Words by Brendan
All Hallow’s Eve is upon us! Wednesday is the day of celebration, the dance of the dead. There’s no need for a suave/slutty costume; there’s no need for candy; there’s no need for jack-o’-lanterns and cobwebs and tombstones. All you need are some friends, some pumpkin beers, and some good fucking music. That’s where we come in. Here’s a mixtape of Halloweeny tunes for you to play at your party. Some of these bands are as old as the hills, and some I quite literally just heard about last week. So dig in, dance yer ass off, and shake your ol’ skeleton’s bones.
As far as the beer goes? We recommend Saranac’s, Southern Tier’s, and Dogfish Head’s pumpkin beers, as well as Sam Adams’, Great Lakes’, and Victory’s Oktoberfest beers, plus Erie’s Fallenbock, Troegs’ Troeggenator Doppelbock, and Pittsburgh’s own East End Brewing‘s Big Hop Harvest Ale, as long as they still have it on tap!
But hey, without further ado, stream some tunes here, download the mixtape for your next shindig, and read on for some words about the songs!
- Electrelane / The Invisible Dog
- The 13th Floor Elevators / Fire Engine
- Wooden Shjips / Black Smoke Rise
- Reading Rainbow / White Noise
- The Black Angels / River Of Blood
- The Byrds / Eight Miles High
- Black Moth Super Rainbow / Melt Me
- Ty Segall / Finger
- Harlem / Friendly Ghost
- Ganglians / Faster
- Echo & The Bunnymen / Monkeys
- Wooden Indian Burial Ground / White Bats
- Interpol / Hands Away
- Disappears / Fear Of Darkness
- Television / Marquee Moon
- Br’er Fox / Off In Your Coffin
- The Flaming Lips / Watching The Planets
- Times New Viking / Born Again Revisited
- The Velvet Underground / I Heard Her Call My Name
- The Co Co Colaz / Round ‘n Round 99
- Straight Arrows / Haunted Out
- Thurston Moore / Off Work
- Thee Oh Sees / Lupine Dominus
- Dead Man’s Bones / Pa Pa Power
- The Warlocks / Jam Of The Witches
- Arctic Monkeys / Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong…
- Thurston Moore / Wonderful Witches
- Bear In Heaven / Sinful Nature
- Goat / Golden Dawn
- Moon Duo / Seer
- Bob Hocko & The Swamp Rats / Louie Louie
1. Electrelane / “The Invisible Dog” / Rock It To The Moon 
This one starts out kinda slow, but the creepiness picks up after a minute or so, when the droning organ and dog barking seem to get in sync. When the guitar kicks in around 80 seconds in, the weirdness doubles, and then when the energy takes off around the two minute mark … you know you’re in for a creepy but energetic ride. Welcome to the world of Electrelane, the most inventive post-rock ladies I know of. A perfect kick-off to a creepy evening.
2. The 13th Floor Elevators / “Fire Engine” / The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators 
An oldie and a fucking goodie. Roky Erickson is a Halloween master as a solo artist, and with his aptly-named Aliens backing band, and with the Elevators he ripped the psychedelic rock genre a new one, in the sense that he ripped the genre the first one. As graphic as that may be, there’s no holiday complete without a tune from this drug-soaked garage rock band.
3. Wooden Shjips / “Black Smoke Rise” / West 
This San Franciso band has been peddling instrumental-heavy pscyhedelic rock for the last few years, and they’re darn good at it. I included one of their standouts on my Halloween mix last year (check that out here) and I couldn’t help but include them again. This is the lead track from last summer’s album, and it’s Wooden Shjips to a tee: droning organ, fuzzy guitars, reverby vocals, and druggy sludge all over. Ride the waves.
4. Reading Rainbow / “White Noise” / Prism Eyes 
Lo-fi pop masters of the 2010s, Reading Rainbow (now known as Bleeding Rainbow, to avoid confusion with Levar Burton, we presume) have all manner of living-room-record scuzzy pop tunes. This particular one has a driving drum beat, transcendent harmonies, and a scarily-simple guitar solo.
5. The Black Angels / “River Of Blood” / Phosphene Dream 
If I had my druthers, this whole mixtape would be a Black Angels discography. It would work, trust me. But because I have to pick and choose amongst their mind-blowing psych-rock, I went with this track in the middle of their latest LP. It showcases Stephanie Bailey’s powerful drums, their usage of layered instrumentation, and Alex Maas’ carefully- and perfectly-reverberated vocals.
6. The Byrds / “Eight Miles High” / Fifth Dimension 
One of my favorite songs on one of my favorite records from one of my favorite bands, of all time. The Byrds pay homage to John Coltrane with Roger McGuinn’s free jazz guitar solo, and they inadvertently get banned from radio play because their lyrics about taking a plane ride to London are interpreted as “pro-drug” messages. Over forty years later, thank god we can partake of their (yes, indeed) druggy rock music and have no shame. Perfect for skittish dancing in that weird costume you have on a candy-induced sugar buzz mixed with a spiked-cider-induced drunk. Enjoy!
