Halloween is a funny time of year. Some people get quite irate about it, declaring it to be a holiday fueled entirely by consumerism. Others just reckon it’s a great excuse to have a bit of fun with costumes and tricks and treats, or maybe just to scare yourself witless. The Rubies certainly fall into the latter category, and to help you celebrate the spooky season, we’ve gone out and found ten songs that make our skin crawl. Some of them are obvious in their evilness; some are a little more subtle. Either way, with this Spotify playlist cranking, you’ll have cemented your place as the Scariest House on the Street in no time.
1. God’s Away on Business – Tom Waits
So, we start off with the traditional slightly-demonic fare. I mean, you can’t have a list of spooky songs without the man with the most gravel-filled voice in show business. It’s practically illegal. Couple it with the end-of-days theme and the video above’s ability to mess with your head significantly, it’s the perfect tune for this time of year. (If you’re not game enough to watch the film clip, here’s a version sung by Cookie Monster which is a little more appropriate for scaredy cats.)
2. Dreamshaker – Redcoats
This is one that’s a little less obvious in its spookiness, but if you listen to it when you’re home alone without any lights on, you’ll understand why it’s on here. The thrumming bass would be perfect for a chase scene, and the soaring vocals of singer Emilio Mercuri are at least a little bit unsettling. This tune certainly ain’t one for those more attuned to Sunshine, Lollypops & Rainbows.
3. ’97 Bonnie & Clyde – Tori Amos
Those were easily the first two words that sprang to mind when I first listened to this one, suggested by Arwon on Twitter. Amos’ cover of Eminem’s track takes a cocky, pro-domestic violence fantasy and turns it into a disturbingly realistic, sinister piece of work. Seriously, if this doesn’t set the hairs on the back of your neck on end, there is something wrong with you.
4. A Formidable Marinade – Mikelangelo & the Black Sea Gentlemen
This is about as close as we’re going to get to comic relief in this post. Let Mikelangelo serenade you with this delightful and devilish supernatural song of lust/love/creepiness. The sexytime-spookery of the lyrics, coupled with the spine-tingling clarinet and violin make A Formidable Marinade the perfect song for any Halloween playlist.
5. Red Right Hand – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
You can’t have a list like this without at least one Nick Cave tune. The man is essentially Australian music’s prince of darkness. Nobody does ‘shit your pants scary’ quite like this gentleman, and this Faustian tune is definitely up there with the best of them.
6. God Told Me Too – Paul Kelly
First, watch that clip. It is the most terrifying video I have ever seen in my life. It’s so simple and yet that look in Kelly’s eye is just so incredibly disconcerting and then oh my god, that is just messed up. I had nightmares about it for weeks after I saw it for the first time.
Film clip aside, the song itself is not exactly lullaby material. Murder, religious extremism, perversions of holy texts and descriptions of a forthcoming apocalypse, coupled with a guitar riff that eats into your brain like a starved zombie: Paul Kelly has managed to create a song that is genuinely terrifying not only because of how it’s crafted; but because it taps into the terrorism-obsessed society we live in, and reminding us that religious zealotry can be a terrifying thing, especially when those who choose to perpetrate it could be just like us.
7. Sarah – Kate Miller-Heidke
When Kate Miller-Heidke released this on YouTube earlier this year, I made the mistake of listening to it alone. I nearly lost my mind with terror, because like the recent Jill Meagher case, it reminds us that sometimes really terrible things happen to good people. The loss of innocence for the teenage protagonist, and the title character’s own uncertainty about what happened to her makes this true story incredibly disconcerting. Throw in Miller-Heidke’s frantic, soaring vocal and the hugeness of the chorus and the way it contrasts to the withdrawn and nervous verses and you are left with one of the most haunting releases of 2012.
8. I Put A Spell On You – Nina Simone
Nina Simone’s cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ classic isn’t obviously scary. With its sweeping strings and intricate piano, it’s a magnificent lounge tune. Why would that spook anybody?
Listen to those lyrics. While Hawkins’ original delivery is obviously out to intimidate and frighten, Simone takes a completely different tact, letting you know she’s got you under her power, but dammit, she’s going to make you like it. She’s telling you off for even considering things being otherwise. Her delivery is almost patronising – how dare you think you can get away with what you’ve been doing!
That’s what makes this version so potentially unsettling: you know she’s got all the power in the relationship, but the restraint in her delivery reminds you that there is so much more danger just waiting to be unleashed.
9. Alone With You – Jimmy Little
Jimmy Little was, by all accounts, one of the loveliest men in the Australian music industry. His voice was sweet and smooth and unassuming; there wasn’t an ounce of malice or bitterness in it at all. Strangely enough, that’s what makes this cover of the Sunnyboys classic just that little bit unnerving. While the original hid the stalker-style lyrics behind it’s rock and roll sound, Little’s cover strips it all back and slows it down, bringing to mind images of a well-meaning young fellow, sitting outside your window, so desperate for your attention that he’ll be a complete creep to get it.
Basically, this version has a severe case of Nice Guy Syndrome, and when you’re home alone with the lights out, you can’t help feeling like maybe it’s invading your personal space just a little bit too much.
10. Look For Me – Neko Case
The last track might have had a bad case of Nice Guy Syndrome, but in this case, it’s definitely a case of Nice Girl Syndrome. Case’s mournful vocal, coupled with the lyrics that remind you that she’ll be there for you, even at that inevitable point where you’re going to be lonely (oh, so lonely), is just as unnerving as some of the other tracks because holy shit, she is always there just waiting for you to need her. She will always be there for you. You won’t even have to call for her because she is already there…
While most of these songs have reflected the scare that can come from an external source, Neko Case has managed to craft a torch song based on one of the most terrifying notions: that perhaps we were the monster all along…
So, has our playlist left you suitably spooked? If not, leave us a comment, send us a tweet or use Zuckerberg’s Zombifying Book of Faces to let us know what songs make you wet your pants in fear. Happy Halloween!