WMSC Music Picks: Halloween Favorites 2023

Written by on October 31, 2023

Welcome to WMSC Music Picks, a collaborative collection of WMSC’s music recommendations and reviews. In this installment, we celebrate spooky season with our second annual Halloween Picks! Read below to see what holiday favorites our members have to recommend!


“You Make Me Feel Like It’s Halloween” — Muse 

Review by GS Alvarez

An almost-instant Halloween classic, this single off Muse’s 2022 album Will of the People combines everything great about the band. Bellamy’s vocals stretch to haunting layered highs, and his guitar solo feels like a natural extension of something off Origin of Symmetry (2001). Wolstenholme’s bass is thick and punchy, and its distortion serves as the driving force behind this track. And the solo by Howard at the very end just adds to the over-the-top ridiculousness of this one.

“Ripe (With Decay)” — Nine Inch Nails

Review by GS Alvarez

Trent Reznor is no stranger to sinister, encroaching instrumental tracks — his work on both the Gone Girl and the Bones and All scores (along with Atticus Ross) have demonstrated his mastery of the wordless well enough. Long before he began writing movie music, however, Reznor sprinkled haunting instrumentals throughout the Nine Inch Nails studio albums. “Ripe” is one of these, serving as the closing track of 1999’s The Fragile. Usually coupled with the crunchier “Decay,” the ominous album closer “Ripe” combines droning bass synths, a twangy acoustic guitar, and miscellaneous haunting sound effects to create a song that is sure to leave you with a sense of dread.


Review by GS Alvarez

A secondary single off industrial trio HEALTH’s upcoming album Rat Wars, “SICKO” samples the rough growling vocals of Godflesh’s “Like Rats” as its driving force. Singer Jake Duszik compliments these samples with effervescent, floating vocals, in typical HEALTH fashion. A deeper, muddier synth and punchier drums give this track all the menace typical of modern industrial. The entire track feels built for the spooky season, and its looming instrumental will add the perfect amount of scary to your Halloween playlist.

“Halloweentown” — Dark Divine*

Review by GS Alvarez

First released in 2021, Dark Divine’s debut single “Halloweentown” perfectly encapsulates what the four-piece is all about. Frontman Anthony Martinez’s vocals are clean, wide-reaching, and punchy throughout this aggressive, spooky track. The instrumental is tight and constantly digs its way down with the well-balanced drums of Trison Blaize. I’d expect nothing less from a band whose branding and imagery features skull face paint and haunted house motifs. It’s a great tune for anyone looking for a headbanging Halloween party this year.


“Hollow, As You Figured” — Prince Daddy & The Hyena*

Review by Aidan Smith

Prince Daddy & The Hyena go full fledged hard rock on this track – “Well, I found my god / And he’s hollow, as you figured / He’s just one big black rodent / That chews apart my liver / And spreads like mold.” Frontman Kory Gregory is angry and presents a darker, more “traditionally emo” spin on the band’s twinkly slacker punk norm. The guitar solo on the backside of this track is the most technically impressive thing this band has ever done – bar none dude – straight up psycho stuff. The dark tone, lyrics and melody give off some serious slasher flick vibes. The music video sticks to that as well – as we watch the band get methodically murdered by a vicious killer in a creepy old schoolhouse. It’s a fun, albeit heavy track that is for sure at the top of my Halloween playlist.


“The Foundations Of Decay” — My Chemical Romance

Review by Aidan Smith

I will take any excuse to talk about My Chemical Romance, so when the band dropped this song on a random Thursday afternoon it was an astronomical, unbelievable moment of confusion, excitement and curiosity. This is definitely the heaviest track the band had released since maybe a song or two off of I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love. Either way, the breakdown on “Foundations” is intense. It pulls off well what My Chemical Romance always pulls off well: good, lyrical storytelling and atmospheric melodies that deliver satisfying musical payoffs. Hearing Gerard Way sing a new My Chemical Romance track after ten whole years is mind-boggling, they will always be on my mind during the Halloween season. (They’re definitely releasing a new album too, MCR5 is real – c’mon.)


