KTRM-FM presents: A Nightmare Before Winter Break

Welcome to Halloween part 2: the final stretch of the semester. We know it’s been a bumpy ride full of long hours in the library and sleepless nights, but it’s almost over (hang in there). Recognizing that there are still projects and tests to be completed, we thought we’d help alleviate the stress by sharing tunes that in some way reflect our terrified state of mind. Whether they be dark, foreboding or maddening, these songs all inhabit the strangulating spirit of finals week. Don’t be scared, we’re riding along with you on this haunted train known as the end.

  1. “Early Sunsets Over Monroeville” by My Chemical Romance: Although the title seems peaceful, calming and, quite frankly, the antithesis of finals week, this song about a young individual who must kill their partner because they have become undead and predatory checks all the boxes for a frightful tragedy. An oft-forgotten MCR song, this tune starts off serene and ratchets up to an intensity that becomes almost overwhelming. It stands out among other contenders by the band because of its rough-edged, homegrown sound. Unlike later MCR songs, it lacks fine-tuning or layering, which leaves an open, haunting quality that perfectly reflects the mood the lyrics evoke. – Savannah
  2. “The Sea” by Sierra Ferrell: A seamless blend of jazz and traditional country music, “The Sea” is a track whose spookiness stems almost entirely from the musical, rather than lyrical, aspect of the song. There’s the use of a minor key, the eerie tone of the singing saw, discordant steel guitar and violin solos, and last but not least, Sierra Ferrell’s vocal performance. She creeps her way through this tune with ease, mostly keeping things reserved so her drawl drenched alto doesn’t overpower the uneasy musical backdrop behind her. It’s a deliberate choice that works to enhance the song, and it makes the moments where she does belt out and wail that much more haunting. – Connor
  3. “Fire” by Arthur Brown: This 1968 hit is a strange one, even by the year’s standards. The frightening mood sets in quickly as Brown immediately screams, “I am the god of hellfire, and I bring you … Fire!” The feverish organ switches between a driving beat and haunting chords as Brown alternates between shouting the chorus and eerily singing the verses. Live performances of the song were even stranger, with Brown donning a leather skull cap bolted to a metal dish containing flaming petrol. The promotional video for the song is a pure fever dream, and it is nearly impossible to describe, other than the fact that it is very much in the Halloween spirit. – Adam
  4. “Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But…” by Arctic Monkeys: This track starts off sinister with an absolutely killer bassline and continues into a fast-paced verse. The vocals are punchy and shouty, almost like they would best be sung in a group of people all yelling together. Sounds spooky to me. Even if the extended and dissonant guitar solos aren’t really your thing, you can’t help but deny how satisfying it is to yell out “All you people are vampires!” in sync with Alex Turner, especially on a cold, misty night when, indeed, all you people are, arguably, vampires. – Charlotte
  5. “Supernature” by Cerrone: This track is a fun yet creepy dance number with lyrics that tell a story about the downfall of humanity. Over a haunting disco backing, you’ll hear lyrics about mutant creatures created from science gone wrong hunting down humanity. Better watch out! Despite the grim setting, it’s definitely very danceable, and who doesn’t love a quick apocalyptic dance break? I would advise listening to a shorter version, especially so if you’re playing this at a function — unless you’re looking to get kicked off the aux cord. – Trey
  6. “The House on Shady Lane” by Plain White T’s: Although Plain White T’s are far from the center of the spotlight, and although this song screams obscurity, from top to bottom, this track is spook-central. With an ample supply of eerie sound effects and a storyline of being chased by a ghost lady in white in an ancient house, which is as old as the idea of the haunted house itself, it could be considered over the top. However, Plain White T’s fully commit to the bit, and this is what saves the track. The song mixes a synth orchestra and echoey backing vocals, and, yes, lifts liberally from classic Halloween films and television, such as “The Addams Family,” as well as playing on the song “ring-around-the-rosey,” which is spooky enough on its own. All of this adds up to a perfectly petrifying tune to add to your playlist. – Savannah
