So at the end of September, heading into October, things get a bit tough. I think they get tough for a lot of us – summer ends, the sun retreats, seasonal-affective disorder rears its head, or school does, whatever. I know I personally have a way of slowing to a crawl as autumn begins in earnest, especially in 2019, on this hell-orb we call the Earth.
It’s been a long year, is what I’m saying.
A long time ago I started using October and my obsession over Hallowe’en as a remedy to that general sense of physical and mental exhaustion. I attend or host a thousand Halloween events, listen to spooky music, and play scary games! It’s an intense carnival of distraction all month long, and it works, mostly. I also used to do this giant music challenge where I post a spooky song every day, for the whole month. Somewhere along the way, life got in the way, and I fell off my little October rituals, one by one, and this one went with it. This did not do wonders for my mental health. I regret this, I’m bringing it back. Let’s dance through these dark and spooky days together.
Alright, so before I get totally dorky over my picks, here’s that playlist. Oh, and if you’re into it, click through to follow me on Spotify! I’ll be making more stuff!
And now, because I’m a perfectionist, a track by track analysis. I can talk about spooky music literally forever. Maybe sit down; this might get spooky, but it will DEFINITELY get wordy.
1: The Creepshow – Creature of the Night
What can I say: I’m Canadian, I can’t help it. Once upon a time, this particular version of the Creepshow (2006’s Hellcat Blackwood lineup) was the best damn psychobilly band in the country. Since then, Hellcat left, her sister took over, and then her sister abdicated the throne to form Walk Of The Earth, of all bands. It’s been a long road for the Creepshow; they’re still around and doing it, but I’ve never loved them so much as I did 13 years ago.
2: Blood Ceremony – Flower Phantoms
I promise this won’t turn into a stoner metal playlist, I promise this won’t turn into a stoner metal playlist. But it would be so easy to just make this entire thing a stoner playlist, and have that be that.
It fits Hallowe’en like a glove. A resinous, hazy glove.
There’s this wonderfully thin line between a lot Stoner music and 60s psychedelia, and when your singer sounds like Alia O’Brien, that line gets even thinner. This is about as 60’s pop worship as the extremely 60s-pop-worshipping Blood Ceremony ever got. I mean it’s Satanic Mamas and the Papas, folks. That’s what you’re hearing here.
3: Stolen Babies – Filistata
Stolen Babies are my second favourite evil polka accordion metal act. Third? Definitely top five. The others will make their way onto a playlist one of these years. Here’s a song about being a deadly spider.
4: Isaac Rother and the Phantoms – Somebody Put A Hex On Me
I saw Isaac Rother and his Phantoms open for Guitar Wolf about three years ago. Now Guitar Wolf was the greatest rock and roll performance I’ll ever witness, but to Rother’s immense credit he proved a hard act to follow. There are a million campy throwback bands out there folks, but so few that feel like they just stumbled drunk out of a time machine mid-song. Here’s today’s tune dose of tiki rock; be sure to check out All their other tunes.
5: Ghost – Danse Macabre
Danse Macabre is just hopelessly goofy. From the affected ‘wit-chu’s’ of the chorus to, uh, everything else about this song, it’s the campiest, hokiest track by the campiest, hokiest metal band around. It’s Ghost! They’re ridiculous, so of course one of their many, many satanic-panic disco numbers is this Saturday’s song. They can’t help themselves, and neither can I.
6: King Dude and Chelsea Wolfe – Be Free
Like Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue, or Morrissey and Siouxsie, a gothy duet for the ages. A more contemporary sort of haunted, ghostly love song from King Dude and Chelsea Wolfe. Happy Midnight, everyone.
7: Zeal and Ardor – Row, Row
Zeal and Ardor are like nothing else out there. Their best songs are incantations, but this is the only one that opens like a Mark Ronson tune. If you’re into extremely inventive black metal, give them a shot – I guarantee there’s nothing else like it.
There’s nothing subtle or typical about Zeal and Ardor.
‘Row Row you’re never gonna go
Shapeless forms you didn’t even know
Now Lord behold they’re taking me below
Cast my name in the salt and stone’
8: ACTORS – Face Meets Glass
Something dancier, synthier and moodier from Vancouver’s very own. Here’s ACTORS, as good a post-punk band as my city has ever produced.
9: Tom Waits – Little Drop of Poison
A different Tom Waits song – a sort of haunted, love tango. No Hallowe’en playlist is complete without a song featuring a singing saw, after all, and no one on earth sounds quite like Tom Waits.
