ONLY NOISE: Cat Power Was My Surrogate Community in the Canadian Wild

Steph Wong Ken at fifteen, on the cusp of discovering Cat Power’s What Would the Community Think.

ONLY NOISE explores music fandom with poignant personal essays that examine the ways we’re shaped by our chosen soundtrack. This week, Steph Wong Ken forges her own community in a frozen Canadian landscape via Cat Power’s unparalleled howl.

I was 15 years old, standing in a music store with vaulted ceilings and white pillars, a former bank turned A&B Sound. My family and I had recently moved from a palm tree-lined street in Florida to a snowy Canadian city surrounded by farmland and flat, open sky. This place is safer than Miami Beach, my parents insisted, and with its sprawling residential neighborhoods, it was, but it was also very quiet and very white. Growing up with a Chinese mother and a Jamaican father, my neighborhood in Miami Beach felt like home, with Jewish, Latino, and Black families living together on one street in discordant harmony. Though I didn’t know many biracial kids in my area or at school, living in that neighborhood made my background feel normal, an important but uneventful fact of life.

The culture shock of moving was physical (puffy coats over Halloween costumes, hockey, face plants on ice), but it was also deeply emotional for a mixed-up teenage girl like me. I wandered around my new high school like a disembodied head and experienced nose bleeds regularly, probably because Western Canada is dry, but at the time, I thought it meant my body was just as freaked out as my brain was. I loitered in the music store down the street from the bus stop to stay warm and found myself in the indie rock section, staring at Cat Power’s album. The cover showed two female faces cut and pasted together with eyes that looked dead, an image that scared me and also made me want to spend $15 so I could take it home to look at it more closely. And the title, What Would the Community Think: a kind of kiss off and a serious question, a title that encapsulated the ambivalence of an outsider who still cared about other people’s feelings.

When What Would the Community Think was released in 1996 on Matador Records, the era of late ’90s alternative rock was also emerging: a steady loop of Stone Temple Pilots, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bush, Sublime, Soundgarden, and “One Headlight.” This club of moody dudes with gritty vocals and reverb guitar solos felt beamed in from another planet, somewhere far away from me, and my musical tastes gravitated to the records of my parents – Bob Marley, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye. By the time I found Cat Power in the early 2000s, late ’90s alt rock reverb had been replaced with ultra-masculine nu metal, and her music felt all the more timeless, sealed in a jewel case like a balm. Her vocal styling, her signature rasp, and the rough texture of her recordings seemed like another, more intimate way to explore pain and loneliness.

From then on, Chan Marshall’s voice filled my bedroom, singing in a low voice about being trapped “in a hole,” asking me to come down with her. Some days, I interpreted the hole as a safe place, a spot you dug with your own two hands in the ground to rest. Others, when I walked around empty neighborhoods hooded in ice listening to the album on my Discman, the hole was black and all consuming. The sharper edges of a song like “In This Hole” revealed themselves and I believed Marshall was snarling at a tidy, clean existence right along with me, as though we both knew that something was not right here. Her voice communicated sadness and anger, but it was also exciting to listen to, shifting easily from sweet sentiments like “you’re so beautiful” to the bitter wail of “I can try, try.” Here was someone not afraid to howl about there being no one, about wanting someone, and about finding catharsis in a dark, cold place, with a tinge of possibility. The album cemented my lifelong devotion to Cat Power, but it also helped me gain a sense of control, despite chronic nose bleeds and a budding identity crisis in a small Canadian town. Head back against a wall to stop the blood, tissues balled in my fists, I hummed along with Marshall on her song, “Good Clean Fun:”

All things people do in winter/they all melt down in summer

Cat Power’s Chan Marshall circa 1996.

Eventually, I made a few friends at school and like a test, I played them what I was listening to, often mix CDs that featured tracks from What Would the Community Think and other Cat Power albums I had discovered flipping through the plastic sleeve with her name on it: the slow, shy songs on Myra Lee; the brooding anger of Dear Sir; the upbeat openness of You Are Free. What Would the Community Think remained my favorite. Huddled below the stacks of the Catholic school’s library, a portrait of the Virgin Mary hovering above us, I shared an earbud with a friend that made the cut and we listened to “Nude as the News,” mouthing “Jackson, Jesse, I’ve got a son in me,” trying to replicate Marshall’s mournful wail without alerting the librarian. Do you get this? I was silently asking my friends as I played them song after song. Does this make you feel good too? Only later, studying the lyrics, did I understand that there was trauma and loss in the song, a desire to be powerful without the means to be:

