My fellow staff writer Lucas Kunsman recently wrote a very good list of songs that are hauntingly beautiful. A few of my favorites — “Oh Comely” and “Kasimir Pulaski Day” — made the list. But it got me curious: what are 8 songs that are actually appropriate for a Halloween party? Now, these aren’t all Halloween songs, I know, and a lot of them aren’t really that dark or scary; I didn’t want to give you a list filled with horror-film scores and industrial metal. I also didn’t want to give you a list of songs like “Monster Mash” and “Thriller”, so I tried to pick songs you haven’t thought of.
So here are a few songs that are vaguely sinister and festive, but still fun enough to justify playing at a party. No one wants to hear the theme from Psycho while they’re sipping a beer and trying to hit on the girl in the inappropriately revealing costume.
1) “Weird Science” – Oingo Boingo
Perhaps Oingo Boingo’s song “Dead Man’s Party” is the more obvious choice, but “Weird Science” is the better choice. It’s less well known, highly danceable, and features instrumental passages that are conducive to forced small talk with that guy you met once and whose name you can’t remember. Not to mention some lyrics about living tissue, warm flesh, voodoo magic and chants. I recommend the album version; the version in the video is shorter, but you do get to see Danny Elfman — who went on to be nominated for 4 Academy Awards for his film scores– writhe around in a lab.
2) “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” – Tracy Morgan
Originally stemming from a joke on an episode of 30 Rock, “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” is simultaneously spooky, hilarious, and easily digestible. The music doesn’t truly stand out — for the sake of the joke, it wasn’t meant to — but the lyrics are priceless.
3) “Welcome to My Nightmare” – Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper was the original prince of spooky shock rock, playing shows in the early 70s filled with fake guillotines, fake blood, and boa constrictors to disturbed masses. (It helped that he was an excellent songwriter, too). Nowadays, its possible to forget all this: Cooper is mostly known for “School’s Out” and “I’m Eighteen.” But “Welcome to My Nightmare” is both deftly crafted and surprisingly spooky, all while formatting itself into a traditional rock song.
4) “Godzilla” – Blue Oyster Cult
This one is far less obvious than “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, but it’s just as good for a Halloween party. Shorter, less obtuse, and features some fun lyrics.
5) “The Tain” – The Decemberists
Clocking in at 18 minutes and 35 seconds, this multi-layered epic might be a little too difficult to fully digest at a party. But while you might not be able to follow the song’s narrative while quietly getting closer to smacking that friend who keeps saying they’re seeing shadowy figures in the fog, you will notice that “The Tain” is pretty fun for a song about eunuchs and Irishmen. The song’s middle passage, adorned with ragtag disturbances of accordion and xylophone, and sung by Rachel Blumberg and Jenny Conlee in their best faux-child voices, is the song’s highlight.
6) “Length of Love” – Interpol
Interpol has always excelled at writing darkly seductive songs, and this one works excellently on a dance floor. The simple and aggressive guitar riff gives way to haunting, echoed vocals, delivered in Paul Banks’ best deadpan CAPS LOCK DELIVERY. The lyrics are inane, but convey an oppressive uncomfortableness.
7) “Paranoid Android” – Radiohead
A seminal creepy song, Radiohead’s multi-part freakout about the robotic nature of humanity is fun and dance-able in parts, and appropriately Halloween-y in the chorus-sung middle section.
8) “Contact” – Daft Punk
This might be the least festive song. Really, I just wanted to play Daft Punk, and the extraterrestrial closing song from their most recent album Random Access Memories, fits the bill. The best song on this list to end the night with. Definitely not scary, but a whole lot of fun. Let’s hope your Halloween is the same.