‘Did the devil make the world while god was sleeping
You’ll never get a wish from a bone
Another long goodbye and a hundred sailors
That deep blue sky is my home’
10: The Birthday Massacre – Blue
More blessed Canadian Content:
It’s not October without The Birthday Massacre. The Birthday Massacre: background music to every Hallowe’en since the second they came out.
11: Siouxsie and the Banshees – Spellbound
A witchy dance song for your freezing cold Friday night. Eleven days, that’s how long it took to get me to Siouxsie. Be proud of me.
12: Aja – Brujeria
A guest curation from guest-editor and queer hip-hop expert Frieda! Here’s what she had to say:
“As an expert in the field of Queer Hip Hop, y’all knew I was going to pick something dance-y with Big Gay Energy. This track is by Aja, a former drag queen turned rapper who is a Gender Queer POC. Aja spits fierce verses with a snarl that is sure to have you under their spell and on the dance floor in no time.”
13: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Red Right Hand
You know, I was going to use Babe I’m On Fire, off of Nocturama, which runs 14 minutes and 46 seconds. Thankfully here comes Red Right Hand, as menacing and weird a Nick Cave song as you’ll find, at a cool and trim 6:10. Perfect for a party playlist.
14: S U R V I V E – Wardenclyffe – Los Angeles, CA
Now best-known as the Stranger Things folks, s u r v i v e have been making wild and spooky synthscapes for a while now. Here’s a live number, from the charmingly-titled RR7400:LA041717. It’s on Bandcamp, and you can pay whatever you want for it.
15: Sidewalks and Skeletons – Destroy (ft. Goo Munday)
I *also* promise this won’t turn into a Witch House playlist. Sidewalks and Skeletons got themselves a singer/second producer this last year, and it’s totally changed their sound. Do you miss Crystal Castles, but also totally not miss Crystal Castles because that dude was a monster from hell? Try Sidewalks and Skeletons for your foggy, ravegoth needs.
16: Gost – Commencement
I promise this won’t turn into a synthwave playlist.
Legend/conventional logic has it that Gost is secretly a top-tier metal dude masquerading as a synthwave dude, which explains his production acumen, the way he was able to basically pop out of nowhere and start opening for bands like Pallbearer, and why his music is so damn heavy. Since this album (Non Paradisi), he’s been letting the metal thing show a bit more, and moved into a kind of black-metal/electronic fusion direction, which is all good and well, but it doesn’t sound like Satanic Ritual Justice’s “Genesis”. This does.There might be better Gost songs, and there are definitely more complex Gost songs. This one, maybe more than any other, really announces his arrival.
17: clipping. – Blood of the Fang
Daveed Diggs played both Jefferson and Lafayette in Hamilton is *also* a film actor and *also* heads maybe the most bizarre, fascinating rap group going. Clipping. isn’t for the faint of heart, but there’s absolutely nothing like it. Smashing together noise music, hip hop, horrorcore, industrial, science fiction and about a dozen other influences, they pull absolutely zero punches. This track samples 1973 horror film “Ganja and Hess” to use addiction to blood as a metaphor for everything from Vampirism to police violence to colonialism to.. well a lot of things. It’s off their new album ‘There Existed An Addiction to Blood’, and I had to restrain myself to keep from literally just having this playlist be 31 clipping. songs. They rule.
18: Carpenter Brut – Maniac – Live
The thing about Carpenter Brut is that his total, encompassing obsession with exploitation cinema, slashers and Italian Giallo film extends to his live shows as well. All the lights are a lurid red, the screen behind him splashes random cuts of Hollywood murder scenes, and everyone on stage plays with a complete serious intensity matched only by the hammy, over-acting faces on screen. It’s an intense experience, and the total fixation on on-screen violence can actually be a bit stomach-turning. It’s a lot of murder to take in, folks, and he plays a long set.
The crowd though, holy hell. It’s just a massive dance party, like someone finally gave this massive crew of metalheads and synthwave nerds license to let their long, windmill hair down and just *dance* for once. It’s equal parts totally goofy, blood-thirsty, and oddly cute.
This makes the way Carpenter Brut ends his sets all the more bewildering and endearing. After 1+ straight hours of murder-songs with titles like ‘Roller Mobster’, ‘Turbo Killer’ and ‘Leather Teeth’, he launches totally unannounced into a perverse cover of… the song from Flashdance. It has to be seen to be believed; my crowd literally screamed in surprise when the bass dropped in. Then they sang along.
