Despite the scorching heat waves surging across Berkeley throughout the past week, a seasonal transition is imminent. As Starbucks’ beloved Pumpkin Spice Latte returns for its nineteenth consecutive year, the sweltering days of hot girl summer gradually dissipate into the crisp air of sad girl autumn. The nights get longer, sweaters get thicker and an inexplicable sense of nostalgia washes over everything. Not intended for the faint of heart, here are six songs to inaugurate this annual period of autumnal melancholia. A box of tissues and a warm cup of coffee are highly recommended to enhance your listening experience.
“Last Kiss” — Taylor Swift
Proven time and time again, Taylor Swift captures the essence of the sad girl autumn — she even coined the term in a re-recorded version of the all-too-iconic “All Too Well.” Yet, “Last Kiss” will always be the blueprint for her pensive, slow-burning breakup ballads. “So I’ll watch your life in pictures like I used to watch you sleep/ And I feel you forget me like I used to feel you breathe,” Swift sings, her vehement confession only emboldened by the unyielding strum of an acoustic guitar. Crafted with poignant emotional literacy, “Last Kiss” is a masterclass of both raw lyricism and vocalism.
“Scott Street” — Phoebe Bridgers
As once-green leaves descend in a flurry of vibrant foliage, autumn reminds us of the inevitability of change, a sentiment captured introspectively in “Scott Street” by Phoebe Bridgers. After running into an old flame, Bridgers reflects on feelings of isolation and unfamiliarity as she meanders down memory lane: “Walking Scott Street, feeling like a stranger,” she intones. In its final minutes, the track overlays delicate vocals with an eclectic array of sound effects — train whistles, clown honks and bicycle bells — forming an oddly cohesive homage to the past.
“Sparks” — Coldplay
During the liminal phase between summer and winter, the days grow shorter and darker and often an indescribable sense of wistfulness permeates the atmosphere. No track better encapsulates this yearning ache than Coldplay’s “Sparks.” Listening to lead vocalist Chris Martin gently mourn love’s labors lost beneath an entrancing acoustic melody feels like watching a candle’s dying flame flicker into darkness on an inclement October night.
“Reflecting Light” — Sam Phillips
Awash in a warm-toned color palette, classic fall fashions and coffee references in profusion, “Gilmore Girls” is the ultimate show to binge in the months following summer. Any fan of the beloved series will immediately recognize “Reflecting Light” by Sam Phillips: it’s the song that accompanies the slow dance of fan-favorite couple Lorelai Gilmore and Luke Danes during the episode before they officially get together. With Phillips’s expressive vocals layered over gossamer-like string instrumentals, “Reflecting Light” unfolds in a coalescence of sentimentality and intense longing — the perfect tune for all of your nostalgic autumnal reveries.
“Happiness is a Butterfly” — Lana Del Rey
Sad girl autumn embraces unapologetically female expressions of emotion — songs just like “Happiness is a Butterfly” by Lana Del Rey. Although Del Rey strives for contentment, she struggles with her partner’s volatile nature. “I said, ‘Don’t be a jerk, don’t call me a taxi’/ Sitting in your sweatshirt, crying in the backseat,” she entreats in the chorus, her voice breaking with agonizing vulnerability over a crescendoing piano. When it comes to female artists, unbridled articulations of emotion are frequently trivialized or reduced to irrational hysteria, yet Del Rey’s striking disheartenment demands to be heard by all.
“Cherry Wine” — Hozier
Initially, “Cherry Wine” by Andrew Hozier-Byrne, known mononymously as Hozier, enfolds the listener in an idyllic cottagecore daydream. Yet, beneath its folksy instrumentalism and warbling songbird effects, the seemingly tranquil acoustic track plunges into something darker. Hozier intimates, “The way she shows me I’m hers and she is mine/ Open hand or closed fist, oh, would be fine,” his tone steeped in tender devotion despite detailing a physically and emotionally abusive relationship. Intoxicating yet tragic, “Cherry Wine” is a slow-burning number intended for contemplative quietude in the dead of fall nights.