Scary albums for Halloween listening


Darkroom and Interscope Records

Bart Carmody

As the hot weather fades, the leaves turn their color, and spooky season approaches us, it’s considered crucial for avid Halloween fans to set their own eerie tone for the incoming month. Whether that means marathoning every “Halloweentown” movie available or working some pumpkin spice into your morning routine, the time of the season is upon us and the festivities are in full swing. While many choose to make the soundtrack to their scares something more traditional like Tim Burton’s chillingly orchestrated “The Nightmare Before Christmas” soundtrack, or German pop star Kim Petras’ series “Turn off the Light”—a collection with a second installation currently on the way—any array of creepy-sounding albums can adequately complement the anticipation to Halloween. Here are three essential albums for the season.

Billie Eilish | “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” (2019) 

Haunted Highlights: “bad guy,” “you should see me in a crown,” “all the good girls go to hell,” “bury a friend,” “ilomilo.”

Teenage pop sensation Billie Eilish has had quite the rise to fame since the 2017 release of her “don’t smile at me” EP. From producing one-off singles for Apple commercials and Netflix originals to collaborating with artists like Justin Bieber, Khalid, and Kanye West-cosigned artist Takashi Murakami, her popularity is colossal compared to where she was just over a year ago.

This growth is important to note before introducing her 2019 full-length debut “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” Eilish’s overexposure to the true gritty tendencies of the music industry makes for darker, far more introspective artistry from the singer, with her sound following her subject matters into the darkness as well. While her preceding work does include some dirty bangers like “Copycat,” her newest album expands on that sound in an exhilarating and petrifying way. The contrast between the artwork of her two chronological works alone set a disturbing tone—one, yellow and playful, the other, dark, confining, and nightmarish. In the album cover for her second work, the singer is depicted sitting on the edge of an unmade bed, sporting an off-putting smile and whited-out eyes.

Upon pressing play, the album hits the ground running with the menacing “bad guy,” the biggest commercial hit from the record. The track slowly encloses the listener in a circle of creeping catchy bass lines and quick snap patterns. Eilish lyrically depicts herself as a borderline villain or antihero of sorts throughout this song, presenting the listener with a weird sort of hesitant intimacy felt with the popstar. It almost feels as if she’s inviting you into her world, but you should be cautious to trust her—she’s dangerous. The song gets less catchy and more ghastly near the end when this powerful bass is brought in over some chopped-up, abstract drums, ones that clearly contrast the drums used for the first part of the song. The whole song builds up to a deep-hitting extravaganza in which it feels like the atmosphere that Eilish has built around you has finally leapt towards you, constricting you in its gruesomeness.

If “bad guy” sounds like the danger slowly getting closer to the listener, then “bury a friend” sounds like the chase scene. The production on the song is anxiety-inducing as there are only a few short breaks in the song’s constant bellowing bass and power-tool-esque sound effects. Eilish effectively juxtaposes the dark instrumental by singing in a sort of frivolous nursery-rhyme tone, but contrasts that in her lyrics as well, as she repeatedly chants softly and politely, “I wanna end me.” The whole ballad is hauntingly confessional and the singer flawlessly entraps the listener in a maze of despair with no exit. The song summarizes the entire album fairly well, but even the more heartbreaking tracks like “when the party’s over” and “i love you” are sure to give you goosebumps just from the sheer beauty in Eilish’s voice.

Earl Sweatshirt | “Doris” (2013)

Haunted Highlights: “Pre” ft. SK La’Flare, “20 Wave Caps” ft. Domo Genesis, “Hive” ft. Vince Staples & Casey Veggies., “Centurion” ft. Vince Staples, “523.”

Back when rap collective Odd Future ran a lot tighter than it does now, with talent like Tyler, the Creator, Frank Ocean, and Syd of The Internet getting their starts there before going on to lead impressive careers, many classic rap fans were anxious to see where rapper/producer Earl Sweatshirt would take his talent next. With his collaborators beginning their solo careers following the release of the last Odd Future mixtape in 2012, Sweatshirt released his highly anticipated debut solo album, “Doris.”