  7. “Mysteries and Mayhem” by Kansas: With a title like “Mysteries and Mayhem,” how could you not add this to a scary playlist? It’s got everything: an ominous opening chord which crescendos as our unease grows, the marriage of clavinet with heavy guitar riffage, violin squeals and a story centered around a haunting nightmare that follows all the horror movie tropes. There’s the “figure dressed in black,” “legs made out of lead” and “a voice that [makes] no sound.” Creepy stuff, and the images are perfectly conveyed by the dual lead vocalists. Robby Steinhardt sings everything with a sinister flair as though he were the villain of the piece while Steve Walsh tries to keep a cool demeanor, only for his fear to slip through and become palpable as he dips into his upper register. – Connor
  8. “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” by Iron Butterfly: This 1968 song clocks in at just over 17 minutes, so it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. With its driving organ groove and arpeggios inspired by Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor,” it is easy to associate this song with horror. The intense organ-playing of Doug Ingle is often layered underneath haunting guitar screeches, and drummer Ron Bushy solos for no less than two and a half minutes. The origin of the song is almost as intriguing as the song itself, as Ingle wrote the song one evening while drinking an entire gallon of Red Mountain wine. This inebriated state made him slur the intended title of “In the Garden of Eden,” leading to the title that is known today. The song is even credited as being the first heavy metal song, solidly earning its place on this list. – Adam
  9. “Get Out of My House” by Kate Bush: I am outing myself as a Kate Bush mega-fan here, but this chilling song from “The Dreaming” is a must-listen. Its repetitive chanting, screaming and otherwise haunting lyrics may give you goosebumps, but this is nothing when compared to the way Kate Bush goes off the deep end near the end of the song. She changes into a metaphorical mule exiting the song with a slow fade of “hee-haw” mule sounds. Creepy, confusing, Kate Bush. – Trey
  10. “Thriller” by BtoB: No, not that “Thriller.” Instead of a funky dance hit, this song is an intensely dramatic and nearly orchestral piece by the criminally underrated K-Pop group BtoB. This track is perfect for the spookiest time of the year because, after all, what’s more in season than a song about a zombie prince chasing after a princess who’s been kidnapped by the devil? The aesthetic visuals of the music video are the cherry on top of this haunting hit, complete with glowing eyes and fog machines. – Charlotte
  11. “Mz. Hyde” by Halestorm: The Jekyll and Hyde idea may be overdone, but Halestorm has somehow found a way to make an overused trope catchy as all get out. Good luck getting this one out of your head. Not only does Lzzy Hale kill on vocals, every effect that the band creates contributes to the sinister vibe. From the very beginning, they play with the idea of a haunted choir singing chords that are vaguely gospel-inspired. They proceed to use phrases “better beware of your bump in the night” and “say hello to something scary” to completely buy into the concept 110%. The overly rhythmic use of cut-time during the chorus evokes the idea of a stomping monster, which is only augmented by the simple back-and-forth chord progressions, evoking the idea of this Lzzy monster swinging its arms as it stomps. The bubbling and mad scientist sound effects don’t hurt either, but my favorite example of subtle horror imagery is the background shouts of “Oh God,” which evoke the sound of pumpkins being speared. Don’t believe me? You’ll just have to check it out for yourself. – Savannah
  12. “Spookie C**chie” – Doechii: This is the winter break pre-game song for you. Doechii delivers line after line of reference, joke and overall excellence with an entrancing rhythm. In this song, she perfectly strikes the balance between vulgar and silly. Doechii is also unafraid to reference or not reference — dropping nods to Halloween, Freddy Kreuger, Children of the Corn, exorcisms and more. Put simply, this song deserves a spot in the horror canon — solely based on the amount of times I say to myself “I’m back like a chucky bride from the afterlife!” – Trey
  13. “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney: Behold, the spookiest song in all of creation. Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime.” I know what many of you are thinking, “This is the least threatening song on the planet!” You’re free to hold that opinion, but allow me, or rather, Ryan George, to argue for why this is a frightening song.
    When you consider the highlighted verse along with another lyric in the song that commands you to not “look down” and the choir of children that “practiced all year long” to “sing their song,” it’s easy to see how this is terrifying. But that’s overcomplicating things. The real reason this is scary is because it signals the end of the academic year, that period of stress and uncertainty. Yet it also serves as a light at the end of the tunnel. It lets you know that you have made it through the year, despite all the bullshit you had to go through. Take comfort in that. – Connor