Lola’s Musical Halloween Countdown

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My buddy Lola is both a Halloween fiend and music fanatic (or maybe that’s Halloween fanatic and music fiend?). She’s combined her passions and created a musical Halloween advent calendar of sorts–one song per day, thoughtfully curated–which she shares on Facebook each day. I asked her permission to share the musical harvest, so you’ll links to the first 10 days of music to put you in the Halloween spirit, along with an explanation of the project in her own words. The remainder of the month’s music will be broken into two parts.

Do you have a name for this musical countdown project? How did you get the idea to do this?

There’s no particular official name for it, I’ve been calling it Hallowe’en Countdown most of all but describing it as a Hallowe’en “Advent Calendar.” The idea came from a couple of places. I did around 13 days up to Hallowe’en once, may have been fewer, and that was fun. Last year I had started to do a couple but not advertised it well, and not committed to it hard enough. My then-girlfriend criticized me out of continuing when I began to struggle, but I vowed to rectify my mistake. However, ultimately it’s all due to the combination of two important factors: one, my desire to share my severely-eclectic taste in music, and two, my need to add festivity to life so it doesn’t pass me by. As for the former, when you listen to more unusual and obscure things, but love them with so much of your heart, it’s really hard to try convincing other people that they may be missing out. You know you have something to offer that they’re unfamiliar with, and it’s like a gift—a broadening of horizons. For the latter, though, it’s really easy to become hyped for a season and feel like you get only a couple of evenings with it. As a choral singer I know the importance of practicing Christmas music for a month or so to keep oneself in the Christmas spirit—I am hoping do the same here for people with Hallowe’en, as they may be too busy to get to go to a lot of events. Why not just have a little Hallowe’en surprise every day?

Can you describe your history with music? How about your history with Halloween? Why are they meaningful to you?

Music is one of the most important things to me. It is a means of expression, of blowing off steam that life so likes to build up. I have spent so much time living in worlds of music, of allowing those worlds entry into the worlds of others. And here is yet another example of that. Rather than being me in a choir or on the ukulele, this is instead tapping into my deep love of playlist creation and playing around within thematic boundaries.

As for Hallowe’en, I adore the season. When I was younger I was so afraid of creepiness and jump scares, so sometimes Hallowe’en was a bit tough for me. But as I grew, I found solace and excitement in the bizarre, the twisted, the darkly humorous, and, particularly, the atmospheric. These are all things that the season has in spades. Hallowe’en solidified itself as part of my soul in, oh, what was it … 2009! That was when Disneyland decided to finally go all-out with the Hallowe’en celebration, in its decorations, and even by revamping one of my favorite rides, Space Mountain, to be attacked by nebulous ghosts … incidentally, during Hallowe’en, both of my favorite attractions, Space Mountain and Haunted Mansion, are revamped, and while I like neither overhaul even remotely as much as the normal versions, they each have their own important charms to me.

I was so excited at the time to see what was going on and I begged my mother to please let us go, and surely enough, we saved up the money to experience it, it was truly incredible. I kept myself on a Hallowe’en high that entire freaking month, and it led to the ramping up of one of my most favorite traditions, Jack-O-Lantern carving. Because I was so excited for Disneyland, and because I always dream so largely, I decided that I would attempt the seemingly-impossible—carving the exterior of Space Mountain, that white spiky dome, onto a pumpkin. And I’ll be damned if I didn’t do it.

Unfortunately, due to my camera breaking, I only have a day picture, so it is isn’t lit up, but I will share it. I had already been mostly making my own makeshift stencils rather than printing normal ones for awhile, but it just elevated at that point and after it. I went on to carve the famous silhouette from Fantasia of Mickey and the conductor shaking hands, and, my favorite of all, I carved the famous poster of Amadeus, with the costume that plays a role in the film. Unfortunately, my last two years have dreamed too big and resulted in carving projects that have failed rather miserably. My taking this musical project and deciding to do it for the entire month is apparently my new way, for this year at least, of ramping up the spirit of the season.

