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The Great Halloween Playlist – Volume 3

unnamedWelcome to The Great Halloween Playlist – Volume Two! Be sure to check out Volume One and Volume Two!

Halloween is my favorite holiday and it’s the only other one besides Christmas that takes up the whole month. From October 1st to the 31st, it’s Halloween. And a month long holiday needs a soundtrack, it needs holiday music.

And I’ve been around the internet, I’ve seen the “best” lists for Halloween tunes. Some are good, some are bad and all include “Thriller”. But, I have my own list. My own Halloween playlist. And, yes, their true form is that of mix cds. I’m going to share this playlist, focusing on each cd, each volume, per post.

Two things to note before I start. There’s a good amount of instrumental music in each volume. Many of those tracks are video game remixes, mostly found from Overclocked Remix. There’s movie soundtracks too, but I just wanted you to know that music from Castlevania, Doom and Resident Evil shows up quite a bit.

Second, everything is personal and subjective. If you love these, great! If you don’t, make your own. Send me your list! Maybe you’ll inspire me to create another volume in this playlist of mine. Now, I’m done with disclaimers.

Volume three was made the year after the first two and I had thought I had burned through the best songs. Little did I know! As it turned out, this third volume would see me discovering great songs I had never heard about. It also helped me find the spookiness in old favorites.

Thus, we continue with Hallows’ Eve: Volume Three.

1. “Bumps Gonna Goose Ya!” by Jack Black

The Goosebumps movie was better than it should have been and even had a non-fan like me in it’s nostalgic grip. It helps that it had this 90s-styled recap of the movie geared up before the film. Bad raps that recite the plot of a film are of a bygone era, and this shows why. But it has a killer chorus and Jack Black goes for broke.

2. “True (It’s Gone Now Mix)” by Steve Pordon

Again, Silent Hill is too scary of a game for me, but this mix is my kind of spooky. That guitar is a phantom gripping your back and pulling you away from your friends. It’s more of that girl-from-a-well type tune that we saw previously, and it feels like your in an abandoned city and can’t remember why.

3. “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry Feat. Juicy J

I don’t like Katy Perry. At all. But I can’t deny how creepy and seductive this song is. It’s like witchcraft. The lyrics tempt you even as they warn you. That beat is pure evil, but, during Halloween, it tricks you into a false sense of  security. It’s a lie. You’re trading your soul for a sick hook. Juicy J’s rap isn’t enough of a warning sign. It should be. I mean, if she tricked Juicy J, what hope do the rest of us have!

4. “Redemption” by Brandon Strader

The main theme from Telltale’s Walking Dead games is a great, somber piece. Strader takes that source and adds some life to it. It doesn’t take away the from the desperation, but there’s a bit more hope in the mix. I can’t help but think of mid-western wheat field, of Night of the Living Dead, of the dark closing in.

5. “The Man Comes Around” by Johnny Cash

Brought to the Halloween party by 2004’s Dawn of the Dead. Not a bad movie, either, though not one I rewatch like Romero’s classic. But, those opening credits show the world going to hell in such a splendid fashion, you’d be right in thinking that Zack Snyder should end all movies after the title sequence. “The Man Comes Around” is a fantastically evocative song on it’s own. Cash’s raspy voice in his last days has so much belief you feel like that pale rider is going to show up mid-song.

6. “Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield

I will never watch The Exorcist and you can’t make me. But, boy howdy, if those tubular bells don’t press all the right buttons. It’s such a haunting theme that it could go with any possessed house. As soon as the leaves change colors, this song is in fashion. And that last minute has such a nasty guitar that any beauty those bells had is forgotten.

7. “Of Whips and Strings” by Super Guitar Bros.

The Castlevania soundtrack is all killer, no filler, and this mix brings a whole lot of it together. Out of the three Castlevania tracks we’ve had now, this is the most woodsy of them all. It sets the mood for a nameless European village being visited by the man who promises to kill their local vampire. It’s sad, but it’s exciting, all while being a bit doomed.