I still have a flame gun for the cute ones
To burn out all your tricks
And I saw your hand
With a loose grip on a very tight ship
And I know in the cold light
There’s a very big man
There’s a very big man
Leading us into

Later still, I would read about the song’s backstory, of Marshall’s abortion when she was twenty and the reference to Patti Smith’s sons, Jackson and Jesse, in the chorus. But the very big man that appears, a threatening guide, became a lot of things in my head as I listened to the line over and over again: actual men, God, a force that keeps pushing you into places you don’t want to be.

In the coming years, pushy men took the form of guys recommending music to me, lobbying artists and song titles at parties like power grabs. But I found Cat Power’s music in my own bumbling way; later, I would realize this was a blessing, to be able to hold these songs as my own personal discovery. Marshall herself was instrumental in expanding my musical tastes – much of the music I would come to love I first heard via Cat Power’s covers records. I would move backwards from her versions, seeking out the originals and discovering a long line of artists that have influenced Marshall’s sound, particularly blues and soul singers of the ’60s and ’70s. That habit began with “Bathysphere;” once I’d discovered it was actually a Bill Callahan cover, I dove into his discography, though her version is what got me there.

Sitting in my bedroom, wandering around my icy neighborhood, hiding in the stacks at the library, I listened to Marshall’s albums and got through high school, made some good friends, and tried to adjust to nine months of winter a year. Still, I struggled to find a sense of community day to day, and whenever I would start to feel I was losing control, I would put on those songs and feel calm. Even now, listening to What Would the Community Think gives me a sense of nostalgia for my first experiences with the music, as difficult and messy as they were, and confirms how important the album became to me, my private little space that I could get lost in. Though I’ve heard each song hundreds of times before, howling along to each word still feels just as cathartic.

NEWS ROUNDUP: RIP Aretha Franklin, Azealia Banks’ Elon Musk Sleepover & More

Aretha Franklin 1942-2018

Aretha Franklin, the queen of soul, voice of the civil rights movement and feminist icon has died at the age of 76 of pancreatic cancer according to her family. Franklin not only defined her times with her powerful voice, but transcended them to become a key figure for social justice. With more than one hundred singles on the Billboard chart over the course of her career, she become the most charted female in history. She also had a large collection of purses that made many public appearances, with Franklin even taking them on stage on with her. 

What happened to Azealia Banks last weekend?

According to now deleted Instagram stories, Banks spent the weekend waiting for Grimes at Elon Musk’s LA home, describing the scene as a real live version of Get Out. Banks and Grimes were supposed to collaborate on a single for Banks’ forthcoming album, but when Grimes never showed, Banks went on a Musk-bashing tirade, claiming he tweets while on acid, that he is only dating Grimes because he needed a date to the Met Gala, and that she overheard Musk on the phone scrambling to find investors for his projects. Elon Musk responded by saying he has never met Azealia Banks and that her story is “complete nonsense.”

The New New

Nicki Minaj dropped her fourth album Queen this week and although she is not the main artist listed on 6ix9ine’s “Fefe,” she added the song as track 20, most likely to boost album sales. Cat Power has a new song called “Woman” featuring Lana Del Rey. Paul McCartney released a “raunchy” new song called “Fuh You.”

End Notes


NEWS ROUNDUP: Political Popstars, Return of the 2000s & More

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Pussy Riot

Political Popstars, Return of the 2000s & More

By Jasmine Williams

Pussy Riot Forever!

Days after members of Pussy Riot were arrested for staging a protest during the World Cup, the Russian firebrands were awarded a settlement relating to their 2012 jail sentences for performing a “punk prayer” at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. On Tuesday the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia has to pay around $57,000 in damages to Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda “Nadya” Tolokonnikova for being unfairly imprisoned. Following the World Cup, Pussy Riot released a new music video called “Track About Good Cop.”


This week, another controversial female musician returns. M.I.A. has never been one to shy away from politics, forever finding a way to inject global news stories into earworm hooks. (“All I wanna do is bang, bang, bang, and get your money” has to be the most gangster satire on anti-immigrant sentiments, ever.)

Finally, fans of Maya Arulpragasam will be able to get an insider view into her life through an upcoming documentary. Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. will journey from her childhood among Tamil Tigers to her Super Bowl settlement. The film comes out this September.

