8 essential albums for autumn
From Summer Walker's 'Over It' to FKA twigs' 'Magdalene,' there's a soundtrack for every mood.
Autumn has been dark and haunting in all the right ways, and the music this season has matched the mood. Between Berhana’s debut album HAN and Summer Walker’s newest collection Over It, there’s a soundtrack for every vibe. Here are our favorite new fall releases:
HAN is, in a word, weird––but in all the ways a listener could want. While Berhana’s self-titled 2016 EP established him as a master of the slow R&B hit through songs like “Grey Luh” and “Janet,” the artist’s newest collection showcases a refreshing experimentally and enormous musical growth.
HAN is definitely a journey of an album, and to demonstrate this, Berhana cleverly structured his latest work like an outer space expedition: everything from the space-themed album cover to the four quirky “HN” interludes showcasing a flight attendant instructing the listener to “fasten your headphones and tighten until you feel the base has reached maximum slap.” All the songs on the album are quite different: “Golden” and “Drnuk” are more upbeat and feel-good, “I Been” and “I Wasn’t Told” are slower and more contemplative, and “Lucky Strike” has almost a disco-esque sound.
Berhana’s new sound is funky, eclectic, and just plain fun. While his earlier music, particularly songs like “Wildin,” proved the artist’s impressive musical range, HAN has allowed Berhana more room to play in all aspects of his artistry. Notably, the musician’s latest music videos show him branching out in other artistic respects as well––on “Health Food,” for example, Berhana uses the combination of the funky instrumentation and retro visuals to better illustrate his fitness journey. In all aspects, HAN takes listeners on a journey that is simply out of this world.
Over It, Summer Walker
Winter is coming, and Summer Walker has given us the perfect playlist to dance to in our room and vibe out during these cold, long months. On Over It, Walker’s first studio album, the artist takes on the tough themes of love, longing, and heartbreak with a tone that’s honest and uplifting.
The 23-year-old up-and-coming artist is casually redefining the classic love song, creating music about love and relationships that avoids looking at these issues through rose-colored lenses. On “Playing Games” featuring Bryson Tiller, for example, the artist laments that she “never asked for much” from her man and just wanted him to show her off, and on the album’s title song “Over It,” the artist wonders if she’s asking too much from love, and admits she just wants a partner who can “handle me.” Walker imbues her trademark slow, pensive sound into each song on the album, encouraging the listener to slow down and really reflect on the lyrics and stories that Walker is telling.
While the artist’s debut EP “Last Days of Summer” distinguished her trademark slow, smooth R&B sound through tracks like “CPR”, Walker’s newest collection feels more grown-up. While “Last Days of Summer” told the tale of a young woman struggling to find love in all the wrong places, Walker’s new album shows a woman who is “over it,” and is turning to self-love instead.
Pony, Rex Orange County
Rex Orange County catapulted into fame in 2017 with hits like “Edition,” “Loving Is Easy,” and “Sunflower,” but has kept relatively quiet since the release of his last album, Apricot Princess. Now, our sad boy king returns with Pony, a new collection with just as many bangers, moody tunes, and thought provoking numbers as we could hope for.
Many of the tracks on Pony, such as “Laser Lights” and “It’s Not The Same Anymore” maintain the musician’s distinct musical style: a mix between speaking, singing, and rapping. However, Rex Orange County still uses this collection to play around with speed, mood, and genre; songs like “10/10” are upbeat and have an almost techno feel to them, while “Always” feels like a slow love ballad.
Aside from being lyrically witty and musically fun, Rex Orange County’s music is also remarkable thematically. The artist always seems to address his depression and other mental health issues in a way that’s honest, vulnerable, and accessible, while not centering his own issues in the process. Songs from his earlier work like “Paradise” (which samples Marilyn Monroe lamenting that she “would like to be more sociable than I am”) and Happiness (“show me what it’s like to be happy”) illustrate this beautifully. On Pony, tracks like “Stressed Out”, in which the singer laments, “They wanna see me stressed out every day/doesn’t it feel unfair,” continue this tradition of normalizing conversations about mental health, admittedly through song.
MAGDALENE, FKA twigs
FKA twigs has long proven her ethereal goddess status through her previous albums and cinematic music videos, but her latest project takes her artistry to the next level. Magdalene is a stunning collection of songs that are as haunting as they are beautiful, leaving listeners feeling moody, pensive, and ultimately, seen.
What’s particularly appealing about FKA twigs is her honesty; she doesn’t shy away from her heartache, sadness, and confusion, instead using her raw vulnerability to create art that heals. “I knew that my life was about to fall apart,” the artist said in an interview with i-D earlier this year when speaking about putting together the album. “Everything that I knew, all my stability and everything I was attached to... was about to fucking go.” This sentiment can be seen throughout Magdalene––it’s clear the album is a method for release.
Through songs like "cellophane" (“Why don’t I do it for you?”) and holy terrain (“Do you still think I’m beautiful/when my tears fall like rain?”) the artist refuses to hide her anguish or desperation; instead she leans in, using it as fuel for her artistry. The result is music that is radically personal, focusing only on the artist's emotions and desires.
