Autumn Listening Guide - Chilly Nights and Fading Sun

My goodness, it seems like it's been ages since we published our last seasonal listening guide, but it really wasn't that long ago that the Summer Guide helped many a waverider through a festive weekend of hot backyard bar-b-ques and beer. But now with the days getting shorter, the nights getting cooler and a different scent in the air, it's time to look towards the next season and our Ripple suggestions to bring in the coming months.

Of all the seasons, autumn is without a doubt my favorite. There's just something about nature in autumn as it prepares to sleep. The simple joys of reaching for my favorite sweater, the heat of the summer finally past. The chill in the air makes me introspective, a time for solitary walking, crunching the fallen leaves under my hiking shoes, the flip-flops and sandals safely packed away for the season. It's a time for taking stock of my life, for recharging my energies. Time to start a meditative journey.

And all that requires the perfect musical accompaniment.

Kym Campbell - So Alive

We're going to approach this Autumn guide like a daily diary, tripping through the hours as time ticks away on your autumn day. And to start with, we've got the rising of the morning sun. Perhaps in autumn, that morning dawn has more power, more of a hypnotic effect, knowing that the sun is going into hiding, and that each moment will become more precious. And without a doubt, the music to greet that rising sun is this debut disc from Australian singer/songwriter, Kym Campbell. Fresh as a newborn breeze, and light and joyful as the rising sun itself, Kym seems to have captured sunshine in a bottle with this release. And really, don't we need that as the winter begins its approach? Listening to Kym is like grasping onto those last few rays of summer sunshine and pulling them into your heart for safe storage; you can almost feel the warmth against your face, the brightness shining though your eyelids.

Imagine the best parts of Sheryl Crow combined with the gentle folk acoustics of Vanessa Kafka and you'll get a good starting point. Then add in a voice graced with innocence, yet slyly coy, and deeply sensual in its own confidence. Getting the picture? Graced by spartan arrangements, rarely featuring more than an acoustic guitar, some percussion, and the distant fill of some bass, Kym imbues her songs with a breezy joy that just feels like freedom to me. Like the last of the summer birds taking to the sky for winter's migration. Light and playful, each song is like a tiny capsule of the perfect melody and chorus finding unison. Lots of folk music may bore me to tears, or be too impersonal to strike a chord, but not here. Just listen to the title cut, "So Alive," and Kym's coy, yet deeply sensual voice. When she sings "I start to realize/that you're real/and you can make me feel/so alive," there can not be a single warm-blooded male who doesn't melt a little bit inside. I know I do.

Cellarscape - Animation, Suspension

It doesn't take long after the morning sun before the first dark clouds of the approaching winter settle in, darkening the skies, adding a deeper level of complexity to the day's feeling. With that approaching stormfront, a change in music is required, one slightly more complicated, more foreboding. With that change, Cellarscape makes its way into the player. The creation of one man, Paul Terry, Cellarscape drives new tension into the alt-acoustic genre. At times light and playful, at others crushingly heavy, punishing, sinister, Cellarscape is a perfect reflection of the atmospheric drama about to take place.

Starting off with the Aztec Camera-bliss of "Crawlspace," it doesn't take long before Paul begins to play with textures and tones. Shades of a deepening sky blow through the frenetic strumming of "Target Acquired,"then lighten like a passing cloud as the song reaches it's elevating chorus. Contradictions in light and dark follow, like the deeply absorbing malevolence of "The Creek," the frank, gentle beauty of "Patience and Zara," or the dynamic shape-shifting "You Got the Girl." Paul Terry has created a shifting soundscape of mood and intention, shadows and passing lights. Turn it on as the storm approaches. See if the thunder doesn't resonate in time.

Sky - Love in Grace

With the downfall of rain, your face presses against the window. The coolness of the October day bleeds through the glass, chilling your flesh, goosebumps trickling across your arms and down your spine. And as the rain continues to fall, you drift into moments of reflection, thoughts melting away into the repetitive patter of the drops on the roof, your eyes fixed on the splashes in the puddles. You turn on Love in Grace and find your own moment of autumn bliss.

Originally crafted as a symphony by the multi-talented composer/instrumentalist, Sky, the project was eventually abandoned. Instead, Sky kept the fundamentals of the classic format and added new instruments, like the bouzouki, harpsichord, piano, and synthesizer and crafted a beautiful statement of ambient beauty and complexity. Don't go thinking Yanni overblown pomposity, Tesh mediocrity, or any number of new age composer banality. Sky's work isn't simply background music for choosing your incense at the self-help book store. Favoring the B flat minor key, the entire work has a deep moodiness to it. A darkness, a sense of weightiness that's the perfect accompaniment for the autumn rain. Tchaikovsky once said that the B flat minor key is the "feeling that you get when you are all alone." Hard to argue with that. Lose yourself in the glorious thirteen minutes of "Love in Grace," or "Memories." Press your cheek harder against the frosty glass, and let it all go.

Sunna Gunnlaugs - Songs from Iceland

Of course not all of autumn is dark and mysterious. In fact, I find autumn to be the most intensely romantic season of the year. Long walks wrapped in thick sweaters. Pumpkin spice tea and blushed cheeks. As the rain begins to lighten, it's time to take our listening guide to a more comfortable, more romantic place. By the fire.

Brew your cup of tea or coffee, grab a fluffy blanket and furry slippers, slip into something warm and comfortable and pull up a spot by the fire while Sunna Gunnlaugs inspires your romance with some jazz de elegance. Sunna has a restrained yet articulate touch on the keys, intuitively bringing the right touch to each composition while her immaculate accompaniment of Tony Malaby on sax, Drew Gress on bass, and Scott McLemore on drums, drive the songs through moments of soul-searching introspection and passages of joyful swing. Sunna re-imagines 5 Icelandic folk-songs for jazz quartet with stunning, and hauntingly familiar results. Just listen to the dark sensitivity of the opening moments of " "Hollukvaeoi," or the Dave Grusin-esque ascending/descending chords of "Upp a himins blaum boga," leading into that jubuliant, playful sax. If you are a jazz fan, straight-up jazz that is, you'll find something to treasure here. Watch the fire burn, snuggle a little closer to the one your with, and your autumn day is now complete.



Sunna said…
Thank you for this nice review of my album Songs from Iceland and for posting the video from DC.