8. “Ghost Town” by Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert is a big fan of Adam Lambert but he brought us “Ghost Town” so maybe he has something right. Club music for those haunted by spirits they can’t escape. That whistling is so lonely and so very empty. Try driving with this playing on the radio, when the night has fallen and the leaves blow carelessly across the road.

9. “The End of Hell” by Mazedude, Alisean

More Halloween, more Doom! But, this time, it’s not a remix of “Into Sandy’s City”! It’s just as disturbing, though. It has a Danny Elfman-vibe at times, sounding like it could have come out of the Beetlejuice soundtrack. It has that unrelenting bass that you’d expect from Doom, but there’s that wicked melody that throws everything off kilter.

10. “The Monster” by Eminem feat. Rihanna

The rest of the song is suspect in it’s spookiness but Rihanna is my favorite ghost gal. Her chorus wins this song a spot on the playlist. The music itself actually works well for the season, but come on, “I’m friends with the monster under my bed, get along with the voices inside of my head”? That’s wonderful. It’s nice that she’s escaped Disturbia but now she has to drive us crazy too? What a spooky treasure, she is.

11. “Dream Eater Mix” by Solkrieg

Is there Halloween dubstep? Is this all there is? Because this is something else. You have some of the coolest, loudest sounds to come out of October here and that creepy little girl singing who-knows-what? Maybe it’s not a girl, is it just instrumental? That’s CREEPIER! This isn’t the first time we’ve had Lavender Town’s theme show up but it will be the last because nothing is topping this. It’s scary but it rocks so hard. And that music box! GAH!

12. “Ghost” by Ella Henderson

Volume Three of this playlist has pushed hard against what should and shouldn’t be considered a Halloween song. I’ll admit it! And “Ghost” might be too pop to make it’s own case. But, if you force yourself to not think about this song as about a breakup, than, guess what? Ghosts!

13. “The Haunted Train Disco” by The Orichalcon

Good thing that voice clip tells us we’ve reached our doom or this would be too much fun. It’s another song that screams carnival. I’ve never been to a carnival during Halloween. You know, with rides and clowns. I’d imagine it’s great. Is that something that happens? Where would I have to go to find it? Not some harvest fest, for kids and crap. I want to think those people selling giant bears are out to get me.

14. “Pet Sematary” by the Ramones

This song is an absolute classic. That chorus is full of sorrow and fear. Pet Sematary is a disturbing book and the result of being buried there seems like a fate worse than death. After reading that story, it’s not hard to tell why you wouldn’t want to live that life again. Lot’s of great holiday imagery makes into the song; warlocks, wolf cries, goblins(!) but that chorus and fade out are the star.

15. “Halloween Theme – Main Title” by John Carpenter

Like “Tubular Bells”, the theme from Halloween is a scary piece of standalone art. It’s simple, but perfectly consistent. And that perfection is too much for my anxiety. Piano’s can be horrible to us when we let them. You can hear the grit of the 70s in this track and see the grain on the screen as that knives cuts through a door.

16. “Up Jumped the Devil” by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

What makes this song so nasty is how Nick Cave throws himself into the role. As the character in this tale gives into his evil nature, he spirals more and more out of control. Yeah, we’re to believe he was born this way but he seems to be having too much fun to pity. And the music is chaotic and only gets more so as the song goes on. The images of “My daddy did a jig, With the drunk midwife” are nutty and insane. Nasty, yes, but cool enough to be a bad influence.

17. “Ada’s Groove” by ABG

I just realized how heavy this volume is with zombies! And then this track comes in to chase you down the hall, out to the streets and into the sewers. Why did you run into sewers? Those are never safe!  There’s that flute-like call in the song but it feels disconnected from the ticking clock of a beat. It’s frantic, it’s lonely.

