Halloween may be the scariest yet, and not exactly in the way we were pulling for. A global health crisis has many of us trading in trick or treating and partying for something mellower and safer at home.
But that does not translate to a Halloween-less October 31. You can keep the spooky spirit alive with the help of a good drink and a well-appointed playlist. A good soundtrack functions like the spike in a punch — it improves the mood and sets the tone for fun almost immediately, something we could all use a bit more of this year.
For the record, we’re not just talking about playing Thriller on repeat. A good Halloween playlist is as much about discovery (do stream the 1964 classic Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House) as it is classic songs about monsters, murderers, curses, and mayhem.
Here are thirteen tracks to stream to enhance the scariest of days:
There’s no denying the greatness of this Halloween classic. Playful, catchy, and timeless, it will forever be a mid-autumn musical staple. It’ll make you want to run through a graveyard with reckless, Halloween-fueled abandon.
This track from Ben Bridwell and Co. is pure, unadulterated indie rock. Bridwell’s falsetto is ghostly, floating atop a sturdy core of raucous guitar work and crashing drums. It’ll have you simultaneously stomping your feet and searching under your couch and in your closet for ghosts.
If you don’t yet know Kiwi sensation Marlon Williams, get on it. The heir to Roy Orbison, Williams sings with incredible inflection and resonance. It’s a crooning track devoted to the romance of becoming a blood-sucking vampire.
Your Halloween needs the bounciness that comes with 80s pop. This movie theme song would be great in its own right, even without the help of Bill Murray and an all-star cast.
There’s a prevailing creepiness to Blue Oyster Cult’s signature song, even after Will Ferrell gave it the cowbell treatment. Full of layers, the 1976 song touts intricate melodies, complex vocal harmonies, and an epic mid-song breakdown full of howling guitar speak.
This slow burner from lesser-known act De La Noche is perfect for after-hours Halloween fun. It’s a dark and brooding slow jam great for winding things down as you move from the living room dance party to the couch to settle in for a horror flick.
Face it, this song is terrifying. Why it continues to be a go-to wedding tracks boggles the mind. It’s clearly about aggressive stalking and therefor ideal for the spooky voyeurism of Halloween. It’s easy to imagine a serial killer listening to this song and repeat as they carry out their craft.
This bizarre track from the world’s greatest rock band is a heady collage of found sounds. In the end, it functions like a drugged-out trip, spiraling into the ether. Be advised when coupling this song with cannabis as the results can be dark and lasting.
This isn’t just a great Halloween track, it’s one of the best R&B songs of all time. Legend had it, the song’s producer brought in dinner and booze to the studio before it was recorded and got the whole crew drunk. The result is glorious, with Hawking belting like somebody possessed and a simple building melody made of keys, horns, and drums.
One of Prince’s greatest achievements was his Batman score from 1989. The final track from the soundtrack is a Halloween party in a bottle. It mixes Prince’s vintage pop mastery with some industrial sounds reminiscent of a misty night in Gotham City.
The theme song to the scariest move ever made is fittingly chilling. It’s a staggering number built out of bubbling instrumentation that immediately evokes Jack Nicholson meandering through a snowy hedge maze. It sounds like a dark burrow into the twisted mind of a killer.
This spine-tingling track from the delightful The Nightmare Before Christmas score is nothing if not haunting. Even away from the inherent uneasiness only claymation can inspire, the song is plenty unsettling and perfect for a foggy Halloween evening.
The theme from the fantastic yet jarring Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey is not an obvious choice. But the tension of the track has Halloween written all over it. It’s airy and emotive, with a vastness that allows the mind to wander into cryptic terrain.
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