Top 10 Songs That Bring Back Happy Autumn Memories

It’s autumn.

You can either accept it, or continue to live in denial until it gets so cold, you catch pneumonia. Believe me, I speak from experience.

I always get a little depressed when Summer turns into autumn. I don’t watch when the pool cleaners come to close the swimming pool – I hide inside. I don’t help put the yard furniture away. I stop paying attention to the weather or what time the sun sets. I involve myself in work and other activities to keep myself from obsessing over the change in seasons. I focus on what makes happy about the season; pumpkin pie, apple cider, chai, especially crunchy leaves, hoodies, season premiers of my favorite shows.

The pandemic has made this year even worse. Summer gave us a chance to be outside, and the prospect of being back inside for the next 6-8 months with no trips to theaters, family gatherings, bar trivia nights and other social events that normally help me get through the dark doldrums of the colder months, is daunting and depressing.

So I recently started thinking about fun autumn memories of the past and found doing so helped relieve some of the anxiety and remind me that, even in a pandemic, autumn can be a wonderful season. Memories are often triggered by music. I find it happens to me a lot when I hear a song, especially a song I haven’t heard in a while, and it triggers a happy memory.

That inspired me to make my first listicle. Here are my top ten songs that I associate with the Autumn season, because they bring back fun and happy memories of autumns passed. (I plan to make one for other seasons too in the future).

Make the best of this Fall and find joy where you can – music helps – feel free to share your own autumn memories, and songs that remind you of the season.

10.) Team-Lorde

In the Fall of 2013, I was falling back into my first depression in six years. I felt sad and overwhelmed. I turned 30 in May; my grandmother Millie, who I was extremely close to, had died suddenly in July and I was burning out at work covering the 2013 New York City Mayoral Election and the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy the year before. I was working for a demanding editor and publisher, pulling 14-hour days sometimes, other times writing my articles until 3 a.m. and often getting stuck doing my editor’s work – going “above and beyond” – because I knew how to meet a deadline.

On the morning of October 1, 2013, I woke up and noticed our swimming pool was closed for the season and realized I hadn’t really hadn’t spent enough time either swimming or sitting outside in the backyard that summer, since I was working so hard. I cried hysterically. I was having a breakdown. The thought of a long, depressing winter finally tripped a wire that allowed me to grieve what I had lost that summer; my grandmother and my 20s. In some way, I felt like my grandmother’s death wouldn’t be real as long as summer continued. Once it ended, it was real.

I decided that I needed to take some time for leisure and for myself. So each Friday night, I went to a bar (Union Pool) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Union Pool has a huge outdoor section that’s open almost all year round. The yard features a fire pit, outdoor bar and a taco truck. I was there one chilly night in late October with a date when Lorde’s “Team” came on the radio inside the bar. I was sitting by the fire pit having a drink with a friend when several girls sitting across from was swaying in unison to the drum beat of the song. The etherial organ-type music that carries through the song, often the only sound along with Lorde’s singing, gave me this warm, comforting feeling. I associated it with strength. I can’t really explain why.

I admit I didn’t really know who Lorde was at the time, so I had to Shazam the song on my iPhone. My date told me he had recently seen her at Warsaw – a concert hall nearby.

I hit up the drive-thru at Wendy’s on the way home. Sitting there in my car in the parking, eating my burger watching distant planes take off from JFK, I listened to the lyrics and felt a twitch of association with Lorde’s “over it” singing style. I found the ability to process what had been bugging me; the feeling of being lost and forgotten, of having to support my mother through my grandmother’s death, and having to come to terms with the fact that I never got to say a proper goodbye to her (She died in the hospital, only hours after I found out she was even there); the burn out at work and my accepting getting older. Here I was carrying my family through grief, carrying my newspaper through a busy news year, but when it was time for someone to support me, no one was there. I felt like a volcano ready to either explode or collapse into a caldera.

Cause what this palace wants is release

The song played on repeat the next few weeks at work, as I wrote some of my best stories and features. Some of which later won New York Press Association awards. “Team” allowed me to process my stress and grief that autumn and do some of my best work, all while finding the time to have some fun by a fire pit in Brooklyn.

9.) Live Your Life – T.I. featuring Rihanna

This song forever reminds me of what I consider to be one of the most hopeful, uplifting moments in my life – the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States in the Autumn of 2008.