A simple look at the album cover and a peek into the first track will make it clear why this album qualifies as “spooky.” Here stands Sweatshirt looking gloomy yet redoubtable in a glitched-out photo, grainy and monochrome. The first track “Pre” ft. SK La’Flare, a relative of Ocean, is the villainous tone-setter for the remainder of the record. The listener is immediately met with this hard-hitting synth-and-bass combo that La’Flare rips into with his tough delivery, performing such a lengthy verse that some first-time listeners may even begin to wonder where Sweatshirt is on his own song. With only a little over sixty seconds left, La’Flare suddenly cuts his verse mid-bar and Sweatshirt slides on like butter, sounding just as evil as his counterpart.

Prior to the release of “Doris,” Sweatshirt relied relatively heavily on edgy, satirical lyrics for the pure sake of sparking controversy. Many of the things that Odd Future members would rap about launched them into all sorts of scrutiny from the public. However, this album efficiently shows Sweatshirt’s growth and maturity. While there are a few questionable lines from himself and Tyler, the Creator on this record, it certainly seems as if Sweatshirt has been through a wringer that inspired him to set a more serious theme to his music. After all, it would be a shame to waste talent on a career dependent on edginess and shock value, especially for a rapper/producer of his caliber.

In fact, possibly the eeriest features of this album stem mostly from the production, as many of the songs sound like something you would hear on a scratched vinyl record. The song “20 Wave Caps” ft. Domo Genesis takes an organ synth that’s reminiscent of a horror movie and puts it on an abstracted loop over which the two rappers deliver a rapid and malicious verse.

Sweatshirt samples many aspects of horror movies throughout this album. The song “Centurion” ft. Vince Staples is sinister enough, but the rapper takes it to a whole new level as he scatters samples of old slasher movies throughout the track. If the album doesn’t sound perfect for Halloween, it’s certainly worth a listen nonetheless, as it features rap verses from Ocean and one from the late Mac Miller.

Crystal Castles | “(II)” (2010)

Haunted Highlights: “Celestica,” “Baptism,” “Empathy,” “Vietnam,” “Birds.”

Before their sexual abuse allegation dispute in October 2014, leading to their ultimate break-up, Alice Glass and Ethan Kath of the electronic music duo Crystal Castles were highly influential in their genre. While most of their works hold a particularly eerie tone to them, perhaps the most impeccably composed is their album simply titled “II.” The artwork urges the listener to feel nostalgic, a low-rendered photo of a young X Tecumseh Clark visiting a cemetery—setting a tone similar to that of a fever dream that is successfully be delivered through Glass’s vocals when paired with Kath’s production.

Perhaps the most well-known cut off this record, “Celestica” is a melodramatic dance tune that features a chopped-up synth sample with pounding rhythmic drum patterns to compliment. It’s not here where Crystal Castles achieves their immaculate eeriness, though Glass floats over the song in with a blissful melody.

“Empathy” is a slightly more upbeat song from the trackist, featuring elements more commonly found in modern-day EDM. This may sound basic, but once again, Kath’s production is carried to a whole new level when Glass lays her vocals over it, this time, sounding more heavenly and celestial for a good majority of the song. The hook features the singer chanting far-away cries towards an aggressive and unrelenting electronic beat, a pairing that would traditionally seem unable to mesh well together, but works through the creativity of the two.

Another example of this creativity coming out shines on the song “Vietnam,” featuring one of Kath’s more euphonious beats. The two experiment with vocal-pitching and chopping-and-screwing on Glass’s voice, with her repeating different variations of the same line throughout the track, creating an inescapable dreamworld in which Kath is your soundtrack and Glass is your narrator.

Robert Smith of The Cure also delivers a vocal performance on the track “Not in Love,” a heart-wrenchingly honest tale of the falling out of love between two lovers. While many may argue, and rightfully so, that it’s hard to continue partaking in an artist’s work after said artist has been accused or found guilty of some sort of heinous crime, Crystal Castles’ work was undeniably stunning that encapsulated the beauty within the horror.