Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween

It was a windy day, and the witches were clutching their hats. That was the scene this afternoon at the Halloween parade at my son’s school. Were these real witches? That depends on how you look at it. Halloween is all about taking the role of something you are not. Confront your fears by becoming them, was the old idea. Today, Halloween is good shivery fun. So here is a set of good shivery songs.

Sade: Haunt Me


When you have a voice like Sade’s, you can make a song work with minimal accompaniment. Haunt Me is mostly voice, acoustic guitar, and piano. Strings are used with the lightest possible touch, and a saxophone joins in towards the end. And that’s all Sade needs. Love can be haunting, especially in dreams, and Haunt Me states that perfectly.

Lydia Lunch: Spooky


This version of Spooky comes from Lydia Lunch’s album Queen of Siam. Many of the songs use noise and dissonance to create an edgy feel. There is also an off-kilter jazz vibe on several songs. So even though Lunch plays it fairly straight here, there is the expectation that the song may fall apart at any moment. This gives Lunch’s version of Spooky an extra edge that the original lacks.

The Incredible String Band: Witch‘s Hat


Robin Williamson and Mike Herron led The Incredible String Band. The group combined a deep interest in traditional songs and lore of Scotland with the psychedelic music movement of the 60s. Witch’s Hat is a Williamson song which he also recorded in his solo career. Williamson fancies himself as a modern-day bard, working magic with his musical performances. Indeed, Witch’s Hat works like a meditation that transports the listener into another state of being. I know that sounds pretentious, but close your eyes as you listen to this one, and see where it takes you.

Loreena McKennitt: All Soul‘s Night


On All Soul’s Night, Loreena McKennitt reminds us of the Pagan origins of the holiday. The musical setting combines Celtic and Middle Eastern influences to powerful affect. Over all, the song emphasizes the mysterious quality of this time of year.

Spotlight Song of the Week:

S J Tucker: Neptune


S J Tucker is something of a musical trickster. I was originally going to post a different song of hers called Salad of Doom. That song is a hilarious send up of B horror movie themes. The problem was, the song gives the impression that S J Tucker is all about novelty songs, and there is far more to her work than that. Neptune is a fairy tale in the best sense, with all of the emotional depths that the form can imply. It is a tale of magic, but it also resonates beautifully as a love song. The mood is achieved with just acoustic guitar, cello, and percussion, plus Tucker’s voice. It’s a powerful voice, but Tucker knows that holding back can often express emotions better. Tucker’s songs, then, are a wonderful combination of power and subtlety.