The scariest part about Halloween is having to put up with hearing "Monster Mash" a thousand times in a night. If you're looking for a tasteful soundtrack that still feels like the icy breath of the reaper tonight, Pop & Hiss is here to help.
Wolf Eyes, “Stabbed in the Face”
There are songs that are about evil things, and then there are songs that just are evil. The Michigan-reared noise group Wolf Eyes makes tortured electronic shrieks that could double as the soundtrack to that video-missive-from-the-pit-of-hell in “Event Horizon.” “Stabbed in the Face” was their attempt at a pop single. We once pranked a hung-over roommate by waking him up to this song and a high-wattage strobe light. He’s still a little jumpy 10 years later. – August Brown
Miley Cyrus featuring Nelly, “4x4”
Nothing’s more frightful than a duo between a Disney princess turned urban pop provocateur and a party rapper years past his prime. Miley made the dreams of no one come true when she linked with Nelly for this country-fried stomper. It's one of few subtle tracks on her much hyped “Bangerz,” and is a perfect fit for any Halloween playlist – mostly because the lyrics are awful enough to send a chill down your spine. And besides, you’ll need one track for the guest who came dressed as Cyrus to twerk to. – Gerrick D. Kennedy
Near the end of “Millionaire,” arguably the most accessible song these cranky, underground art-punks have ever written, Mekons vocalist Sally Timms conjures the image of a nightmare, her voice calm and exquisite. “Dreaming of a creature,” sings Timms, “who is too pale and large to stand.” But it’s no demon or ogre Timms envisions. No, Timms is thinking of a man, one who is near death and has amassed a Scrooge McDuck-size fortune, and she’s batting her eyes as she swoops in like a cash-starved vulture. The scenario may be exaggerated, but want a surefire way to go mad? Start over-analyzing the motivations of the person holding your hand. – Todd Martens
David Lynch, "Dark Night of the Soul"
If you want the surreal side of Halloween chills, turn to David Lynch. Here the master of images both creepily unsettling and unsettlingly creepy delivers a distant, twangy vocal about moving shadows, echoing footsteps and dark dreams. It arrives over a broken-down soundtrack from collaborators Danger Mouse and Mark Linkous, who was better known as Sparklehorse. Linkous ended his life a short time after this album’s release, which only adds another grim layer to the haunted feeling here. – Chris Barton
Goblin, “Suspiria” and “Deep Red” soundtracks
The Italian group recently reunited in L.A. to perform its hair-raising synth-rock scores for Dario Argento’s “giallo” movies like “Deep Red” and “Suspiria.” If you missed them, hey, it’s another occasion to go watch these inimitable '70s gorefests, whose creeping arpeggios are again influencing weirdo electronic artists. They’re the reason you can’t hear a vintage Moog in a minor key without suspecting someone’s waiting around the corner to put a knife in your gullet. – AB
Who says that Halloween songs have to be overtly spooky? Instead of "Thriller" cliches, this desolate, ambient landscape from Anthony Gonzalez and Nicolas Fromageau begins very gauzy and slow-building, like exploring a frozen, post-apocalyptic world (not unlike the cover for M83’s album, “Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts”). But then that massive, blood-curdling scream cuts across the sky, and if that doesn't give you chills, you might already be dead. – CB
Low, “Plastic Cup"
Vampires, werewolves and zombies are adorable and all, but long-standing Duluth, Minn., trio Low scares up a far more human fear here. With just three lines, Low traces a life from beginning to end. Only the highlights are mentioned, such as childish partying with friends, urinating in a plastic cup in a hospital, etc. Then Low keeps going, the music sparsely droning on as the lyrics fast-forward thousands of years to when your body has long disintegrated and future explorers are stumbling over that plastic cup that once held human waste. And you thought your legacy would be that screenplay you haven’t finished yet. – TM
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “Red Right Hand”
This writer has no shame admitting an insatiable appetite for gory horror films. They’re mind-numbingly campy and offer the occasional thrill. At the top of the list is the “Scream” trilogy. And while the movie is deliciously trashy, the film makes great usage of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand.” It’s dark, unsettling, terrifying even -- and a perfect soundtrack for the shadows that bump in the night. – GK
45 Grave, “Evil”
Just like you can’t have noir without L.A. sunshine, you can’t have horror-punk without these SoCal bloodletters. Fronted by the perfectly named Dinah Cancer, the band’s rockabilly sneer and Lovecraftian worldview ranks them up with the Misfits and Cramps in turning mosh pits into something much darker and delicious. – AB
Double Leopards, "Druid Spectre"
A sinister mix of thudding drums, rumbling piano chords and other disjointed effects that go bump in the night, this is just one slice of the sonic bad trip that is ambient-noise artists Double Leopards’ 2003 album “Halve Maen.” Plus, it’s freaking called “Druid Spectre,” what more do you need? – CB