AI: Seasonal Music Disorder

There’s this thing that I do with music. As the seasons change, so do my listening habits. For instance, as the Autumn rolls around, my play lists tend to be comprised more of the records I listened to as a teenager; In Utero by Nirvana, Where You Been? by Dinosaur jr, Last Splash by The Breeders, Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star by Sonic Youth…  Also, there are some albums or songs that I listen to only at night (Like Swimming by Morphine) or only during the day (anything by They Might Be Giants). I have some hypotheses, but really, I have no idea why this is.

Do you have similar ‘seasonal’ or ‘daytime/nightime’ tastes? Is it a mood thing? Are you aware of any research that addresses this phenomenon? Is this even a phenomenon, or is it just me?

The ART Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Mad Art Lab community. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3pm ET.

Brian George

Brian George is an illustrator and designer who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. In his spare time he makes videos of Spirograph drawings and complains about doing laundry. Website: Twitter: @brianggeorge Insta: @brianggeorge If you're into what I'm doing, feel free to throw down a bit in my tipjar here: @brianggeorge

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  1. Maybe *you* are a phenomenon?
    I usually select some music I never heard of (recently, assorted indie bands) and play again and again… Until one day I “discover” another genre or band, and the cycle starts again.
    But nothing with seasons or time of day for me, really.
    If anyone cares for my (current) tastes: I highly recommend M. Ward, Yeah yeah yeas, the Kills (two thumbs up!) and Camera Obscura… Haven’t heard much of Soltero, but when they come on, it guaranteed to be a “like”.

  2. Music so often gets associated with your environment or circumstances, it’s not at all hard to imagine seasonal associations. Especially some bands … I bet a lot of Low fans listen to them more in winter, or on rainy nights, than in the middle of summer.

    Me, though, I tend to associate music more with what I was doing at the time. There are certain albums that for me will always be associated with a certain programming project, or a particular game, or a difficult friendship that consumed all of my spare brain cycles for a time.

  3. My musical choices are definitely governed by mood. I’ve never noticed any kind of correspondence to the seasons even though my moods are affected by time of year. For instance, autumn always feels a little exciting and hopeful to me, a leftover from the start of a new school year no doubt.

    The thing I wonder about is just how many people use music to change their mood as apposed to choosing music to suit the mood they’re in at the time? I’m definitely in the latter category. If I feel like life is a Ministry song, no amount of Jonathan Richmond is going to change that so I don’t even try.

  4. Sometimes I will listen to the same song over and over and over and over and over.

    I realize this would drive others mad, so I only do it when alone or I have earbuds.

    I’ll start play whatever song I have selected as a victim and keep hitting the back button as I drive home from work. I remember during a particularly angry depressed period having A Perfect Circle’s Pet on continual rotation.

    There are certain songs that I will “collect” versions of. For instance, I have a playlist right now of 5 different versions of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. The Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black is another I “collect.” I even have a bluegrass version.

  5. When I was in high school, we had a rash of deaths in our family around November of my freshman year. I listened to some random collection of College Radio songs (this was 1990, so insert whatever REM/10000 Maniacs/Smiths/Cure were out then). For YEARS afterwards, whenever I got down I’d put those same songs on – and it was usually right around late fall. They don’t exactly take me back to the way my 14 year old self was feeling at the time anymore, but they’re great for a gloomy fall day.

    Incidentally, the minute I read this post, I felt a huge need to listen to the Smiths. Hmmmmm.

  6. I’m not surprised that there are certain sounds we associate with different things. We use different adjectives to describe different tastes that sometimes sound as if we are experiencing synaesthesia – we have things that taste ‘dark’, sounds that are ‘bright’, and so forth.

    For me, I like Jack’s Mannequin/Something Corporate in the fall time. “Annie Use Your Telescope” is night music not just because of the title, but because mellow, piano-based music with a bit of an echo reminds me of something cosmic and night is often a mellow, peaceful time for me.

    I’m not sure that it’s a phenomena exactly, unless you consider association a phenomena.

  7. Yes! Absolutely! Autumn is for Mazzy Star / Hope Sandoval, Neil Young, early The Wedding Present, The Clientele, The Replacements (especially Tim), The Sundays (first two albums), The Stone Roses, Damien Jurado, The Jesus & Mary Chain (Darklands only. Psychocandy is clearly for summer), Morrissey’s first few solo albums (especially the song “Every Day Is Like Sunday”), and like a million others.

    I’d like to think that there’s some kind of specific quality to these kinds of music that are “autumnal”, like a certain kind of contented melancholy or a Proustian angst over the passing of time, but it’s probably all just about memory and association. That I listened to these albums during particular falls throughout my life and now, what with music being (along with smell) the superhighway to memory, they trigger associations with the fall just as readily as the smell of pumpkin pie, hot turkey, mulled cider, chimney smoke and fallen leaves.

    Skulleigh: There are WAY too many versions of hallelujiah. :p

    Personally, I stick to the original, the John Cale version and the Jeff Buckley one (as sappy and overdone as the latter may be).

    I kinda want to listen to The Smiths now too… “good times, for a change…see the luck I’ve had can make a good man turn baaaa-aad…”

  8. Oh, and M. Ward too! He’s super fall.

    And actually, speaking of Low, I’ve always thought “Things We Lost In The Fire” was a great late-fall album. I love that part in “July” where she’s all “until august…september…october…november…lalala”

  9. @natalie1984: Yup. You nailed it. There are certainly records that feel (for instance) Autumnal, and I think your phrase “contented melancholy” is spot on perfect in describing my reaction to this type of music. The associations for seasons and the general mood of the music can, I think, be felt more keenly at certain times. I have a hard time imagining myself listening to a sexy Barry White number while scrubbing the toilet, for instance. That is the type of activity that calls for Black Flag, clearly 🙂

  10. @natalie1984 You pretty much listed everything I consider Autumn as well.

    However, I will say, certain Morrisey songs, like “Sing Your Life,”Certain People I Know,” etc, tend to be my “springy happy springtime” songs.

  11. Perhaps it’s just my Canadianess but k.d. lang’s version of Hallelujah is the one that does it for me. I got real goosebumps the first time I heard it. And Black Flag for toilet cleaning? Surely not. That task requires the swampiness of The Cramps. :p

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