Songs for the Socially Distanced: Spooky Season


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JJ Smith

The aura of Spooky Season has definitely changed with this strange solitude we’ve become familiar with in times of social distancing, but there are still plenty of ways to experience your favorite fall festivities. Try picking and carving pumpkins, decorating your space with some eerie decorations, partaking in at-home screenings of scary movies, and cooking up some Halloween-inspired treats in the kitchen, all while listening to a selection of songs certain to get you into the sinister spirit of the season. If you’re looking to still feel festive this fall season, put on this playlist and partake in some socially distanced seasonal activities.

Autumn Nocturne (Sadlands Demo) – The Smashing Pumpkins

 This Smashing Pumpkins demo perfectly captures the essence of autumn with its playful melody and lyrics that detail a day spent skipping school to enjoy fall foliage. While it may not be especially eerie, this track provides perfect exposition for what a day in the life feels like during the fall season and is a great introduction to the sentiments of seasonal spookiness.

Dark Red – Steve Lacy

 Steve Lacy’s work here stands out distinctly and each part of the song is drawn out just enough to create a captivating tune with swirling melodies that subtly hint at a spooky tone. The combination of steady percussion led by a raw cymbal, a syncopated bassline, and an entrancing loop of backing vocals make for a mesmerizing track with lyrics that encompass a paranoid plea for a lover to stick around.

 Devil Woman – Cliff Richard

 This 1976 single was a worldwide hit upon release and its lyrics that tell the story of a man jinxed by a psychic medium make for the perfect seasonal song. This catchy hit also became popular again when it appeared as the theme for the antagonist in the 2017 biographical sports comedy film I, Tonya. The track relies mainly on heavy guitar riffs but also features melody comprised of an electric piano, a bassline, and percussion that come together to create this catchy, creepy tune.

 I Put A Spell On You – Nina Simone

 Originally written and recorded by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, this smooth rendition done by Nina Simone is charming and chilling. The combination of sweeping strings, the trilling high-pitched piano riffs, and Simone’s powerful vocals blended with a stammering saxophone is enough to capture and keep a listener’s focus, especially during this eerie time of the year.

 My Girlfriend Is a Witch – October County

 This 1968 track is what the American folk-rock band October County is best-remembered for. It features a groovy bassline, rhythmic percussion, a wailing guitar riff, various brass solos, and lyrics that describe the singer’s theory that his girlfriend has a startling secret. All of these elements come together to create a spine-chilling song well-suited for the time of the season.

 Superstition – Stevie Wonder

 This classic hit is all about the dangers of believing in superstitions, like walking under a ladder, the number 13, and shattering a mirror. The song incorporates a lot of rock music elements, and also features a catchy, well-known guitar riff, a pulsing drumline, and a range of bright brass instruments to create the widely appreciated tune. While it may not be such a sinister song, it’s sure to lift your mood and be stuck in your head all of Halloween.

 Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) – David Bowie

 The title, inspired by a Kellogg’s Corn Flakes ad titled “Scary Monsters and Super Heroes,” seemingly says it all for this tune that is fittingly appropriate for an eerie aesthetic. It’s the title track of David Bowie’s final studio album on RCA Records, which was considered very significant artistically but not so successful commercially. The catchy tune’s lyrics describe a man’s obsessive relationship with a shy girl, who eventually leaves the overbearing man but sees every stranger as “scary monsters” as a result from this traumatic relationship. Bowie explained the song was from the man’s perspective and feelings of anxiety and uncertainty as he reflected on his influence on the girl.

 Strange Magic – Electric Light Orchestra

 Written and performed by Electric Light Orchestra, this 1975 catchy ballad features a 12-string acoustic guitar undergoing a phase shifter performing slide riffs, swirling string symphonies in the chorus, soft percussion, and a rigid piano in the verses. Smooth vocals croon lyrics that describe this eerie, magical feeling experienced by the singer when he encounters the actions and qualities of the one he loves.

 Spooky – Dusty Springfield

 One of my favorite Dusty tracks, this tune is effortlessly cool and seems to have been crafted just for the eerie autumn weather. The 1968 track features a bluesy piano chord progression, percussion that progresses the melody along, sneaky brass instruments that swoop in on the second verse, and Dusty’s rich, chilling vocals that deliver lyrics describing the singer’s mysterious relationship with this spooky boy who keeps her guessing with her guard up.

 Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon

 This 1978 rock song was inspired by the 1935 movie Werewolf of London and performed by Warren Zevon. Written in just 15 minutes as a joke while band members watched B Horror films, it was eventually put on an album, despite Zevon’s protests, and became a Top 40 hit.

Featuring a groovy guitar riff, sharp piano chord progression, steady kickdrum, and Zevon’s raspy vocals that sing of this werewolf living his life carefree around London. This song is strange, spooky, and snappy- perfect to listen to on an eerie autumnal day.