REVIEW: BHuman Has Landed With Intergalactic Queer Concept LP BMovie

B movie sci-fi and horror flicks are special kinds of charmers. The Blob (1958), It Came from Outer Space (1953), Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) and War of Planets (1966), among countless others, all possess a particular aesthetic: delightfully outlandish. Certainly in the 1950s and ‘60s, such bizarre fantasies and their bloated space creatures cloaked a very real, tangible paranoia that spread like wildfire. The world was in the throes of the Cold War, and the art of cinema was vital for the collective cathartic release.

Brooklyn alt-pop duo BHuman ─ comprised of Billie Lloyd and Harrison Scott ─ excavate a smorgasbord of cosmic energies and classic b movie imagery to plot a concept record that dissects identity, self-discovery and alienation as queer folk. The aptly-titled BMovie is structured “to be almost a fictional movie soundtrack that reveals itself through the song and tracklist,” says Scott. BMovie comes on the heels of a self-titled EP released earlier this year, signaling big things for the prolific duo. The LP is raw, honest and relevant – a treasure trove of electro-pop that is unafraid to be bold and drive the narrative forward. Billie Lloyd and Harrison Scott are the kind of innovative thinkers that could be total game changers for pop music.

The effervescence fizzes right from the start ─ “Strange Things (Overture)” pops the lid with a kooky soundbite: “I saw a flying saucer…” Though the songs focus on the innate human desire to love and be loved, quirky production choices inspired by cult films and television gives every song an eerie kitsch.

On “Melt,” BHuman’s synth-filtered forms dissipate into pitter-patters of percussion and other sticky distortions that feel so peculiar its easy yo get lost in their haze. The lyrics reflect that liquid, permeable feeling; “I know that you’re scared / I feel it, too / Maybe I’ll just melt right into you,” the duo vow on one of the album’s most immediate hooks. Their boldness in composition and vocal performance is always the appropriate amount of strange and never appears so left field as to ward off potential fans. In fact, it’s their aloofness that is most compelling.

“Other Way” (soon to have its own Carrie-inspired music video) emerges with a radio-ready earworm of a chorus that cribs The X-Files theme song. Distant samples come back like lost transmissions from outerspace (“You didn’t actually believe you were the only inhabited planet in the universe?”) as Lloyd coos, “I guess what they say is true that / Things find you when you’re looking the other way.” Here, the surreal subtext elevates the relatively common pop trope of finding love in an unexpected place.

Their blip-bent version of Cher’s “Believe” is also a marvel to witness. A marching band washes in sharp waves beneath their vocals, which almost seem detached and cold, as if cast in ice, yet they remain quite evocative. In the video, Scott assumes the role of Mulder to Lloyd’s Scully (again referencing The X-Files and giving an altogether different context to the word “Believe”), as well as an intergalactic odd couple.

“Distraction,” meanwhile, is slathered with hip-hop shimmer, and its less linear melody underscores the aching mood writhing across their bedroom carpet. “Fiction” draws from a similar musical wellspring, employing handclaps and clicks to heighten its intensity, and builds upon the emotional framework. “Baby boy has got this mad ambition / But it’s all lies and contradictions,” they weep. The web of lies into which they’ve fallen becomes nearly unconquerable, but in shedding the stark truth, they wiggle free and soar into a liberating glow. “Materializations (Intermission)” is a glittering reprieve and sets the more polished tone of the second half. “I May Never Know” bounces along neon-colored synths and teases that they’ve finally come to accept heartache (“If your love is gone, I can let it be”) and embrace who they were always meant to become.

Their story comes to a crescendo on the one-two punch of “Creator (Interlude)” – which makes reference to 1953’s Glen or Glenda, starring Ed Wood (also the director), a docudrama about crossing-dressing and transsexuality – and “Teachmehowtobeyourgirl,” perhaps the set’s most vulnerable moment. Lloyd sings candidly on the pressures she experiences as a trans woman in relationships, striking a timely core: “You don’t have to be ashamed / Your love for me is not so wrong / You just weren’t raised that way.” Juxtaposed with the Ed Wood snippets, it’s easy to see why Lloyd and Scott are so drawn to tales of alien invasion hysteria; modern society still has a long way to go to fully accept those in the LGBTQ community, but BHuman confront the world that still sees them as “freaks,” destroys any and all preconceptions, and move one step closer to finally feeling comfortable in their skin.

AF 2018 IN REVIEW: The Year in Soundtracks

In California’s Bay Area, where I grew up, a single adult movie ticket costs $13.25. In Columbus Ohio, where I currently live, a single adult movie ticket (with my student discount) costs $3. On Tuesdays, popcorn is free. The independent theater I frequent is walking distance from my house. So, since moving to Ohio for graduate school, I’ve been watching a lot more movies.

We all know that the making of movies is political, and that who and what we see on screen is political too. But lately I’ve been thinking about what I’ve taken away from the movies I’ve seen this year, and especially, what I’ve continued to hold on to; the things I hold tell me what I’ve learned and am learning. In 2018, it turns out, what stuck with me was not characters, or dialogue, or scene, but soundtracks. 