That Fall, I was frustrated at life. I had gotten a job late the previous year at WLIW-TV, Long Island’s PBS station as producer of public affairs programming, but I shared the job with a co-worker of mine who regularly made my life a living hell, because she thought the job had been promised to her. WLIW was my first real post-college job and I was, for the first few months, so afraid to lose it, and intimidated by her long-held relationship with the staff there, that I let her walk all over me.

In the Fall, with the election coming up, I was tasked with producing a town hall program that aired on PBS which focused on how young people were voting that year, and what issues and policies were important to them. It was also my escape hatch from dealing with….THAT co-worker. She wasn’t involved in this project – it was all me.

It was my masterpiece.

Because of lack of desk space at WLIW’s office, I worked from home on Mondays. It was the Monday after we recorded the town hall that I had the AV guys burn DVDs of all the camera angles. I went home and laid out the entire one hour town hall right down to the time cues to change camera shots. It took me seven hours of work and when I was done, I trotted around the room listening to this song.

There’s a section of T.I.’s rap that I related to at the time.

I’m the opposite of moderate, immaculately polished with
The spirit of a hustler and the swagger of a college kid
Allergic to the counterfeit, impartial to the politics
Articulate, but still’ll grab a **** by the collar quick

Here I was, evolving from a shy, risk-adverse, passive, insecure kid to someone willing to brawl for my job and give it everything I got. The show, called The Gen Y Factor, was a hit and it won me a Bronze Telly Award. Even though the job couldn’t be saved in the financial crisis that followed, the experience left me with enough confidence and fortitude to go out and find a new one – and that’s how my local news reporting career in Queens began.

On Election Night, my friend Andrew and I bounced around from our college radio station on Long Island, to his house, to the victory party for a local state senate candidate who had become a friend of ours. When I drove home at the end of the night – the election had at that point been called for Obama – I celebrated by blasting this song, singing the “AYYY, OHHH” chorus loud enough that all of Southern Queens had to have heard me.

As I got ready for bed later that night, I looked up at the election coverage on TV and saw news that made me holler. Obama had carried the state of Indiana – a state that had been Republican since 1964. I swayed back and forth to Rihanna’s refrain. In that moment, everything and anything seemed possible.

8.) Skyfall- Adele

In October, 2012, my college friends had a great idea. Since it had been ten years since we all met (in the Fall 2002 WRHU training class), we decided to get together for a weekend of fun and festivities in Manhattan. As I was packing a bag to go to Manhattan for the weekend, I got a message from a friend on Facebook. The new James Bond theme to “Skyfall,” the upcoming Bond movie was out and I’m never going to believe who sang it. I practically screeched like a teenage girl when I saw Adele’s name. I listened to only 15 seconds of the song and felt a wave of happy pleasure come over me. You see, I’ve always been a big James Bond fan, part of my Anglophile character. “Skyfall” seemed like a perfect fit of a Bond theme after a serious of rather disappointing addition to the canon.

From the opening piano riff that reminds me of Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better,” one of the more well-known James Bond theme songs (from 1977’s “The Spy Who Loved Me”), to the guitar chords later in the first verse that feel like a 007 staple and the obvious inclusion of the actual Bond Theme at the end of the first chorus, it seemed almost too good to be true.

Less than three weeks after that weekend, two events occurred within four days of each other that are forever connected to this song. One involved me co-moderating a debate between two state senate candidates in Queens, one of the most nerve-racking experiences of my life. It was the opening lines of Adele’s “Skyfall” that actually calmed me down before the debate.

This is the end
Hold your breath and count to ten
Feel the earth move and then
Hear my heart burst again

The second was Hurricane Sandy. During the terrifying night of flickering lights, vibrating windows and angry whooshing of wind outside, I escaped into Adele’s comforting lyrics.

Let the sky fall
When it crumbles
We will stand tall
Face it all together

The next day, I went out and surveyed the damaged. What followed were a series of news articles and features that later won me awards and left me with wild memories – of meeting people whose cars had been sucked into Jamaica Bay, or interviewing a state legislator in his “mobile office” – his car, since his office had been destroyed in the storm.

Because of the disruption from the hurricane, I didn’t get a chance to see “Skyfall” at first when it came out, but my friend Andrew – whose house was flooded in the storm – suggested seeing it one night in an effort to escape from the aftermath of the storm for a while. It still is one of the best Bond movies, and probably the best Daniel Craig one.

