The most horrific holiday of all is nearly upon us (it’s Halloween, not Thanksgiving, though that can be equally scary), and to celebrate, we’ve curated a list of unconventionally unnerving tracks. Focusing on the element of psychological horror, Spooky Psychedelic is an explorative list of experimental electronic music, R&B, rap, and indie rock. Listen below, and learn why we picked these tracks!
“Cruel Intentions” – JMSN
Something about JMSN’s methodical yet impassioned reflections on his mistakes, and how they’ve subsequently affected his relationship, sounds like a man on the brink of snapping. He’s subtle, but it feels like there’s something darker brewing beneath the surface of his pleas – “at the end of the day, I just want some attention“.
“Mumbai” – OoOoOO
Can’t have a Halloween playlist without some Witch house.
“He Hit Me” – Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear’s cover of “He Hit Me” has always given me the creeps for a number of reasons. Sonically, it’s chilling; the swooning, forlorn sound of Ed Droste’s voice is haunting as he sings earnestly about a violent lover. The origins of the song itself make it even more unsettling. First performed by ’60s girl group The Crystals, it was, ironically enough, arranged by Phil Spector – who went on to later murder actress Lana Clarkson in 2003.
“Ten Days of Falling” – Shlohmo
If you ever wondered what a rave in Hell would sound like, this is it.
“Bastard” – Tyler the Creator
“Flag Shopping” – Heems
The piano riff that drives Heems’s verses borders on horror-movie soundtrack eeriness; like John Carpenter’s iconic Halloween score, the simplicity of the melody allows us to fill in the rest of the space with an anxious sense of impending dread. Lyrically, “Flag Shopping” is darkly personal, speaking about a post-9/11 world and the mental aftershocks of the trauma. It’s a standout track from the New York based rapper that, if you really listen, will shake you.
“Are You Receiving?” – Clint Mansell
Clint Mansell is a master in psychologically unnerving scores, with Moon being one of his best to date. The 2009 film is a quietly disturbing thriller (and one you should watch if you haven’t already), aided by Mansell’s sparse and atmospheric score. In “Are You Receiving?”, the atonal buzz of violins builds into a droning nightmare that will get under your skin.
“Total Loss No Feeling” – NAKED
“Haunted” – Beyonce
“Polytopia” – Kastle
“II. No Exit” – Childish Gambino
“Love/Paranoia” – Tame Impala
Anyone who has ever dated knows the emotional and mental agony of paranoia over a partner’s potential deception. This experience – the sinking feeling that you’re being lied to – can drive us to some of the most anguished corners of our mind, which can be truly frightening. In “Love/Paranoia”, lead singer Kevin Parker unpacks those moments through this raw, honest ballad.
“1 4 Me” – Jacques Greene
Jacques Greene has a knack for emotionally complex electronic music. “1 4 Me” isn’t all that creepy on the surface, but the track’s icy sound design develops a ghostly, isolated mood.
“The Opposite of Afternoon” – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
“In a Tomb All Your Own” – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
“Leather and Wood” – Deerhunter
“Leather and Wood” features perhaps the scariest lyric in this list: “I can’t believe there is no hope.” A beautiful song, but a dark one.