The music of movies gets lost sometimes, glazed over by the Oscars, and ignored by the Grammy’s, but this year it seems that so many movies hinged on their music. A Star is Born, Bohemian Rhapsody, Black Panther–movies which held songwriters, songs, and soundtracks close to their core thrived. This blossoming is something that I held on to through the year, turning the possibilities of my favorite soundtracks until they resembled something worth folding into myself, and keeping to grow. The year was long, and, at least in Columbus, cold as hell, but it was also frequently punctuated by joy and by learning. 


It is newly 2019 and people are calling to BURN THE TRASH FIRE THAT WAS 2018. Last year, people called for burning 2017 too. Which will burn hotter? I’m not sure. Recently, my old selves have come to roost in me again, and I’ve decided to lean in to the cyclical nature of being alive, at least for a while. It feels right to be listening to knowledge already had, instead of always forging ahead, alone. Call Me by Your Name, which came out early last year, counted, I think, on the return of nostalgia which often comes during a period of great political upheaval. Whom is the nostalgia for? In the case of Call Me by Your Name, the question didn’t matter to its makers–the film’s drenched colors, quiet tension, and warm, bare scenes of ’80s Italy were familiar because they are canonized markers of familiarity; we recognize sweet sadness in these things the way that, when man runs towards woman in a movie, our hearts soar as they recognize a coming kiss. So when I went from watching Call Me by Your Name into the bright rest of the year, my ears rung with the movie’s recall of dancing, heavy with concealed emotion, and, more specifically with “Love My Way” by the Psychedelic Furs.

“Love My Way,” one of many ’80s throwbacks and inspired tracks on the Call Me by Your Name soundtrack, led me to the music I played on repeat for the rest of the year.  I’m back on my ’80s alt bullshit, I told people in January, and February, and March, and any other time someone asked me what I was listening to this year. The siren’s call of ’80s nostalgia could be seen, as many critics of Call Me by Your Name saw it, as an escape from the barrage of evils done by the United States’ government, but I’m holding on to it as a turn towards strength. The ’80s, too, was a violent and volatile time–as every period in the white supremacist colonial project of the U.S. is. ’80s queerness rarely looked like sun-soaked Italian summers; more frequently, it looked like makeshift hospitals to care for those made victim to President Reagan’s policies regarding the AIDS epidemic, like the continued care provided to young trans youth by Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera at S.T.A.R. house, and like the creation of ACT-UP, which Johnson later joined.

This is not to say that the soundtrack to Call Me by Your Name is inherently radical–it isn’t. But in the saccharine return to early-synths and dancing melodies holds a call I think we can’t ignore: towards learning from those who came before us.


After flying back to California in early July, I saw Sorry to Bother You on a date at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco, only a few miles away from where the film was shot in Oakland, California. The Roxie is one of several small, independent theaters in SF still housed in its original Victorian walls, beautiful and scary; the building itself one of the remnant, haunted teeth of earlier settler-colonial narratives, narratives which resonate around the present-day Roxie in the sounds of construction and drunken slurs spit on the sidewalk. Sorry to Bother You is a film about this legacy of displacement and more; the film exposes the absurd violence of capitalism and its terrifying intersection with racism. It’s also a film about Oakland–Boots Riley, the film’s director, has been leading East Bay band The Coup for years, and collaborated with another Bay Area musician, Tuneyards, for Sorry to Bother You’s score.

Sorry to Bother You was a long time coming by the time it debuted last year–the name of the movie can be traced back to a 2012 album by Riley’s band. And so, when the film started playing in the Bay last summer, it felt celebratory–friends told me about friends who were in the movie, or about places they knew that scenes had been filmed. Celebratory might not be an adjective initially ascribed to anti-capitalist art like Sorry to Bother You, but I think that joy in life and collaboration is integral to believe in liberation. The Coup’s music, as well as Sorry to Bother You’s animated humor, embraces that. Riley has said that, for the final soundtrack, he wanted The Coup’s songs to sound like they fit within the social landscape of the movie–to sound as though they really would be blasted in the car late at night, or played at a party. This vibrancy is at the core of what is, in my opinion, most successful about Sorry to Bother You: the movie, and its music, are urgent but not unreal, calls to action rooted in depictions of  relationships which are built day by day.


John Carpenter created an entirely new score 2018’s Halloween, marking the first time he’s worked directly on the series since 1982. The result is, imho, a banger. The 2018 soundtrack takes copious references from the original score, but the production is sleeker, more taut–it sounds like, as synths have developed in the forty years since Halloween’s original debut, Carpenter was able to collect the tools he needed to settle the score into his vision. So even as the music creaks and skitters, its theme, which keeps the same gripping 5/4 refrain, is fizzy enough to be danced to. Halloween invented dark wave! my friends and I joked after watching the movie–sliding into our car from the theater, immediately turning on the score and blasting it.

