Untraditionally Spooky Tunes for an Untraditional Spooky Season

By Gunnar Schmitz

As night time temperatures dip below freezing and autumn leaves overtake what were once green lawns, it’s time to start honing in on that spooky attitude that characterizes late October so well. With Halloween parties being a thing of the past (for now), hopefully these tracks will spice up your fall walks. This collection of tunes will be sure to scratch that itch for minor keys and groovy beats, sending you into an orange-tinged alternate reality.

“Ghost Town” by The Specials

The aptly named “Ghost Town” is a perfect song to kick this spooky party off. With its ominous sonic presence and lyrical themes of urban decay, it’s a truly haunting track. Between its iconic flute melody, jumpy bassline, and eerie backing vocals, the song has an unshakeable dark aura. 

“Big Iron” by Marty Robbins

Another classic. This quintessential gunfighter ballad never fails to make me feel like I’ve been transported directly into a Clint Eastwood film. The backing vocals sound of the howling western wind and the brisk pulse gives the song a sense of urgency, befitting the suspenseful narrative of the lyrics. 

“Freak” by Paul Cauthen

Another spooky name pun! Cauthen provides a unique blend of Funk and Outlaw Country on this tune. It’s dark, it’s groovy, and has swagger for days. Full of wonky filters, ghostly background textures, and sassy instrumental breaks, “Freak” definitely has costume party energy. 

 “Pistol Made of Bones” by The Arcs

A side project of Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach, The Arcs let Dan lean into more adventurous influences. Featuring backing vocals and trumpet playing from all-female mariachi band Mariachi Flor de Toloache, the latin tinged “Pistol Made of Bones” is dark and plenty danceable.

 “Grandma’s Hands” by Bill Withers

If you more easily recognize this song as the beat to “No Diggity” by Blackstreet and Dr. Dre, then you likely already understand the infectious energy to Wither’s favorite composition. Teetering on the edge of eerie and tender, “Grandma’s Hands” processes loss and mortality to a mysteriously groovy beat. 


 This song OOZES a kind of dark swagger. Featuring a trombone line that has absolutely NO business being that sassy, “IF YOU PRAY RIGHT” makes you feel like you can take on anything.

“Take Five” by The Dave Brubeck Quartet

“Take Five” is one of my all time favorites. It makes me feel like I’m a detective, driving through the night. The wonky time feel and the dizzying piano chords give the tune a sleek, mysterious energy that I just can’t quite shake. 

“Me and Your Mama” by Childish Gambino

 No matter how many times I listen to this track, it’s always a wild ride. Its sparse, enigmatic trap intro pulls out the rug from under the listener, giving way to a searing funk groove. The fuzzy guitar and the six piece choir give the tune a dark, transcendent vibe. “Me and Your Mama” feels like an astral projection.