I freaking love October. I love autumn, I love the smell of the air, the rain, the dark evenings (I finally can sleep properly again!), I love the drop of temperature to not sweat my ass off and I love Halloween (aka, I love horror movies and hoarding candies, not handing them out, though). So, for the last couple of years I more or less tried to do something special for Halloween and this year will be a BIGGIE! If I am not too lazy, I’ll be posting numerous song-lists over the next few weeks featuring our favourite horror-creatures/themes and – as usual – add my own commentary spiced up with facts, interpretation and stupid jokes. Hurray, or rather Boo-ray. Har har har!
01. Wintersleep – Weighty Ghost
My favourite song about ghosts (quite possibly) has beautiful lyrics that I take literally like a fairy tale or metaphorically like a sad story of loss and alienation – it always depends on my mood which is great because it makes this song one of the few that I can listen to pretty much everywhere, always. When I interviewed Paul Murphy once, I sadly missed to ask what the song actually is about because I have half a dozen interpretations for it. It could be about a person suffering from personality disorders, trying to find his own self or someone in a coma, the soul seeing its body down in the hospital bed. It could be about the phenomenon of not feeling like yourself sometimes or feeling disconnected from your own body after a traumatic experience. I also love the use of “ghost” and “soul” in a way that you don’t really know whether they are used as similes or different entities. It sure is a song I would use for a movie about someone who is in a deep crisis. Then again, I would use this song for pretty much everything.
02. Laura Marling – Night Terror
Well, this song is not really about ghosts…but somehow it is. Night terrors aka nightmares are somehow the purest form of ghosts because wrapped in the night and covered in shadows, they are the stuff that is made of our inner fears taking form in our dreams. And if we can put this into one of Marling’s beautiful and quite haunting love songs, then I will fight this song for all its ghosts. I mean, “if they want you, well they’re gonna have to fight me” is one of the strongest lines of any love song I’ve ever heard. It has something of a Grecian tragedy with a fierce heroin fighting for her lover’s soul. Riveting.
03. Band of Horses – Is there a ghost?
One of the songs most of us know from tv or – if we already knew it because we are THAT cool – that we constantly hear on tv. It’s a favourite of every music executive at every tv channel/production company ever and who can blame them, the ghost in this song is – in my interpretation – the ghost of yourself when you’re so alone that you don’t really feel like a real person anymore. After all, most of us need other people’s recognition to feel alive (that or Red Bull).
04. Menomena – Ghostship
I once posted this on a Halloween-post before because this song has the brooding sound of unease but at the same time sounds so soft and in awe of the beauty that is the ghostship. Looking at the lyrics, I am actually glad that the band since then eased up a little on the highly metaphorical and surreal lyrics and got a little more clarity in their songwriting. Still, one of my favourite songs.
05. The Doors – Ghost Song
Speaking of ghosts, when it comes to lyrics, I actually prefer Menomena`s “Ghostship” to this little ditty by the Doors because it sounds like the kind of lyrics you concoct in a drum circle when everyone is so high that they think everything is super intense and meaningful and the only sober person in the room rolls her eyes and continues her Bukowsky-novel. However, apparently, this song features this famous Jim Morrisson-legend because as fans might know, he once encountered several ghosts of Native Americans. He was on a car trip with a family (he was still a kid) when they came across an accident that had caused the lives of several Native American workers who had been sitting in the back of a truck. Morrisson later claimed that their ghosts flew into him. I bet that Johnny Depp has the same story as an excuse for “Tonto”. Sorry, if I sound snarky here, but white dudes philosophising about their Native American spirituality…I just can’t.
06. Boy Eats Drum Machine – Two Ghosts
Ok, so let’s jump further to one of my favourite joyful songs that was already featured on this blog once before. Boy Eats Drum Machine is one of them Electro-geeks that does beautifully weird stuff with everything but then at some point decided to produce one of the loveliest and catchiest pop-songs you could imagine. It’s so perky that it never fails to make me smile.
07. Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man
To be quite honest, every one of Bat for Lashes’ songs sounds like a song about ghosts because Natasha Khan’s voice has a naturally haunting quality. The song – as many of the more melancholic ghost-songs – evokes the loss and past that lingers in the corners of every room, “haunting” you. After all, they are long gone but never left, they are the perfect base for this metaphor (I once wrote a paper about Thomas Hardy’s poetry and he was obsessed with his dead wife and therefore the ghostly remnants of her memory. His poems are quite beautiful and very sad. He was a truly haunted man). It also works with the fringe-theory that ghosts are some sort of imprint of a happening of the past that was so emotionally fueled that it left its traces (fringe-sciences…just as much fun as creationism).