I listened to the Halloween theme so many times this year that it showed up on my Spotify “most played” list in December–and, honestly, I’m not even embarrassed. I like the campy tropes of Halloween; in them I find a dark refuge from the cutting edge of the world outside theater curtains. While many took the return of Halloween this year to be a timely reference to the horrors of sexual assault, mirroring the #metoo movement, I’m not convinced that the series has evolved much beyond the gore and suspense it sprang from initially–and that’s what draws me in. Giddy in the theater, I took pleasure in bouncing along to the thrum of the movie’s theme, while I watched Michael Myers advance upon the world of the film. It was fun to see Laurie Strode build up a fortress of revenge, and fun to see her get it.

But most of all, it is fun to take my own revenge on the violence of the world–from Michael Myers to my own assaulter–by dancing on the beat of their soundtrack to giddy murder. It is fun to steal Halloween from the killing sprees of men, and bring it into parties I throw with my friends, into rides in my roommate’s car, and into the circles of care I strive to weave around me.


The circularity of movies is oft-discussed; the re-makes, serialized action films, and adaptations which cram our theaters critiqued for being built solely for profit. But there is something to be said about going back to go forward. The myth of independence encourages us all to forge ahead without considering the work that has been done before, but doing so, I’ve found, just leaves each of us more vulnerable than we would be when armed with collective knowledge. Movie soundtracks, I’d argue, are deliciously interdependent: strung between narrative, image, symbol, and the popular imagination. In 2018, I tangled myself in soundtracks when I was feeling most alone; when I needed a nudge to re-invest in the lives of those around me. Perhaps this pattern of music-driven blockbusters will end in 2019 (though I suspect that’s not the case). I will still gather the elaborate reminder of continuity and context which soundtracks give me.

PLAYING COLUMBUS: Grrrls Rock Columbus to Host Halloween in April

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Photo courtesy of

Retrograde’s over, we’ve moved into Taurus season, and the snow has finally disappeared for good. It’s almost summertime, which means three things: cut-offs, camp, and second Halloween.

If you’ve never celebrated second Halloween, you’ve been missing a solid costume opportunity. But this weekend in Columbus, you can remedy that horror – Grrls Rock Columbus is hosting a Halfway to Halloween matinee and cover band showcase on Saturday, raising funds for this summer’s iteration of the camp.

Grrls Rock has become a Columbus staple. Started in 2013, the camp offers music lessons (as well as every-summer, can’t-miss-it camp stuff… hello, capture the flag!) to girls, trans, and gender-variant youth from ages twelve to eighteen. It’s an opportunity for transitionally-aged kids to delve into the music world in a supportive and educative environment – one that prioritizes the creativity and voices of those who often don’t get put on mainstream stages. The Grrrls learn instruments, create bands, and step into the spotlight for two concerts. Payments for the camp are sliding scale with available financial aid; volunteers are sourced from the Columbus community; and the campers are matched with mentors. Basically, it’s a youth development dream.

Dreamy, too, is the list of bands getting covered at this weekend’s event. At the matinee, which is all ages and will be held at Used Kids Records, The Hex Girls and Diva as Devo start at 5pm. Then, at 9, head over to Summit, where the line-up includes cover-band-versions of The Cranberries, Sleater-Kinney, Rihanna, Cat Power, Bauhaus, and Shania Twain (I’m guessing the cover artist didn’t expect Shania to be canceled by twitter so close to the show…it happens). The show costs a $5 donation, and costumes are encouraged.

What’s remarkable about the fundraiser, though, isn’t the chance to wear your sparkles–it’s the number of Columbus musicians who will be playing at the event. The Cranberries’ band is made up of members from Didi and Field Sleeper; the Devo iteration by Foxx Smoulder; Cat Power channeled by Pony Dog. The cover show should be weird and wonderful, and I’m looking forward to hearing crossovers between musicians old and new; the styles of each knitting together to make music specific to the space in which it will be created.

Intersections between local artists and local youth organizations are so important, especially with on-going budget cuts to creative programming in schools. There is no way to ethically build a community without that community’s input, and burgeoning artists deserve a seat at the table, joined by mentors they can trust. And though not all of the musicians playing on Saturday will or should take mentorship roles, I’m glad to see the way that GRRRLS rock is woven together by many varied threads.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

ONLY NOISE: The Queen of Halloween

Don’t let the weather fool you; it’s the right time of year for chills, and I’m not talking about temperature. ‘Tis the season for screams, and witches, and all things terrifying, and personally, I can’t get enough of it. In the lead up to Halloween (or as I like to call it: The Greatest Holiday on Earth), I have been on a steady diet of horror movies, scary books, and spooky music. It’s Bauhaus for breakfast, Stephen King for lunch, and Wes Craven for dinner – a well-balanced meal plan on any given day in October.