7. Black Moth Super Rainbow / “Melt Me” / Dandelion Gum 
Speaking of candy, Pittsburgh-based Black Moth Super Rainbow‘s 2007 album celebrates the sweet, sugary bubblegum of 60s pop while employing the technology of modern music-makers and -listeners. This tune has a killer bass rumble that could carry any lesser tune, really, but that vocal line layered on top and the synthesizer melody … well, they really seal the deal and make this a perfect tune. Just in time for dancing at your Halloween party.
8. Ty Segall / “Finger” / Melted 
Ty Segall must be a fucking mad man, and I love him for that. This dude churns out album after collaboration after album, all chock-full of inventive and catchy rock music, tinged with elements of psychedelia, folk, and garage pop. This particular tune is a masterpiece. You’ll bang your head, you’ll clap your hands, you’ll tap your feet, you’ll lose your shit.
9. Harlem / “Friendly Ghost” / Hippies 
A light break from the hardcore scuzziness. Harlem‘s contribution is more of a lyric-based interlude, a humorous take on the tale of Casper. They still promote the lo-fi pop of Segall and Reading Rainbow and others, but this is a more overt example. I couldn’t help but include it, especially since the rest of their album has similarly catchy tunes, and this one just fit with the theme.
If pressed, I’d admit that this song isn’t much more than a transition, but I’ll be darned if it isn’t a stellar transition. Ganglians love 80s pop, clearly, as well as some more modern usage of older rock elements, and they swirl that mix brilliantly, pitting ethereal guitars against reverberated voices and synthesized drum sounds. It’s simple and brilliant all at once, and it’s a great rhythmic transition to this next tune …
11. Echo & The Bunnymen / “Monkeys” / Crocodiles 
A classic tune from an under-rated classic album. You deserve to know Echo & The Bunnymen for more than their contribution to the Donnie Darko soundtrack. Crocodiles is a contradictory up-tempo yet down-mood album, and this tune is a canonical example. You take your chances, you stand up against demons, you never know what’s gonna happen. Such is life. Such is Halloween.
12. Wooden Indian Burial Ground / “White Bats” / Wooden Indian Burial Ground 
A totally new band to me, and to you, as well, I presume. Wooden Indian Burial Ground just released this LP a couple weeks ago. Just in time, I say, because their haunting garage rock fits into anyone’s Halloween mix, and this song finds a perfect niche right here, I say. Yelped vocals just barely buried under echoey guitars and cymbal-heavy percussion … everything is right with this psychedelic world.
13. Interpol / “Hands Away” / Turn On The Bright Lights [year]
Slowin’ it down for just a minute. Why? Well, why not? It makes it all the more exciting when everything picks back up. Plus, if you were going to choose a soothing and foreboding voice to oversee this part of the mixtape, you would definitely choose Paul Banks, wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t? Sorry, dude, you’re wrong. He wins.
14. Disappears / “Fear Of Darkness” / Pre Language 
One of my favorite new discoveries of the last few years, Disappears features Brian Case (ex-The Ponys and -90 Day Men) on vocals and guitar. I already loved their kraut-rock-influenced American psychedelia, but then they acquired Steve Shelly (yeah, he of Sonic Youth) on drums and I fell in even more love with these guys. Pre Language is their first (and only, it seems) work with Shelley, and it’s an incredible fusion of guitar/bass interplay, echoey vocals, and perfectly-placed percussion. Check out their full discography because any song would fit right here perfectly; I just happened to choose this one, particularly for that spacey wash of guitar sounds. And the title, of course.
15. Television / “Marquee Moon” / Marquee Moon 
A true masterpiece that has been under-appreciated forever, even as it becomes appreciated. New York City and the CBGB’s scene spawned many well-known bands and artists—Patti Smith, The New York Dolls, Blondie—but none as great (and as criminally unpopular) as Television. This debut of theirs was a fucking eye-opener for me when I heard it in college, and I listen to it just about weekly to this day. The title track is one of the best guitar tunes of all time, and with the creepy lyrical content (about driving back into a graveyard …?) it deserves its place here in our mix.
16. Br’Er Fox / “Off In Your Coffin” / The Bitter Struggle with Duality 
I’d be totally remiss to not include a Pittsburgh band on here. The brother Bubenheim (now of Meeting Of Important People and Pet Clinic) used to gallavant as a garage rock duo, and this track comes from that project’s sole LP. If you were as lucky as us to attend MOIP‘s album release party at Mr. Small’s this summer, you caught a revival of this tune from all the guys.
17. The Flaming Lips / “Watching The Planets” / Embryonic 
I replaced the album art for this one with the music video because of this important question: Haven’t you ever wished a cadre of ass-naked, bicycle-riding young men and women would burst you out of a plastic bubble, strip you out of your business suit, and push you back into a giant testicle with a vaginal opening? No?! Then you will never understand the mind of Wayne Coyne.
18. Times New Viking / “Born Again Revisited” / Born Again Revisited 
Scuzziness abounds on Times New Viking albums. It makes almost every song sound like an eerie message coming through a tape-recorder. Granted, the bubble gum poppiness and sweet melodies seep through, so it’s like somebody decorated your turntable with cobwebs but then you touch them and you realize it’s actually cotton candy. Something like that.
