It’s been a while since I’ve authored a paranormal post, and what better way to do that than by bridging it with my main writing focus, music. People may not realize how much the paranormal plays in their everyday lives, and with these tribute tracks, we may never forget. That may be due to badness or stellar earnestness, but these songs have left an imprint in the musical community. To be true, honest, and serious to this list, I’ve picked songs that present their subjects in as serious manner – or as serious – as possible. With out further ado, the top 10 paranormal based songs.
10. Judas Priest – “Lochness”
I’ll be the first to admit that this song comes off as more Spinal Tap than truly serious, but the sentiment is as honest as I think you’ll ever get here. “Lochness” is the closing track of Priest’s 2005 album Angel of Retribution, and also doubles as the bands longest song ever composed. Clocking in at well over 13 minutes, this mix of heavy metal power with over the top lyrics may be the creatures most stunning tribute. The song goes so far as to ask the monster to “confess your terror of the deep;” cheesy or not, this is a fun song to get lost in for a while, and hell I’d blare this thing if I ever took a trip to Lochness. Sure, it would probably look like a more ridiculous scene from the film Say Anything with John Cusack’s character Lloyd Dobler holding up that stereo, but truth be told, the “Lochness Monster” was the first creature I ever fell in love with. Did I just man crush on the…or could be female…yeah not going there, sorry. Just try and enjoy this now, I guess.
9. Bright Eyes – “Ladder Song”
The primary subject of this song has a lot to do with mankind’s mortality, but underneath, and woven throughout the whole album as well, Connor Oberst touches on a wide array of strange subjects. Most of them have to do with an emerging movement called Ancient Astronaut Theory. For example, the album’s opening track, “Firewall,” references Sumerian culture, reptilian aliens, and if it wasn’t narrated by David Icke, it’s a crying shame. “Ladder Song” drops references to flying around in “silver ships” and how man isn’t “alone in anything.” The end result is a beautiful meditation of man’s place in the universe, seeing humanity in the minority making for a humbling experience.
8. Blondie – “Rapture”
This may be Blondie’s strangest song. And I mean really fracking strange. The melody sounds like it came right out of a Sugar Hill Gang record; Debby Harry (She’s fracking hot.) even references hip-hop legends like Fab Five Freddy and Grandmaster Flash. The slick disco groove, coupled with chiming bells create a vast nighttime soundscape that has a little creep to it, but doesn’t even come close to where it takes you. Not only does Debbie Harry throw down some rap lyrics, but she puts forth lyrics about a “man from mars” coming down and eating people. Harry’s hotness and lustful vocal delivery, makes this song believable, comforting the listener even after the alien has left.
7. The White Stripes – “Little Ghost”
This song is not your average Stripe’s track. Here, the acoustics take over, and the lyrical content takes on a bit of a morbid angle. Here, the protagonist of the song falls in love with a ghost, more morbidly is wondering how old this ghost is? Despite that, this kind of sweet ballad is a little bit country with a driving rhythm that’ll have your foot stomping or your lips to a jug to play along (If people still even do that.). The mandolin makes a nice addition to what could have been considered a gimmick, but we all know that the Stripes were great.
6. Blue Öyster Cult – “Don’t Fear the Reaper”
Saturday Night Live jokes aside, this is a pretty slammin’ rock ‘n roll track. Sure it’s got some cow bell going on, but it also features a really simple, to the point riff played by Donald Roeser that is catchy as hell. Catchy enough to rope you into the song, which goes through a couple of movements before fading out. The song references a number of European folklore and literary characters such as The Grip Reaper, Romeo and Juliet, as well as “Death and the Maiden.” Despite the songs heavy tone, the message put forth is one of peace for the inevitability, and comfort despite the dark imagery. Well it was comforting, until that opening sequence of the TV movie version of The Stand. Thanks a lot Stephen King.
5. Neutral Milk Hotel – “Ghost”
This song is drenched in a lot of fuzz and reverb, but Jeff Mangum’s portrayal of spirits leaving their bodies is chilling and altogether sweet and lighthearted. Jeff’s voice is what will initially attract you to the song, but his poetic nature is oddly comforting and beautiful. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, the album from which this track comes, is loosely based on Anne Frank’s Diary, and this song is sort of Jeff’s obsession with her spirit. Mangum sings “I know that she will live forever, she won’t ever die” and in a way it becomes a Catch-22 of sorts. The sentimentality outweighs the grief exponentially, and Mangum crafts just a stunning track about his muse.
4. Johnny Cash – “(Ghost Riders) In the Sky”
Johnny Cash’s “(Ghost Riders) In the Sky” actually has little to do with ghosts and more to do with one man’s apocalyptic vision of his potential downfall. The imagery of red-eyed, fire breathing cattle being chased by “damned” cowboys, tinges of the “four horseman of the apocalypse;” this includes demonic cowboys telling this to-be-damned cowboy to change his path. In a way, the song is a retelling of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, only with cowboys and cattle. The country genre is full of supernatural stories, such as Bobbie Mackie’s “Johanna” or Alan Jackson’s “Midnight in Montgomery,” but this one takes the cake. It’s visceral imagery, has me fearful for judgement day.
3. Radiohead – “Subterranean Homesick Alien”
Radiohead’s playful use of a Bob Dylan title produced one of their most stunning, spacey jams to date. The melody is as inviting as the lyrics in which Tom Yorke states “I wish they’d swoop down in a country lane, late at night when I’m driving. Take me on board their beautiful ship, show me the world as I’d love to see it.” Tom Yorke has always been viewed as a strange individual, but this song is as sentimental as anything he’s ever penned. Well all know the greatness that is Radiohead, need I say further?
2. Robert Johnson – “Hellhound on My Trail”
This song, along with “Cross Road Blues,” have created a mythology around Robert Johnson that sees him selling his soul to learn how to play guitar. There is more strange fact to actually fuel this, as he came out of nowhere to be the blues’ most influential musician of all time, and may in fact, be the most covered of all time as well. “Hellhound” paints strange images of black dogs chasing Johnson, and powder he sprinkles in front of his door. The sentiment is that he’d like to have his woman with him towards the end, whatever that may be. The cryptic nature of the song aids it’s appeal, and the original version is easily the most haunting. As Johnson sings, you can feel those dogs closing in and you can hear him tremble. Coupled with the mythology, this is the creepiest song in music history.
1. Sufjan Stevens – “Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois”
This may be the most beautiful paranormal music to ever come out of a speaker or pair of headphones. The subject of course, an obscure UFO sighting that occurred near Highland, Illinois in a place called Lebanon. What Stevens does with the song is turn it into a metaphor for the incarnation of Jesus Christ, almost giving the savior an alien background. In a way, Stevens is interpreting this sighting and other bible stories as possible UFO phenomena. The music here is simple, just a piano and some flutes, and sounds bitter sweet and esoteric; easily, Sufjan Steven’s best work.
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