While watching The Thing recently, I was thinking of the wonderful interplay between sound and scare factor. Aside from fake blood and screaming teenagers, a crucial element of horror films is the horror score. Music and terror are deeply intertwined, and movies such as Jaws, Halloween, and The Exorcist would be entirely different films without their respective scores. What would Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho be without the shrieking strings in the shower scene or the manic theme of its opening credits? Would we fear the great white shark in Jaws so much if it weren’t for John Williams’ sinister compositions?

Sound and fear are related in the most primordial way. In 2012, UCLA evolutionary biologist Daniel Blumstein conducted a study to further explore this relationship. His findings were published in the science journal Biology Letters, the study’s abstract claiming that, “Humans, and many non-human animals, produce and respond to harsh, unpredictable, nonlinear sounds when alarmed, possibly because these are produced when acoustic production systems (vocal cords and syrinxes) are overblown in stressful, dangerous situations.” In other words, the aforementioned nonlinear sound we respond to so viscerally in horror movie soundtracks registers the same as a scream on a deep-rooted, biological level. The more jagged, sporadic, and a-melodic, the more humans tend to react to the aural stimuli.

If screams, sharpness, and a disregard for linear form are the key ingredients for frightening music, and frightening music is key for a good horror film, then look and listen no further than the rapturous Goth operas of Diamanda Galás. For over 30 years, Galás has pushed the limits of music and performance, as well as the underworldly depths and mountainous heights of her multi-octave voice. At a glance, the virtuosic singer and pianist could easily snag the thorny crown for Queen of Halloween – but listening to her records is a far more sinister experience. Her 1982 debut album The Litanies of Satan is one of the most unsettling pieces of music ever recorded. Forget “The Monster Mash;” The Litanies of Satan is thirty minutes of despair, demonic possession, and pure audio insanity. Play it at your Halloween party and just see what happens.

Throughout the decades Galás has produced a body of work as versatile as her vocal range, releasing piano-driven jazz and blues records like The Singer and All the Way, as well as experimental fright-fests such as Plague Mass, Divine Punishment, and Saint Of The Pit. All the while the singer-composer has never lost her razor-sharp edge, exuding perpetual cool with her wild, jet-black mass of hair and a wardrobe that makes Morticia Addams look like Undertaker Barbie.

In addition to her prevalence in the music world, Galás has been recruited to supply disturbing audio for many horror films. She created the voice of the dead in Wes Craven’s voodoo-zombie flick The Serpent and the Rainbow. In 1992 she lent her shrill cries to a pack of female vampires in Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Movies like The Ring Two, The Conjuring, and Schrei 27, Galás’ own collaborative effort with film director David Pepe, have the Diamanda mark of terror; their creepy soundscapes elevated by her textured and frenzied compositions.

Strangely, the artist’s direct musical influences are far less ghoulish than the films she is associated with. In a profile for The Quietus,Galás listed her thirteen (naturally) favorite albums of all time, and the selections were predominantly jazz records by the likes of Miles Davis, Albert Ayler Trio, and Fats Waller. She must have heard something far more primeval in these recordings, however, as she mentioned “the one thousand names and sounds of animals and supernatural beasts that are part and parcel of any decent artist,” while discussing her favorite Ellen McIlwaine record, We The People.

 Galás music is inhabited by droves of such beasts, stampeding through hailstorms and hellfire, careening off serrated cliffs and plunging into the heart of human fear. What could possibly be more frightening than Ms. Diamanda Galás? I’m afraid to find out.

Don’t miss Diamanda Galás performing on Halloween night at Murmrr Theatre in Brooklyn. Tickets here.

NEWS ROUNDUP: Planned Parenthood Compilation, Ducktails Singer Assault Details & More

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Sleater-Kinney has a new song on a Planned Parenthood Benefit Compilation.

  • New Song from Sleater-Kinney on Planned Parenthood Benefit Compilation

    You can now stream 7 Inches For Planned Parenthood, a collection of 7 inch records that will benefit the organization, ahead of its November release date. Contributors include a wide variety of notable musicians, comedians, and writers, from Margaret Atwood to CHVRCHES, who recorded covers, spoken word pieces, and new songs for set. Pacific Northwest shredders Sleater-Kinney penned a new song, “Here We Come,” for the collection. You can listen to the full playlist below, and better yet, you can buy the set on 11/17 to help Planned Parenthood during a crucial time when women’s access to birth control, health care, and safe, legal abortion are under threat. Full details are available here.

  • Yet Again, Reports Of Sexual Assault In The Music Industry 

    As reported last week, allegations of sexual assaultinvolving several indie musicians continue to surface, including Alex Calder (who has since released a statement confirming the story and apologizing) and producer Gaslamp Killer (who denies the allegations; Brainfeeder label mate Flying Lotus was criticized on Twitter as a rape apologist for coming to his defense at a recent show). But perhaps the most startling developments have been the case against Real Estate/Ducktails guitarist Matt Mondanile, whose unseemly behavior toward women was a so-called “open secret” in the scene. Spin has published the full allegations against him, and most of his Ducktails shows have since been canceled. Meanwhile, Bjork has revealed the harassment she experienced on the set of Dancer in the Dark at the hands of Lars von Trier, and Ariel Pink finds himself embroiled in controversy once again after a reddit user described his “tone-deaf” shenanigans at a performance in San Francisco over the weekend, in which he drunkenly pinned his girlfriend and bandmate Charlotte Ercoli to the ground. If all of this news is depressing, you can take solace in the NPR #MeToo playlist, featuring artists who have used music to validate, work through or transcend their experiences. Listen here.