And the song brings me happy memories of being on top of my game as a reporter and editor that autumn, reconnecting with old friends and facing one of the scariest weather events of my lifetime.

7.) No More ‘I Love You’s’ – Annie Lennox

I didn’t spend much time home in 1995. Besides my annual family vacation to Maine, my mom and I traveled to Loveland, Colorado to see family and Salt Lake City, Utah to see friends. When we weren’t traveling across the country, we’d spent weekends with friends at their summer home in Farmingville on Long Island – about an hour or so east of New York City – or Upstate in the Catskills.

It was during the summer that my mother stacked up on her music collection, hitting the record store in Colorado to buy several albums, including Annie Lennox’s Medusa.

As summer turned to fall, our weekend getaways ended and I had to go back to school – a miserable place where I was the target of bullies. I’ve discussed this before and will again I’m sure. After school, my mother would play Medusa in her stereo in the afternoons while cleaning or cooking. The album’s lead track , “No More ‘I Love You’s'” brings me back to those September, October and November afternoons, where I would put on a jacket and sit quietly on the pool deck, with autumn leaves falling around me, and get lost in my imagination, an escape hatch from the torment of school. I would inquisitively watch my eccentric next-door neighbor drive his 1970 Plymouth Duster around the block a hundred times to break in his new tires. I also created an imaginary world in my mind where the animals in and around my yard secretly communicated. It was sort of a Friends-style sitcom featuring my mutt puppies Louie and Jaf, an alley cat named French and a young trendy squirrel couple named Sebastian and Roxanne (after two tropical systems that year)

“No More ‘I Love You’s'” both served as a requiem of sorts for the end of that summer, but when I hear it now it brings me back to those chilly Fall afternoons on the pool deck wondering what the squirrels were saying to the dogs.

6.) Promiscuous – Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland

In October, 2006, I was forced to quit a job I had a lot of hope for. Although I was hired to be a “political director,” I ended up spending Columbus Day cleaning my boss’ mother-in-law’s rat-infested basement. I went home that night and ran a fever of 101 degrees and had what looked like mold growing in then back of my throat. That was it. I resigned the next morning.

Left with nothing else to do, I threw myself into that year’s midterm elections. Having dabbled in progressive politics and the anti-war movement in the mid-2000s, I reached out to my friends working on campaigns and bobbed around between several local Democratic candidates for office, helping out any way I could – often with just some advice that ended up being quite helpful.

When I wasn’t working, I was walking…like, everywhere. My anxiety was high that autumn with the upcoming elections. It felt like time was dragging on and the elections were taking forever to get here.

On Election Night, I did a radio show at WRHU-FM and then later went to the victory party for one of the state legislators I was helping out. It was there that I heard this Nelly Furtado track being played as Congressional and Senate races around the country were being called.

Today when I hear the song, it reminds me of that happy autumn when I found my passion of writing about and involving myself in politics and political analysis, and that I was actually pretty good at it too. I predicted all but two of the House seats that flipped in the 2006 elections. I knew I had a knack for that, and a direct line can be drawn to that autumn night in a Queens catering hall swaying to Nelly Furtado and Timbaland’s musical mating ritual right to this blog and my political analysis today.

5.) Where’s Your Head At? – Basement Jaxx

There was a cloud hanging above all our heads in the Fall of 2001.

9/11

The entire autumn, it seemed like a reminder of what happened on that day was everywhere. Smoke still rose from Ground Zero into October. In the weeks after the attacks, it was a struggle to find some sense of normal life in New York. That experience makes me wonder what kind of struggle 18 year old’s are dealing with now during the COVID-19 pandemic. The big difference is we had places to go to let loose and forget about the world for a while. We had nightclubs.

Every Friday, my friends and I would drive into Manhattan – on one particular memorable night, we took note of the bright floodlights rising from Ground Zero that could be seen from the Queensboro Bridge several miles away.

There were several different hot spots we’d go to so we can dance away our fears and struggles – Limelight, Sound Factory, Exit. It was one particular night at Sound Factory where “Where’s Your Head At?” came on and the dance floor seemed to explode. Cages dropped from the ceiling with dangers dressed head-to-toe in bondage gear dancing. It was a wild experience. One lyric in the song stuck out at me, because of how the world felt at the time:

You have now found yourself, trapped in the incomprehensible maze.

Terrorism was all around us. From the floodlights at Ground Zero, to the homeless guy on the subway saying Osama was going to blow up the train, to the metal-detecting wands at the front door of the clubs we were going to. There was no escaping it in the outside world. But in this room, in this moment, we were able to let it go, if for just a few minutes.