18. “Jack the Ripper (Live)” by Morrissey

“Pet Sematary”, “Up Jumped the Devil” and, now, “Jack the Ripper” by Morrissey make for a trilogy of nasty songs. Halloween suddenly got less fun and more dangerous. We’ve been playing with fire for three albums and daring spirits. This song is told from the point-of-view of the Ripper, taunting the women he’s leading to their last moments. But line’s like “Crash into my arms , I want you, You don’t agree, but you don’t refuse, I know you” matched with a teasing and wretched guitar could seduce any of us down an alley we’d never return from.

Music is the Secret Weapon of Indie Games

At one point, I was incredibly behind in the world of video games. I had spent time away due to college life and budgetary reasons. But then, when my financial situation stabilized, I upgraded my laptop situation and with the help of many Steam Sales, I began to close the gap of time lost.

I finally played Doom 3 and Fallout 3 and the Arkham series and other big budget games I had missed out on during their releases. The older games I wanted to play were cheaper and that meant they were the games I was tackling first. No surprise.

It was a surprise, however, that I started trying out indie games. I had moved away from video games around 2006 and missed out on the rise of this world. If Braid was the unofficial beginning of this bright new era, then I was wearing sunglasses. I didn’t read articles about these games, I didn’t hear people talk about them. I was oblivious.

But Overclocked Remix changed that with one ReMix. They posted a track by contributor Dale North for the game To the Moon. It was a mix for a game that I had never heard about. The write-up for the song had a positive review for the game itself, especially the soundtrack. Combined with SNES-style graphics and a relatively cheap price, I was intrigued.

As a game, To the Moon was fine, more of an interactive movie than a game. But the story tore my heart in half, so it left an impression. And the music was as melancholy as the narrative, over-emotional and infectious. Too the Moon helped me realize that there was another world of games that I had missed. It wasn’t just the big titles like Bioshock or X-COM, but this new crop of indie projects.

Binding of Issac must have been the next game I tried. The Zelda-esque dungeon-crawling was something I immediately understood but the presentation was unlike anything I had played before. And I found the game’s soundtrack to be absolutely fascinating. It was dark, exciting, creepy and atmospheric. It felt like a carnival or haunted house, it has a sense of humor in it’s despair. It was also the first game I watched others stream, which means it opened a whole other world for me.

I found Faster Than Light soon after and fell head over heel. It’s a great game that feels like an action movie version on Oregon Trail, but, you know, in space. It’s difficult but incredibly satisfying. Even when you lose, you don’t feel like giving up. It’s endlessly entertaining and imaginative. I love it. And the soundtrack is killer.

I bought the soundtrack, actually. It’s on Bandcamp and I find it a great listen apart from the game. The battle music is thrilling but the tunes that play when you’re simply exploring are wonderful. They feel timeless, like the soundtrack has always been around. It creates the feeling of traveling through endless space and threatening nebulas perfectly.

Bastion also has a great soundtrack, which is good because the gameplay is, as best, fine. Actually, the whole presentation of the game is beautiful, with gorgeous graphics and a process of growing the world as you grow. But, still, it’s the music that I remember the most. It has a rustic soundtrack, filled with folksy guitar and lyrics that reminded me of the show Firefly. I can’t think of another game with music like Bastion.

Crypt of the Necrodancer is all about the music and it works because the tunes are great. You want to move on the beat of the current song, lest you die. It starts to become second nature because all the tracks are funky enough that you start nodding your head as you play. It feels like it could have existed back on the SNES, but I don’t think those games had the technology for the soundtrack. It music is a bit more intricate than what I remember from the early 90s. I might be wrong, because the soundtrack fits with the pixel art of the game so well.

I say all of this because it’s something I think modern video games have lost. I loved Bioshock but I couldn’t tell you if it had music or not. Nor can I hum anything from League of Legends, Arkham City or the new Fallout series. As games have become more cinematic, they’ve gone the route of having large, orchestral soundtracks that lack the memorable tunes of titles of old.

