As summer hanging makes way for classes and meetings, the changing season calls for a soundtrack of syncopated digital beats and rock 'n' roll jams for setting a productive mood. Of course, fall wouldn't be fall without shedding a small tear for the parties that had to end, romances that seem frivolous in fall and trees losing their leaves, which all feels most satisfyingly sad accompanied by simple melodic vocals and melancholy harmonies. For pensive moments, lyrical hip hop from the fringes of the industry feels about right. Oh, and did we mention the '80s? They're here too. (Launch the Player.)—With contributions from Mike Frank, Seth Brau, Doug Black, Ami Kealoha and Tim Yu
Armando Manzanero: Cuando Estoy Contigo
We wanted to start you off by taking you back. Armando Manzanero has performed with Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet and Elvis Presley, to name a few. Although those performances were not to miss, we love this award winning track from 1965, "Cuando Estoy Contigo" (When I'm With You). Pick up the track on iTunes.
Kid Cudi: Make Her Say (Ft. Kanye West and Common)
With an addictive Lady Gaga sample, "Make Her Say" breaks from the reflective theme of Kid Cudi's breakthrough album to rhyme about sex, sex and more sex. Pick it up from iTunes.
Yacht: I'm In Love With A Ripper
Yacht's debut album on his new label DFA has been making waves all summer with its richer more fleshed-out sound. "I'm in Love With a Ripper" is one of the many tracks that seamlessly mixes in DFA production values with the Portland musician's spazzy beats. Get it from iTunes.
Discovery: Winter Games
Discovery's syncopated handclaps and chimes layered with a sweetly lamenting hook makes for one of the more catchy songs on their premiere album. If the band's rotation during New York Fashion Week is any indication, we predict the Vampire Weekend and Ra Ra Riot alums' electronic-meets-hip hop-meets-indie-meets-pop sound will only gain more and more fans. Buy the track from iTunes.
Foreign Born: It's Not My Fault (It's My Fault)
"It's Not My Fault" feels like a breezy tune, but its minor key sets it apart from the rest of the album and pushes it into the perfect song for the summer fade. Check out the above video for a little insight into what makes this L.A. band (comprised of hit producers) more than your average indie rock outfit. The song is available on iTunes
An up and comer, Brooklyn's Arpline are currently recording an album with famed producer Chris Coady, who's also worked with Grizzly Bear, TVOTR, the Yeah Yeah Yeah's and Blonde Redhead, to name a few. Check out one of their newest tracks "Rope," which is available on their site. Expect to see them around during CMJ in a few weeks.
The xx: Islands
XX bring a melodic pop with a hint of electronica from the southwest region of London. In the track "Islands" the four 20-years-olds balance a soft duet with bright guitar work, creating an easy, catchy groove. Purchase the track on iTunes.
Small Black: Despicable Dogs
Small Black's lo-fi production haze perfectly conjures that familiar tragic teenage bedroom sound. Due out 13 October 2009, the Brooklyn-based duo's first EP is available for pre-order at Insound. Check out more of their music on their MySpace.
The Pretty Things:The Good Mr. Square
Born out of the Rolling Stones (when Dick Taylor quit the Rolling Stones and formed The Pretty Things) we're hooked on this 1970's track, "The Good Mr. Square." A great falsetto, perfect harmonies and Beatles-esque baseline rarely go sour. The whole album follows suit and should be a part of any self-respecting music collection. Pick up the track on iTunes.
The Pretty Things: She Was Tall, She Was High
The only band that gets two spots on our playlist, The Pretty Things intended for "The Good Mr. Square" and "She Was Tall, She Was High" to be played back to back. The album was recorded during a time when a lot of thought was put into making an album, considering A and B sides and the flow of tracks—pretty different from our current era of purchasing individual MP3s and shuffle. Purchase the track on iTunes, but we recommend getting the whole album, entitled Parachutes.
Yo La Tengo: Periodically Triple Or Double
Playing off a tight '60s garage-rock riff, the new release from the inveterate New Jersey rockers proves their fluency in their medium. Thoroughly contemporary lyrics and touches like a sparsely jazzy organ interlude make for a distinctly Yo La song. Buy it from iTunes.