08. Broken Bells – The Ghost inside
The collaboration from James Mercer (The Shins) and Dangermouse (Gnarls Barkley) is still a nice and smooth summer album that I occasionally put on. It might be a little too homogenic to listen through as a whole but whatever individual song I listen to, I enjoy it. It’s a pretty grim little ditty which is typical for Mercer who likes to wrap up his lovely pop-melodies with incredibly dark lyrics.
09. Radical Face – Ghost Towns
I just discovered this great folk singer who apparently has a great way with words. His song is about missing home while always being on the road (some souls just can’t stay too long in one place). I never thought of combining the thought of a ghost town – an abandoned town in the middle of nowhere – with the feeling of homesickness. But it’s a beautiful image, mirroring the wanderer who always looks for the right place standing in this abandoned town that is looking for the right people, so it can serve its purpose again.
10. Dead Man’s Bones – In the room where you sleep
This band is the main reason why I hate that Ryan Gosling and his band-mate Zach Shields both are so busy with movie-projects (Zach is working on a movie about Albinos in Africa which sounds pretty awesome) because this album needs a sequel, it’s such a brilliantly atmospheric folk-album that it still blows my mind. The great, nearly euphoric use of old-fashioned horror-movie-soundtrack-cliches mixed with cheekily creepy lyrics and great vocals (including spooky children’s choirs)…if you can only buy one album for Halloween, this is your pick! Also, “I saw something sitting on your bed, I saw something touching your head” is the kind of lyric that you will think of right before you go to bed, muahahaha!
11. Team Ghost – Dead Film Star
Sure, Team Ghost also have a self-titled song that would have fit as well (and that is quite haunting) but I love this song and the lyrics hint that the remnants of dead film stars can still flicker through your living room and create ghostly apparitions. Do you need more? Well, an awesome music video might do the trick.
This video actually reminds me of the intro to the insanely fantastic horror movie “Ils (They)” which is one of the shortest and most effective feature length horror movies I’ve ever seen.
12. Kate Bush – Hammer Horror
I actually wanted to feature “Watching you without me” because it is one of my favourite Bush songs. But I couldn’t find a good video and then I stumbled over this amazeballs video and everything was fine again. Seeing this, I wonder why so many people say that Lady Gaga carbon-copied Madonna but hardly anyone (or none?) mentioned the similarities with Kate Bush. I bet that Lady Gaga now and then listens to Kate Bush and watches live videos of her and wonders what she can do to create a career that is so awe-inspiring and seems to be born from deep within.
Also, I might out myself as a “Kostverächter” here but despite me being a giant horror-movie-geek, I am not the biggest fan of old-fashioned and dated horror movies like most of the legendary Hammer Horrors. I just like it modern and sleek and with a Hipster moustache.
13. Neko Case – Ghost Wiring
I like it whenever ghosts seem to be your own sorrow and darkness rattling in the cage. Given that there have been supposedly supernatural phenomena that supposedly have been linked to a certain energy that people in emotional distress supposedly can release (especially young teenage girls during puberty – “Carrie”-alarm!), it is a rather scary thought that your own emotional distress can manifest physically and scare the heebie-jeebies out of you.
This is a fan-video made by Aimee Fitzgerald, Jessie Adams and Andrew McCalman.
14. Queens of the Stone Age – Long slow goodbye
The thought that an ex-lover might become a ghost is slightly disconcerning, although this song is written from the perspective of the ex-lover, I immediately have to think of the very very VERY terrifying horror movie “100 feet” in which a woman is being haunted by her ex-lover (sounds cheesy but it is an amazing movie and not for the faint-hearted, plus, it features Famke Janssen who is a vision, like, a non-ghostly vision).
15. Bruce Springsteen – The Ghost of Tom Joad
It is very hard to find fault with Springsteen because as popular, rich and ridiculously successful as he might be, he never seems to lose his sincerity. This song – inspired by a Steinbeck-novel and a Woodie Guthry-song – deals with the “ghosts” of our civilization, the people we tend to overlook because their existence reminds us that poverty is still a big issue and that we as a society can’t protect all individuals from falling through the cracks.