But indie games are smaller. They can’t afford orchestras. They get individuals who make smaller, more intimate music for the games. Because of the limitations, personality is more important than scope. They recall a time when video game music was memorable, when you would play certain levels just to hear the music. And now with Spotify and other streaming options, we can listen to that music whenever we’d like. The sound is quirkier, or maybe it wants to be more emotional, or has it more character. It’s not afraid to show it’s sensitive side or be silly. These days, it feels like, bigger games are less likely to experiment with their soundtracks. Or perhaps, because they’re longer, they’re afraid to play the same music over and over. A game like The Binding of Issac can repeat it’s creepy tunes on a more regular basis because you’re only on those levels for minutes at a time.

As someone whose iPod (yes, a classic, with the clickwheel and everything) is filled with video game remixes, I have a special place in my heart for the memorable side of video games. Music is one of the most important factors of those memories. Maybe the PS2/XBox/Gamecube era was the last time musical themes were an important factor for developers. Halo had a great soundtrack with an iconic theme, as did The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (so much so that it’s carried on through the rest of the series). But these days, it’s the indie games that are carrying on the tradition of catchy, interesting video game music. It’s their secret weapon.

A Geek’s Guide to the Best Podcasts

On the 91st episode of The All the Books Show, we talked about podcasts. Nic and I each mentioned three podcasts for our listeners. The thing is, I listen to more than three podcasts! And a lot of them are a bit too geeky for me to talk about on the show.

So, I’m going to talk about my favorite podcasts that I listen to and would suggest to people with similar tastes. Or different tastes! Some people like branching out!

Let the free advertising begin.


The Weekly Planet

the_weekly_planet_jpegAn Australian podcast hosted by Mr. Sunday Movies and Nick Mason (not that one), The Weekly Planet talks comics books, movies, tv and sometimes, rarely, video games. It’s a geek news cast, keeping listeners up-to-date with the latest rumors, trailers and reviews. Each week, the cover the latest news, review a movie or tackle a topic, talk about what they’re reading/watching and answer letters.

I used to get all my comic book news from sites like Comic Book Resources, but since I started listening to The Weekly Planet, I now get my news from this podcast exclusively. It’s funny, they tend to have great ideas and it doesn’t have the cold, corporate excitement of a press release like most websites. I don’t always agree with them, sometimes I feel like I know more about a subject then them, but it’s always amusing. Nic Mason is a quick wit and can crack me up without a moment’s notice. Mr. Sunday is a good spirit, though he gets much more aggressive than Mason. But he’s a great host with a pretty fun YouTube channel of his own.

It’s a great show for those who’d like to stay up to date with comic book movies, geek TV and pop culture in general.


Filthy Casuals

231717_300x300Next is another Australian podcast and this one has risen to the show I look forward to the most. The hosts, Tommy Dassalo, Ben Vernel and Adam Knox, are all funny comedians on their own, but together, the show is a great time.

Filthy Causals is a video game cast that covers the current gaming news and releases. They’ll speculate on rumors, review the games they’re playing and answer listener mail. Sometimes discussions go long and philosophical, such as the future of gaming or whether or not The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is, objectively, the best game ever made.

They’ll also dedicate whole episodes to certain topics, such as the time they covered TIME Magazine’s 50 Best Video Games of All Time list or, just recently, E3. They also will talk about whole series, such as the Grand Theft Auto or Mario games. Their humor is crude more often than not, but it’s hilarious and despite some of the harsher jokes, the show does create a warm environment to talk about video games. Never claiming to be experts or the most skilled and focusing on comedy over dry information sharing, it’s easy to recommend.


Do Go On

8949871_origThe last Australian podcast I’m going to list is also harder to describe. Each episode, one of the three hosts reports on a topic and the other two do their best to make the facts fun. Many of the topics are chosen by the listeners, with report topics ranging from Charlie Chaplin, Jack the Ripper, Shackleton’s Endurance or the Wives of King Henry VIII.

