Alternative Halloween music picks to play at your next spooky gathering

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Alternative Halloween music picks to play at your next spooky gathering

Halloween Music
Words by Mixdown staff

Looking for Halloween music that brings the spooky vibes, sans vampire accents? Look no further!

If you’ve landed on this article, it’s safe to assume that you’re planning a Halloween shindig, and naturally, you’re looking for some Halloween music. It’s even safer to assume that Spotify’s “Halloween Party” playlist isn’t quite cutting the mustard this year.

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While many of us have fond memories of shuffling around to “Monster Mash” in a stuffy school dance hall, dressed as a ghost, pumpkin, or… Kim from Kath and Kim (if your parents are as hilarious as mine), the track, and other campy classics like it (“Ghostbusters”, “Super Freak”, etc) don’t necessarily lend themselves to the more low-key varieties of Halloween hangs. Thus, this playlist was born!

Though genre-diverse, what each track within this collection of songs has in common is a general undertone of eerie-ness, whether that be the result of horror-fuelled lyrics, or hair raising sonics. I’d say it’s better accompaniment for mulled wine by the fire than apple bobbing in a witch costume, but – you do you! I don’t make the playlist enjoying rules. Your spooky season choices are valid!

“Suspirium” – Thom Yorke

This beautifully haunting piano ballad from Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke is the lead single from the soundtrack to Italian auteur Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 remake of the Dario Argento classic 70s giallo horror Suspiria. Yorke composed the entire score for the film, which follows a coven of witches masquerading as a ballet company in 1980s Berlin,  and it’s excellent from front to back. However, perhaps more of a rec for hardcore cinephiles or fans of experimental composition who wouldn’t be put off by the creeping strings and howling voices interspersed throughout the track list. If that’s you and your friends (I like you!), chuck it on!

“Halloween” – Sonic Youth

I mean, I couldn’t not include this song. In all seriousness though, song title and Jack O’ Lantern emblazoned album cover aside, this track, and the Sonic Youth record it features on Bad Moon Rising are seriously underrated. Dissonant, jangly guitars and lackadaisical drumming underscore Kim Gordon’s signature broody, spoken word poetry, which in this song, lyrically explores the abject intensity that infatuation with another person can take on.

“Waking the Witch” – Kate Bush

“Waking the Witch” by Kate Bush, from her 1985 album “Hounds of Love,” is a haunting and ethereal masterpiece. The song is a journey into the depths of the unknown, with eerie vocal effects, unsettling whispers, and a sense of otherworldly mystique. Its dark and atmospheric quality makes it an ideal choice for Halloween, evoking a sense of mystery, magic, and the supernatural. Kate Bush’s unique artistry shines through in this track, creating a spine-tingling experience that’s perfect for adding an enigmatic touch to any Halloween playlist.

“Out of Body” – Gorillaz ft. Kilo Kish and Zebra Katz

When you’re ready to migrate to the dance floor, this smooth, thrumming, banger from the 2017 Gorillaz album Humanz, is a must-queue. Charmingly punctuated by Kilo Kish’s whispery, childlike rap flows, the song draws comparisons between the club and a literal cult-like seance. What more, from your Halloween music, could you literally even want?

“Halloween Parade” – Lou Reed

“Halloween Parade” by Lou Reed, featured on his 1989 album New York, is a heartfelt and somber reflection on the AIDS epidemic’s toll on New York City’s artistic community. Reed mournfully commemorates friends and creative souls who perished, invoking the annual Halloween Parade as a symbol of remembrance. With poignant lyrics and a melancholic melody, the song serves as both a tribute to those lost and a commentary on the cultural and societal changes brought about by the epidemic. An important song, and a wonderful one to share with friends, at that.

“Pretend We’re Dead” – L7

“Pretend We’re Dead” by grunge icons L7 is, in my opinion, an ideal Halloween song, with its boisterous, rebellious riot grrl energy. The heavy guitar riffs and bold vocals create an atmosphere of defiance and nonconformity, perfect for embracing the macabre and breaking societal norms! Plus – isn’t pretending that we’re dead literally what we do on Halloween? Hello!

“Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)”

This Bowie cut from the 1980 album of the same name provides the rollicking, trickster energy and spooky lyrical motifs we know and love in Halloween music classics like “Monster Mash” and “Super Freak”, but it’s arguably far less expected, and less likely to make you and your guests feel like you’re impatiently waiting to check out a last minute pair of plastic fangs at a chain costume retailer.

“Janitor” – Suburban Lawns

From front woman Su Tissue’s idiosyncratic vocal stylings, to the track’s insistent, chugging New Wave riffs and ghoul-like gang vocals howling the lyrics “I’m a janitor, oh my genitals” – this song is thrillingly spooky and bizarre. A great lesser known alternative to “Walk Like an Egyptian”, which has also been done to death in the month of October.

“Two Headed Boy” – Neutral Milk Hotel

Featuring on NMH’s down right cult-classic 90s alternative folk album In the Aeroplane Under the Sea, this song has been selected by virtue of the sheer eeriness of the its titular subject/main character.  “Two-headed boy / All floating in glass / The sun it has passed, now it’s blacker than black / I can hear as you tap on your jar / And I am listening to hear where you are”. In spite of the morbidity of these lyrics, the track its self is sonic sunshine, defined by Jeff Magnum’s soaring, odd ball vocals and a lively, percussive acoustic guitar.

“Witch” – Alex G

Ever the atmospheric stylist, this track from Philadelphia outsider indie titan Alex G’s 2017 album Rocket is delightfully haunting, with the eeriness of its repeated refrain “The witch burns you (No matter what you do)” bolstered by an eclectic frenzy of textural guitars and quirky synth sounds. Alex G has also soundtracked a totally freaky 2022 psychological thriller called We’re All Going to the World’s Fair – if this song, and scary things, are your thing… check it out!

Read about Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” surpassing a billion streams here.