How do you approach this? Did you have every day planned out when you began the project or do you take it day by day?

Oh, I have the entire thing as a private playlist on YouTube already. I spent a couple of weeks, on and off, going in surges of deep thought about what I could tap into to really make the count. I had intended to go for just another 13 and then realized that, damn it, I wanted to share more than just that many! Plus, it allows both myself and others to get that spirit every single day.

Every evening, as it gets close to midnight, I go onto my wall and share the following day’s piece, this is where the only real bit of work still remains given the list is complete–I have an idea for what I want to write in my blurb for nearly all of these, but then there’s the process of actually writing it. Usually, by the time I’m done perfecting what I want to say, it’s just about midnight, or at least no further than a half an hour early. In addition to simply the stylistic appropriateness of posting something spooky at midnight, my hope is that this allows those interested in the countdown, who, for all I know, could have very different schedules, to have access to the song whenever they need.

There was a surprise to me that occurred a couple days ago that resulted in slight editing and more coherence to an idea that I had still been struggling with. Occasionally, for whatever reason, I may post what I refer to as a “Bonus Chocolate” in the comments below the song—as I look at each song as being a virtual treat from a Hallowe’en equivalent to an Advent calendar, this is as if you were to remove the chocolate and another were to appear (not that that happens in actual Advent calendars). This allows me to throw in a couple of extra surprises for whatever reasons I might want to do so–whether to give a sense of completeness to the first song, or as in the case of the first Bonus, that the song above was just too short.

Tell me about your choice to kick off with the Headless Horseman Song, and specifically this version?

Good question! I did a lot of planning about how I’d specifically want to arrange the days. I can tell you from my extensive work at my hobby of mix cd creation that too much of one sound or perhaps of a dismal feel can wear on the audience if it isn’t prepared for it. Some, not necessarily many, but some of my songs are damned creepy or at least weird and not up everyone’s alley. By beginning with a piece that was jazzy and fun, I felt I had more of a chance to draw people in so they wouldn’t get a bad impression from the get-go and maybe decide to stop listening.

As for that version, there are a couple of reasons. One is that when I did a much shorter Hallowe’en countdown once before, I began with another arrangement of the piece. There was a slight worry about being too repetitive with my previous song choices that I have worked hard to rectify. More importantly to me, however, I had been looking up the version I had used before and stumbled upon this other arrangement by accident. I hadn’t known it had even existed!

And much of what this countdown aims to do is share music that its audience either doesn’t know at all or hasn’t heard a particular version of—I know from a wonderful collection of Disney music that aims to do the latter how wonderful that feeling of discovery can be. Kay Starr’s voice is something I discovered last Christmas when I was at a store and her cover of “Everybody’s Waiting For the Man With the Bag” played, I was hooked immediately and needed to look the song up. There’s something both crisp and yet knowingly playful about her sound. Finally, I just freaking adore any version of the song. I grew a minor obsession with it, as I do with many songs that pop into my life, in high school, and last year finally worked out how to play it on the ukulele.

How did you decide to break it up into Fearful Friday, Storytelling Saturday? Are there any days that I forgot?

Ah! This was a combination of a few factors. One of them, frankly, is just my obsessive showmanship.

Making things harder on myself, giving more restrictions—like I do with my poetry. People think rhyme is outdated and restrictive, but I think it’s part of craftsmanship, and it’s an intellectually stimulating brain puzzle for me. So separating the music into categories that I could then flashily associate with a carnival barker announcement, that’s a lot of fun for me.

It also has to do with that hope of mine to try and separate the songs well enough to not flood an audience member with too much of a thing they may not like at once. This countdown features an incredibly diverse collection of music, which is already hard on some people’s ears, to make it worse, much of it is really bizarre and sometimes even gloomy as we’re diving into the world of Hallowe’en, the world of the weird, the hellish, and that’s not always fun—because it’s not always supposed to be.

