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What on earth does it mean to be an "espooky?"
If the (now fallen) HBO show "Los Espookys" was any indication, it's those who come alive at twilight; those who derive more comfort from horror films than rom-coms; and those for whom Halloween is every day.
As we inch closer to All Hallow's Eve — followed by the collective day of ancestral reverence that is Día de Muertos — the veil between the material world and the spiritual plane is only growing thinner. In the tradition of those who came before us, we don't use this time of year to shy away from the shadows; instead we embrace them for one night of mischief and another of magic.
Being the official Head Bruja of De Los and all, it's only right that I prepare you with a playlist of 15 spanking new songs and classic, haunting hits by Latinx artists who are not afraid to lean into their dark sides. To my fellow goths — Los darks, Los espookys! — this power hour is for you.
Ministry, “Every Day Is Halloween"
Before he was known as the anarchic captain of industrial metal act Ministry, Al Jourgensen was a weird Cuban kid who signed a deal with Arista Records as a pop singer. As was the style of the time, he adopted a faux-British accent and recorded Ministry's first album: a 1983 new wave classic called "With Sympathy," which he since described to me as his "s— 80s pop record." Jourgensen switched gears in 1984 and wrote the gothic teen anthem, "Every Day Is Halloween," which is imbued with a Miami-after-dark feel.
The Soft Moon, "Become the Lies"
Cali post-punk torchbearer Luis Vasquez squarely faced his family traumas and alchemized the resulting pain into the Soft Moon's steely 2022 LP, "Exister." In the evocative dance track "Become the Lies," Vasquez tries to exorcise the memory of his absent father, whose spirit lingers doggedly behind him like a shadow.
Matte Blvck, “Midnight & Angel”
It was by chance that I happened upon Matte Blvck performing live at the Coffin Club, a delightfully macabre venue in Portland, Ore. There they have a coffin you can just lounge in. It’s great. I was posing for a photo when I heard faint traces of what sounded like Depeche Mode in the distance; I descended into the basement and was pleasantly surprised to see this trio of Latinos from San Diego just grooving onstage in the purple smoke.
El Búho feat. Bomba Estéreo, “Brujería”
Don’t hate me — El Búho is not Latino! He's an elusive English beatmaker who went to university for Latin American Studies. I was pretty skeptical when I first sussed it out, but this track with Li Saumet from Bomba Estéreo is absolutely spell-binding. I've enjoyed Li's evolution from electro-cumbia riot grrrl to mystic earth mama in recent years.
Mexican Institute of Sound, “Killer Kumbia”
Mexico City DJ and producer Camilo Lara has famously soundtracked a number of films, including "Y Tu Mamá También," Pixar's "Coco," and most recently "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever." Lara's project, Mexican Institute of Sound, provided the blueprint for countless electronic-folk fusion records from Latin America, and continues to reverberate through the sounds of today.
Sonido Gallo Negro, “The Model”
Calling all tropidarks: the CDMX players of Sonido Gallo Negro finessed this hair-raising cumbia rendition of Big Black's creepy classic from 1987, “The Model."
††† (Crosses), “Light as a Feather”
If you enjoyed Deftones at their most yearning and spectral — take shoegazey cuts like “Teenager" and “Sextape” — it's worth wading into the gauzy dreamscape of Crosses, the side-project of Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno and his childhood friend, producer Shaun Lopez.
Tainy feat. Alvaro Díaz, “Paranormal”
Bad Bunny producer Tainy is not just a pop genius; he is the Puerto Rican prince of darkness. Befitting for ghosts of both the romantic and spiritual kind, "Paranormal" features crawling synths and vocals by emo-reggaetón cult star Alvaro Díaz.
Rubio, “Lo Que No Hablas”
Rubio is the alias of the ethereal queer pop artist from Chile, Francisca Straube. They concoct an enticing mystery with the hushed sensuality of "Lo Que No Hablas," from their 2023 album "Venus & Blue."
Espectro Caudillo, “El Temible Grupo Jaguar”
Real ones may recall the 2010s Tijuana brass of Los Macuanos, a band that Vice once called “Mexican Kraftwerk.” (Realer ones may have recognized their music on HBO show "Los Espookys.") Keyboard-synth player Reuben Torres is resurfacing this fall with a sinister new project called Espectro Caudillo. Driven by brisk, frenzied beats and the suspense of a true crime novella, Torres' upcoming album, “La Liturgia del Tigre Blanco,” was inspired by the biography of controversial Mexican billionaire Jorge Hank Rhon.
Boy Harsher featuring Mariana Saldaña, “Machina”
The voice of Mariana Saldaña, who also sings in the L.A. synth-pop band Boan, invokes chills in this collab with darkwave outfit Boy Harsher. This song was featured in Boy Harsher's 2022 experimental horror film, “The Runner,” which stars Kris Esfandiari of doom rock band King Woman.
Pelada, “Punto de no Retorno”
Formed in 2014, Pelada are an electro-punk duo from Montreal, whose latest LP "Ahora Más Que Nunca" dropped in September. As if their beats weren't incisive enough, the righteous protest chants led by front-person Chris Vargas cut through complacency as they stress the doom of our ballooning climate catastrophe. The band will touch down in L.A.'s Globe Theatre on Nov. 3, for the annual "independent dark" festival Substance.
Neon Indian, “Halogen (I Could Be A Shadow)”
Singer-songwriter and chillwave pioneer Alan Palomo may have retired Neon Indian for good this summer — but his 2011 album, “Era Extraña,” lives on as a dark pop gem, haunted by the apparition of a young love lost.
Ivan Cornejo, “Está Dañada”
Having made his start as an emo foo playing sierreño covers in his bedroom, Riverside native Ivan Cornejo has made excellent strides in regional Mexican music. While his new song with Becky G, “2NDO CHANCE," is as dreary as it is gorgeous, it’s simply not espooky enough for this playlist; so instead, I’ll share his lovesick breakout hit from 2021 “Está Dañada.”
Mazzy Star, “Ghost on a Highway”
I’m closing out with a Mazzy Star deep cut, from their 1990 album, “She Hangs Brightly.” Hailing from East L.A., singer-songwriter and spectral enchantress Hope Sandoval remains the patron saint of Latina sadgirls. I chose this song because it shines light on her roots in California's psychedelic revival scene, a.k.a. the Paisley Underground; in "Ghost Highway" she channels the spirit of Jim Morrison, as if he were singing through a Ouija board.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.