19. The Velvet Underground / “I Heard Her Call My Name” / White Light/White Heat 
I almost included “Lady Godiva’s Operation” instead, just because that is the creepiest fucking song. Seriously, pay attention to the lyrics sometime. I went with this one instead to avoid that total gore-fest, plus it has THE most psychically-charged moment in all of rock music. Seriously! That moment right after Lou Reed says “And then my mind split open” … well, the first time the guitar squeal comes right away. So, you’re expecting that the next time, but then … they wait that extra half-moment before unleashing a feedback wail. Oh. Man. Kills me. Every time.
20. The Co Co Colaz / “Round ‘n Round 99″ / Zero’s 
Another new-to-me band. The Co Co Colaz are shopping around this demo, and I really hope it gets picked up soon because they’re onto something. Punchy drums and catchy riffs with a thin layer of fuzz. The vocals, too, reel you right in; they’re sweet and tuneful, and make for a powerful combo with the lo-fi grit of the music. I dig it!
21. Straight Arrows / “Haunted Out” / It’s Happening 
A perfect psychedelic pop record from this Australian band, and this track is all too perfect for this here venture. Primal screams, echoey sounds that go bump in the night, and the kinda beat that makes you want to dance like a mummy.
22. Thurston Moore / “Off Work” / Trees Outside The Academy 
Okay, I admit it, I used this track on last year’s mix, too, but it’s so good! That *crunch* of the guitar is the epitome of Halloween sounds, for me. Coupled with foreboding violin lines, the music takes on a whole new meaning. There’s a weird airplane sound in the middle, too, then a downswell … and then that crunch kicks in again. Mmm, can’t get enough.
23. Thee Oh Sees / “Lupine Dominus” / Putrifiers II 
This mixtape should really just be Thee Oh Sees‘ entire discography. Energetic and spooky all at once. I’ll know I’ve really made it in life when I can get them to play at my birthday party.
24. Dead Man’s Bones / “Pa Pa Power” / Dead Man’s Bones 
“Hey girl, remember when I recorded a concept album about ghosts with the Silverlake Conservatory Children’s Choir? Yeah, yeah ya do.”
25. The Warlocks / “Jam Of The Witches” / Rise & Fall 
Languid and eerie, this jam is. Typical Warlocks fare, but they do it so well. I can totally picture some witches in a park or something after the midnight hour, wigged out on bitches’ brew or some other potion, strumming on their broomsticks and cackling in delight. If they produced something as good as this song, I’d say they’re doing just fine.
26. Arctic Monkeys / “Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong…” / Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not 
The word “Vampires” caught my eye while scanning my iTunes list, and then I remembered the dark energy that permeates Arctic Monkeys songs. They can be kinda snotty/bratty (especially on this debut album of theirs) but it’s their gritty attitude and brash guitar-playing that deserves more credit. Indeed, Alex Turner is an underrated guitarist. Here, his guitar and vocals take center stage and probably serve as an anthem for all manner of bratty teens TP-ing and egging houses this week. Fucking jerks.
27. Thurston Moore / “Wonderful Witches” / Trees Outside The Academy 
Yeah, I couldn’t help but include more Thurston, especially since I couldn’t decide which Sonic Youth song to use :-\ Much like “Off Work”, Moore‘s powerful and insistent guitar work is on display here, and the added bonus of “Witches” makes this a no-brainer.
28. Bear In Heaven / “Sinful Nature” / I Love You, It’s Cool 
It’s about time we get a little electronica in here. Bear In Heaven‘s synths and bass are incredibly ominous here. It’s atmospheric. It’s sinful …
29. Goat / “Golden Dawn” / World Music 
An upbeat, guitar-driven tune with some worldly (and other-worldly) rhythms and sounds. This song will make you want to boogie oogie and howl at the moons. All of ‘em.
30. Moon Duo / “Seer” / Mazes 
Moon Duo are part of that West Coast psych-jam contingent that Wooden Shjips inhabits, as well. This jam drones on with a cyclic looping sound, some echoed vocals that sound like they’re coming from a canyon in the corner of the room, and even with such a lazy and languid guitar line, the tune rushes along smoothly.
31. Bob Hocko & The Swamp Rats / “Louie Louie” / Disco Still Sucks! 
Hey, look at that! 31 songs! October 31st! Coincidence? Nope. I chose to end this mixtape with an absolute scorcher from an old and lost Pittsburgh band. The Swamp Rats recorded this cover of The Kingsmen (everyone was doin’ it back then) but little ol’ Dave Gannon had no clue what the lyrics were, so he kinda improvised them, building phrases around the little bits he had picked up from hearing the tune on the radio. An interesting story, sure, but it’s the fuzzed-out 12-strings and Gannon’s blood-curdling screeches that make this tune an absolute winner. Pick up this record on Pittsburgh’s Get Hip label.
Phew, quite the list, eh? Hope you enjoyed listening and reading, and cheers to you and yours on this favorite pagan holiday of ours. As a reward for making it this far, here’s a handy download link for the whole mixtape. ROCK ON!