  • Other Highlights

    RIP Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, read the story of transgender soul pioneer Jackie Shane, Fox News are not fans of Radiohead, watch new videos from Screaming Females, MGMT and Japanese Breakfast, find out how 100 cars can equal a song, the Michael Jackson Halloween special will air on CBS next Friday, Google’s latest doodle honored Selena, Dan Deacon + rats, Roxane Gay interviewed Nicki Minaj, the history of Homerpalooza, Haim covered Shania Twain, new songs from Tears For Fears and The Go! Team, Jack White’s children’s book, and the latest Taylor Swift single.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

NEWS ROUNDUP: Halloween Edition!


  • Check Out Friend Roulette’s Spooky “Dutch Master” Video

    The video for “Dutch Master” features disembodied heads and a man with no face to match the mood of the quirky, spooky song. The director, Josh Jones, states: “The video is entirely inspired by the music. I just listened to the song a few times, wrote down these dream-like acts and then started producing. I did all of the photography, lighting, editing and not-so-special effects myself. No crew, just one big beast man running around and tricking people into acting.” Dutch Master is from Friend Roulette’s new album, I See You. Your Eyes Are Red, out now via Goodnight Records.

  • Please Take This Very Important, Very Scary Survey

    Ghosts and ghouls aren’t so bad. In this digital world, what’s actually scary is that we’re held captive by ads, and automated programs collect our personal information so corporations can peek into our minds. To go along with their new album Slagroom, all boy/all girl has created a customer survey that gets very strange, very quickly. Take it here, and watch their video for “Pastels” below.

  • The Controversy Behind The Ghostbusters Theme Song

    Recording the iconic theme song came down to the wire- and while it earned its writer, Ray Parker Jr., a Grammy and top spots on the charts, he was accused of plagiarism by Huey Lewis & the News. Read a history of the song here, which also includes the recent (and questionable) covers of the song for the new Ghostbusters theme (If you prefer the original, it’s below!). Who ya gonna call?

  • Listen To A Halloween-Themed Song By White Mystery

    “Here Come The Zombies” is a demo that was recorded four years ago, and just premiered on High Times. The track features a Gibson Maestro Rover, a kind of amp with a rotating speaker that gives the guitars in the song an awesome effect.

ONLY NOISE: Holla-Ween

halloween playlist

It would be an injustice to the season and my family not to make this week’s installment of Only Noise all about Halloween, the greatest holiday on earth. The only holiday that you aren’t required to sit at a large table with family you may or may not enjoy being around, stuffing yourselves with unnecessary amounts of food, or packing into a cheesy restaurant to eat a pre-fixe menu priced double the everyday value, or pretending you are extra in love with your partner.

On Halloween you can be vulgar, clever, “slutty” (whatever that means), non-participatory, an adult-child, and more importantly, anything you damn want to be. In 1989, my parents got married on Halloween, only 15 days before I entered this mortal coil. My dad didn’t do it up for the holiday, donning slacks and a tweedy sports coat, while my mom wore an emerald green tunic with florid gold embroidery at the chest. She topped it off with beads, fake gold jewelry, and a dangly chainmail headband. It wasn’t a costume per se, but it certainly wasn’t a wedding dress. But the piece de resistance of their wedding in my humble, nostalgic opinion was the cake. It was a black cake. A black bat cake, with orange icing script.

Growing up I never equated my parents’ anniversary with Halloween, but now thinking back it makes a little more sense as to why they celebrated the day with such zeal. Halloween seemed wildly more important than any other holiday in my family, even more so than Christmas, which to many of the evangelical occupants of our rural town, must have made us seem like pagans. Maybe we were.

My parents, sister and I would spend days vandalizing the house with lengths of cotton fiber “spider webs.” We’d hang a sheer, fine mesh net from the ceiling and toss plastic spiders and centipedes into its canopy. We’d make a big paper tree to go up the wall adjoining the living room and kitchen, and affix bugs to that as well (bugs went on pretty much everything). Stuffing my father’s gardening clothes with newspaper, we’d prop a carved jack-o’-lantern on the makeshift scarecrow to greet guests.

With the help of a children’s cookbook entitled Gross Goodies – one of many finds at the school book fair, my mom and I would belabor an enormous menu of foul-looking treats such as “Pumping-Heart Tarts,” and “Open Wound Teacakes.” The party was a potluck, but the menu was exclusively Halloween-themed, putrescent looking food. Our table’s centerpiece was a miniature guillotine made by a family friend. Lying upon it was a decapitated Barbie doll – not the first in our household. She wore a green gown, with red nail polish encircling her open neck. Her blonde head rested in a basket before her.

