Celebrate Halloween with The Silver Tongue’s spookiest tracks!

Happy Pumpkin day everybody! To celebrate the best (yes) Holiday of the year, we’ve asked our staffers to choose a song they find particularly “haunting”. These are the tracks whose tones creep up your spine as you listen to them, desolate and cold, echoing in your mind after the final measure. So turn off the lights, open all the windows and let these songs fill your home with a soft, eerie atmosphere. Oh, and be sure to let us know what songs you find particularly haunting in the comments.

Matt Fox
“Dead Flag Blues” – Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Nothing embodies the haunting disposition of Halloween quite like Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The group’s neo-luddist themes flirt around dystopia, wartimes and anything else that reminds you life is short. One track in particular, “Dead Flag Blues,” encompasses both the outfit’s haunting instrumentation and minimal use of vocal work. The piece, serving as the first third of F#A#, begins with a tale of end time: ‘We’re trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death.’ If the monologue wasn’t enough, the southwestern guitar leitmotif entrances and leads us down a path of moods that are all but comforting. While most post-rockers are satisfied with sonic builds and ambient inbetweens, GY!BE incorporate a noise-driven soundscape that eerily sticks with you long after the movement’s end.

Will Donelson
“The Orchard” – Ra Ra Riot

There wasn’t really anything else on The Orchard quite like its title track. The song is absolutely oozing with two things which are incredibly hard to use in tandem; nostalgia and detachment. The song is told from the perspective of someone remembering things he can no longer really identify with. While he’s singing this song to someone, the thing that’s really intangible, and the real ghost that haunts the orchard is himself. What drives this home is the excellent (if totally unsubtle) use of echo on the track, though it also helps that the song lacks percussion of any sort. The bass and the strings (and occasional light flares of piano) exist to add the drama and emotion that the voice doesn’t afford itself; and this works so perfectly in the context of the song’s lyrics. “The Orchard” paints a sad, and truly terrifying portrait, showing us the world of a man “whose life is dull and body aches”.

Janey Criss
“Black Dunes” – This Will Destroy You

This Will Destroy You maintain a fantastic reputation for drawing up ghosts and worlds of transient layers around them live. But when “Black Dunes” was released last year as the single for the new LP, Tunnel Blanket, the ghost conjuring grew to heightened levels. Especially encouraging this was the subsequent release of the music video for “Black Dunes,” which is the most thought-provoking I’ve seen in years, hands down. The Texas four-piece who took the initial plunge of touring as an instrumental, electrical force about four years ago, This Will Destroy You successfully wins mostly emotional responses from fans each time they take the stage. By creating the most minute traces of little sonic presences that roam and rise through the duration of ‘songs,’ seemingly independently, through the densest of static and white noise at times, and the most malleable silence at others, the band will no doubt continue to instigate moods and motions to haunt their fans.

Justin Wesley
“Red Right Hand” – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

No matter which artists I come to when considering my favorite haunting music (Mark Lanegan, PJ Harvey, QOTSA), I always return to Nick Cave.v“Red Right Hand” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is the pinnacle of haunting storytelling in and composition. It’s nearly impossible to pinpoint the song’s strongest asset for establishing maximum dread. Cave’s signature baritone has been his most trusted tool for invoking both menace and beauty, but his unparalleled talents as a lyricist and narrative storyteller are equally dominant in his work. However, selling short the wicked genius of the production on “Red Right Hand” would be a grave mistake.

Truthfully, when the song was first released on the 1994 album Let Love In, I was 11 and didn’t know Nick Cave from Adam. However, I was a major fan of ‘The X-Files, and the supernatural series’ compilation album, Songs in the Key of X, was my first encounter with Cave’s “Red Right Hand.” It has gone on to be inescapable in horror pop culture since (prominently featured in the Scream franchise). Ever since hearing “Red Right Hand” all those years ago, I’ve become a bit of Nick Cave diehard – from The Birthday Party to Grinderman to his soundtrack compositions (The Proposition, The Road, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Lawless) with Warren Ellis for instant classic feature films Cave penned screenplays for (Jesse James excluded) to his impressive literary career.

Cave’s hellish voice and singular way with words can flat-out scare the shit of you in the deepest recesses of your person. He’s no jump-cut, found footage hack like you too often encounter in today’s mainstream horror flicks. Cave is a master technician with a fondness for biblical terror, folklore and old-school campfire theatrics. There’s nobody quite like Nick Cave, and few songs are on par with “Red Right Hand.” Like the titular character of the song, Cave’s composition has a “catastrophic plan designed and directed by his red right hand.”

John Beringer
“The Killing Moon” – Echo and the Bunnymen

The wind whistles as the reflection of a crescent moon appears on the water: a perfect opening to the video for “The Killing Moon,” one of the most haunting songs of the last 30 years. While the song was originally released in 1984 on Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ocean Drive, it experienced resurgence among younger fans after gracing the soundtrack of Richard Kelly’s 2001 cult-classic Donnie Darko. If I close my eyes I can still picture the opening scene; a relatively unknown Jake Gyllenhaal pedals furiously down a foggy, apocalyptic stretch of road as a soundtrack steeped in ominous tones and ghostly strings kicks in. “Fate up against your will,” Ian McCulloch sings–his voice quivering in uncertainty–making me wonder if I have ever really been in control of anything, a scary notion indeed.

Will Donelson
“Tales from the Far Side” – the Bill Frisell Quartet

Okay, sorry, I just had to get the last word! So this song… I mean, dang. Frisell’s best stuff has always been the stuff that just rides the line on atonal, and that sound really works wonders for this song. “Tales from the Far Side” sounds like it’s constantly on the edge of falling apart, and that it’s structure is melting away with every beat. Honestly, to me it sounds like the perfect soundtrack to a a Dali landscape; the music sounds like it could so easily start to blur into the surreal surroundings of so many of the artists great works. “Tales from the Far Side”, as the title suggests, was actually the soundtrack to something quite surreal; the animated special of the bizarre, unpleasant and hypnotizing comic strip The Far Side. I saw this cartoon at a young age and things about it just stuck with me – the overtly loud, muffled breathing of the characters, the nihilism that infused every single short, the general uncomfortable atmosphere of every group we encounter… But the music, I had forgotten, until searching for the cartoon online (no luck, sadly). I think I’ll have a hard time forgetting it again. Happy Halloween everybody.

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