Aurora Birch’s ‘Brightness’ is the autumn album you never knew you needed


There are certain things I associate autumn with. The word “autumn” itself brings a sheen satisfaction that “spring” or “summer” just doesn’t deliver. The smell and taste of apple chai, of which I have been on for a minute now, coupled with the changing trees ring in the best season. (Side Note: Winter was my favorite all the way until I came north to New England for college, and now it certainly isn’t). 

However, the sound of the fall is harder to pin down. I don’t mean the ambient rustling of dying trees or yelling at your friend for playing their Christmas playlist in early October. I mean that the music associated with the season can be elusive. Stripped back acoustic folk-ish indie is the key to my heart. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for minimalist acousticians any month of the year. Hell, I want my coffin to be made of dismantled mahogany guitars from all my favorite Pitchfork products. It all just hits different once the leaves start falling. 

Aurora Birch’s “Brightness” is one of my favorite underground albums of the past few years, and it will fit perfectly into your morning walk to class from now until winter break. “Brightness” is the debut project of Emily Moran, a Boston-based performer. I first stumbled upon her in the “related artists” tab for some Philadelphia indie band that I’ve since long forgotten. That was in early 2018, just a couple of months after the release of “Brightness,” and I was hooked instantly.  

The album’s multi-structured yet simple production is something rare on any subsection of indie nowadays, and Moran’s songwriting turns it into a memorable experience. “Semantics,” easily the standout song from “Brightness,” is a tender ballad from Moran to an unnamed lover, with some pieces of outstanding lyricism.  

“Keep the whiskey steady, keep it flowing like the Rhone,” sings Moran. “I’ll be drowning out the questions that are burning in my throat.”  

“Tom’s Song,” a song tucked into the middle of the album, surfaced in the past year as one of my favorites. The words on the track are beautiful, but the string quartet echoing Moran’s words transforms it from a warm hymn to a near-religious experience. That may sound like an unbelievable stretch, but the orchestration is truly that special, throughout the song and the whole album. 

After indulging myself with “Brightness” for the first half of 2018, I got the chance to see Moran live in concert in my hometown of Philadelphia two summers ago. Tucked into the back garden of “The Random Tea Room & Curiosity Shop,” (it’s as hipster as it sounds), Moran gave an intimate performance to the dozen of us gathered around her and her guitar. I may have been the only audience member without a tattoo, but I didn’t care a bit: I knew I was seeing something special.  

Her social media can be a bit sporadic sometimes, but all indications point to Moran putting out her sophomore album soon. She posted a photo in July of a myriad of guitars sprawled around Dimension Sound Studios in Boston, the location of her previous work’s production. When her next work hits the digital soundscape, give it a listen. It’s a wonderfully crafted first record from one of the most promising independent artists in New England, if not the entire country, and Aurora Birch deserves to provide the soundtrack to your October.  

“Brightness” is available on most streaming platforms, as well as Bandcamp. Aurora Birch’s Facebook is “aurorabirchmusic” and her Instagram is “aurora.birch.” 

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Daniel Cohn is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at

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