I may love the experience of listening to something harsh or creepy as much as something silly (and this countdown does have plenty of silly) but that isn’t true of everyone. Finally, I had hoped to keep people hooked through the introduction of categories … they could say “oh, It’s time for another song from Disney … I love Disney, I wonder what it will be?” Hopefully increasing the sense of anticipation, you know?

Anyway, here are the categories … Disney Donnerstag (Donnerstag is Thursday in German, I wanted these all to be alliterative! This is the Disney Day), Fearful Friday (one of my weaker categories in terms of theme, honestly, each piece deals in some way with fear, not always on a very deep level). The category may be weak, but it produces a lot of music that just feels classic and right for a Hallowe’en countdown, so I’m not complaining. Good to have some sense of stability!

Storytelling Saturday (I knew from the get-go with this countdown that I wanted something like this, Hallowe’en is a great time for stories and I have some doozies … some of my favorites I have shared before generally, often several times, but maybe they haven’t really been given a look. Hopefully this encourages more people to give music they know less a chance! For example, today’s piece is truly one of my favorite discoveries of the last year … and it’s a RAP song. I can understand the hesitation with that genre, but I know from experience how fun the song is for people who don’t even like rap.).

Soundscape Sunday was another thing I had been hopeful for, as far mixing it all up–the opportunity to share really ambient music to get one into a spooky mood, without making the countdown be all that–not everyone likes flooding themselves with weirdness like I do! I had known from the beginning I wanted to share some things that just made someone FEEL something, you know? Cause that’s what makes horror so cool as a film genre, and one of the oldest, at that—its craftsmanship with atmosphere!

Mundane Monday is perhaps my favorite theme as a theme–because it’s entirely sarcastic. I use it to share things that are twisted in some fashion and yet I get to pretend that there’s nothing unusual about them at all and express confusion as to what I was thinking when I chose them for this Hallowe’en list. Plus, starting off the beginning of the workweek with a declaration that you can’t have fun forever, so here’s something mundane … that’s satisfying.

TV Tuesday, this is all just stuff from TV or inspired by it. Not much to say here other than the two middle entries are going to be really nostalgic for people of my age but may not have much meaning for someone who isn’t … we’ll see!

And finally, Who Knows? Wednesday (the grab bag category where I threw in what was left over, that I couldn’t fit in other places.). It was a lot of hard work to decide on the perfect categories for what I wanted to work with, then arrange them from one to another, but it was a big logic puzzle—lots of grueling fun.

Of the 10 days that you’ve posted so far, do you have any favorites?

Yes, for one reason or another. Today’s entry is just a song I adore so much, but beyond that … I’ve been listening to Mystery Skulls so much recently, it’s so catchy, and Van Canto’s cover of “Fear of the Dark” actually ranks very high on my list of personal favorite vocal recordings. However, my favorite day of the countdown as a countdown was Day 04, both because of just how incredibly mesmerizing the track is and because of my blurb for it—I channeled so much of how I feel about atmosphere into the intro and I think it reads beautifully.

Looking forward in your countdown, what can people expect? Do you already know how you’re going to end it?

Of course, I have it all planned out, after all! They may want to be aware that I think week three is the darkest week and I don’t know how well I got the balance of its mood worked out. I think you in particular are going to find something really amusing about this Monday’s entry, though. No spoiling what.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Whether by listening to this countdown or not, if you don’t want to miss the precious moments of a season, you’ve gotta put that season into moments that you actually have time for. It’s like with writing.

Everyone is busy. You will always have excuses to not make time for something important to you, and many, even most of those excuses are truly valid. But you have to try anyway, because if you don’t, then you’ve missed out on what you really wanted. The best things in life require work, to make them happen and make them more valuable when they do happen. So if you want to make memories with people you care about that and don’t have time for it, you have to try anyway. Happy Hallowe’en!