Ever since, this song reminds me of those nights out, waiting on a freezing cold line to get into a club, dancing until the DJ started playing German house music – our cue to go, culminating in a 2 a.m. burger at the diner. For a few nights that autumn, it felt like we had managed to escape that incomprehensible maze.

4.) Happy Nation – Ace of Base

Yeah I’ll admit it, Ace of Base’s The Sign is one of my favorite albums. There isn’t a bad song on the record, from the sultry and suggestive “All That She Wants” to the haunting, mysterious hymnal sound of this song.

I’m not sure what initially attracted me to the song, it was a variety of things: the Gregorian chants at the beginning, the dystopian lyrics (For the people, for the good, for mankind brotherhood sounds like my campaign slogan) and the hypnotizing mix of a hymnal and reggae beat.

In the autumn of 1994 my family and the families of some of my school friends would take weekend camping trips to the Catskills. My mom and I would leave in our 1982 Dodge Ram van to pick up my dad from work in Manhattan and drive to one of two campgrounds – one in Florida, New York , or another in New Paltz, New York – for a weekend of toasted marshmallows, apple-picking and campfire songs. The Sign was one of the only tapes I had that I could play in my Walkman, so that’s pretty much all I had to listen to on the drive up once we were out of range of New York City radio stations.

This song brings back two memories of those trips that stick in my mind. One was the drive up dark Upstate roads and the smell of the pine and other freshness in the chilly air. In the back of my parents’ van, we had bench seats and windows that only opened on the bottom. On the drive Upstate, I would lay across the bench, my head positioned to look out the window, and I’d slide open the small part that opened to get a whiff of the cool country air, while listening to this song.

The other is a specific moment sitting in front of the campfire, staring directly up at a telephone pole over our camp site. It’s a constant reminder of those happy Fall weekends where my friends and I would escape the city to play soccer in the meadows, climb trees to find the biggest apple, or tell scary, and bizarre, ghost stories in rural darkness.

3,) Policy Of Truth – Depeche Mode

Depeche Mode is one of my favorite bands, and actually several of their songs bring back memories of Fall, but the one that really makes me think of this season is “Policy of Truth,” from their 1990 Violator album. (One day, I’ll do a favorite albums listicle and it’ll be in my top 5).

My first memory of this song comes from an abnormally frigid, misty autumn night taking the subway home from the Village Halloween Parade in 2000. We decided to take a detour to a rave on Borden Avenue in Long Island City. Leaving the rave at 1:30 a.m., I stood in the middle of Borden Avenue on the cold night air in a Julius Caesar costume trying to flag down a cab as it began raining, staring up at the eerie image of the orange-crowned Empire State Building peeking out from behind fast-moving low clouds. When my friends and I got in the cab to take us to Woodside, this song was playing.

Over a decade later, it came on randomly when my iPod was on shuffle while on my way to an October vacation with my family to Moonfall, our compound in Maine. It was a particularly cold October, reminiscent of that cold Halloween rave in Long Island City. It came on early in the trip, while driving up the New England Thruway, just north of the Bronx border. I stared out the window at the power lines hanging over the adjacent Metro North tracks and watched a Grand Central-bound train fly by going the other direction. I forgot how much I liked the song, so I played it on semi-repeat for the entire nine-hour drive to Moonfall.

At one point, we were driving down a rural Maine road and I sat back in my seat, put the song on and looked our at the colorful autumn countryside go by, counting the telephone poles as they pass, allowing the passing power lines to hypnotize me as they swag from pole to pole, across the street and then back again. I dozed off as the song faded into its last refrain and addicting synth riff.

Never again is what you swore, the time before

*da-da-DA-dada-DA*

2.) (Can’t You) Trip Like I Do? – Filter & The Crystal Method

High School is scary for most, but not for me at first. I couldn’t be more excited about going to high school. Maybe it was the freedom of finally leaving my neighborhood every day instead of every few weeks, or the fact that I got to start anew, where no one knew me or where I had no reputation for things I did or said years earlier.

But a few months in, and I was already overwhelmed. The commute – 90 minutes each way on a good day – drained me. I wasn’t making friends fast and I had attracted the attention of a fresh new bully, although he later stood down when he realized his bullying wasn’t garnering him attention from classmates. At age 14, no one accepted that I was having a hard time adjusting or coming to terms with who I was. I kept being told I was “too young” to feel the way I did, I often felt ready to explode. I felt misunderstood and maligned.