But what is a party without music? In the same way the Christmas season makes some people want to go caroling, Halloween made my family want to do “The Time Warp.” My mom, a longtime fan of the 1975 musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show, made it an annual tradition that when the clock struck midnight, all guests would meet in the living room to reenact the synchronized dance moves for the film’s most famous song. I didn’t actually watch Rocky Horror until I was in fifth grade, which is a strange age to take in something like that with your mom, but I knew every wink, step and bar of “The Time Warp” since before I can remember. I don’t recall being taught it, just doing it.

Our playlist often found inspiration from other movies as well; cuts from The Nightmare Before Christmas (my mom’s motivation for leaving the Halloween decorations up until X-mas), “Jump in the Line” by Harry Belafonte for its association with Beetlejuice, and the bizarre numbers from a beloved little claymation flick from the ‘60s called Mad Monster Party. The film’s voiceover cast includes Boris Karloff, Phyllis Diller and Ethel Ennis. The songs are odd to say the least, but the animation and performances are ace.

In retrospect, I don’t think I’ve been to a Halloween party as kickass as the one’s my parents used to put on. Not even in New York, where Halloween invokes top-notch competition (like with everything else), and costume contests turn into battles of wit, obscurity, accuracy, and outlandishness. I remember my first Halloween here the entire city was frenzied with a Hitchcock theme. I saw several Tippi Hedren’s in the skirt suit and pillbox hat, eyes jabbed out by the fake sparrow on her shoulder. Even better was the man dressed as Psycho – who rigged up a bloodied shower curtain around his seemingly nude body.

Maybe it is just the adoring lens a child sees her parents through, but I still really think they did Halloween the best. But even after the parties ended, Halloween continued to be the supreme holiday in my life. I always knew what I wanted to be November first, and would count down the 364 days between my costume and me. These days I have less time to obsess over costume details as I used to, but the excitement is still there. I still spend October watching as many horror movies as possible (The Exorcist is always on heavy rotation) and listening to the likes of Bauhaus, Nick Cave, Throbbing Gristle, The Cramps, and just about anything spooky I can get my hands on.

In the few times I’ve lived abroad, I remember being thoroughly bummed that Halloween was not really a thing in Europe or the U.K. It was a classic case of not knowing how much you’d miss something until it was gone. In the same week that Hurricane Sandy was revving up to rip New York a new one, I was in Milan, cutting class to work on my Halloween costume for the tiny, American-filled party my roommate and I would be hosting. In was such an insignificant little party, held in a country that didn’t really give a fuck about Halloween, and that made it all the more important. I spent hours hand sewing fake intestines, a heart, a liver, two black lungs with real cigarette butts stitched on…I was some semblance of the internal organ system, with a brain sewed to the top of a bowler hat.

The party lacked decoration, the only autumnal thing being the mulled wine I drank too much of. It was a far cry from the all-out parties that my parents used to throw, but it was a stab in the right direction. So even if you’re nowhere near your ideal Halloween this year – I will be spending mine at a wedding – here’s a playlist to spook you through the greatest day of the year.

PLAYLIST: A Spooky Scary Halloween Playlist

So you’re throwing your annual Halloween party but you shot your wad on all the holiday classics ( the Monster Mash, the Time Warpthe Purple People Eater, etc, etc) on last year’s mix. So you’re going as Will Smith circa “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and you’re looking for something seasonal to blast from the boom box slung over your shoulder. So you’re psyching yourself up to wear your Sexy Einstein costume complete with the 3-inch hair (go for it, Miss/Mister Thang!!). So you’re hosting a seance and you need some tunes to help you commune with the spirit.

WE GOT YOU. Behold AudioFemme’s spookiest, scariest, most rockin’ and rollin’ Halloween playlist, guaranteed to thrill, chill, and catch the eye of that babealicious witch doctor in the apartment down the hall. Onward!!


1. Walk Like A Zombie – HorrorPops

This Danish psychobilly act shares its guitarist Kim Nekroman with the thrashier but stylistically related Nekromantix, for which Nekroman plays a recognizable coffin-shaped bass. HorrorPops formed in the late 90s, when Nekroman met Patricia Day at a music festival in Germany. Day now fronts the group, which draws aspects of ska, rockabilly, and punk that both she and Nekroman found lacking in their other projects. The two eventually married, and fittingly, “Walk Like A Zombie” is doo-woppy and more than a little romantic. Perfect for that un-dead high school prom you’re DJing. Just make sure to keep the glassy look of death in your eyes.