It’s a fun show. Dave Warneke, Jess Perkins and Matt Stewart crack each other up constantly and I’ve had to rewind to hear jokes a second time. It’s a show that I can bulldoze through, going through multiple episodes in a row. The topics are rarely boring on their own and the humor adds to it all. It’s a weirdly educational show and I’ve learned quite a bit while listening. Sometimes, the humor gets in the way of the fascinating history but it’s hard to fault it when it’s so entertaining.


The Great Albums

qsvreiauThe Great Albums is a show that looks to cover the best albums in music history. The show’s goal is to talk about albums as a whole, as not just a vessel for singles but a work of art from first song to last. The hosts try to have the discussions about the work in the same way fans would, as two friends talking about their favorite music.

Bill Lambusta and Brian Erickson host the show and almost always have guest to talk about that week’s album. Topics range from the obvious Dark Side of the Moon and Who’s Next to the obscure, like New Miserable Experience. These days, the albums discussed depend on the guest’s favorites and Bill and Brian’s own taste tends to run a bit different than mine. While I don’t love all their choices, the conversations are always interesting. They have great thoughts about music and what makes it last.

I appreciate the focus on albums over singles, as I’ve learned to appreciate them myself over the last few years. I ended up buying a car with no aux port so I relearned how to listen to albums from beginning to end. It really is a different experience than listening to just your favorites on shuffle. And The Great Albums is a guide in finding the best music.


OverClocked PodCast

downloadI wrote about OverClocked Remix back on Hubpages once or twice. To quickly talk about it, it’s a fantastic site that collects remixes of video game music. With thousands of songs and albums, it’s treasure trove of your favorite game’s soundtracks presented in new and interesting ways.

The OverClocked PodCast shines a spotlight on the website and video game music each episode. Brothers Stephen and Bryan Kelly will introduce music to each other, see what’s new over at OCR, interview a host about a particular track or project and than host a listener created playlist. The interviews are great practice in talking about what we love from game music and to see what elements stick with certain people. The playlists feel like a radio station got smart and started playing the best unaired music they could find.

I’ve been going to OverClocked Remix for seventeen years, filling my iTunes with it’s music. While I’ve tried to introduce the site to friends and family, it’s never stuck with them and I’ve been left to appreciate the music alone. But this podcast shares my love for the site and video game music in general. The Kelly Brothers are fun, nerdy hosts and keep the episodes cheery. If you’ve never been to the site or don’t listen to game music yourself, this cast is still a great music show and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for great tunes.



600x600bb1Is this somehow the nerdiest podcast I’m talking about? This is a history podcast hosted by Mike Duncan, who is not a comedian, that covers revolutions throughout history. Split into seasons by the revolution being covered, each episode focuses on elements and characters of history that make up the wars.

Duncan is frighteningly knowledgeable about each revolution and wise to keep each episode thirty minutes long. By keeping them short, the show feels digestible and less intimidating. Sure, some of these revolutions are more interesting than others, but I always feel smarter finishing an episode.

While Duncan can be a bit dry, he does have a sense of humor and brings up the insanity and bad choices that led to many of these uprisings. He’ll follow rabbit trails to see how small decisions lead to big consequences, he’ll make fun of historical figures and stop to make sure we’re understanding what’s happening. He’s not the world’s most charismatic entertainer, but he’s a fun professor if you’re an attentive student.


The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith

1200x630bbOne of the oldest podcast I still listen to as I used to follow Goldsmith’s other show Creative Screenwriting Magazine. The Q&A follows the same format; Jeff Goldsmith interviews screenwriters, directors and actors about the creative process of film making.

Each interview, Goldsmith has a formula of of questions for the guest. We learn how they got started, how they’re process works, if they outline or not, how they deal with writer’s block, etc. He then focuses on the movie at hand and asks about decisions, challenging scenes to write, elements that came easy and the creator’s next project(s).

