Alright, so, lists are apparently my new thing. But this one is special. This one is all ska, all the time.
Well, maybe some reggae, dub and/or rocksteady, and swing, too. But Skareggaedubrocksteadyswingoween ’13 is a bit less euphonious.
As ever, these aren’t necessarily thematically Halloweeny. They’re just songs that give me a bit of a Halloweeny chill when I listen. Plus, ska is the greatest genre of music ever conceived. Let’s all just agree so we can move forward. Thanks.
1) Desmond Dekker, “Fu Manchu”
I’m not a child of 1960s Kingston (or 1960s anything), so I’m not immediately sure what Desmond Dekker is referencing here. I’m about 50/50 on whether it’s an ethnic slur. But let’s be clear: this is a brilliant, brilliant song that gives me goosebumps.
2) The Skatalites, “Swing Easy”
Thanks to my lady friend for this one. I think this was originally recorded by the Soul Vendors, and their version is great. But the Skatalites’ version is a bit more… I don’t know, silky. Plus the Skatalites have that crazy soprano sax solo that is totally all about skeletons dancing in graveyards. In my mind, anyway. Dig it.
3) Westbound Train, “The Test”
One of my current favorite bands, Westbound Train features Obi Fernandez’s wicked-smooth voice… conspicuously absent from this instrumental track. Instead he’s wailing on trombone.
4) The Slackers, “Make Me Smile”
I love the Slackers. Vic Ruggiero’s voice almost makes me want to visit NYC. Almost. The verse is a little bit Halloweenish if you imagine Vic wandering the streets of Brooklyn at 3AM lamenting his unrequited love and, I guess, trick-or-treating or something.
5) Easy Star All-Stars, “Paranoid Android”
I only know this cover of Radiohead’s famous single because my friend Kevin over at Nobody Listens to This lent me a copy of Radiodread, an album consisting entirely of reggae covers of Radiohead. If that combination of words isn’t enough to convince you, you dead, son.
6) Gegege no Kitaro inro (ska-punk version)
Kitaro is, obviously, everything I love in the universe rolled into one thing. When you add ska to the mix, just go ahead and tag me, because I’m already dead. Of a happy-aneurism.
7) Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, “Here Comes the Snake”
Swing is pretty much ska, right? There’s nothing I don’t love about it. This song really captures the creepy potential of swing. Put it on after you’ve turned off the porch lights and snuffed the jack-o’-lanterns.
8) State Radio, “Sudan”
I know it’s only marginally ska-mostly that downbeat rhythm makes it qualify–but this is my favorite band and the combination of political urgency and morbid imagery makes this one creep me out in an appropriate way for the holiday.
9) Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra and Ego Wrappin’, “Tasogare wo Asobu Neko”
Two of the most amazing bands in Japan get together for an incredible song with silky vocals and the ska-iest of ska instrumentals. (Actually I didn’t know Ego Wrappin’ before this, but just listen to her voice. Like buttah.) Nothing’s not to like–possibly my favorite song on this list.
10) Stephen Marley, “Inna Di Red”
Yeah, it’s reggae, not ska. And it’s wicked. Tell me you can listen to this without bobbing your head and feeling just slightly creeped out, in an ultimately positive, life-affirming way. It’s at the end because it’s a nice, smooth chill-out tune. You know, for when you’re feeling the diabetic shock creep in after your night of Halloween binging.