By Bradley Barnes
Halloween is nearly upon us, and while many people are binge-watching their favorite horror films, we audiophiles are putting together spooky playlists and party mixes.
Ghosts, vampires and all manner of spooky themes have been a part of music for almost as long as music has been a thing, meaning there are a plethora of artists to choose from when putting together that perfect mix.
Bands like Misfits and Screaming Jay Hawkins are practically prerequisites, but if you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path, here’s a handful of albums with spooky themes that you can sink your teeth into.
Lord Huron – Strange Trails
For fans of Local Natives, Dawes, and The Lumineers, Strange Trails by Lord Huron is a bit of an oddity in the indie-folk genre.
Sonically, this album is pretty standard, catchy and upbeat, but the subject matter is where things get a little off-kilter. Songs about ghosts, revenge from beyond the grave and curses make this album perfect for that horror mix despite the relatively upbeat tone of tracks like “Dead Man’s Hand” and the joyful “Until The Night Turns.”
Sure, some numbers sound a little spooky, like the rockabilly-esque “The World Ender,” but for the most part, Strange Trails disguises itself as a typical indie-folk record.
After all, just because the lyrics are a little macabre doesn’t mean the music itself can’t be pleasant, right?
Recommended tracks: “The World Ender,” “Frozen Pines,” and “Love Like Ghosts.”
Say Hi (formerly known as Say Hi To Your Mom) – Impeccable Blahs
A one-man project from Seattle, Say Hi plays some catchy, often synthesizer-driven lo-fi that covers topics like spaceships, video games and is notably rooted in nerd culture.
If you like bands like Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Bishop Allen, or The Postal Service, this might be a band worth checking out.
Impeccable Blahs is an album full of the cutest songs about vampires you’ll likely ever listen to. Before listening to this album, I’m willing to bet you’ve never wanted to dance to a song with a chorus like, “And I’m gonna drink your blood,” but I guarantee “Blah Blah Blah” will have you bobbing your head almost immediately.
Eric Elbogen, the mastermind behind Say Hi, has a somewhat lethargic, understated vocal style, that provides another quirky layer to the music.
Recommended tracks: “These Fangs,” “She Just Happens To Date The Prince of Darkness,” and “Angels and Darlas.”
I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness – Fear Is On Our Side
More than likely, you’ve got a few goth/post-punk tracks in your playlist, with bands like The Cure and Joy Division providing a sad but danceable soundtrack with songs like “A Strange Day” or “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”
In the mid and early ’00s, several bands were revisiting the sound of those early post-punk/goth/darkwave bands, like Interpol and Editors. Of course, Texas had some skin in the game as well in the form of Austin’s I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness.
Their full-length debut, Fear Is On Our Side, is full of throbbing baselines, angular guitar riffs and vocals that are 100% influenced by the late Ian Curtis. The moody atmosphere created on this record practically screams “put me in a movie Halloween dance party montage.”
The band’s follow-up record, Dust is pretty solid as well but doesn’t quite feel as anthemic as their debut.
Recommended tracks: “According To Plan,” “The Ghost” and “Lights.”
Bauhaus – Go Away White
Speaking of post-punk, Bauhaus seems like another obvious choice, but believe me, there is life after “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.”
I would suggest revisiting Go Away White, the band’s final album, released exactly 25 years after their previous LP, Burning From the Inside. In many ways, Go Away White sounds like a completely different band with the punk side of their post-punk rearing its noisy little head.
“Adrenalin” showed that Peter Murphy still had some fire in his belly, ready to spew out onto a microphone and into the unwitting ears of the listener. “Endless Summer of the Damned” had some ‘70s/’80s post-punk vibes to it, and probably sounded the closest to the band’s previous records.
There are still some pretty moody tones in this record, perfect for your Halloween playlists.
Recommended tracks: “The Dog’s A Vapour,” “Endless Summer of The Damned” and “Saved.”
M83 – Saturdays = Youth
M83 has been categorized as dream pop, synthpop, shoegaze, new wave and ambient, and truthfully, all of these are applicable. Their albums often have a dreamlike quality, with an electric blanket of synthesizers covering the floating guitar bits and crooned vocals.
Saturdays = Youth sounds like it could be the soundtrack for “Donnie Darko,” if it was directed by John Waters. The music sounds distinctly ‘80s synthpop-influenced, but the lyrics are decidedly darker, as can be heard on tracks like “Graveyard Girl” and “Kim & Jessie,” both dealing with a fatalistic view of romance.
This record sounds like something an ‘80s Goth party would have played in the background if everyone was feeling a little dancey.
Recommended tracks: “Graveyard Girl,” “We Own The Sky,” and “Kim & Jessie.”
Featured image by Bradley Barnes.