Thankfully, Brut knows what a killer moment this is, so it’s also how he ends his live album. It’s the only recorded version of this cover, and immediately my favourite track of his. So here’s Flashdance’s ‘Maniac’, with just a little bit of its wild, freewheeling energy restored. Try to imagine 300 metalheads – who have never danced in their lives – trying to relive an imagined early-80s.
19: Kim Petras – There Will Be Blood
Another Guest Editor day! This one comes to us from expert Elliot, here’s what she had to say:
“I cannot, in good gay conscience, let you continue making these spooky song posts without being totally certain that you have heard Kim Petras’ horror album which she gifted us this fine October: Pride Month 2.0 Electric BOOgaloo 👻—”
[so which song do I do, guest-editor Elliot]
“There will be blood is one of my favs it’s an absolute slap!! I’m also partial to I don’t wanna die esp in the context of what is essentially a queer monster album; here’s a trans woman one of the most demonized and victimized queer demographics engaging with/celebrating her monster persona (grr I’m so scary scary gender monster ooo so sexy and taboo grr) and then pleading for her life, ugh it gets me every time”
Kim Petras kicks ass. I recommend following this track up with “I don’t wanna die”, and then every other track on the album.
20: Zola Jesus – Soak
I’ve seen Devin Townsend, Battles, Peter Murphy, Rivers of Nihil, Severed Heads, Boris, Thundercat and about 200 other damn bands take the stage at the Rickshaw Theatre. None of them sounded as good on that stage as Zola Jesus. Singing along to a backing track, the power of her voice turned that concrete coffin of a venue into an opera house for an hour. I was floored. She’s phenomenal.
Here’s a cheery song about being complicit in your own murder, retrieving agency in the moment you’re dumped in the water by your serial killer, turning yourself to stone and sinking of your own will.
21: Poppy – X
I know I say this every time, but Poppy is a real strange one. She’s a youtube sensation turned bizarro post-modern commentary on pop/internet stardom turned legitimate pop star turned… well some sort of weird, robotic mutation of that stardom. Poppy, properly, is a production duo; Poppy herself and her partner. She’s now recruited a band as well, and makes a kind of post-pop glam almost-metal. It sounds like Babymetal, if Grimes (whom she’s worked with!) took the helm. Sometimes they sound like Queen, other times they’re clearly taking notes from Nine Inch Nails. Actually you know what, maybe you should just listen to the thing, I’m not sure I’m doing her hypercute, ultraweird hard pop aesthetic justice.
They have a song called Meat, which I’ve deliberately not included.
There’s something very silly and very off about Poppy, and maybe that’s why I like her so much. Here’s her second-best best Maximum the Hormone impression, it’s her cult song. One of her cult songs. The girl has more than one cult song, and they all kind of sound like anime themes.
22: Alice Glass – STILLBIRTH
Alice Glass, who is now a kind of industrial noise-pop outfit, and making the most interesting and brutal music of her career.
23: Danny Baranowsky – Repentant
How on earth do you follow an Alice Glass song?Maybe this will do. Binding of Isaac, if you’ve never seen or played it, is either one of the finest roguelike twin-stick shooters ever made, or an intensely disturbing deep-dive into Old Testament imagery and metaphor that maps the abuse and trauma of its creator onto a kind of playable, biblical allegory while *also* functioning as a modern, satirical retelling of the Binding of Isaac itself.Critics largely agree it’s both. It’s by the Super Meat Boy folks. You should play Binding of Isaac, if any of the above intrigued you. It’s VERY unpleasant. 🙂
The music though, is a total highlight. Like an abandoned Danny Elfman score, Danny Baranowsky’s soundtrack gives horrible, shuffling life to the basement world Isaac is cursed to explore. Where he could have gone for sweeping action scores, Danny instead composes reeling waltzes, decaying ambient pieces and strange, worming synth explorations.
It’s great, and this is maybe as close as it ever gets to pretty.
I put about 80 hours into Binding of Isaac, and I’m understood to be on the very, very shallow end of its experience. I know people with north of 1200 hours of time in the Basement. These people have been wandering its cursed halls for north of a 100 hours a year, since 2011.
It’s a pretty good video game I think.
24: Kristofer Maddigan – One Hell Of A Time
Cuphead is a very cute videogame about chasing the Devil into hell in order to kick his ass, and win back your soul.