The first single from the forthcoming new album of the same name (it drops 22 September 2009), "Vapours" polishes the band's multiple references, mixing They Might Be Giants-style vocals with big band horns and traces of their innocence from their days as the Unicorns, into perfectly-articulated pop. Preorder the song from iTunes.
Little Joy: The Next Time Around
Although this came out last year, we think the Little Joy track "The Next Time Around" is positively adorable and a great fit with the fall time. Fabrizio Moretti's voice lends a distinctive sound (thanks to his former stint as the Strokes' frontman) and drives the simple guitar and drum lines forward. Get the track on iTunes.
The Beatles: She Said She Said
Our nod to their recently released remastered box set (get the Amazon.
Jay Reatard: I'm Watching You
A lovely, jangly tune, "I'm Watching You" leaves you deep in its wonderfully warm thrall. Although most of Jay Reatard's brief-and-sweet songs seem to cater to those either with ADD or who can't muster enough energy to prolong that energy to pogo, this song proves he can damn well carry a song to substance past the three-minute mark. Watch Me Fall is an album that keeps summer going even as the leaves start to turn color. Buy the track from iTunes.âPhuong-Cac Nguyen
Wild Beasts: The Fun Powder Plot
If Yoko Ono was a dude, we think it might sound something like the "Fun Powder Plot" by the Wild Beasts—in a good way. Hailing from Kendal, England, we like their whole new album, Two Dancers. They are currently on tour, so be sure to check their MySpace if you want to catch them, and purchase the track on iTunes.
Florence and The Machine: Rabbit Heart
The powerful Florence Welch of Florence and The Machine blasted onto the U.K. scene showing off an impressive pair of lungs and a flair for the dramatic. A little bit punk, a little gothic and with a lot of fairytale glitter, Florence's "Rabbit Heart" has got us energized and nostalgic all at the same time. Think Bat For Lashes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs rolled into one. Pick up the track from iTunes.—Leonora Oppenheim
Neon Indian: Deadbeat Summer
The track title "Deadbeat Summer" sums up summer 2009 exactly and somehow Neon Indian perfectly captures the sentiment in their recording. With oscillating fidelity and a quirky melody, the Austin-based band makes the transition from the BBQ to a fall night dance party. Their first LP drops 13 October 2009. Currently on their first-ever tour, be sure to check out their MySpace for dates and get the track on iTunes.
Atlas Sound: Walkabout
Featuring Noah Lennox of Panda Bear's Beach Boys-esque vocals, this dreamy track from Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox's side project leaked some time back, almost killing the project. Lucky for us, that didn't happen and there's more to come from this band influenced by "doo wop and girl groups." Download "Walkabout" from Rcrd Lbl
Cass McCombs: You Saved My Life
"You Saved My Life" by Cass McCombs could be the most beautiful song on this list. Reportedly the new album, Catacombs, is a tribute to his wife, so most songs follow in this accord. Stripped down, with a solid bass line, sparse drums and a hint of pedal steel, it's a heart-wrenching track in the best ways. Get the song on iTunes.
Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
From the recently-released box set (featuring songs handpicked from the archives by Neil Young himself), this spot-on live version melds perfect harmonies with twangy guitar and Young's superlative songwriting for a song almost everyone can relate to. Get it from iTunes.
Jay-Z: Already Home (Featuring Kid Cudi)
We're feeling "Empire State of Mind" as much as everyone else, but "Already Home" features plenty of Jay-Z's characteristic flourishes—from vocal hiccup stylings to string and horn samples—to keep even the pickiest of fans happy. Buy it from iTunes.
Vybz Kartel: Yuh Love
Straight out of Jamaica, "Yuh Love" by Vybz Kartel and Dre Skull gets better with every listen. Featuring lyrics of love, the slower electro-pop dancehall track is a good way to wind down the summer. Buy it on iTunes.
Pax Nicholas and the Nettey Family: Ataa Onukpa
Thanks to this recent Daptone re-issue by conga player and singer Pax Nicholas, fans of the afrobeat style have even more to sink their teeth into. Pick it up from iTunes.
Tsegué-Maryam Guébrou: The Homeless Wanderer
Rounding out our playlist, is the beautiful solo piano work of Tsegue-Maryam Geubrou. A nun who only records music as a means to serve the poor, her solo compositions are a timeless treasure. She even has a whole album.