It’s Friday the 13th and Halloween is just around the corner, so the first installment of The Cannabist’s SmokeSongs is channeling your deepest fears.
If the idea of kids (and, sometimes, drunken adults) knocking on your door moaning for treats freaks you out, pop on the headphones, roll one up, and ride out the horror with these spooky spins.
No time to listen to all these spooky unearthed LPs? Check out The Cannabist’s SmokeSongs Halloween Hits playlist featuring strong rips from each featured record.
“Blade Runner 2049” has earned rave reviews, but the long-awaited sequel surely won’t outdo the unique vision of Ridley Scott’s original 1982 film — and certainly not its pioneering electronica soundtrack by Vangelis. Using detached samples of in-film dialogue, eerie synth pads and subtle flights of saxophone, the Greek-born composer conveys the film’s bleak vision of 2019 Los Angeles and lofty existentialism. More surreal and thought provoking than scary, the score also captures the brooding sentimentality of main character, Rick Deckard (secret stoner, Harrison Ford).
Apropos haunting, no album is better for sparking a bowl on a dark October eve than Burial’s 2006 self-titled debut. The reclusive London-based electronic artist (real name: William Emmanuel Bevan) was on the vanguard of the “hauntology” movement of the mid-2000s. From a creative standpoint, hauntologists tinker with the notion that the present will always be possessed with past aesthetics and such nostalgia informs the future. Burial’s use of decaying tones, crackling vinyl, manipulated voices, clinking chains and static drums gives the record’s 12 tracks such an intangible familiarity, it’s creepy.
“Moanin’ in the Moonlight,” Howlin’ Wolf
It’s hard to find a more visceral bluesman than the towering, gravel-voiced Howlin’ Wolf (a.k.a. Chester Arthur Burnett). His raw, country blues ethos and high-powered electric guitar revelry made him the leader of the pack among his Chicago blues contemporaries — mostly because he sounded a little unhinged and intimidating. In 1959, brothers Leonard and Phil Chess of Chicago’s famed Chess Records, the main purveyor of electric blues at that time, compiled 12 singles previously released by Howlin’ Wolf onto one awesome debut LP, “Moanin’ in the Moonlight.” The result is a rather unnerving stomp down the primal path of the blues.
“Scream,” Michael Jackson
With apologies to “Monster Mash,” Michael Jackson’s 1983 “Thriller” is the ultimate Halloween anthem. That’s why it’s the centerpiece of a “new” Michael Jackson compilation called “Scream,” released just in time for Halloween 2017. It’s clearly a big-label money grab, but the forgotten gems tucked onto this record make up for the shameless sell. The title track is a dusted off duet that Jackson did with his sister Janet for 1995’s “HISstory” album, and it hits harder than a homemade dab rig. “Blood on the Dance Floor,” from Jackson’s 1997 remix release, will help shake off the chills of any October smoke session. Rockwell’s shuddersome sleeper hit “Somebody’s Watching Me” also makes an appearance — Jackson sang backup vocals on the choruses.
“Blood Money,” Tom Waits
Though it was never meant to be a Halloween album, Tom Waits’ “Blood Money” is probably the scariest effort on this list. In 13 eclectic tracks, Waits growls, groans and tenderly sings out a simultaneously scathing indictment of and glowing love letter to humankind. Ominous-but-spellbinding cabaret music, sprinkled with hints of free form jazz, dissonant rock, klezmer, dixieland and rootsy Americana, carry Waits’ words along. No matter what you smoke, the musical variety will keep you alert, and the lyrical depth will keep you on the edge of your seat.
“3001: A Laced Odyssey,” Flatbush ZOMBiES
Flatbush ZOMBiES cite LSD, psilocybin mushrooms and ganja, as influences on their trippy brand of hip hop, which edges on hardcore rap and even goes horror-core at times. A steady stream of trippy, cinema-quality music videos scored the Brooklyn trio major label attention, and last year they released knockout debut, “3001: A Laced Odyssey.” Relaxed tempos, jazz-tinged samples, woozy synths and old school beats make for proper blunted-out listening. Fluid verses by the smooth-rhyming Zombie Juice, gravel-voiced Meechy Darko and pitch-perfect Erick Arc Elliott touch on ego, power, money, fame — and torture. Their flow is sure to raise hairs.
“Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots,” Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots
The wicked gothic folk stylings of Denver singer-songwriter Jay Munly may be as close as the Mile High City gets to having its own sound. Before helming his own project with the Lee Lewis Harlots, Munly took a jaunt with DeVotchKa and rocked Slim Cessna’s Auto Club (which is more on the gothic rock side of the spectrum). The group’s self-titled 2004 debut sounds something like an alternative soundtrack for “The Blair Witch Project.” Two violinists, a cellist and several multi-instrumentalists are orchestrated into 15 frenetic, mostly nightmarish tracks. Munly’s signature ghoulish croak of a voice hangs over it all, adding an extra layer of depravity to each effort.
“Boy in a Well,” The Yawpers
With recent release “Boy in a Well,” Colorado’s The Yawpers pulls itself out of the “Americana party band” graveyard to make a disturbing mark on rock ‘n’ roll history and, potentially, future Halloween smoke outs. The (fortunately) fictional concept album tells the story of a French woman raped by a soldier in World War I. She becomes pregnant and decides to have the child, only to throw it down a well. Needless to say, the boy comes back to haunt her in a terrible, terrible way. With production help from The Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson, The Yawpers brought this sinister story to life via breakneck rockabilly cuts and somber ballads woven into one shocking, sometimes chaotic, thematic arc.
“True Detective (Music From the HBO Series),” Various Artists
What made the first season of HBO’s “True Detective” groundbreaking television? Mesmerizing writing from series creator Nic Pizzolatto; choice casting, including Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as two fragile detectives trying to solve a slow-burning, gruesome mystery; and the smoldering soundtrack by motion picture music guru and longtime Coen Brothers collaborator, T. Bone Burnett. Sadly, the second season could barely stand up to the first, with cartoon-like dialogue, confusing red herrings and a mismatched cast. But Burnett’s season-two score actually trumps his original effort. He tapped Nashville alt-country songstress Lera Lynn and wild songwriter Nick Cave to create woefully dismal ditties worthy of another listen.
“Lord God Muzick,” Lee “Scratch” Perry
“Dub” defines a subgenre of reggae music that uses overdubs and processed effects to create improvised soundscapes built into more traditional songs. No artist was more innovative at dub than Lee “Scratch” Perry, whose prolific production dates back to the late 1960s. This Halloween have another listen to 1991’s “Lord God Muzick” — it melds twisted sonic manipulation and ghostly delay flutters with sterile drum machines and whirring synth lines to create a overall woozy feeling. The effect is amplified by Perry’s rambling, somewhat preachy crooning on random subjects, like the shooting death of his friend and fellow dub artist, Osbourne “King Tubby” Ruddock, and overthrowing the government. There’s also a birthday song for Jesus, Haile Selassie and Marcus Garvey.
The Cannabist’s Halloween SmokeSongs playlist — strong rips from each featured record: