By Will Weatherly
OK Halloween, you’re cute. You make us put on cat ears or toilet paper bandages and make us boo-gie to the classics— Bobby Picket’s “Monster Mash,” or if we’re feeling frisky, The Clovers’ “Love Potion #9.” As we shimmy and shake our hips in the back-and forth-fashion befitting the terror of the night, we contemplate the eerie prospect that Don Draper could walk in at any moment and be sexist to us. This certainly puts a quake in our bones! 50’s doo-wop and pop standards! What a Halloween fright!
I don’t know why we all decided on our grandfathers’ idea of a spooky time, but that ends now. For once, I want a Halloween party I attend to have a soundtrack that is less bobbing-for-apples and more cold-grip-of-terror. Halloween is the one night of the year that we all acknowledge our paranoiac fears and mortal nightmares… in a fun way. It’s a perfect opportunity for music that chills the soul, stops the heart, or sends your party guests running and screaming. So in the true spirit of the holiday, here are some actually scary (and new!) songs to add to the Halloween mixtape for all your demon lovers or freaky friends.
Susanna/Jenny Hval — I Have Walked This Body
This came out last year, but it is my top vote for “scariest vocal performance” in recent memory, AKA “#1 shriek” towards the song’s end. It’s actually a beautiful song, even when its sheen gets ripped apart by the industrial noise that hovers below the first 3 minutes. And we all know industrial noise is scary, because machines are scary and can kill/replace/kill-and-replace us. And they make eerie noises!
Girl Band — Paul
This one takes the cake for “scariest music video” because nothing stares deeper into the depths of your unconscious fears than children’s television programming. Also the song itself turns post-rock into something relentless, and awe-inspiring if you’re the kind of person who is into 7-minutes of anxiety. This is the kind of music that can give a teeth-grinder nubs for chompers.
Myrkur — Skøgen Skulle Dø
“Myrkur” — Danish for “darkness.” “Skøgen Skulle Dø” — Danish for “harlot should die.” Those angelic voices at the beginning don’t sound so high and pretty now, do they? Neither do they seem divine when they combine with the black-metal riffs in the core of the song. Or maybe that’s the point; they’re death angels, still holy, but unmerciful and smiting! At least that’s what I got from the part where they’re laughing and I had to turn it off.
Gnaw Their Tongues — From the Black Mouth of Spite
Not every black-metal song is created equal. Take something off of Deafhaven’s new album — sure it’s sludgy, but it’s also soft and pretty, like a bleak expressionist painting. I don’t know about you, but the only painting I admire at Halloween is Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofernes, because there’s loads of blood and the lighting is bad for people’s complexion. This black-metal song is like that. Also the band is called “Gnaw Their Tongues.” What more do you want?
Ryo Murakami — Bias
For the subtler scares, go with minimalist drone music. This is off an album called Deist, a title which references a connection to God through reason, so this is also a perfect selection for the philosophy enthusiasts who want to feel mEtApHySiCaLlY GhOuLiSh oOoOoOoOhh!! The video, on the other hand, evokes ecological horrors, which are real and some of the scariest things you could be thinking about this Halloween, in-between trick-or-treaters or something.
Björk — Family
You may think I am joking with this selection, but I can think of no scarier song of 2015. Your partner of several years walks away from the sense of security you’ve mutually established in the world, and your shared responsibilities? Ahhhhh!!! In addition to the fear of (a lack of) commitment, this song sounded so queasy on my first listen, I could not physically sit down during it; I just sort of stood in front of my speakers and trembled. This is thanks in part to Björk’s co-producer...
Arca — Soichiro
...who is, in collaborations and in solo work, a master of uneasy song construction. Warbles and distortions seem to emanate from the voids of the songs, twisting and turning into something as pleasing as it is disturbing. Arca also often plays with ideas of gender, so maybe you could play this and scare all of the people in your life who cling to outdated and harmful gender conceptions (the scariest kind of gender conceptions)?
FKA Twigs — Mothercreep
FKA Twigs is the foremost torchbearer for the creepy in pop. I’ll select “Mothercreep” as the track for this mixtape of the macabre, but I’ve linked to the whole M3LL155X music video, a master-class in combining contemporary dance with unsettling filmmaking. The body is never far from the uncanny in FKA Twigs’ work; it is liable to distortions, to manipulation and horror. But try not to think about that when you’re shaking your boo-ty on the dance floor! Halloween!
Yowler — In the Bathroom
For the ideal end to your night — sure, the guitars seem distant, and the vocals seem to be simultaneously whispered directly into your ear and out of a great cavern, but it’s a come-down song, through-and-through. Until the silence opens up at the end, and you are left alone, staring up at the ceiling of your room, probably remembering the cover to that “Gnaw Their Tongues” record, completely unable to sleep. Very spooky!