The Art of the (Fall) Playlist


I’m a big playlist guy. When I got my first iPod in middle school, I loved to mix and match different songs together for every occasion. I had playlists for Christmas, summer, Father’s Day, drives to the beach, ski trips, plane rides, etc. In the early days, these playlists usually ended up on CD-Rs, many of which I still have stuffed into random drawers and bins around my house. These old playlists are classic and terrible at the same time, and you know exactly what I mean when I say that. My first car didn’t have an aux cord, so I would just throw whatever songs I was currently listening to onto a playlist and burn it onto a CD for my car. Kids these days have it so good. When I started dating my girlfriend in high school, I worked hard to improve her music tastes by inundating her with playlists at every opportunity. Seven years later, this seems to have worked. In 2008, I made a Kid Cudi playlist for my friends, ensuring them that this kid who grew up in Cleveland was going to be the next big thing. He was. I’m a music evangelist, and playlists are my medium.

When I jumped on the Spotify train last year, my world exploded. Suddenly I could instantly pull music from a seemingly infinite library and quickly text the playlist link to friends. Again, kids these days have it so good. Spotify is the greatest invention since the iPod itself, and is something I gleefully pay for each month.

Lately, my playlists consist of Top 100 lists and seasons. Seasonal music is the best, because music to enhance a mood is a type of magic. The only thing better than a sunny 60 degree Saturday in October is a sunny 60 degree Saturday in October with the perfect song playing in your car.

I recently finished my Fall 2016 playlist, and I’ve been listening to it a lot. It’s not totally done (constantly-evolving playlists are another dream made possibly by Spotify), but it’s good enough to share. I rarely share these with the public, so count yourself lucky.

Building a fall playlist, or any playlist for that matter, is not as easy as you may think. It’s important to stay true to the vision, or you’ll end up with a list of songs you like that have nothing to do with each other or the desired mood. This is a mistake I often made early in my playlist-making career, and it’s something I still struggle with. Even on this season’s playlist, I had to cut songs I love simply because they didn’t fit quite right. It’s a sacrifice, but it’s part of the game. Your job as a playlist creator is to make these difficult decisions.

Another important thing to keep in mind is the goal of the playlist. You must be diligent not to stray from this path. When making a fall playlist, don’t go too upbeat. If I’m jamming to your playlist and I start to wish I were at the pool, you just failed me. You’ve ruined my mood and now I can’t even enjoy the fall weather. Keep the summer songs in August. However, don’t overshoot in the other direction, either. A common mistake when making a fall playlist is inserting a bunch of gloomy winter music. My crippling depression doesn’t come until January, folks. Right now I’m trying to drink an Oktoberfest and enjoy the weather. The leaves are dying, I am not. Hold onto that sad music for a few more months.

The last bit of advice is something that’s difficult but can easily be done on the fly. It sounds simple, but it’s crucial: All the songs must go together. In truth, you’ll never truly master this portion until you get to know your playlist. You have to break it in before you see the flaws. I don’t think I’ve ever made a playlist that was perfect on the first try. Usually there’s a song I find myself skipping on every rotation. Your job is to identify this song as soon as possible and weed it out. If you’re feeling confident, maybe pinpoint a strength of your playlist and reach for a song with those characteristics to replace your discarded track. Now you’re cookin’ with gas.

My fall playlist had a few rules. First, I wanted everything to be indie rock, which branches out into emo and pop punk while fighting the temptation to throw hip-hop and Frank Ocean in there. (That last part was hard for me.) I’ll admit that keeping the genre so specific is like playing the game on easy mode, but I think it makes for a better, safer playlist. Second, I wanted it to be mostly newer music. I love a playlist full of classics, but I find myself growing tired of hearing the same songs every fall. This one is fresh. I made an effort to pull from releases in the last few years, aside from a few exceptions that diligent listeners will notice. Lastly, I wanted to keep things generally more upbeat. As a lover of sad music, I tend to skew all of my playlists, regardless of season, to the more introspective side. This playlist still has that, but I don’t think it ever gets too somber.

Putting playlists in a specific order really isn’t my style, but I gave it a shot this time. It’s not scientific, but there are introduction-type songs at the beginning, followed by upbeat songs which slowly give way to more downtempo tracks. The slow stuff is at the end, but feel free to just hit shuffle. I’ve found myself doing both.

Without further adieu…

TITLE: FALL ’16 by

LENGTH: 30 tracks

RUN TIME: 1:47

LINK: Spotify