Am I Hearing Things? A Ghostly Interference Playlist

Audrey Avril ‘19

You’re listening to music when things start to sound weird. A strange voice drones through the speaker, a distant scream can be heard in the dark, empty spaces between the chorus and the refrain, and a demonic growl persists underneath. Is it a ghost? Aliens? Or just spotty rural radio? Whatever it is, it is creepy.

Here is a playlist for just that feeling of creepy otherworldliness, cranked up to an 11 and all in one place just in time for Halloween. These songs contain unearthly recordings, distorted vocals, and sounds that are just human enough to be distressingly uncanny. We recommend leaving this on when you are alone in your dorm late at night (or, conversely, leaving it on for your roommate) for a little pre-Halloween spooking (completely a word).

“Just a Little Boy (For Chester Burnett)” by Swans, To Be Kind

While a lot of Swans’ music is darker, the laugh track gets me every time. In the song, a lone speaker (lead vocalist Michael Gira) croaks out how he just needs love, but is rebuffed by a cacophony of dark-bordering-sadistic laughter. It feels like a group of shadowy figures surrounding him, like demons. It’s unsettling.

“Are You Hung Up?” by The Mothers of Invention, We’re Only in it For the Money

This quick Frank Zappa experience gives a jarring introduction to the album. A collection of recordings and sinister sound bites, it doesn’t feel like a song, but more like the garbled nonsense you get flipping through radio stations.

“Be Careful with that Axe, Eugene” by Pink Floyd, Ummagumma

There’s nothing like ghostly screams interspaced with heavy breathing to rile your nerves. Spare on words but not on feeling, this song has many and varying versions that are worth your while to look up.

“Windows” by Deafheaven, Sunbather

A muddled combination of two recordings placed in a dark, quiet lull of the band’s 2013 sophomore album. It takes the spoken message of religion, sandwiches it in between a drug deal, covers it in pressing piano, and turns it into a dark, apocalyptic prophecy.

“Broken Chords Can Sing a Little” by Silver Mt. Zion, He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms

As the long title suggests, this album drags you through the apocalypse in a delicately composed yet brutal way. This song feels right out of a biblical apocalypse scenario, as if panicked messages of salvation are all you hear on the radio in these end days.

“Static” by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Lift Your Skinny Fists like Antennas to Heaven                                                                                                                               

An epic of tension and anxiety, this Gy!BE song opens (at around 4:30, but the build is worth the wait) with a long, run-down recording of a woman talking about a religious experience that at once feels heavenly ephemeral and darkly distorted. This song is the moment right before The End, when everything goes white.

“Fitter Happier” by Radiohead, OK Computer

A terrible mix of Hal from “2001: a Space Odyssey” and something out of 1984, this Radiohead classic has a robotic voice tells you exactly what to do to live a “fitter, happier, more productive” life. Maybe it’s the distrust of machines in human affairs, but discomfort and anxiety reign throughout the track.

“Revelation 9” by the Beatles, The Beatles

Need I say more? Oh, right: backwards.