This is a very cute jazz tune about chasing the Devil into hell in order to kick his ass, and win back your soul.
This plays as your little cup man fights his way through hell – where the devil Satan lives – so that he can kill him, in order to keep his soul.
The Cup and Mug have lost a gambling debt and must descend into hell and commit murder in order to keep themselves from going to hell for separate, unrelated vice. This track was performed live in studio, which is maybe the least bonkers thing I can tell you about the videogame Cuphead. Play It.
25: Harry Belafonte – Jump In The Life (Shake, Senora)
For spooky kids of a certain age, I really don’t think you can understate the important of Beetlejuice, and its use of Harry Belafonte. It’s a trick they pull twice – once during the famous dinner scene, again at the finale – where they pair these boisterous, goofy Calypso tunes with moments of total victory for their gothy, sad little protagonist Lydia. I remember these scenes clear as day, because they’re two of the moments we’re given license to laugh *along* with Lydia: she lets her guard down, dances awkwardly, makes a fool of the dinner guests (and later herself!). They’re two of the scenes where we see her properly happy – they’re twin, shining points of light for a character defined by her gloominess, moodiness and solitude. These scenes give us a version of Lydia that is no less spooky or weird (they’re both possession scenes! in a movie about an aggressive haunting! she never gives up her eyeshadow! the haunting goes unresolved!), but so much happier, vulnerable, and silly.
For a pretentious little goth kid (hi!), these scenes meant a lot. I’m Lydia, floating backwards up the stairs and singing along. Maybe you are too.
2666: Blanck Mass – Rhesus Negative
Because no day of October is free of chills kills and thrills, let’s follow Harry Belafonte with Blanck Mass, and his totally overwhelming Rhesus Negative. This track swoops and dives like a haunted roller coaster, tilt-a-whirling across 9 minutes like a panorama of hell. It’s about the most fun I’ve ever had with an electronic tune of this magnitude, and it’s absolutely wild.
27: Rezz – Dark Age
Canada’s first lady of spooky EDM, to slow down your spooky Sunday evening. Rezz is great, she won a Juno last year, and there’s something very charming about her dependable/danceable creepy techno music. I like it. You’ll like it. Here’s a recent cut with acoustic samples, something of a departure for Rezz.
28: John Carpenter – Distant Dream
John Carpenter is just a nice, weird dad who loves Sonic the Hedgehog and makes synthesizer music in his spare time along with his co-producers, Cody Carpenter (his son) and Daniel Davies (his godson). Aw. I love the idea that John Carpenter can only paint in terrifying synthesizer sounds, so maybe this really IS a song about a pleasant and distant dream, but since it’s Weird John the Gamer, it comes out sounding like a nightmare from 1980s hell. Thanks, John Dan and Cody.
29: Ozzy Osbourne – Mr. Crowley
Hey here’s a fun fact: this is actually the *fourth* Long Hallowe’en playlist. I’ve been doing these for a while, and I have a running challenge with myself where – with rare, special exception – I never reuse a song, and rarely reuse artists. The lists are cumulative; they don’t roll over year to year. My spooky challenge gets tougher every day!
I have never used an Ozzy Osbourne song.
So happy Tuesday everyone, here’s your song for October 122nd.
30: Nekromantix – Horrorscope
I started this list with Psychobilly, it would be wrong not to end it the same way. Here’s Horrorscope by Nekromantix, the band that got me mixed up in all this spooky rockabilly nonsense to begin with. They weren’t the first psychobilly band, and there’s genuine competition for the Best psychobilly band, but I’ll always have a soft spot for that coffin-shaped bass. Here they are 27 years ago, sounding as good as they ever did.
31: Misfits – Halloween
How could I resist? I remember being a weird little teen, up in my bedroom on the second floor, blasting this out to the street as the halloweenies wandered by in their little packs, hauling pillow cases of candy in one hand and little fake swords and pitchforks in the other. Those were the days. I remember Hallowe’en ❤
Have fun out there, folks.
Damn that was a lot of writing and a lot of searching stuff up on Spotify! If you liked that whole spooky mess, follow me on Spotify! I’ll be doing more playlists and stuff – not to mention that there are also Long Hallowe’en Playlists from 2013 and 2014 on there, as well as a megamix of all three! This is because I’m a human jack-o-lantern and truly cannot be stopped.
Happy Hallowe’en, creeps.