The Library is a recurring feature at Sketchy Details where I suggest songs that should fit into anyone’s music collection.
I went to a terrible horror convention two weeks ago looking for content. Instead, I came home covered in bruises from a show floor that was way too crowded for the crowd they let in. I couldn’t even spend ten seconds talking to a friend/interviewee/former employer in a booth before someone would try to shove me out of the way.The exception to the horrible traffic was one booth. I recognized their signage immediately. The Midnight Syndicate people made the trip over to Jersey to sell albums at a horror convention. They lucked into the one booth that was not directly in the path of show floor traffic. It was a quiet oasis where you could browse without being shoved and hear the sound of the person directly in front of you. They took advantage of the opportunity and engaged everyone who stopped by in conversation.
In case you don’t know, Midnight Syndicate is a music group practically synonymous with Halloween. They create atmospheric soundtracks. Some of their themes include masquerades, cemeteries, and mental asylums. Instead of just linking screams and rattling shains, they compose orchestral music with hints of special effects woven in.
Their latest album is Carnival Arcane and I have to agree with the man at the booth: it probably is their best release yet. The concept is a slightly twisted old-fashioned carnival. They pay a lot of attention to the freak show, the clowns, and the poorly constructed rides. The whole thing works so well as a collected unit that they won the Rondo Award for Best CD. That horror awards group has a refined palette. They nominated a huge collection of horror essays I was featured in a few years ago (Horror 101).
The accolades go beyond the horror and Halloween community. Their song “Freakshow” was nominated for the 2012 Great American Songwriter contest. Though there are other songs on the album that I prefer, it’s easy to see how “Freakshow” had the crossover appeal to breakout in a mainstream competition.
After some moody sound effects at the beginning, a piano begins to play a slow version of what was assuredly a much more upbeat midway march in the past. Now it is but a lilting waltz gliding past the faded midway posters. Even that beauty is fleeting when falling lines of chime and a honky tonk piano invade. It’s all downhill from there. A ghastly choir and an out of tune whistler come in again and again to ruin any chance of recovery.
The result is hypnotic. This is not the song of the freakshow itself. It’s the siren song of the carnival barker begging to you see pay extra for the fiji mermaid and shrunken heads. You want to turn away but you can’t. The repetition and movement have you trapped. It would be so lovely if any number of things happened. Instead, it’s intentionally ugly and all the more worthwhile for going there.
That is why you should add “Freakshow” to your music library.
Thoughts? Love to hear them.