16. I am Kloot – This House Is Haunted
And again, the ghosts are the memories, the empty shells left behind, the broken souls that stick to the tapestry. Oh, and with the grimy atmosphere of I am Kloot’s instrumentation, this song becomes a nearly angry piece of regret, musical bitterness, like black tar. That also works with the idea that people dying under heavily emotional distress will stay on earth to take revenge (“The Grudge” deals with that in all it’s Asian creepiness full of long black hair and child-ghosts).
17. Susanne Sundfor – Silicone Veil
I keep on posting this video because I love it so much. Sundfor’s stunning album of the self name has resurfaced on my playlist in the last couple of months and usually comes on when I feel like I need some space. This album is spacial (great wording-skills, Juliane! Gee, get a Thesaurus) and always reminds me of the ivory tower in “The Neverending Story” for some reason. The song – for me – is a beautiful yearning to escape your skin but also your environment and/or life. It’s as if the soul sometimes is too big and strong to be kept in the body.
Truly one of my favourite music videos of all time. Written and directed by Luke Gilford.
18. U.S. Royalty – Give up the Ghost
It’s as country as this list gets and probably as American-sounding as well. But hey, even Country-loving Americans have the blues now and then and need to get rid of their demons. There are numerous old folk legends that feature ghosts that can’t escape this world because the bereft and grieving won’t let go. Oh, speaking of that, I just thought of another song but first…
19. Ween – Cold Blows The Wind
This amazing and apparent unusual Ween-song is about an old folktale and is about a man who keeps visiting his lost love’s grave and therefore doesn’t let her go. I think the Ween-version is taken from a Japanese background but there is also an English tale that has a slightly different ending.
20. Kadebostany – Walking with a Ghost
If I remember correctly, this Lady is from Russia and I love her mix of Regina Spektor and Hip Hop-vibes, unfortunately, there is so far not enough of her music out there to know whether all of her songs are as impressive as “Walking with a Ghost” which – again – is a metaphor for a failed relationship. Gee, those things are really pesky, aren’t they?
21. Tegan and Sara – Walking with a Ghost
Truth bomb: I first heard Tegan and Sara at the Hurricane Festival in Germany and I personally wasn’t very impressed and thought that they didn’t really master the audience-interaction (they trash-talked football…seriously). A few months later, though, this song reached my ears and although I still am not the biggest fan, I have a handful of songs from these talented sisters that I really love. Apropos love: Another relationship-ghost. Someone get those people an exorcist or at least a bottle of Tequila to get over it!
Beautiful version, by the way. Beats the album version and I hardly ever say that.
22. Murder by Death – Ghost Fields
This song, although it starts like yet another failed relationship-ditty, is actually closer to the ghost-town-theme and fits it oh so well with the folksy sound and this majestic voice. I love how the story of the song grows into a somewhat epic tale that is very close to old folk songs. Oh, and the noise…sometimes you have to make noise to raise ghosts.
23. The Low Anthem – To the Ghosts who write history books
I once saw The Low Anthem in a church which is perfect for their kind of sound because it has something quite spiritual.
24. Modern Life Is War – Hair Raising Accounts Of Restless Ghosts (AKA Hell Is For Heroes Part II)
(2017): I got this recommendation by a former fellow student and current social media acquaintance who was one of the smartest people I’ve met at university (I assume he still is). As most songs about ghosts, the lyrics rather deal with loss and could-have-been-scenarios.
But I’ve been doing my time and I’ve been thinking about getting out.
I’m running fast the other way down a narrow dead end road.
I know this won’t be the last time I sing
“These dreams will be my anchor.
These dreams will be the death of me.
When I was a kid, I once heard crying in my room close to the door. It was nighttime and I was in bed. Unusually bold, I got out and walked to the door. The living room was on the other side and I opened the door and looked at my mom who was still up and asked whether she had cried. She looked at me surprised and said ‘No’. That’s the one ghost story I have and it probably never happened (I might have dreamt it or it was a neighbour or something). I just wanted to share, with it being October and all.
25. Hurray for the Riff Raff ‘Hungry Ghost’
What a beautiful song and for once no relationship gone wrong. The song is rather about being a ghost yourself because there’s nothing that holds you, no connections to anyone and you feel so detached from the world that you can basically float everywhere. And you’re on the lookout for something, someone to happen. I love this.
Enjoyed that? How about my other spooktacular lists?