That New New

It’s not just early aughts fashion that’s back, three of your favorite feely bands from the 2000s have dropped videos this week. Death Cab for Cutie and The Blow both released new clips that veer into art-student-film-project territory while Cat Power debuted the song “Wanderer,” featuring unlikely collaborator (and tour mate), Lana Del Rey.

Chance The Rapper announced his foray into media with a new track. “I Might Need Security” discloses his purchase of local news site, The Chicagoist.

Alt-rappers Brockhampton also entered new waters this week, the group dropped a music video for “1998 Truman,” their first release since the departure of ex-member, Ameer Vann, due to allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct.

End Notes

  • Pitchfork Music Festival is this weekend in Chicago. You can livestream many of the acts, including Lauryn Hill, Blood Orange, and Courtney Barnett on Pitchfork’s YouTube channel.


  • Fans who were worried about SZA can breathe a sigh of relief. After missing some dates on TDE’s Championship tour due to damaged vocal cords, the Drew Barrymore singer made a valiant comeback at Firefly Festival.


  • Jay-Z is disputing with Philadelphia mayor, Jim Kenney over the music festival that the rapper founded six years ago. Since its 2012 inception, Made in America Festival has been held in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art,  but this may be about to change. Without talking to festival organizers, Kenney told local news that the fest’s busy location was inconveniencing the city and would have to be moved in 2019. In response to the mayor, Jay-Z published a statement in the The Inquirer to voice his disapproval. Maybe op-eds are the new rap battle?


  • Mad Decent Block Party returns to New York after taking a one-year hiatus from the city. On September 24, TroyBoi, Walshy Fire, and more will play at the Brooklyn Mirage.


ONLY NOISE: Only The Lonely

When Beyoncé so wisely instructed “All the single ladies” (ALL the single ladies) to “put your hands up,” it was a different time. It was 2008. A year of innocence. We had elected Obama. Beach House had released Devotion. And single ladies everywhere felt empowered by Queen B’s anthem for autonomy. I’d just moved to New York, 18 and wet behind the ears. I couldn’t wait to have my own fashion line, a loft in Soho, and to party with The Strokes – all of which happened in rapid succession. (#AlternativeFacts.)

Back then, 99% of my friends were single, and we relished in seasons of not giving a fuck about it. Our lives were spun of work, college, fun…and the impending recession. But still! Life was good. Lovers came and went like party guests. Some stayed longer than invited. Others left before even taking their coats off.

Nearly ten years on, paradigms have shifted, and rightly so. People met cute and moved in. People got married. Some got babied up. Hell, even Beyoncé, Ms. Single Lady herself, got married to Jay-Z – and I hear it’s going really well!

Naturally, my single friend percentage declined. It is in the single digits these days…like, in the 1-3% range. Which begs me to entreat: “All my single ladies (All my single ladies!) Now put your hands up!” All six of them. All six of your combined hands. Put them up, for the love of god. I guess with my hands we have eight. Strength in numbers.

Did anyone ever stop to ask: why are we putting our hands up?? Maybe Beyoncé wanted all the single ladies to put their hands up – because they were about to be shot by a firing squad? Maybe that’s what that song is about…elimination of the single ladies. She did marry Jay-Z that year after all. Perhaps it was meant as a kindness…to put us single ladies out of our perceived misery.

Ok, that’s a bit extreme, but I can’t help being wry. As we approach Valentine’s Day – the preferred holiday of single people everywhere – the commodity of coupling up can be oppressive. The polyester teddy bears lining shelves at Duane Reade. The lingerie ads. 50 Shades Darker.

Valentine’s Day is perhaps the most polarizing commercial holiday; the holiday that cruelly bisects the population into those with, and those without. Those who will dance together in the kitchen to Joni Mitchell’s “A Case Of You” – and those who will sob to it over a box of self-gifted Russel Stover’s. Those who shall feast upon prix-fixe dinners of lamb chops and heart-shape chocolate cakes – and those who SHAN’T!

Parks and Recreation may have given us stags “Galentine’s Day,” and I’m sure Pinterest is rife with “fun alternatives” to drinking an entire bottle of wine in front of the mirror while cry-singing Cat Power, but I say fuck that shit. We don’t need alternatives. The single ladies don’t need saving. I don’t wanna go to the club with “gloss on my lips/a man on my hips,” as per Bey’s example.