This show has made me a more critical movie watcher, as I’ve learned terms and troupes of film making. Depending on the movie being discussed, some of the the interviews can be fascinating and seem too short. The episode with George Miller discussing Mad Max: Fury Road is criminally brief, the interviews with the writers of Marvel films are never long enough and I remember wanting the Nightcrawler show to not end. For writers, this is an invaluable cast. For film buffs, its more insight to share at parties. Even if you’re not a writer, this podcast can be a wonderful look into the creation of your favorite films. Highly recommended to everyone.


Shut Up and Sit Down

600x600bb2An extension of the popular board game website of the same name. The episodes are hosted by a steady crew of British gamers, tackling board game news and reviews, while also reading listener mail (sometimes even my own!). In the growing world of table top games, this pod is a quick way to stay up-to-date with new releases and trends in the hobby.

It’s mainly hosted by Quentin Smith and Paul Dean, with a regular rotation of other site contributors. They’re all enthusiastic about the hobby and it’s growth and many of them are very well traveled in the world of table top games. Even if their opinions are different from mine, they always know what they’re talking about and talk about games with a desire for others to play as well.

I owe Shut Up and Sit Down a lot, because they helped and guided me as I got into modern board games over the years. They were the first place I learned about 7 WondersLetters from Whitechapel and Rex. If it wasn’t for this show, I wouldn’t have wanted the classic Survive: Escape from Atlantis or tried the hilarious Spyfall. It’s been a great resource and it’s fun as well.


The Adventure Zone

wfpebjnpA very new addition to my listening schedule, The Adventure Zone is one of the funniest podcasts I’ve ever listened to. Justin, Travis and Griffin McElroy are three brothers who bring their dad, Clint, along for a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, with few of them ever having played before.

Griffin runs the game, starting from the 5th Edition premade adventure and then creating his own world and story. He’s a funny guy alone, but his brothers carry a lot of the weight. Sure, some of it is from their own jokes, but their role playing can be so bizarre and hilarious that listening to the show while driving can dangerous. I ended up laughing myself into tears, thankfully in standstill traffic, during their early adventures.

It’s the only narrative podcast I listen to and it’s a a niche one as well. Where I might recommend most of the other shows to anyone, your mileage may very. My wife has very little D&D experience, but she still found the show entertaining and ended up laughing right alongside me, so I would suggest giving the first episode a try, despite reservations.


The Rest

There’s a few other shows I at least want to mention, if not get into deeply.

Fatman on Batman by Kevin Smith used to be a great exploration into the world of Batman and comic book history. He would have writers and artists of comics and tv come and be interviewed about the Dark Knight and it was an amazing look being the creation of some of the best Batman stories. Unfortunately, the show has lost focus and is now just another new show for movies. If you’re interested, I highly recommend going back through the older episodes, especially the interview with Dennis O’Neil.

Writing Excuses was the first podcast I ever heard and I loved it for a long time. The show changed format and focus a bit, and I personally lost interest as the years went on. Aside from that, it’ an amazing tool for inspiring writers with hosts who have been there and found success. Endless tips, suggestions and great ideas for writers (and readers), I don’t think I would have written a novel or taken a writing minor without this podcast.

Cane and Rinse is a new show I’ve found but I’m hooked. Every episode is an in-depth discussion about one particular video game. I’m not far enough a long to say too much more, but I find it fascinating and the hosts really do a good job talking about the game objectively with a dry, English wit. It probably won’t appeal to people who haven’t played the games but I recommend it to all interested parties.

Years ago, I wrote a post about Christian podcasts I suggested. It’s dated now and it’s not for everyone but you can find it here.

Any suggestions of your own? Podcasts you think I should listen to? Hate my choices? Let me know! And of course, be sure to check out my sweet podcast! It’s a weekly treat for readers and non-readers alike!

The Post-Apocalypse and Video Game Music

During on my classes, we had to create a visual project that connected to a piece of music. I chose AmIEvil’s Mega Man 4 remix, ‘Let There Be Light’ and created these eight post-apocalyptic photos.