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October 1: Welcome, foolish mortals, to the 1st of October! I am your host, Mme. Lola! It just so happens to be Thursday, which means that we begin this month on a DISNEY DONNERSTAG! That’s right! Every Thursday of this month, I’ll be diving deep into the Disney Vault to find gems for you that fit the disembodied spirit of the season. Our tour begins here, in this wonderful cover. The Headless Horseman Song was originally performed by Bing Crosby in the Disney classic “The Adventures of Ichabod Crane.” Bing would go on to record a longer version that would be re-imagined yet again by Thurl Ravenscroft, and, as heard here, Kay Starr. Starr’s crisp, playful voice is beckoning you into the long, dark alley of our countdown. Do you follow?

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October 2: The 2nd of October-Hey there, Boys and Ghouls! You’ve made it to the end of the work week, which means we’ve arrived at a Fearful Friday! Every Friday of our countdown, I’ll be sharing a piece of music related to the emotion most directly tied to Hallowe’en—Fear! Pretty straightforward, eh? Let’s begin with a personal favorite of mine. Iron Maiden’s classic metal opus Fear of the Dark would be perfect enough for our needs, but did you know that not-so-guilty-pleasure Van Canto released a nearly a capella cover of this track? Every guitar has been replaced with a voice, with only a drum standing out among the instrumentation. The first minute and 39 seconds perennially stands out for me as among my favorite in all of vocal music, and of course the rest of the track is pretty damn sweet too. Hope you’re enjoying these Hallowe’en treats! See you tomorrow with another!

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October 3: October 3rd: Well, darlings, we’ve made it to the weekend…and thusly to our first STORYTELLING SATURDAY! As you may imagine, each Saturday of the month features a song that tells a story. Every other Saturday’s story will be told mainly through the lyrics (though with only one exception there will still certainly be quite a bit to look at to aid every story) but for today, how about a story told entirely within the music video? MysteryBen27 took the internet by storm last Hallowe’en when he posted this incredible animated sequence as an unofficial music video to a track by a favorite band of his, Mystery Skulls. The incredible quality of the fanmade video received such acclaim and popularity that it gained a fandom of its own, lurking (where else?) in the corners of Youtube and Tumblr. We’ve got so much more to discover on this journey to All Hallow’s Eve, but for now, enjoy this fantastic video and curse me for introducing you to a song that WILL HAUNT YOUR HEAD FOREVER! (with catchiness)

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October 4: Horror is one of the oldest genres of film, not due to any need for fright, but instead for its potency in the art of escapism. Atmosphere is near-outright demanded of horror—it is the lifeblood Count Orlok craves so desperately to draw not from us, but into us. And so it is that, to truly give a sake of intellectual and spiritual completeness to our countdown, I introduce Soundscape Sunday. Each of these tracks is intended to ferry you deep into subterranean avenues of sound. For our opening trip, allow Tomas Dvorak, the creative genius who brought to life a world of living machinery and profound melancholy in the soundtrack for point and click adventure game Machinarium, to perform for you here “The Clockwise Operetta.” Thank you.

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October 5: Festivity and weekends are fine and dandy, but eventually, the work week has to start again, returning us to our drudgery. We all have to grow up in the end. That’s why, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, I present our first MUNDANE MONDAY. Every Monday of the month I present something really ordinary and not scary at all…..Listen, I’ll level with you. I was really drunk by the end of the calendar planning session, and am now far too busy to change anything. So, I guess, uh, here’s a song about business meetings. In ASL!

