Wednesday, October 30, 2013

10 Truly Creepy Songs for Your Halloween Soundtrack

Are you looking for some genuinely spooky tunes to spice up your Halloween? A few ditties to raise goosebumps on your friends' arms? Unexpected chills are the goal of this list. Yes, Michael Jackson's "Thriller" is an amazing song that everyone should queue up for their Halloween party, and "Monster Mash" is a classic. They're probably on your Halloween playlists already, which is why I'm not going to bother including them here.

1. "Earwig Town" by Chairlift

Mix dark chords with haunting tones, then throw in bugs-in-your-ears imagery for a serious case of the heebie-jeebies.

2. "Lullaby" by The Cure

Quite possibly the worst "lullaby" ever. Thanks for the nightmares about Spiderman, Robert Smith!

3. "Shankill Butchers" by The Decemberists

Before they turned infanticide into jaunty earworm "The Rake's Song," The Decemberists issued a stern, Grimm-style warning on the importance of listening to your mother at bedtime.

4. "Nightcall" by Kavinsky

Kavinsky is the zombified stage persona of French electro-pop artist Vincent Belorgey. The story goes that in "Nightcall," he has returned from the dead to visit his girlfriend and explain that a few things have ... changed. That glowing red eye is definitely a bad sign.

5. "White Chalk" by PJ Harvey

Harvey's entire album White Chalk is chock full of Gothic foreboding. The costume she inhabits on the cover and in concert adds to the unsettling feeling that her songs' mentally fragile protagonist is just one betrayal away from madness.

6. "Vampire" by John & Jehn

Either your friend has really hooked up with a bloodsucking vampire, or you're a paranoid schizophrenic who's about to burn their house down for no reason. It's a bad situation either way.

7. "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult

Okay, so this one may be on your Halloween lists already. It's still spooky (especially if you've seen The Stand). You can tell me not to fear Death all you want, but when he comes calling for you...

8. "Black Mirror" by Arcade Fire

The chaos of the ocean, the chaos of television ... is that what this song is about? Maybe, but when I hear "Black Mirror," I imagine the nightmare carnival from Something Wicked This Way Comes.

9. "Possum Kingdom" by The Toadies 

If someone invites you for a walk around the lake at Possum Kingdom State Park in Texas, just turn and run.

10. "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" by Radiohead

Want to know what it feels like to stare down the devil? Turn up the final track on The Bends, close your eyes, sit back and let it wash over you. This song is so creepy that it creeps Thom Yorke out. And he wrote it ... or did he? "It is the dark tunnel without the light at the end ... It drains me, and it shakes me, and hurts like hell every time I play it ... I wish that song hadn't picked us as its catalysts, and so I don't claim it. It asks too much... I didn't write that song." Read the rest of his thoughts on it here.

I'm going to go hug my dog, now. He'd bark if there really were a monster in the closet, right? Right?

Friday, December 21, 2012


2012 has been a rough year for loss. I count over 30 deaths in the world of music. Let's look back and remember some of those who are gone, first with the focus on R & B performers.

Singer Whitney Houston was the most noted loss of  2012. The 48-year old singer died tragically in an accidental drowning on February 11. Although cited by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most awarded female act of all time, Houston's long career was marred by drug use and turmoil in her personal life. In the years preceding her death, her performances had became erratic and often embarrassing. Her last appearance was in the 2012 film Sparkle.

The great Etta James died in January at age 73 after a long illness. Like Houston, James' long career was marred by drug addiction. Unlike Houston, she was the greatest singer who ever lived, mistress of every musical style from jazz to rock and roll. Here she is singing I'd Rather Go Blind.

Soul Train creator Don Cornelius committed suicide on February 1st at age 75. He had been suffering from seizures and pain following brain surgery during the last 15 years of his life. A native Chicagoan, from Bronzeville, Cornelius launched Soul Train in 1970, realizing that no television venue existed for soul music. He introduced many famous black musicians like James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Michael Jackson to a wider audience. "We wish you love, peace, and soul."

Singer Donna Summer died in May at age 63 of lung cancer unrelated to smoking. Summer was a five time Grammy award winner who rose to fame during the disco boom of the 1970s. Her hit songs include Hot Stuff, I Feel Love, and She works Hard for the Money. Summer is scheduled to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 2013. Here she is singing Last Dance in 1978.

Beastie Boys co-founder, Adam Yauch, who performed as MCA and sometimes Nathaniel Hornblower,  died in May at age 47 after a long illness. He was a well-known white rap artist and part of the first white hip hop group founded in 1985. He also founded Oscilloscope Laboratories, an independent film production and distribution company based in New York.He was also a practicing Buddhist. Here is Sure Shot.
Herb Reed, the last surviving original member of the singing group The Platters died in June at age 83 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The platters was one of the great R&B groups of  the 1950's with such hits as The Great Pretender, My Prayer, and Twilight Time. Reed named the group after 1950's disc jockeys' name for records. Reed was the only group member who appeared on nearly all of the group's 400 recordings.

Finally, Johnny Otis died in January at the age of 90. He was a singer, musician, composer, and record producer known as the "Godfather of Rhythm and Blues". Otis was a white man of Greek parents who grew up in an all-black neighborhood in Berkley and chose to live his entire life with African Americans. He played drums in a number of swing bands, founding his own band in 1945 which produced the hit song Harlem Nocturne. He passed just three days before Etta James, whom he discovered in the early 1950s, producing and co-writing her first hit, Roll With Me Henry.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Songs on Phineas & Ferb

Great songwriting segment on Bloomberg West last Friday about the creativity behind Disney’s no. 1 animated TV show. I found it interesting that a new song is created for each episode using Garage Band. There’s a list of the songs per episode on Wikipedia. Does everyone use Rhymezone? /
`Phineas & Ferb': The Evolution of Animation Tech Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Cory Johnson reports on the number one animated series for kids and tweens in the US. He speaks on Bloomberg Television's "Bloomberg West." (Source: Bloomberg)
And on November 15 the songwriters commemorated the 1 year mark.  Tim brought in extra music makers and we all joined in! The next gathering for the Songwriters is Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 7pm at the Niles Library.