“You First” — Paramore

Review by Amber Bintliff

The second I heard this song was when Parmore released This Is Why, I knew this track would be a new spooky staple for me during the lovely month of October. The entire song makes you feel like you’re stuck in a horror movie and makes me feel like both the killer and the final girl. The lyrics focus on this back and forth between the good and bad inside everyone, ultimately deeming that “karma’s gonna come for all of us,” no matter what we say or do anyways. If some psycho was going to try to come after me in a horror movie, I would at least want this song on the soundtrack.


“Violet!” — Waterparks

Review by Amber Bintliff

This synth-focused, anxiety-driven track served as one of the lead singles from Waterparks’ Greatest Hits album back in 2021. The song encapsulates lead singer Awsten Knight’s own personal experiences with overly invasive fans (or borderline stalkers) of the band. It quite honestly has one of my favorite silly Waterparks lyrics ever, which is the whole “It’s like I’m watching ‘You’ / but it’s about me / and just to be clear I mean the show / You’re Joe,” bit. The music video even presents itself as a fun little creepy visual with Awsten feeling like he’s being constantly watched by this gigantic eye that’s unveiled towards the end. It’s a fun song that just immediately gives me halloween vibes, especially with the “You” and “Misery” references.


“Vampires Will Never Hurt You” — My Chemical Romance

Review by Amber Bintliff

I feel like the title of the song tells you all you need to know about why I think this song fits the halloween theme. From their 2002 album I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, this song is one of the first to be added to my fateful halloween playlist every year. I am a sucker for a fun little vampire trope and this song delivers just that. Lyrics such as “Can you stake me before the sun goes down?” and “I’ll never let them hurt you, not tonight,” make the eerie, desperate sounding nature of the track crystal clear, with singer Gerard Way’s real message being that he doesn’t want to succumb to societal norms (or maybe, he just really doesn’t want to deal with some vampires – who knows!).


“Paranoia Stomp!” — Swansun

Review by Jared Tauber 

Paranoia is a big theme among spooky songs and haunted hymns alike — most notably in Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me.” Arthur Conan Doyle said “Where there is no imagination, there is no horror.” To me, that speaks to how our greatest fears are the ones we conjure up in our own minds. This phenomenon is most frequently illustrated by the common fear of the dark; it is not the dark that one is afraid of, but rather the thing that we imagine is in it. Sonically, Swansun executed the Halloween vibe perfectly. The layered, talky, crunchy verses, the spooky, overdriven guitar riff, and the ghostly synth that floats behind it all makes this spine-shivering shanty move like a walking corpse stiffly staggering left, right, left, right towards you. “Paranoia Stomp!” makes a perfect addition to any Halloween playlist.


“It’s Almost Halloween” — Panic! at the Disco 

Review by Alyssa Arroyo

This tune might be the campiest, yet most festive Halloween song ever created. Back in 2008, Panic! at the Disco released their song titled “It’s Almost Halloween,” accompanied by a home-made music video featuring the band. Lead singer Brendon Urie is wearing a Dracula costume, Ryan Ross sports a beautiful rendition of a mummy, and several other classic costumes make an appearance as well. The song constantly urges the listener to “Do the trick or treat,” which is an original dance the band performs in the music video that is a simple combination of jumps and claps. The lyrics, the execution, and, generally, everything about this song is so perfect to me. I am a firm believer that “It’s Almost Halloween” deserves to be recognized as not only one of Panic!’s best songs, but one of the best Halloween songs ever made. In my opinion, one of the best parts is the amount of Ryan Ross’ vocal appreciation we get in this less than four minute track.