Instead, all my single ladies: let’s dwell. Let’s lament. Let’s feel the pain. Love does hurt after all, and so does its absence. But that’s all right. This shit makes the world go ‘round. This Valentine’s Day, I want you to imagine all of the songs that have ever been written. Yup, all of ‘em. How many of those do you reckon are love songs? A pretty big portion I’d say. Finally, think about how many of those love songs are happy love songs, versus the ones that spring from raw, unbridled agony.

You see my point.

Would Roy Orbison ever have written “Only the Lonely” if he were just peachy and happily married? Would Stephin Merritt have written any songs, ever? Would I have any sad bastard music to listen to at all?


Some of the best music comes from good old-fashioned anguish. So when you’re feeling unbearably lonely, remember that you’re in good company – albeit the miserable kind.

I admit: there is a time to “put your hands up” and feel emboldened by solitude. I do it every day, when I eat my lame yet efficient dinner of sandwich meats, mayo, and hot sauce wrapped in a plume of romaine lettuce. Standing up. By the sink. I celebrate the fact that I can make the decision to do so without the democratic process. Without having the “What are we doing for dinner?” conversation. I can eat my sad lettuce wrap in peace. Blaring Pulp and singing along, still chewing. There is always a time to champion sad salad wrap singing, and 2am laundry doing, and in-bed pizza eating. And there is also a time to pour yourself a carafe of merlot, put on a depressing record, and be alone with everyone who’s ever written a song.

This Valentine’s Day, let’s get dismal. Just for one night. No one will even notice! (Because they will be on a date!)

Let’s start with Morrissey’s “Please Help The Cause Against The Loneliness.” A bubblegum number to the uncaring ear; but listen closer: sweet, sweet isolation! Leave it to Moz to wax desolate – this bouncing tune scrutinizes the pity cast upon the unwed…and who better to scrutinize than the infamous asexual himself? “Please help the cause against the loneliness,” Moz croons, as if there is a charity handout for our kind (if only!).

Next turn up some Liz Phair, who knew that you could still be completely alone while lying right next to someone. Phair’s snarky “Fuck and Run” is the quintessential opus for bad decisions. A sloppy, pitchy, honest, pathetic, undeniably brave song. This is diary caliber realism – all about that forbidden bed you keep crawling back into. Phair really hits it home when she asks the simple questions, like:

“Whatever happened to a boyfriend/The kind of guy who tries to win you over?/And whatever happened to a boyfriend/The kind of guy who makes love ’cause he’s in it?/ And I want a boyfriend /I want a boyfriend/I want all that stupid old shit like letters and sodas.”

While we’re reveling in emotional immaturity, let’s listen to “I Don’t Want To Get Over You” by the barons of broken hearts – Magnetic Fields, the band that truly did “make a career of being blue.”

As we’re discovering, a bit of wallowing can be cathartic. Despite all of the song’s clever imagery, one line says it all for me:

“I could leave this agony behind/Which is just what I’d do/If I wanted to/But I don’t want to get over you.”

And haven’t we all been down that dark hallway?

If love’s impact on the history of music, film, art, literature, and war (I’m talking to you, Helen of Troy) isn’t making you feel at one with your solitude – may I throw but one last metaphor at you?

A friend of mine recently returned from a trip to Paris: the city of lights and love and innumerable sauces. She regaled me with tales of part-time lovers and fine meals. At the end of one such fine meal, she chose a dessert to cap off the perfect dinner. She chose framboise surprise. Raspberry surprise. Ooh la la! To append an American dish with “surprise” usually suggests catastrophe (tuna surprise), but the French weren’t gonna fuck this up! It would be exquisite; mountains of frothy pink mousse encasing shortbread and sorbet, the whole thing crowned with gold-dipped sugar lattices. Quelle surprise!

When the dessert was gently placed on the table, raspberries there were. The surprise however, was missing. It was 12 raspberries, up-ended on a plate. 12. Fucking. Raspberries. That’s it. C’est tout.

My point is: sometimes love is all that frothy pink mousse and more. Sometimes a relationship is a rich and mysterious and delicious dessert, worthy of all the pain, paintings, opuses and arias. And sometimes – it’s 12 fucking raspberries on a plate. That you just paid 10 Euros for.

Either way…there’s bound to be a song about it.

