By BEN WEINSTEIN
With Halloween parties comes an onslaught of unbearably cheesy “spooky” playlists. From “Monster Mash” to “The Addams Family Theme,” music traditionally associated with Halloween is particularly unlistenable. Though Halloween music options are undeniably limited, there are ways to avoid hearing nothing but “Thriller” on a loop this Saturday. Sit back, relax, and cue up the songs below for a tolerably creepy listening experience.
Veronica Falls- “Found Love In a Graveyard”
The first track from the English group’s 2011 self-titled debut, this song’s spooky vibe is matched only by how scarily catchy it is. The interplay between the male and female vocals perfectly complements the sinister guitar riff, and “Found Love In a Graveyard” is indie pop at its absolute best. Who says Halloween love stories don’t exist?
Slint- “Nosferatu Man”
Post-rock pioneers Slint have a knack for making listeners feel uneasy, and “Nosferatu Man” from their seminal 1991 LP “Spiderland” is especially effective in this regard. Brian McMahan’s hushed vocals would give this song an eerie feel even if he wasn’t singing about the classic German vampire film “Nosferatu.”
The Microphones- “Headless Horseman”
Few things in life feel more appropriate than Phil Elverum’s soothing voice on a brisk autumn night. Besides providing a unique (albeit a bit challenging) costume idea, “Headless Horseman” serves as the perfect soundtrack to any fall walks one might take — trick-or-treating or otherwise.
From the first menacing bass note played in “Phantom,” the now-defunct trio Krill make it clear that this song lives up to its name. The band’s angular guitar and anxious vocals are the spine-tingling musical equivalent of some ghastly being watching you from the distance: “A wicked and twisted phantom comes to you in the night…”
Grimes has always been known for blending the bright and bubbly with the dark and foreboding, never more so than on her 2012 album “Visions.” Although this song feels musically like the dead of night, it’s impossible not to be livened by its infectious sound. As much as we all love the “Monster Mash,” “Oblivion” is the best Halloween dance party soundtrack out there.
Suicide- “Frankie Teardrop”
Probably the objectively scariest song on this list, “Frankie Teardrop” is the musical equivalent of descent into insanity. Even without the disturbing lyrics and chilling, minimalist drum machine, Alan Vega’s tortured screams will make you duck under your covers long before the song’s nearly 11-minute duration is up.
TV On the Radio- “Wolf Like Me”
The bloodthirsty werewolf who comes out as the sun goes down — a classic Halloween tale. TV On the Radio’s 2006 single still sounds fresh and immediate nearly ten years later, reminding us why they became the indie-rock giants we know them as today.
Kanye West feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver– “Monster”
Is there a single better hip-hop jam to play on the scariest night of the year? I think not. Everything from Bon Iver’s ominous intro to the game-changing verse Nicki delivers will cause hairs to stand on end. Throw in solid verses from Rick Ross, Jay-Z, and Yeezus himself, and you’ve got a tasty stew of capable MCs bubbling in your cauldron.
Fever Ray- “If I Had A Heart”
Although you may know her as one half of Swedish duo The Knife, Karin Dreijer Andersson is a force to be reckoned with even when working alone. Creeping out of the dark, foreboding synthesizers, her otherworldly voice is as entrancing as it is brooding. It’s not so difficult believing Karin when she says she has no heart to love with on this track.
Purity Ring- “Belispeak”
It’s only fitting that at least one artist loosely associated with the label “witch house” appears on a Halloween-themed playlist. Heavy vocal manipulation and hard-hitting drum machines constitute the majority of the duo’s debut “Shrines,” providing the perfect soundtrack for any occult banger going down.
Gil Scott-Heron- “Where Did The Night Go”
The late Gil Scott-Heron was one of the most influential and forward-thinking voices in music across several decades, all the way up to his final album, 2010’s “I’m New Here.” This song’s lurching beat serves as an eerie backdrop for Scott-Heron’s gruff voice, and if you need any spoken word poetry for Halloween (spookin’ word poetry?) look no further than “Where Did The Night Go.”
The Cure- “Lullaby”
What Halloween playlist could be complete without at least one Cure song? Taken from their 1989 opus “Disintegration,” Robert Smith’s whispered vocals about the “Spiderman” will give a good scare to arachnophobes and bug-lovers alike.