Fall on the desert island

Rainy day


“This is definitely a desert-island album for me.”

Spencer and I were driving along our winding road last night, heading to my parents’ house, rain splattering against my windshield. Earlier in the day I’d dug around in the trunk for my old CD case: a fat compilation of albums, mostly collected a decade ago.

John Mayer’s “Heavier Things” was the first CD I bought with my own money. I was a freshman at a nearby community college, running out on my lunch break to pick up odds and ends at Walmart. It was September 2013, just a week or so into the school year, and I’d just started a job as a cashier at a craft store. My paycheck was paltry, but I didn’t know any different — and it didn’t much matter. I still felt impossibly adult with my brand-new debit card.

I told Spencer this story last night: how, eleven years ago, John Mayer’s “Clarity” and “Something’s Missing” and “Wheel” were the soundtrack to my 18-year-old days. I can close my eyes and be back on campus, climbing into my battered old Corolla, cranking the music up with cool September air pouring through the windows. A love note on my windshield. A scarf around my neck.

Music meant more to me then. I don’t listen to it much these days, preferring news radio or audiobooks on my drives. But when I do? It’s the “old” stuff. My vintage stuff. The songs that comprised my mornings and afternoons and weeks when I was younger and bursting and unsure, but still making progress. Steadily. Grasping.

Does your music change seasonally? Because as soon as the leaves begin to turn and I dig out my boots, I find myself reaching for Ingrid Michaelson, The Fray, Death Cab for Cutie. The softer, subdued stuff. It’s like my mind shrugs into a sweater, too, wrapping up and quieting.

I like that. It’s cyclical.

John may feel that, too.

“When autumn comes, it doesn’t ask. It just walks in where it left you last. You never know when it starts . . . until there’s fog inside the glass around your summer heart.”


“What do you mean — desert island?” my husband asked.

“Desert island. You know. An album you’d take with you if you were trapped on a desert island?”

“I’d bring a satellite phone,” replied my scientist, smiling in the dim evening light. “So I could call for help.”

“That’s not the question!”

But I laughed, anyway.


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13 thoughts on “Fall on the desert island

  1. That’s adorable! And Ingrid is always on my fall playlist! You should also check out Gregory Alan Isakov. The album “The Weatherman” was one of my favorites last fall and I plan to spin it again on all of our fall drives!

  2. My tastes definitely change with the seasons, but not by much. I love listening to music while editing. It’s good for inspiring creativity. 🙂 My “takes me back to college” album is Brushfire Fairytales (Jack Johnson). I don’t know why -it wasn’t the first I ever bought on my own or anything like that- but I listened to it pretty much non-stop the summer after sophomore year and it always takes me back when I hear it now.

  3. I’m a bit (all right, a lot) older than you. My back to college songs are UB40’s Red Red Wine and INXS’s Original Sin. By law school, grunge had taken hold, so Smells Like Teen Spirit – really anything by Nirvana – is a time machine. And REM’s Out of Time album in it’s entirety, but especially Shiny Happy People and Losing My Religion. I remember clear as day driving down to the Portland waterfront with some friends with REM cranked on the cassette player in my car. Windows down, music up, singing at the top of our lungs.

  4. Mellow music for fall is the way to go. Although I do love to belt some show tunes while washing dishes, you are otherwise likely to find Ingrid, The Civil Wars, and Mumford and Sons heavily rotating around here lately.

    It’s amazing how music has the ability to always pull you back to a specific moment or season of life.

  5. I like to listen to Snow Patrol in the fall. It reminds of when I was in college in Los Angeles, driving at 6 am when it was still dark out, on a fresh fall morning. I would play “Chocolate, “Run,” and “Chasing Cars” as I drove to the beach for a morning run before class. These songs captured the stillness of the morning, and the excitement of my quickly changing new life in a busy city.

  6. Some good ideas for a future music post next week. John Mayer, Ingrid Michelson, Gregory Alan Isakov, jack Johnson, REM, Civil Wars, Mumford and Sons, Snow Patrol – all great picks. I’ll follow up when it’s posted so you (and others) can listen again.

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