Friday, July 20, 2012


We had a great songwriters’ session last night. Good music all round.  Our next gathering date is Thurs., Aug 16th at 7:30pm.  The  venue is changed to the board room where we’ll have access to the computer and projector that we had last night.  The library does have several Dream Theater CDs, a group that was mentioned last night, and if Pagan's Mind is a Norwegian Prog/Power metal band there are none in the system, but I’ll make a purchase request. Thanks, Michael.  Another group mentioned was Moby and there are several in the collection to choose from, so I’ll be checking them out on Carlos’ recommendation.  I visited the Old Town School of Music website last night to see what classes they are offering. I might try to squeeze in the one about chords (something I missed in my years of piano lessons). And thank you Pam for the tip on the Second City performance workshops  -those that came last might have missed that announcement -they have songwriting workshops too! Pam accepted last month’s challenge to write a song about cheese or independence and delivered another fun song – all about cheese! Michael accepted the challenge to put Norm’s reading to music – can’t  wait to hear the results next month.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Final Two

Here they are: YOUR final two. Yes I was surprised and a little sad that Joshua did not make the final. Be that as it may, I'll be shocked if Jessica wins. But all three finalists are amazingly talented, all three have been touted by the judges and Jimmy Iovine for their musicality,  and all three have careers in music to look forward to, no matter who wins.

Regarding our elimination contest, five of you correctly guessed that Joshua would be eliminated, nine thought, like me, that it would be Jessica, and SIX expected Phillip to be the one to go. I just don't get that. Is it because you don't like Phillip or that you think America doesn't like him? The home visit showing all kinds of women throwing themselves at him should have taken care of the latter objection. You actually don't like him? Well, each to his or her opinion.

The winner of this week's elimination contest is SIMY KOSHY. Congratulations! Next week's prize, for correctly guessing the winner is a set of earbuds. Every one who has voted in the contest this year is entered into the sweepstakes for the grand prize: an 8GB ipod nano.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

America Idol: The Final Three Perform

I am here to report that Phillip Phillips just won American Idol. Yes, I know the finale is a week away, but Phil Phil is the 2012 American Idol and that's that.

This week I watched the performance show on Thursday morning instead of Wednesday night. I think being less tired helped me to appreciate what I was seeing. I also think that this may be the most talented, entertaining, and all around outstanding final three in the history of the show.

Joshua Ledet has turned into a star right before my eyes. I love everything about him, but his body movements kill me. He has his own style, but he is like a restrained, cool, laid back version of Jackie Wilson. And to me, classic R&B never gets old. This is his strength. But will this go over with young AI voters? By the way, I liked his version of Imagine better than John Lennon's.

Unlike Josh, Jessica Sanchez has not been getting stronger with each show. She is undeniably mega-talented and will eventually grow up to be an incredible combination of Mariah Carey and the late great Etta James. But she is too young to step up the way Josh has. Besides her youth she has the girl thing going against her. Perhaps it's not fair that the majority of AI voters are girls and women tending to fall for the cute boy. But I think it's more than that. In general, male voices are better than female. Sorry for the way that sounds, but I think it's true. A girl singer has to really have something special to beat out a boy. Jessica is special, but not ripe yet. I pick Jessica for the elimination this week.

I can't say much about Phillip Philips because I'm all choked up. He ended the show with a quietly sexy performance of We've got Tonight that brought tears to my eyes. And that wasn't even his best performance of the night. That would be Beggin. His hometown visit had tears running down my face. He is totally himself at all times, totally unpretentious and natural, and a musical genius. Because of his uniqueness, it's Phillip for the win. Below is the YouTube of his Bob Seger rendition.

Friday, May 11, 2012

American Idol: Hollie is Gone!

So belatedly, the slightly creepy girl who reminds me of Jodie Foster IS GONE!  And I can't believe that Skylar Laine went home before Hollie did!  Is America tired of country after the double country win of season ten? But Skylar is so much more entertaining than Lauren Alaina, though Steven Tyler probably doesn't think so.

Next week's elimination is going to be anybody's guess. I predict that all three of the finalists will do themselves proud (they never fail) and that Jessica will be the one to go. Even though this year's contest included some of the best women singers ever, I expect an all boy finale.

Last week we got a record number of votes in our elimination contest. Eleven voters thought that Hollie would go last week and so did I. Seven thought that Phillip would be eliminated. Don't you like Phillip? He's so great.  Six thought that Joshua would be gone and five thought the same about Jessica. And only five correctly picked Skylar for the elimination. The winner of the week 3 contest was ALAN MAK. Congratulations! Astute pick.

This week was week 4 of the contest, and we had fewer votes. Amazingly four voters picked Phillip for the loss, one each picked Joshua and Jessica, and four picked Hollie and so did I. This week's winner is LISA of the lucky MAK family. Congratulations! 

You can be as lucky as the Maks if you play to win. The prize for week 5 is a $15 itunes gift card. Get in your ballot by next Thursday, May 17 at 6:00 and you'll be automatically entered for the grand prize, an 8GB ipod nano! See you at the ballot box.