When I got home from school that first semester, I would head up to the attic apartment, where my uncle had lived for my entire life until he moved out that Fall after getting married. I would bring my homework and my boombox stereo – cleverly designed as a boombox where the speakers detached to become a stereo – and pop in my favorite CDs and watch the city as the sun set everyday. Because both of my parents worked and didn’t get home until 6 p.m., I essentially had the house to myself from 4:30 until 6 every evening. From my uncle’s attic kitchen window, Lower Manhattan’s skyline was visible, with the twin towers of the World Trade Center dominating the other buildings.

One of those songs I’d often listen to was this one from the soundtrack of the movie Spawn. The song brings me back to those days, with the window open and the cold fall air pouring in, looking out at the amber and orange colored sky behind the World Trade Center towers; a slow pulsing red light on top of tower one; the blinking lights of planes flying past. The lyrics – and the way Richard Patrick seems to bring himself back from the point of breakdown in every line – echoed the frustrating and “over my head” emotions I felt those first few months of high school. I would sing this song loudly in the attic while jumping around like I was at a ska concert – my neighbors must’ve heard me. THE final stanza of the song, after the orgasmic “OH MY GOD,” feels like coming down off a climax in a euphoria – like dropping from the peak of a roller coaster into a dip and then a loop – I felt all my fears, stresses and frustrations just fade away.

Can’t you trip can’t you think can’t you feel like I do
Can’t you walk can’t you breathe can’t you trip like I do

The song is clearly about getting high on ecstasy, but I learned that Fall that music can be a drug too, and give you that same high without the nasty recovery period and addiction problems.

1) Possession – Sarah McLachlan


Whenever I hear the angelic hymnal music fade in at the beginning of the song, I am taken to a chilly fall day, sun’s angle lower in the sky, but not quite where the winter sun is, the gold, brown and tan leaves dancing through the air.

When I was kid, I hated the Fall, because the days got shorter, I had to go back to school, I had go back inside and the weather got colder and winter was just around the corner. As I grew older though, I began to enjoy Fall more and more and what it had to offer: Apple cider, pumpkin spice, decorating for the holidays, fire pits and fresh air

The only specific memories I have attached to Sarah McLachlan’s “Possession” comes from the Autumn of 1996. During the last weekend of September, we were, for some reason, having a family gathering at my aunt’s best friend’s – I call her Aunt Katie, that’s how long they’ve been friends – summer house in East Hampton. My mother and grandmother drove out earlier in the day on Friday and I was to take the Long Island Rail Road out with my dad later when he got home from work. I was excited about the weekend all day in school and I remember walking home – it was still summery weather at the time – and packing my weekend bag while listening to my stereo. “Possession” was playing.

Later that day, my dad and I caught the “Cannonball,” a Friday afternoon express train that leaves Jamaica, Queens and runs nonstop to the Hamptons. As we approached the East Hampton stop, I stood in the doorway of the train, I could hear Sarah McLachlan’s voice singing “Possession” over the organ-like background music as I was watching the rural South Fork fields, illuminated in the setting sun, go by. A tinge of cold air – the first chill of the season that I felt – hit me. It reminded me that it was now definitely Autumn. It seemed almost as if the scenery were performing in sync with Sarah McLachlan’s guitar.

You know how you hear a song and it’s stuck in your head for days or weeks? That was the case here. A few weeks after the East Hampton trip, I was lying on my bed around sunset, looking out of the window at the last rays of sun hitting my neighbors’ windows. The window was open slightly, allowing the chilly fresh October air to blow in, caressing my feet. The only sounds I heard outside were my neighbors’ dogs barking and the clickity-clack of the subway a few blocks away. As I lie there, I hummed along to the beat of “Possession,” and the lyrics, stacked with vivid imagery, stuck in my head.

Oh you speak to me in riddles and
You speak to me in rhymes
My body aches to breathe your breath
Your words keep me alive

Oh, into the sea of waking dreams
I follow without pride

I dozed in and out of a sleep as I watched the sky outside the window fade into a deeper blue as the sun set, until dusk came. It’s a memory that constantly reminds me my youthful negative opinions of Autumn were not well well-informed.

It’s a beautiful, wonderful season full of amazing imagery and the chance for fantastic memories to be made.

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