There’s no contest: Fall is the smuggest season. It’s when WASPy types celebrate the return of Hudson’s Bay blankets, Blundstones, and Roots sweatpants. It’s when unironic Wonderdick-esque urbanists don scarves and tweedy wool outfits, marveling at “the golden flora of the soaring Don Valley, which you’d miss had you not taken a moment to savour it. ” It’s when your food-obsessed pals revel in the simplest of tasks, like roasting root vegetables, pickling produce, or adding pumpkin-spiced pumpkin to literally everything. See what we mean? Fall. Is. Smug.
Fortunately, it’s also the best season—and that first crisp day of October ushers in a very specific feeling. (Plus, we can’t even pretend to hate on pickles and pumpkin spice.) Canadian bands have long attempted to capture that feeling, and here’s a collection of our favourite autumnal offerings.
Timber Timbre—“Black Water”
It’s hard not to love Timber Timbre, because like autumn, Taylor Kirk’s songs evoke very specific imagery. It’s the music that Suicide’s Alan Vega would make, only were he a small-town goth outfitted in a Pendleton plaid button-up. To that end, everything Kirk’s released (and especially Creep On Creepin’ On) sounds like an Upper Canadian autumn. Still, there may be no chillier a song than “Black Water,” whose chorus—“all I need is some sunshine”—is literally about seasonal affective disorder.
I’m not typically a fan of orchestral pop, but I will defend Ohbijou’s Beacons to the death. I mean, I was crushed when the band broke up recently, even if Casey Mecija wrote the most embattled-yet-righteous farewell letter ever. Naturally, people ask me why I’m so obsessed with the band, and I’m all, “Well, just listen to ‘Black Ice.’ It’s the equivalent of staring out a rain-specked streetcar window, only to observe dead trees, sleet-soaked wool, and shades of grey that only Toronto could procure. It’s ugly, sure, but beautiful, as it’s our ugly. We cherish it because it is us.” Then inevitably, they’re all, “Dude, you are absolutely insufferable.”
Bruce Peninsula—“As Long As I Live”
Forget that the band’s named for the Bruce Peninsula, one of the Canadian Shield’s most gorgeous fall-time wonders. (And home to the world’s only Coffee Team.) The band’s gothic folk feels not unlike Timber Timbre—it recalls chilly campfires and mason-jar whiskey drinks, but there’s a real menace to it, too. Open Flames is BP’s answer to Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery—it’s a perfect soundtrack for the harvest, but underneath the jubilance lies the band’s ritual-driven Northern Gothic roots.
Attack in Black—“Northern Towns”
There’s a bleak, sprawling simplicity to Attack in Black’s “Northern Towns,” the most autumnal track from their beloved 2007 LP Marriage. Singer Daniel Romano intentionally creates a wistfulness in his lyrics—and if it wasn’t yet clear, wistfulness is the official emotion of the fall—and “Northern Towns” is a song about aging, suffering, and departure. (“A man’s as much as the love he leaves behind in Northern towns,” he sings.) Indeed, Romano intentionally romanticizes provincial fringes, but in reality, though, most actual Northern towns just look like terrible Stompin’ Tom videos.
Jenny Omnichord—“What Would You Do”
Jenny Omnichord is essentially the Canadian Kimya Dawson. She’s a D.I.Y. twee troubadour, only armed with an omnichord, and obviously, she’s from Guelph, the spiritual homeland of this stuff. Of all the fall archetypes, she occupies a specific role: She’s the potluck organizer. Swing by for a crafternoon with some pals from the bike co-op, and stay for the adorably named vegan treats (not snacks, meals or nosh, but treats) like Mac ‘n’ Chez, Facon Double Un-cheeseburgers, and Tofutti Cuties. Septum piercings are non-negotiable.
Something from Fiver’s Lost the Plot obviously had to make the cut—it is the album, after all, that’s currently soundtracking 2013′s autumn. (To wit: It was listed as one of our top 10 albums for September.) Simone Schmidt’s music has developed away from its country roots, instead channeling more haunted, esoteric sounds—and “the Undertaker,” complete with eerie strings, is a perfect pre-game track for Halloween. She’ll be formally launching Lost the Plot this week (with Timber Timbre opening, no less) in what promises to be one of the best shows in the effin’ country.
The Weather Station—“Everything I Saw”
Tamara Lindeman seemingly writes songs built for the fall equinox. Using banjo and guitar, she constructs songs called “Yarrow and Mint,” and even if we have no idea what yarrow is, we know it’s delicious. “Everything I Saw,” however, might be her most harvest-themed track yet, featuring lyrics like “I made hard wheat bread, and rhubarb berry fool, and I gave it all to you,” and “I dug up all my carrots with their wild orange hue, and I gave them all to you.” Does it come as any surprise that she also plays in Bruce Peninsula?
Cold Water—“Wolf Willow”
Calgary’s Kevin Stebner always has an interesting project on the go, whether he’s plugging away at D.I.Y. chiptune with Greyscreen, shooting offbeat sweded films, or organizing Canada’s best post-hardcore festival. His most intriguing outing, however, might be Cold Water, his hard-hitting electric folk act. Neil Young and The Highest Order’s Paul Mortimer are obvious sonic touchstones here, but Cold Water is distinctly Albertan: It’s all widescreen prairie skies, rock-hard soil and bone-chilling cold. Winter’s a-comin’!
Bry Webb—“Rivers of Gold”
Any number of Constantines songs could’ve been used on this list, but we’ve elected to run with a Bry Webb solo track. Why? Because there’s something about Webb’s weary voice, the weeping slide guitars, and the sparse instrumentation of “Rivers of Gold” that makes it the perfect accompaniment to pickling beets, jarring fruit preserves, and pickling more beets.
Ladyhawk—“My Old Jackknife”
There’s something about the fall that encourages dudes to grow scraggly beards, drop entire paycheques on Red Wing boots, and become obsessed with overpriced artisanal man-tools like axes, knives, and assorted leathergoods. So, as a tribute to everything flannelled and chugged from mason jars, we’re capping this list of with “My Old Jackknife,” a song that’s about men, fall, and what it means to be a man during the fall.
Look, Neil Young’s Harvest is hardly “indie,” but it fucking invented the Canadian fall, so we’re just going to drop the full album here and you’re just gonna stand there quivering in your Blundstones, mmkay?