“As a woman, your story is often attached to the narrative of a man,” she explained. “I started to read about Mary Magdalene and how amazing she was; how she was likely to have been Jesus’s best friend, his confidante. She was an herbalist and a healer, but, you know, her story is written out of the bible and she was ‘a prostitute.’ I found a lot of power in the story of Mary Magdalene; a lot of dignity, a lot of grace, a lot of inspiration.” Magdalene is just that; a powerful ode to healing and self love.
LOVE AND COMPROMISE, Mahalia
Mahalia is no stranger to the themes of love and compromise; the artist has been making music since she was 13 years old, and as listeners, we have had the privilege of watching her and her music grow up. In her previous songs such as “I Remember” and “Sober,” the artist has kept to her soft, acoustic R&B roots. On Love and Compromise, the artist boldly expands her musical palette, introducing her audience to a new funky R&B sound that’s infectiously upbeat and fun.
Love and Compromise immediately distinguishes itself from the artist’s previous work with a bolder, more percussive and upbeat sound. Songs like “Simmer” featuring Burna Boy and “I Wish I Missed My Ex” still tackle the same themes as the artist’s earlier music such as love, self-growth, and relationships, but have a more triumphant feel to them. While songs off the artist’s 2016 album Diary of Me and her subsequent singles are slower, indicating a more hesitant take on the themes of love and relationships, the tracks from her latest collection show not only a music growth, but also a personal one. On “What You Did” featuring Ella Mai, for instance, Mahalia boldly asserts that she “can’t forgive” her cheating boyfriend because she knows she deserves better.
Through her covers, gorgeous lyrics, and impressive guitar capabilities, Mahalia has always established herself as a talented musician. On her latest work, the artist impressively breaks away from her traditional acoustic singer-songwriter sound to showcase a wider musical range.
Fields, Devonté Hynes
Devonté Hynes does not stop to rest. In the past few months alone, he has released two collections: one as Dev Hynes, the other as his stage name, Blood Orange. While his Blood Orange mixtape, “Angel’s Pulse,” was a more traditional R&B collection, Dev’s latest release shows his artistic range and takes his music in an entirely different direction.
Fields is spooky. The songs are dark, moody, and a little haunted––basically, a perfect fall mood. Hynes used this album as a chance to introduce listeners to a different side of his musicality; each song is entirely instrumental with no lyrics or vocals, making the instrumentation the focal point of each track. While Hynes is usually a lead vocalist in his music for Blood Orange, many listeners remain unfamiliar with his musical capabilities. The artist is trained on guitar, piano, and the cello, and showcases each in his latest collection. The album is the perfect soundtrack for any scorpio season related chaos.
Oncle Jazz, Men I Trust
Oncle Jazz is surprisingly soothing and wonderfully weird. The third studio album from Canadian indie pop band Men I Trust, the collection is somehow both slow and upbeat, calming and pensive, and undeniably unique.
Men I Trust has a knack for putting the listener in a trance, allowing their music to transport their audience to a world that formerly only existed inside the band’s imagination: “Norton Commander (All We Need)” will make you feel like you are floating through space while “Seven” will put you in the shoes of a white woman with long, flowy hair meandering through a beautiful field in a quaint, billowy dress. Although each song on the album has a distinct sound, the band masterfully curates a distinct soothing angst that immediately puts the listener at ease, causing them to slow down and reflect, even through some of their more upbeat tunes.
Although the band has been putting out music for years, they have recently gained attention for tracks like “Tailwhip,” “Show Me How,” and “Lauren.” Aside from being beautiful sonically and lyrically, the band also excels at creating beautiful music videos that showcase both the band’s creative vision and their natural artistry: the visuals are soothing and authentic, introducing listeners to not only another element of the band’s creativity, but also their personality.
Athena, Sudan Archives
Violinist and singer Sudan Archives has always embraced her uniqueness, but in her latest project Athena, she has grown into her sound like never before. The tracks on Archives’ newest collection are hauntingly beautiful––while tracks like “Did You Know” are more upbeat and “Down On Me” is more slow and pensive, the strong acoustic background ties the songs together beautifully. The songs on “Athena” have a distinctly ancestral vibe, which can be heard especially on songs like “Glorious.” While much of the artist's earlier work relied more heavily on her violin skills, her newer sound allows an experimentation with a wider range of sounds, showing her creative growth and allowing for a more nuanced and varied listening experience.
Aside from possessing impressive musicality, the artist has a knack for blending diverse and international sounds and has historically had an affinity for Sudanese culture, which is where her stage name comes from. The artist elaborates on this in her 2018 interview with i-D. “String music is kind of ancient,” she said. “I think it has kind of a healing vibe to it. I realized that [the Sudanese] have a very beautiful violin culture there and a lot of their traditional music has heavy heavy strings. I just really like the style, the arrangement of their songs, the scales that they play the violin in, and the singing styles are just very beautiful to me. It makes me feel really, really good inside.”
This diversity of sounds makes Archives’ music more nuanced, allowing the artist to create music that is not only international but timeless and make truly original songs that appeal to a wide audience without conforming to the mainstream.