“Climbing Up the Walls” — Radiohead

Review by Chris Alberico

I know what you’re thinking, how could the “Creep” band make a Halloween song? This isn’t just a Halloween song dear reader, this is an entire horror movie wrapped up in a single track. Since the lyrics are told in first person one may think that we are following a character, however it is quite the opposite of that, we are looking through the lens of a feeling. Frontman Thom Yorke personifies the lingering fear of paranoia and its effects on its host. The opening line “I am the key to the lock in your house, That keeps your toys in the basement, And if you get too far inside, You’ll only see my reflection” immediately establishes the first person perspective. Sonically, a mysterious drum loop dominates the ambiance backed by Thom’s warped vocals and a foreboding bassline. This tone perfectly compliments the lyrical content due to the subject matter presented. I love how well Thom is able to create a character out of a feeling, it’s something that is very unexplored in the music industry to my knowledge. He uses everything at his disposal to build suspense in the first and second verse, it’s quiet, a little too quiet. But slowly in the background strings start to creep out of the mix, nothing about the riff changes at all, it’s just louder and significantly more overwhelming. This choice may seem underwhelming because all that you’re left with by the end of the song is some extra strings and some screaming. I believe this is intentional because the final chorus is supposed to represent paranoia finally getting one over on its host. It’s chaotic, it’s scary, but it’s beautiful; “Climbing Up the Walls” is truly an underrated masterpiece tucked away in such a commercially successful album.


“Sleep” — My Chemical Romance

Review by Chris Alberico

After struggling to find songs to review for this music picks article, I finally remembered that My Chemical Romance’s entire discography very easily suits the Halloween vibe. Realistically any song from MCR could be here, but I wanted to highlight the The Black Parade. This was probably the first concept album I had ever listened to in full, and boy did that send me down a rabbit hole. If I was here to talk about the entire project this would be at least a five page song-by-song breakdown of how I personally interpreted it. However, the beauty of this album is that every song has its own story that can hold up alone. This first requires a bit of context: the project is about a person who dies young and goes into the afterlife. The story makes more sense if you also envision a second character within the narrative, this character would be “death” or some entity that leads the dead to the afterlife. “Sleep” is placed shortly after the start of the third act where the main character starts to accept the fact that they aren’t going to heaven because of their badly lived life. They start to wallow in their pity with lyrics like “How could you cry for me?” or “A drink to the horror that I’m in, For the good guys and the bad guys, For the monsters that I’ve been.” The music itself is thematically brilliant as well, the key shifts throughout the song between major and minor to possibly symbolize the effect that our main character is having on Death. By the end, the main character begins to slip away into the afterlife but Death actually ends up pitying them and you hear it screaming “wake up” in the background of the final guitar breakdown. As Halloween’y as this album is, “Sleep” perfectly encapsulates the holidays feel the most lyrically and sonically.

“Season of the Witch” — Donovan

Review by Mia Watson

As a classic rock girlie, I had to go with this absolute staple on my Halloween playlist. Definitely the most popular song by Scottish singer-songwriter, Donovan, “Season of the Witch” encompasses the folksy/early psychedelic vibes of late ’60s rock. The song’s vibes with the punchy guitar and the artist’s unique vocals evoke walking down a windy street just after nightfall. There’s a reason this song has been covered so many times and pops up in so many TV shows and movies.


“My Girlfriend is a Witch” — October Country

Review by Mia Watson

Blowing up on Tiktok’s #witchtok a couple of years ago, this upbeat classic rock tune is psychedelic rock meets folk. The lyrics are relatively straightforward with the song’s protagonist singing about how they know all the tell-tale signs of their girlfriend being a witch, until the end of the song, they decide to “become a warlock out of spite.”


“I Put a Spell on You” — Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

Review by Mia Watson

So, many are familiar with the countless covers of this song, but the original is the perfect Halloween song in my opinion. The song’s original intention was to be this soft, sultry piece, but Hawkins and the studio band got so drunk, that they went absolutely off the rails in the best way! Hawkins’ chaotic choices keep you on your toes as you listen. After the release of this song, Hawkins developed a “witch doctor” persona, making him the father of “Shock Rock.”


“Dracula” — Gorillaz

Review by Mia Watson

This dark and mysterious track off the band’s debut self-titled album from 2001, “Dracula” is a song that speaks volumes in so few written words. The inspiration behind the song comes from Gorillaz creator, Damon Albarn’s love of gothic horror. There are themes of obsession and how sometimes what you want is unattainable no matter how much you keep trying.


