In honour of our upcoming special issue, centred all around the fantastic and surreal, here at The Edge, we decided that it was high time that we collated another playlist. This playlist is a collection of all the music we love that is just that bit otherworldly. Whether that’s in its themes, its lyrics, sound or context, well it’s different for each song. However, we hope that together they make something altogether fantastical!
John Williams- ‘Hedwig’s Theme’
Is there any other song that in its first eight notes takes you back to your childhood of magic? Okay there probably is for you, but for me, no song is more fantastic or surreal than ‘Hedwig’s Theme’, the opening theme for the Harry Potter series. Due to the piece being used through all eight films and the recent Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them too, it’s impossible to hear it without being taken back to the films.
The theme of Hedwig is so closely related to the early films, to their childhoods, and David Yates (director of the final four films) chose specific moments to use it as they got older like when Harry leaves his home and when Hedwig dies. As the films get darker, the music itself gets more mysterious; it’s a song that brings us back to our childhoods as the film takes them into adulthood, and I don’t think any piece of music could be more surreal to me than this one is.
words by Carly-May Kavanagh
Pink Floyd- ‘Echoes’
Pink Floyd are one of the most influential bands to grace not only rock, but the general history of popular music. Their seminal 1973 record Dark Side of the Moon is often regarded as one of the best albums of all time, and is the third best-selling album of all time.
They are also known for their out-there, progressive and psychedelic sounds. They started as, and continued to be, a very experimental band, producing sound suites such as ‘Atom Heart Mother’ on Atom Heart Mother (1970), ‘Dogs’, ‘Pigs (Three Different Ones)’ and ‘Sheep’ on Animals (1977) and the majority of their early work.
But it’s the epic track ‘Echoes’ on Meddle (1971) that is the most surreal piece of music in Pink Floyd’s catalog. Clocking in at nearly 24 minutes (or 26 minutes depending on the live versions), ‘Echoes’ is a mesmerizing track full of extended instrumental passages and improvisation, accompanied by the signature sounds of Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright.
words by Sophie McEvoy
Panic! at the Disco- ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’
Celebrated rock band Panic! at the Disco have never been one to stray from religious undertones. Frontman Brendon Urie is relatively open about his Mormon upbringing and his attraction to religious theory despite not affiliating himself with any specific religion. Several P!ATD tracks and music videos are, in some way, attached to that attraction. ‘This Is Gospel’ and ‘Hallelujah’ are two stand-outs, but there’s no denying the utter absurdity and extravagance of the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’’s music video which takes that attraction to the very apex of surreality.
‘Welcome to the end of eras, ice is melting back to life/ Done my time and served my sentence, dressed me up and watched me die’ Urie begins in a husky murmur, after being rejected from the gates of Heaven and flung down a trapdoor to a dark place teeming with crooning skulls and a strange blue-ish, red-ish light. As he glances around his surroundings, the light seems to fill him and something very strange starts to happen. Skin turns blue, horns begin to elongate from his head, eyes acidify into a devilish yellow. ‘I’m taking back the crown/ I’m all dressed up and naked/ I see what’s mine and take it’ the mutating Urie cries, before being consumed completely by the now blood-red light as he watches an unseen door swing open and the sound of a fiendish laugh emerge. It’s all very thematic. And one of the most surreal songs/videos the Panic! boys have mastered.
words by Sophie Trenear
Evanescence – ‘Bring Me To Life’
Evanescence are well known for their eerie songs with emotionally fraught lyrics and suitably complimentary music. In fact, many of their songs would fit well into a playlist of fantastic and surreal music. However, it is one of their best known songs which I think fits this theme perfectly. From the opening lyrics of ‘Bring Me To Life’, where Amy Lee’s haunting voice declares “How can you see into my eyes, like open doors/ Leading you down into my core/Where I’ve become so numb,” to the accompanying rock guitar riffs, this song epitomises how eerie and surreal music can be. This is then further emphasised by the song’s music video.
This song also featured on the soundtrack of Daredevil and the music video takes inspiration from this theme. Directed by Philipp Stölzl, the video features Lee in the midst of a nightmare, balancing precariously as she climbs an appartment block, only to lose her balance and fall. This is one of the most recognisable music videos of recent times, in part because of the impact of the song, and also due to the striking visuals of the video. All in all, a suitably surreal and eerie addition to this playlist.
Words by Rebecca James
Halsey- ‘Castle (Winter’s War version)’
The Winter’s War version of Halsey’s ‘Castle’ fits the mysterious nature of this theme perfectly, and not just because it’s the title song of a fantasy film! The track employs the use of drama very effectively, building a sense of tension in the song which is then released when you get to the drop. This is made more other-worldly through the haunting echo that opens up the song before introducing Halsey’s haunting voice that really makes an impact. The vocals themselves have a real force of domination behind it, and the song seems to itself declare war as you head ‘straight to the castle’. The song sends you in to another world, but one a lot more dramatic and mysterious than ours!
words by Bruno Russell
Gary Jules- ‘Mad World’
The Gary Jules 2001 cover of Tears For Fears’ 80s song ‘Mad World’ is a song that never really made sense to me. At the same time, I always felt inexplicably drawn to it and compelled by it. Maybe it was the haunting lyrics, maybe it was just that simple and delicately played piano melody, maybe it was the echoes playing behind the chorus. Whatever it was, it gave the entire song this aura that I cannot describe without using the titular words of fantastic and surreal. A song from a darker, bleaker, sort of world (maybe something like the Upside Down from Stranger Things), it still managed to connect with human feelings which are very real. As well as this, it featured on the soundtrack to Donnie Darko, a cult favourite and known for being a bit out there. What can I say about ‘Mad World’? Depressing? Oh yes. Fantastic and Surreal? Oh yes. Just a brilliant song. Without a doubt.
words by Rehana Nurmahi
Listen to this playlist and others on The Edge‘s Spotify account.