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October 6: Our first TV TUESDAY! As you can no doubt guess, every Tuesday I look to the small screen for inspiration. This week’s TV Tuesday was brought to you by: Ruby Gloom! I discovered this little gem of a show by taking a chance on Netflix one evening when I was home, alone, and depressed. The gorgeous animation drew me in right from the beginning with this wonderful intro and its stupidly catchy theme song. If you’re looking for a nice little something to watch with your kids that is definitely appropriate for them but also has some solid dark humor and great visual design for you, look no further. It’s a kid’s show, certainly, but we all need a little of that sometimes. Wh-what’s that? N-No…I didn’t decide on this entry just so we could have a Ruby Tuesday…how dare you accuse me of setting up an elaborate pun…..even though…you’re probably right…

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October 7: And now for the final and most brilliant of all the weekly themes: Who Knows? Wednesday! This is the day where I threw stuff in that I couldn’t fit into other categories. Considering I worked out a whopping SIX others that I could keep consistent all month long, I feel no shame about this. What’ll it be this week? Who Knows? Actually, you do! Because you can see it below! Singer Meat Loaf is known for bringing an almost operatic approach to his rock music, written by the brilliant Jim Steinman. Meat Loaf isn’t about having a good voice, but instead entirely about how he throws his heart into every single note. There’s something beautiful about that. Like his lyrics, a simple look at the cover art will tell you this music is out of a biker gang fantasy, with terrifying demons and damsels in distress (not that any of the women in his songs could be said to fit that role–far from it, in fact, as a constant clash occurs from a man constantly living on the edge falling for a woman with way more sense than he could ever hope to have). With a name like Bat Out of Hell, not finding a place for this track seemed a crime for our countdown. So here’s a rare recording from his incredible concert with the Melborne Symphony Orchestra as the replacement for his usual instrumentation. Rock on—with orchestration! See you tomorrow!

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October 8: Heute wir ein andere Disney Donnerstag haben! To a great many people of this earth, a Hallowe’en celebration–particularly a musical one–without the presence of Danny Elfman’s masterpiece “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is roughly equivalent to committing a hate crime towards Santa Claus. This puts hipster trash such as myself in an awkward position when we wish to try and present as much obscure material as possible. But never fear! Before I actually had the opportunity to really get into that wonderful film, its influence slowly seeped into me from my treasured copy of the soundtrack to Kingdom Hearts–a bizarre and wonderful video game series which allows characters from the universes of both Disney and Square-Enix to cross over in an epic action-RPG. Here is the arrangement of a classic NB4C tune, utilized as the normal world music for Hallowe’en town itself. But wait, there’s more….

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October 09: Oh no! Another Fearful Friday! “Spooky Scary Skeletons” is a Hallowe’en song by Andrew Gold about, well, spooky, scary, skeletons. How that piece in particular sliced itself off its own cherished corner of the internet is difficult to say; as of this post’s writing, Know Your Meme is still researching the origin of its popularity. Nevertheless, among the many derivative works the song inspired, electronic music artist The Living Tombstone***’s rather dubstep-ified remix is a particular standout in quality. Give it a listen!

***who you may know as the artist who made such a popular remix of Eurobeat’s ‘Discord’ fan song that the original faded into relative obscurity and is now covered in nasty comments declaring that it’s just not as good as its remix despite the sheer originality of the original and its capturing the villain’s spirit waaay more…(*sigh*…I’m sorry. Had to get that out of my system.)

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October 10: We enter our second Storytelling Saturday with probably my favorite musical discovery of the past year. I love this song so…deeply. I have every lyric memorized. Please don’t be turned off by its being a genre you may not yet appreciate–I’m still finding my footing with rap too. This is just, on the whole, an excellent freaking story both in its plot and its very telling. I have chosen to share this lyrics video of it rather than the music video, as the lyrics are really the focus–unfortunately, there are some errors. Actually, the only swear that shows up is an error, if you listen closely, you may realize this. Ordinarily I’d have already launched into its origin or popularity or suchlike…but I will do that below. Listen to the full song before watching either of the clips below, please!

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  1. […] up on my introduction to Lola’s Musical Halloween Countdown, here is the second installment of seasonally appropriately and carefully curated music from my […]

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