2. Chainsaw Gutsfuck – Mayhem

Off the seminal Norweigian black metal album Deathcrush, released in 1987, “Chainsaw Gutsfuck” won the prestigious title of having the Blender award for “Most Gruesome Lyrics Ever” in 2006. Fifteen years beforehand, it was inspiring black metal bands in Scandinavia and beyond to delve deeper into lyrical bleakness, to glorify extremity in violence and misery, and to distort their music into the grainiest, harshest possible sounds. “Chainsaw Gutsfuck” is one of the doomier songs on a very doomy album, with lyrics that sexualize death and corporeal decay. But, if you can handle the black metal sludge, it’s totally catchy, too. Want to dress the part? Christ, you could go as any of Mayhem’s members or black metal contemporaries and stand a solid chance at being the scariest monster at the party. The group’s most recognizable figure is perhaps Euronymous, its founder and guitarist, who held some nasty political views and achieved infamy when, upon discovering the body of his band’s singer Dead after the latter committed suicide, allegedly made necklaces out of his skull fragments and possibly (though it’s unlikely) cannibalized him by stirring flecks of his brain into a stew. Euronymous himself was murdered by another bandmate, Varg Vikernes, the following year. Halloween is the time to be tasteless, so wear corpsepaint, long hair, black and leather.


3. I Put A Spell On You – Nina Simone

Originally performed by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Nina Simone’s “I Put A Spell On You” is seething, brooding and betrayed, like she’s looking into a crystal ball to discover a lover’s duplicitous carryings-on. Especially towards the end of her career, Simone had a reputation for fire and fury on stage, too. A life in the music business left her weary and long-embattled, bitter alike to the people who loved and exploited her. Released decades before her death, “I Put A Spell On You” foreshadows the betrayal she seemed to come to see in the people around her. But, no matter her demons, Simone’s genius is present here–as everywhere–glowing like an ember, dying down when it’s still, and firing up again in a slight breeze, even after you think it’s gone out.


4. Tainted Love – Gloria Jones

And speaking of women scorned, “Tainted Love” is practically an anthem for love gone frighteningly awry. Gloria Jones recorded “Tainted Love,” which later became an electronic single for the band Soft Cell, in 1964. The original fell somewhere short of Motown, akin to demonic bubble gum pop that had been steeped in the sultry blues. Five years after recording “Tainted Love,” Jones began singing backup for the British rock band T. Rex and met her future husband, Marc Bolan. It was Jones who was driving the car when, one night in September of 1977, Bolan died in a car accident. Jones–who nearly faced charges for impaired driving after drinking wine on the night of the accident–lost the couple’s house and moved back to L.A. “Tainted Love” remains her longest-lasting hit, with covers aplenty and appearances in current film and TV soundtracks.


5.  Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell (featuring Michael Jackson)

It’s not just those Jackson hee-hees in the chorus that bring to mind the campy spook of “Thriller.” This track is pop-culture paranoid, stocked with references to television and the everyday horrors of being spied on. “Somebody’s Watching Me” dropped in 1984, and its theme of a dystopian state, in which even “normal people” fall under invisible scrutiny, feels ever more prescient today in light of Internet freedom issues and heightened technological development. Plus, “Someone’s Watching Me” has a spooky synth line that sounds like it’s played on a xylophone made of a cartoon rib cage!


6. Walkin’ Through A Cemetery – Claudine Clark

Claudine Clark, whose early single “Party Lights” proved her only song to score high on the charts, experimented with the spooky side of pop in “Walking Through A Cemetery.” Hindsight’s 20/20, but I’m not surprised that after “Party Lights”–which is about trying to convince your mom to let you go to a party–“Walking Through A Cemetery” flatlined. The lyrics took a serious turn in the for-whom-the-bell-tolls direction, after all: “If you’re walking through a cemetery one dark night/ Up jumps a creature and he gives you a fright/ Ain’t no use to turn around and walk the other way/ ‘Cause if he’s for you, baby, he’s gonna get you anyway.” Geez. Pretty serious stuff, for someone whose most popular work to date dealt with the injustice of not being allowed to do the twist, the fish, the watusi, and the mashed potatoes. But no one said Halloween was all fun and games. We’re all destined for the grave, but in this danceable number, Clark sings om bop bop, om bop bop sha doo dee doo dee all the way there.


7. Spooky – Dusty Springfield

Dusty Springfield’s gender-switched cover of the classic “Spooky,” a song that tells the story of a “spooky little girl” who compels and mystifies, and, like a ghost, only seems to show up when no one else is around, is further “spookified” by Springfield’s sly and porcelain-pretty vocals. The performance is ghostly–the woman herself was more complex. Springfield–a lesbian performing at a time when gayness was professional suicide–made a second career of cloaking her identity. The flip side of the doll-like vocals was a person who raged, drank too much, had a problem with pills. And its restraint makes Springfield’s spooky all the eerier.


8. The Whistler – The White Buffalo

Singer/songwriter Jake Smith is a big man, with a big, big voice. Nowhere more so than on “The Whistler,” off the 2013 album Shadows, Greys and Evil Ways. His stage name is apt, and like a large herd animal, Smith’s performances are often remarkable for the gentle giant-ishness. When he roars, though, the earth quakes. “The Whistler” marks the interior battle of a man who knows what the right thing is but chooses its opposite, and revels in his own destruction. The scariest demon of all is the demon inside, kids!