“Stay” — Ghost (feat. Patrick Wilson)

Review by Mia Watson

This Shakespear’s Sister cover from earlier this year was released with the most recent Insidious film. The Swedish rock band’s cover emphasizes the dark tone of the lyrics and is a juxtaposition to the original. The lyrics can be interpreted as someone close to the protagonist’s struggle with depression. The protagonist encourages them to “stay with me.” Patrick Wilson’s underrated and incredible vocals echo Ghost’s frontman, Tobias Forge, on the chorus.


“Dead Hearts” — Dead Man’s Bones

Review by Olivia Doe

If you asked me to guess which A-list actor was half of the musical duo responsible for one of the most quintessentially spooky albums, Ryan Gosling probably wouldn’t come to mind. Mr. Notebook himself, alongside his friend Zach Shields, formed their group Dead Man’s Bones in 2007, so they could have an outlet for their shared love of ghost stories. The self-titled album released in 2009 features tracks with titles such as “My Body’s a Zombie For You” and “Werewolf Hearts,” which immediately suggests Halloween, and, sonically, these claims to the holiday are undeniably perfect. Utilizing jarring piano riffs, warped synthesizers, and the uncanny vocals of the Silverlake Conservatory Children’s Choir, the album navigates themes of youth and love through the guise of horror and the macabre, which many can relate to as a stellar analogy.

While each song is uniquely eerie, track two, “Dead Hearts,” is perhaps the most on the nose when it comes to the somber aspect of Halloween. The song fades in with muted guitar and siren-like “ooh’s,” before whispered singing offers the opening lines, “I won’t go whistling by your grave / If you don’t go whistling in my mind.” These lyrics instantly set the tone for the song’s meaning: a relationship has ended and the thought of unfinished business between the partners is haunting the singer. After two more lines, the song transitions into increasingly intense footstep-sounding drums, scream-like sound effects, and “oh’s” that emulate the cries of a ghost. A crescendo guides the music to a quick halt, which is then overtaken by clear “oh’s.” These “oh’s” are sung in a bright major chord, an unsettling yet refreshing juxtaposition to the rest of the song. This sonic shift from dark to light creates a séance-like atmosphere, as if creatures have risen in a cemetery and are circling a flash of memories of the singer’s relationship.

The lyrics return over minimal guitar, with vocals sounding even more defeated than in the first verse. The last few lines of the song are fairly drawn out, and sung as though they’re birthed from the singer’s last breath. The lyrics are “I’m buried in this house / I’ll never leave this floor / A page full of je t’aimes for you / I know I should have said it more.” It’s clear that the singer regrets some of his behavior in the relationship, and although he puts forth effort to redeem himself, he knows it’s too late. He will forever remain in a torturous state of wishing he’d done differently. The song closes with more woeful “ooh’s,” before they disappear and leave the listener with the sound of static, empty air, followed by the distant creaking of a door, and ever-approaching footsteps. The song then cuts off abruptly, stripping the listener of any closure—much like the singer and his relationship. Consisting of only eight haunting lines, and nearly three minutes of ghastly vocal and instrumental storytelling, “Dead Hearts” is an evocative piece of art that sublimely represents the feeling of Halloween.

“Haunted” — Evanescence

Review by JT Bethea

This is my all time go to for spooky season mwah ha ha. It’s dark. It’s emo. It’s powerful. More than anything – it’s SICK. The hook itself entrances you into feeling like your being lured into Amy Lee’s dark and mysterious mind with lyrics, “Watching me, wanting me / I can feel you pull me down.” Long story short, if this song isn’t on your spooky playlist, you’ve failed. Tremendously.


“Is It Scary” — Michael Jackson

Review by JT Bethea

We all know Michael for thriller. We love Michael for “Thriller.” The king of pop has FIVE halloween themed songs (“Thriller,” “Ghosts,” “Is It Scary,” “Monster,” and “Scream”). Is It scary is even darker and more entrancing than “Thriller” with the dark chords contrasting thriller’s funky baseline. Maybe it’s just missing that Iconic music video.


“A Nightmare on My Street” — Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff

Review by JT Bethea

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, travelled to elm street for this funky little spoof song referencing the iconic 80’s slasher, “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” His storytelling rhymes and charms paints a classic scene of his and his friends seeing the movie, and the terrors following them off the screen. It references several of the movies, including the plot of the 2nd film in which the quintessential antagonist, Freddy Kruger’s plot is to posses the body of a living child in an attempt to live through him. Make sure to get your playlist entangled in this masterpiece.