PLAYLIST: 18 Essential Halloween Songs

If the theme songs from X-Files and The Twilight Zone or repeated plays of “Monster Bash” and “Thriller” aren’t quite getting you in the mood for Halloween, have no fear (see what I did there?).  AudioFemme has compiled a list of the creepiest choruses and bone-chilling ballads, guaranteed to spookify your Spotify and haunt your headphones all season long.

1. Cat Power – Werewolf: At the crux of all lycanthropic legend is the intense pain experienced in the transformation from human to monster.  Sometimes the focus is on the excruciating physical changes – teeth and claws elongate, fur bursts flesh, etc. but the poignancy in the myth is the loss of control to the whims of the full moon and the bloodlust it brings to even the most timid changelings.  Chan Marshall’s baleful crooning and the spidery strings that anchor this romantic re-imagining of age-old folklore are the perfect expression of the mutant’s pain.

2. The Cramps – I Was A Teenage Werewolf:  Lux Interior and Poison Ivy made a name for themselves and their band by referencing horror and sci-fi iconography in many of their songs, and this jam is the quintessential piece of theatrical surf-rock that put their sound on the map.  Named for the 1957 movie starring Michael Landon (in which psychological experiments turn a troubled teen into something more sinister), the desperation this track captures is not just that of the werewolf’s plight, but that of being a teenager as well.  No one even tries to intervene with the wild mood swings and violent outbursts of our protagonist despite his begging cries.  And who can blame them – have you been near a high school around 3PM?  Teenagers: more frightening than werewolves.

3. Thee Oh Sees – Night Crawler: Thee Oh Sees are a band that love to infuse their raucous punk-rock with gruesome imagery and a dash of creepy vibes.  The towering guitar squall, futuristic synths and distorted vocals on this track, from this year’s excellent Floating Coffin LP, make me feel like I can see and hear in monster-vision as I prowl through the city at odd hours, deformed by toxic slime, just… you know… looking for a little love.

4. Misfits – Skulls: The 80’s horror punk crew took cranium collection to a whole new level with this quintessential anthem.  We don’t know why Glenn Danzig wants our skulls (or the skulls of little girls) nor do we know how they’ll be affixed to Danzig’s wall (has he commissioned and built a special shelving unit? Will the bone fragments be assembled haphazardly to his cracked plaster?) except to say this: he is a demon and bathes in the blood of decapitated bodies.  Demons just need skulls, okay?

5. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Red Right Hand: The king of murder ballads outdid himself with this one.  It’s essentially a tale of a mysterious stranger whose all-encompassing power seems culled from malevolent sources; he can get you what you want, but it may cost you your soul.  Nick Cave’s warnings are snarled over loungey organ, orchestra hits, crackling percussion, and even some musical saw, making it an indelible Halloween staple that sounds like no other.  But it truly endures because of the intrigue of the elusive man with the red right hand.  Like Nick Cave himself, he’s a ghost, he’s a God, he’s a man, he’s a guru.

6. Liars – Broken Witch: Angus Andrew chants the word blood over and over again and incites what sounds an awful lot like some kind of Satanic spell with horses and bears and stuff.  From 2004’s brilliant Salem witch trials themed concept record They Were Wrong So We Drowned, a record which you should probably play in its entirety every October if you are not already in the habit of just listening to it all the time, like I did back in college.  See also: “There’s Always Room On The Broom” if you’re having an actual dance party.

7. Donovan – Season of the Witch: In 1967, Donovan was busy shedding his folksy reputation for a more eclectic one, which drew on styles as disparate as calypso and psychedelica.  On the latter end of those explorations, we have classic psychedelic jam “Season of the Witch”, a song about shifting identities and the strangeness of human personality.  When you break it down, the song is really about adopting identities and how in turn that makes all of us changeable, as though under a spell.  And while that doesn’t have anything to do with Halloween directly, it’s easy enough to apply to your experience costume shopping at Ricky’s.

8. Talking Heads – Psycho Killer:  Here’s the thing about serial killers: you don’t ever really know why they do what they do.  In general, their murderous sprees seem to stem from a deep hatred of the human race and complete lack of regard for life or personhood.  That’s what makes them psychotic.  You don’t have to understand French to get where David Byrne is going with this 1977 anthem that flips the point of view to that of a killer who at the beginning of the song just seems like he needs a little rest and maybe some Lexapro, and increasingly spazzes out until he’s ending lives left and right and reveling in the glory of it.  With misanthropes like these, it’s best just to let them be.  And with bass lines like this, it’s best to dance like the psycho you’ll hopefully never become.

9. Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice – Genesis Joplin: So you want to join a coven?  Well you’re gonna have to dance around with minotaurs and stuff.  A bunch of devils are gonna wake you up in the middle of the night and draw weird stuff all over you (probably in blood).  And then maybe you’ll write a super-chill a cappella jam about it, with just a little sparse percussion to back your possessed howls, but you don’t really have to if you don’t want to because Wooden Wand has you covered.  James Jackson Toth’s now ex-wife Jessica sings this one and her voice sounds as smokey and witchy as it needs to sound to pull off poetry that could’ve been ripped from a page out of the Necronomicon.

10. Girls – Ghost Mouth: Christopher Owens has here cast himself as the loneliest, saddest spirit left behind, trying to get to Heaven.  It’s probably a metaphor for simply feeling like a ghost, but actually being a ghost is probably also as sad and confusing as Owens’ living, breathing existence.

11. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffitti – Creepshow: Seedy and weird as only early Ariel Pink can be, this track seethes with macabre laughter, horror-movie samples, pornographic squeals, and stalker-inspired lyrics droned in low octaves.  It perfectly captures the sleaziness of dressing up like a “sexy” version of something only to find yourself in the wrong part of town, whisked into a dilapidated theater for a slasher flick you can’t be sure the actors actually survived.

12. Echo & The Bunnymen – The Killing Moon: Who doesn’t love this song?  The kind of person you slay as a sacrifice to the Lunar God, that’s who.

13. The Microphones – Headless Horseman: Phil Elverum’s acoustic ballad about the the Headless Horseman’s painful transition from “mighty human man” to terrifying monster is an extended metaphor for loss and shifting perceptions in relationships.  But he’s certainly got an admirable knack for making lines like “I walked aimlessly around with a flaming pumpkin head” sound pretty and melancholic instead of ridiculous.  Maybe Danzig will let him borrow one of those skulls he’s been so fervently collecting?

14. The Luyas – Channeling: Montreal band The Luyas wrote most of this record after the sudden death of a close friend and even give credit to “the ghost” in its liner notes; “Channeling” is a seancing song wherein Jessie Stein invites specters to make a host of her.  She makes contact through the repetition of the spirit’s name and in trying to hear the key of its voice, promising “I will let you disappear / so long, so long / But I’m giving you my ear / come play your song / if you’d like to stay a while / this way, this way / You can use my body now / To play, to play”.  As someone who’s never been able to say “Bloody Mary” in front of a bathroom mirror even once, I have to admire the bravery of that invitation.

15. Timber Timbre – Demon Host:  It might not keep the Halloween dance party going, but this acoustic gem pits Taylor Kirk’s haunted wails against questions about spirituality and the nature of death.  Instead of trickery, we’re treated to gorgeous imagery over quietly strummed guitars that burst into lush, ghostly chorales and twinkling piano.  It’s right at home on the band’s 2009 self-titled album, which features several tracks with still creepier vibes – so much so the band made the album available to fans for free on Halloween the year of its release.

16. Tu Fawning – Multiply A House: Swooning trumpets and startling vocals are only the beginning of this moody murder ballad; the lyrics are darker than a black cat at midnight.  Over a deliberate drumbeat, vocalist Corinna Repp sings about sinking bodies and being haunted by houses.  Hollowed-out flutes lend atmospherics toward the end of the track, as Repp coos “you’ll be the only one on the hill alive.” Listening to this is like Cliff’s Notes for reading House of Leaves.

17. Wymond Miles – The Thirst:  Against a thudding bassline and immediate guitars tinged with new-wave tropes, Wymond Mile’s plaintive vocals relate what could be a vampiric love story: “Death’s kiss upon your lips, a gentle curse / teach me tonight what that spell is worth” he pleads during the second verse.  The choruses are spattered with mentions of pale bodies and the moon and death and fire and the song unfurls anthemic from those reference points.  It’s too dark for the Twilight saga, but might be right at home on the soundtrack for Xan Cassavete’s excellent Kiss of the Damned.

18. Kanye West – Monster: As much as I really wanted to put “Werewolf Barmitzvah” on this list, the final spot goes to Kanye’s beastly boasting on this single from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.  Dark, twisted, and beautiful, yes, with a terrifying music video to match, this song features all-star guest appearances from Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, and Rick Ross, all of whom bring the movie-monster metaphors into heavy play.