” Lenker’s other 2020 project, was a two-song release devoted to ambient music and arrangements, with each song being about 20 minutes long. “songs,” however, showcased Lenker’s signature folk style and masterful lyricism, filled with nature imagery and love songs. The project is intimate, beautifully written and wistfully sung. On “anything,” Lenker croons: “And I don’t wanna talk about anything / I don’t wanna talk about anything / I wanna kiss, kiss your eyes again / Wanna witness your eyes looking.” The lines perfectly encapsulate the longing to be alone with one person, and yet Lenker’s delivery almost implies that this desire will always remain out of reach. 

“Billie Holiday: The Complete Commodore Masters” by Billie Holiday

If you go looking for this album on the internet, it will be hard to find. Vaguely titled “Billie Holiday” on Spotify (slightly unhelpful given that she also has two other self-titled records), I found this collection of Holiday’s songs on one of my blues deep-dives. Trying to find its origins, I realized the album was actually a compilation of the songs Holiday had recorded for music label Commmodorein the 40s and 50s. This record is nothing short of a classic, and Billie’s smooth vocals paired with timeless lyrics and romantic piano riffs compose the perfect study soundtrack.

“Synthetic Soul” by Chiiild

The debut EP from Canadian experimental soul band Chiiild, “Synthetic Soul” is a dynamic, fresh and sonically innovative project. “Back To Life” is a standout, swimming in reverbed vocals and guitars. “Count Me Out” features a distinct groove, while “Easy On Yourself” sees the band get more lyrically reflective, with lead member Yonatan Ayal singing: “I can’t stop wondering / Where I’m going / I can’t stop.” Ultimately, though, what makes the project shine is its ability to create an addictive atmosphere using eclectic instrumentation and candid vocals.

“Collapsed in Sunbeams” by Arlo Parks 

If there’s only one new artist you find this year, it should be Arlo Parks. Since her 2018 debut, the London-based singer-songwriter has amassed something of a cult following, finally breaking into popular and critical acclaim earlier this year with her album “Collapsed in Sunbeams,” a record that won her a Mercury Prize just a few weeks ago. The record is both sonically and thematically diverse, with Parks weaving between indie and neo-soul effortlessly. Citing James Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room” as an inspiration, Parks’ lyrics showcase her abilities not just as a musician but also as a writer. On “Green Eyes,” Parks writes about the fear of homophobia and the struggles of being an out queer woman, singing: “I wish that your parents had been kinder to you / They made you hate what you were out of habit.”  

“Motherwell” by Leith Ross

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I found Leith Ross’s music last week, and I haven’t stopped listening to it since. Ross released their debut album “Motherwell” in the summer of 2020 to a small fanbase. Yet, just a few weeks ago, their following exploded due to a viral TikTok. The Ottawa singer-songwriter has taken to posting clips of song ideas to the video sharing platform, all of them beautiful and many absolutely heartbreaking. “Motherwell” is a perfect example of a storyteller at work, an artist following in the footsteps of Phoebe Bridgers, Big Thief and other indie-folk giants. 


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