“The Monster Mash” — Bobby “Boris” Pickett & The Crypt Kickers

Review By J.F. Tannen

In May 1962, Bobby “Boris” Pickett was touched by the divine. Visited by Calliope, daughter of Zeus and mother of Orpheus, the chief of all greek muses and the grand caretaker of eloquence and epic poetry, Pickett was bestowed the seraphic inspiration for his magnum opus and one of humanity’s greatest musical achievements: “The Monster Mash.” A satiric masterpiece, amongst the likes literature’s Catch-22, Animal Farm, Slaughterhouse-Five, “The Monster Mash” manages to establish a haunting yet delightful musical universe, as well as an unforgettable cast of characters meant to engage and provoke the audience, all in less than three and a half minutes.

This song details the struggle of a fictionalized Pickett (Five years before The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band) in his attempt to beat the constraints of mortality and death itself. Successful in his pursuit to create life, something only previously achievable by the gods themselves, Pickett discovers that almost immediately, his creation begins to dance the titular move. The song ponders the meaning of life and our inherent purpose when brought into this world. When stripped of the burden of societal interference, politics, economics, love hate – everything truly human – Pickett’s Creation’s first instinct is to dance; to enjoy life to the fullest. “The Monster Mash” inherently represents this liberation and hereby ascension from the human experience. The reason it became, as he put it, “a graveyard smash,” is that only those rejected from humanity, the monsters if you will, are truly able to reach enlightenment.

Pickett proceeds to introduce an antithesis to his hypothesis in the form of Drac’. An elder member of this band of misfits, Drac questions the validity of “The Mash” and points back to previous means of nirvana, i.e. “The Transylvania Twist.” Instead of rejecting the old ways, Pickett instead demonstrates that the Transylvania Twist is The Monster Mash. The means of expression of the rejected will always be ever changing and evolving and yet the actual process of self actualization remains the same in the abstract. Pickett is able to bridge the gap between generations and his song serves as an anthem to those who yearn for more.

Sadly, Pickett’s accomplishment was overshadowed by the Bourgeoisie and masses alike, likening it to a silly halloween song. He would live out his days known simply as a novelty artist, despite having pioneered numerous musical recording techniques later utilized by The Beach Boys on their iconic Pet Sounds and The Beatles, as mentioned before. Bobby “Boris” Pickett would pass away on April 25, 2007 after a long but ultimately futile battle with Leukemia; nearly 45 years after he began composition on his masterpiece. He was only 69 years old. However, Bobby “Boris” Pickett shall live on eternally in Valhalla, for in death he shall finally be venerated as the great warrior-poet he truly was.

“Halloweenie IV: Innards” — Ashnikko

Review by Emily “Emol” McCormack

Ashnikko released “Halloweenie” in October 2018, and has continued her holiday tradition ever since. This year, she released “Halloweenie V: The Moss King,” and while I love all five songs in the series, I find myself gravitating towards her 2021 release, “Halloweenie IV: Innards.” To the tune of Edvard Grieg’s “In The Hall of the Mountain King,” I find myself naturally humming this tune and thinking of her voice around this time of year. The lyrics provide creepy, Halloween-like imagery with mention of her having a zipper face, a “ten-foot tongue,” spider eggs in her brain, and many other terrifying things I don’t want to dwell on for too long or I may pass out. They also make reference to horror films, such as “Drag you to the bottom of a lake” to refer to the film “Friday the 13th,” (1980) “Crimson swimmin’ in the drain” in reference to classic thriller “Psycho” (1960), and “Three times, say my name” in reference to horror-comedy “Beetlejuice” (1988). Overall, a lovely spooky song to add to the Halloween playlist (or, better yet, your year-round playlist)!


*These songs contain explicit lyrics.

Photos from Amazon.com; “This Is Halloween” and “SICKO” from YouTube; “Paranoia Stomp!” and “A Nightmare on My Street” from Spotify.


You can check out WMSC Music Picks: “All Voices Are Welcome” – World College Radio Day 2023 here