9. God Alone – Altar of Plagues

Out of a host of powerful metal records to come out of 2013, Teethed Glory and Injury–from Altar of Plagues, AKA Irish musician James Kelly–stands out as one of the most precocious and innovative within a genre wreathed with tradition and homage to be paid. “God Alone” stands out as the record’s most violent track, but that violence is achieved through skill and technical manipulation, not blunt force. The rhythms tilt and hang off-kilter; the beats deploy sudden, booming jolts that make you jump out of your seat.

10. Little Fang -Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks

I wouldn’t call “Little Fang”–or the group behind it–scary, but damned if Welcome To The Slasher House, this year’s debut release from Slasher Flicks, isn’t Halloween-ishly kitschy. The group plays shrouded in  a backdrop of glowing skulls, leering in neon green, and plays on dissonance and surreal lyrics. “Little Fang” is less Fright Night, more sticky fingers and sugar rush.

And there you have ’em, folks. Consider this list your musical Trick Or Treat offerings from your friendly neighborhood Femmes. Don’t egg our house, please, but do tell us what we missed! What are your favorite Halloween tunes? Let us know in the comments below!


Burzum.jphScandinavian black metal began as direct descendant of English heavy metal acts like Venom and Bathory, the morbid younger sister of death metal and the spacey, supernatural cousin of hardcore punk. It’s a young subgenre—Mayhem’s 1987 Deathcrush EP sparked the scene in Norway in the late eighties and early nineties, and by the end of that decade, black metal had largely self-destructed. The movement adopted heavy metal lyrical styles towards darker, more occult themes, emphasizing a theatrical live show style in which musicians would perform wearing corpse paint—a more realistic take on Kiss-style stage makeup—and sometimes cut themselves on stage, carrying animal heads on sticks or flinging meat and blood into the audience. Many bands identified as Satanist, either symbolically or in practice, for shock value or in response to the mildly Lutheran Scandinavian norm. This led to a series of church burnings throughout the nineties, many of them nominally in protest of Christian churches built on top of ancient Pagan burial grounds. What began as a game of one-upmanship amongst the heavy hitters of the scene spiraled symbolic Satanism into real acts, and several of the genre’s most talented musicians’ careers were cut short by suicide, murder, prison, or alienation from the ever-increasingly extreme ideology of the movement.

No black metal bands were more prolific than Burzum, a band that put out two albums a year in 1991, 1992, and 1993, and then incrementally slowed its releases(to one every other year or so) after sole member Varg Vikernes was convicted of murdering Mayhem’s frontman, Øystein Aarseth, and incarcerated. Burzum’s Aske album, a three-track mini-LP that clocks in at a scant twenty minutes and came out in 1993, was the last Burzum release before Vikernes’ arrest. Though Aske, in typical nineties metal style, uses thick distortion and rough-edged recording techniques, it also incorporates aggressive bass lines and eighties-influenced power chords that suppress the kind of crackling, rhythmless chaos common in black metal. This actually makes the album accessible, even catchy, compared with contemporaneous releases and Burzum’s later work, which turned ambient and fully electronic while he was in jail and, not having access to an electric guitar, switched to recording on a synthesizer.

Despite strong riffs and an instrumental balance that, although too polished for purists, lent complexity and depth to the record, Aske was underwhelming. This was partially due to its length—the three songs felt like build-up; were it a standard-length album, things would have had plenty of time to get interesting—and partially due to the fact that Burzum valued shock value over musical integrity on this LP. Early in his career, Vikernes expressed his world views in a general sort of way (“Only Transylvanian pussy will do!” reads a Burzum interview conducted by an unknown metal zine, sometime in 1993. “Hail Saddam Hussein! Hail Hitler! Make war, not love!”) However, when the epidemic of church burnings in Norway, beginning around 1992, came to be attributed to Satanist black metal musicians, Varg Vikernes seemed to begin to consider himself more activist than musician. Around the time the Aske album was released, Vikernes was busy giving newspapers anonymous interviews and fending off an arrest for his alleged burning of the Fantoft Stave Church, a prominent, nearly-nine-hundred-year-old cathedral in Bergen, Norway. Vikernes was ultimately found not guilty of that crime, though he was convicted in two other church burning cases, and the album cover for Aske pictured the Fantoft Stave church in flames. Burzum extolled the church burnings in songs and distributed Aske merch, with the same image that appears on the album cover, like t shirts, poster and—you guessed it—lighters.


It’s possible to talk about Burzum’s first two albums without getting into their attending politics. In later releases, Burzum proved more true to political themes than to genre, and has recently released only totally electronic albums. Vikernes divorced himself from black metal long ago, though he helped create it. “Yet again I have left behind the metal genre and have chosen a different path—but for no other reason than me following my Pagan spirit willingly to wherever it takes me,” Vikernes wrote this year in his blog, which I don’t recommend reading unless you want to be deeply offended from about six different angles. Aske follows the musical trajectory laid out by Burzum’s releases, but the shift is clear: this LP is the first of many, many albums the band put out in which the music falls secondary to the message.

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.