It’s fall, and with the seasonal lattes come everyone’s seasonal Spotify playlists. Certain songs just fit the vibes of October, and this year, that got me thinking: isn’t that true of every month on the calendar? I set out to map the year in theme songs, January through December. What follows are some of my personal favorites. Enjoy!
January: “Cardigan” by Taylor Swift
There’s a certain sadness to the idea of January, I think. It rings of dark blues and greys, of cloudy skies and dry snowfall. “Cardigan” captures that feeling from the first notes of its wistful piano riff. The quarter note triplets in the verse layer on slowly, like heavy snow, over that shuffling pulse. It brings to mind that simple pleasure of finding an old sweater you’d forgotten about, or snuggling up with some tea; just you and your creature comforts against the cold, grey world.
February: “2/14” by The Band Camino
I’ll be honest: my brain went straight to this song because of the title, but Valentine’s Day isn’t the only reason I think “2/14” feels like February. There’s just something so endearing about it. The lyrics give meet-cute, and the instrumental gives glitter confetti. Add in the world’s best choppy piano chord intro, and there’s no song I’d rather dance around in my fuzzy socks to. By this time of winter, I think we could all use a little of that.
March: “Violet” by Bad Suns
Right from the snap in the first few seconds, this song is gearing up for something. To me, it perfectly captures that time of year when you first break out the hoodies after long months of winter coats. The weather isn’t quite ready for them yet, and you’re a little too chilly for comfort, but goddammit, you just want to run down the puddle-strewn sidewalk with your hood flapping behind you. And when you do, it feels so unbelievably light. Every hint of green jumps out as a little miracle. The air smells like rain and adventure. You know the feeling. So do Bad Suns, I think.
April: “Green Tea Ice Cream” by Linda Diaz
“Green Tea Ice Cream” says spring to me, and not just because of the actual birdsong in the instrumental. This slow, gentle groove is full of interesting sounds. It’s ethereal. It’s a little shy. And at its core, it’s a song about taking time to care for yourself in a world that never stops moving. April can be stressful, between ramped-up classes and future plans. We could all use a pastel-hued reminder to pause and breathe.
May: “Hotel” by Claire Rosinkranz
For whatever reason, choosing a song for May was one of the hardest parts of this quest. Ultimately though, I decided it’s a month with fun on the close horizon. What better song than “Hotel” to fuel that pent-up yearning to let loose? Claire paints a picture of an innocent sort of recklessness, with her usual goofy, spontaneous flair. The instrumental has a dash of that summer sound too— just the amount of summer that you can see from May’s vantage point.
June: “Too Good” by Arlo Parks
If you’re into incredible lyrics and music that always slaps, look no further than Arlo Parks. And if it happens to be June, head straight to “Too Good.” This song is 3 minutes and 41 seconds of sunshine. Soft vocals float above summery guitar lines and a bouncy, shuffling, hip-hop beat. Bright but easy-going, it invites you to kick back and dance. You’ll want to roll the windows down.
July: “Photo ID (with Dominic Fike)” by Remi Wolf and Dominic Fike
If months were flavors, I think July would taste like Sour Patch Kids. And if Sour Patch Kids were a song, they would undoubtedly be “Photo ID (with Dominic Fike).” It’s catchy, it’s electric, and it’s kind of weird. If “Too Good” is the kind of sunshine you can bask in, this song is the kind of sunshine that makes you squint a little, in a good way. For the peak of summer, it was the most larger-than-life groove I could find.
August: “A Toast and a Spirit” by Vacation Manor
August gets a bad rap, understandably. It’s so often remembered for long, muggy days and the return to normalcy. This song, though? It screams August in the best possible way. You can still hear summer in that classic, beachy Vacation Manor guitar, but in “A Toast and a Spirit,” it brings to mind fireflies and front porches, not palm trees. It’s nostalgic. It’s hopeful. It’s the end of something good and the start of something new.
September: “We Share The Same Skies” by The Cribs
I associate this song with bittersweetness, and driving fast under gathering storm clouds. To me, it reflects the chaos of the back-to-school transition period, of getting lost and making friends and figuring things out. The guitar powers it forwards with breakneck intensity, but there’s something comforting about the chorus that keeps me coming back. My friend would say it’s “summer in a fall font.” Just like September.
October: “State of Grace” by Taylor Swift
Here’s a hot take: Red is Taylor’s most underrated album, and “State of Grace” is the best song on it. It pounds like Doc Martins down a leaf-strewn sidewalk. It’s somehow both heavy and light, like the rush of early autumn, when every sign of the season is cause for adrenaline. It’s comforting. For me, this comfort goes back to sixth-grade days in my mom’s passenger seat, and knowing every word by heart. But even if you didn’t come of age to “State of Grace,” you’ll find joy in this fall anthem. It’s sharp gusts of wind, it’s wild laughter, and it’s facing the world like you’re the most powerful thing in it. Bring it on, October.
November: “East Harlem” by Beirut
I’ll come clean here: November is my favorite month. To me, it means things are starting to calm down and settle in. It means true, consistent sweater weather. It makes me feel safe. For all these reasons, I nominate “East Harlem” as this month’s song. Not only does it live permanently on my relaxation playlist; it positively reeks of late fall. The quarter notes are so grounding. The melody is so gentle. I can practically smell the nutmeg and cinnamon. There’s a curiosity to it, that brings to mind hikes and adventures. It’s November in an audible hug.
December: “The Trouble With Love Is” by Kelly Clarkson
Blame Love, Actually for this one. I was raised on the soundtrack, and everything on it reminds me of December. This song is as warm and fuzzy as it gets. Bring on the fairy lights!