“Cry For Judas” – The Mountain Goats
What’s scarier than devil worship and having to deal with your own decisions in life?
– Jacob Kuppermann
“Toxic” – Yael Naim
Yael Naim’s cover of Britney Spear’s “Toxic” is a little less teen-angsty and a lot more spooky. Its tension comes from the minimal sound, as the song begins mostly with a controlled balance of silence and bells. Gradually, the sound builds and Yael’s high, breathy voice layers over the bells, synth and moody electric guitar to culminate in an eerie cacophony.
– Andrea Lim
“You Want It Darker” – Leonard Cohen
“You Want It Darker,” the first song off of Leonard Cohen’s new album of the same name, complete with cryptic lyrics and gospel choir arrangements, is the spookiest sermon you’ll ever here, the perfect soundtrack for Halloween night. Cohen plays the role of shadowy preacher here, with vocals so low they drag across the ground like rusty chains. “You Want It Darker,” his most recent album, came out immediately after Cohen publicly stated, “I’m ready to die,” only to follow up with, “I intend to live forever.” Somehow, this dark, enigmatic track straddles these two poles. “You want it darker?” Cohen asks in the song’s chorus. One might rightly respond, No thanks, this is plenty. Too bad, he interjects: “We kill the flame.”
– Tyler Dunston
“When I’m Around U” – BURNS
Electronic dance hit “When I’m Around U,” marked by enigmatic lyrics and stygian soundscapes, has a certain quality of unease and spookiness that make it especially suitable for Halloween. A disembodied, plaintive voice mourns above and across the profound darkness. It decides to take on the curious character of a spectre, searching for someone. It moans above a sea of susurrating chords, “When I’m around you / You make my temperature rise / All I want / Is you there beside me.” Is this ghostly voice just searching for a long-lost love? Have we misconstrued its intentions altogether — is this a moving story of romance and reunion? A resounding “no” booms across the soundscape, as the sinister nature of this song is betrayed: The melody begins subtly, nearly imperceptibly, creeping impishly below the ominous snare drum and the soaring pads. It is cacophonous, with a gnashing, rasping timbre, growling in strange tones. It is lithe, wraithlike. Now it draws ever closer — from behind, from the front — the unearthly din of the specter surrounds you, and suffocates you as you gasp for air. Then it screams its arrival into your ears. A few unearthly words are spoken — and now you are left, alone, your ears filled with the echoing sound of the Mephisto in the vast darkness, engaged in diabolical matrimony with your throbbing heart beating time. It is around you — it is around U.
– Trenton Chang
“The Ring” – Hans Zimmer
Want to feel spooky and scared on Halloween night? Then the Ring’s theme song is a classic hit. There are debates on whether the Japanese version or English version is superior, but you can’t deny that the famous buildup in this piece is creepy — try listening to it alone. Or maybe it’s a great way to get into the mood before you watch a horror movie, party at a Halloween-themed place, or trick-or-treating (yes, even adults can go)!
– Maimi Higuchi
“The Upside Down” – Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein
Off of the first volume of the Stranger Things Official Soundtrack, “The Upside Down” marks a pivot on the album (and in the show) from the ostensible innocence of childhood and a small town to a place of absolute fright, a perfect metaphor for Halloweekend. At around 1 minute and 20 seconds, the familiar positive synths get undercut by a deep pumping bass, adding a new layer of fear. Another minute passes and then an overwhelming wave of calculated dischord on the lead synth fades in and launches this song into full creep, filling the ears with the a sound so full, so alarming, that it shakes your brain into alertness as your breathing accelerates and your pupils involuntarily widen.
– Dylan Grosz
“Disturbia” – Rihanna
Rihanna’s 4th number one is lauded by music critics and fans as one of her best songs for many reasons: it’s danceable, catchy, and features haunting lyrics and melodies. The song itself transports you to a dark, gritty world that perfectly captures the spirit of Halloween.
– Dante Laird
“In the Room Where You Sleep” was featured in the monumentally frightening “The Conjuring,” and for good reason: it starts out fun and spooky due to its contagious synth, but is ultimately taken over by genuinely eerie gothic rock. Zach Shields and Ryan Gosling (literally Ryan Gosling) sing in half-dead mumbles about a thing they see in “the room where you sleep,” and the ambiguity is terrifying as we imagine it “touching [our] hair.” Everything about this song is a mimic of “The Conjuring” and haunted houses in general: the isolated clapping that reminds us of that one terrifying scene, the creaking floorboards and heavy breathing, the lyrics that sing of something dangerous looming, something that takes over the song until it becomes threatening, warning in a gravelly mumble that “you better run, you better hide.”
– Medina Husakovic
“Infernal Dance” from “The Firebird Suite” – Igor Stravinsky
Extremely experimental when it premiered in 1910, this composition maintains its effect on audiences even today. Frantic, wild and uncontrollable, this movement causes feelings of anxiety and conjures terrifying images of fiery beasts in dance, a diabolical bacchanalia. The primitive yet not overly exaggerated essence of this piece seems to touch the fiendish aspects of our souls. With its dissonance and harsh rhythms, this composition is sure to darken anyone’s day.
– Benjamin Maldonado
Contact Tyler Dunston at tdunston ‘at’ stanford.edu