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Treats For Your Ears

written by: on October 31, 2012

The candy-coated silver lining to rainy fall days and the approaching winter, the world’s communal sugar-fueled day of scantily clad mischief and debauchery has finally arrived—it’s Halloween, one of the most thrilling punctuation marks to any high-octane year.

From painstakingly coordinated trick-or-treat routes to charmingly cliché theme parties to haunted bar crawls, there’s simply nothing like the masked autumnal excitement of the 31st. What better way to prepare for a weekend of celebrations than by pumping up the spooky jams? This isn’t the PG-rated playlist that drove your ears into gimmicky oblivion; this is some hard rocking musical trickery waiting to treat your ears.

“Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads

David Byrne’s lyrical journey into a serial killer’s mind, combined with a killer funk riff and detached vocals, make for one sickeningly captivating song. The alternation between staccato French and terse English is tantalizing for the ears and haunting for the mind. Feel the guilt creep into your mind and the terror seep into your bones as you happily sing along with Byrne, “Psycho Killer, Qu’est que c’est, Fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa far better.”

“Tombstone Shadow” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Forget the ghastly witches and haunted houses—Creedence were outrunning a haunting of a different kind. The spooky refrain, “tombstone Shadow, stretchin’ across my path. Ev’ry time I get some good news, Ooh, there’s a shadow on my back,” describe a metaphorical black cat constantly spoiling distressed singer John Fogerty’s luck. That’s a pretty hard ghost to shake.

“Halloween” by Misfits

The self-identified “horror punk” band recorded this short howler in 1981, but it remains a pinnacle cut for any fright night soundtrack. Glenn Danzig’s gritty vocals go at length to describe every glorious Halloween stereotype—from “pumpkin faces in the night” to “dead cats hanging from poles.” These reigning tricksters certainly composed the crowning jewel of Halloween soundtracks.

“People Are Strange” by Jim Morrison

Morrison’s laments of loneliness acquire a demented air with just-a-tad-too-cheery vocals against a cabaret-style backing band. The song itself addresses isolation and vulnerability, not unlike those dark nights spent alone, scored only by the mysterious creeks of a house settling…or an unexpected houseguest.

“Werewolves Of London” by Warren Zevon

Warren Zevon’s comical account of a gang of werewolves whereabouts touches the comical (a late-night run for beef chow mein) to the macabre (a “little old lady” getting mutilated in her kitchen). But it’s hard to resist that infectious piano riff and charming chorus of “ahooo’s” continually piping in the background.

“Whistling Past the Graveyard” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

Music’s first shock rocker, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, was a soulful Cleveland musician with a penchant for morbid onstage props and over-the-top vocal delivery. This ghoulish number is no exception. Punctuated by Screamin’ Jay’s primal barks and guttural growls, the story of a manic killer on the run unfolds into a grisly yet irresistible tale.

“Anyone’s Ghost” by The National

Like any one of The National’s wine-guzzling musings, “Anyone’s Ghost” is teeming with melancholy. Matt Berringer’s helpless droning of the chorus “Didn’t wanna be your ghost, didn’t wanna be anyone’s ghost,” transcends the romanticism of the lyric and literally haunts the listener with poignant disconnect. The barely three-minute track takes a morose turn with the lyrics, “You said it was not inside my heart…You said it should tear a kid apart.”

“Nights in White Satin” by The Moody Blues

The lyrics may not directly allude to particularly bloodcurdling or frightful themes, but there’s no denying the eeriness of Justin Hayward’s wrenching howls complemented by a ghostly backing choir. Rob Zombie’s heavy-handed use of “Nights” in his remake of Halloween II forever sealed the song’s fate in music fan’s Halloween repertoires.