Song of the Week: John Carpenter Smashes Pumpkins with “The Shape Returns”

This week's playlist also includes Khalid, Cat Power, and Noname

Cody Carpenter, John Carpenter, and Daniel Davies, photo by Sophie Gransard
Cody Carpenter, John Carpenter, and Daniel Davies, photo by Sophie Gransard

    Each week we break down our favorite song, highlight our honorable mentions, and wrap them all up with other staff recommendations into a playlist just for you. 

    For a guy that spends most of his days getting high playing video games, John Carpenter sure packs a hell of a punch at 70 years old. It’s been over 35 years since he last scored a Halloween movie — 1982’s cruelly underrated Halloween III: The Season of the Witch — and yet he still walks through this stuff without stepping on a single crunchy autumn leaf.

    Maybe it’s because he’s spent the last few years playing his hits on the road (and for last year’s Anthology collection), or maybe it’s because he’s been jonesing to set things right for the franchise. Either way, “The Shape Returns”, the first track we’ve heard off his forthcoming score for David Gordon Green’s Halloween, is a visceral piece of music.


    Right from the start, it’s a trip back home, what with the signature sting and the familiar piano scale, but this isn’t exactly the Haddonfield, Illinois that we “last left” in October 1978. No, it would appear Carpenter’s taken a few notes from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ approach to the theme last year, leaning hard on dreadful minimalism.

    But that’s always been in Carpenter’s bag of tricks and treats. He revels in the “less is more” approach, only now he’s not exactly pulling away when he goes for the stab. Instead, he’s making every swell count, which warrants a more theatrical production in a manner that John Ottman failed to do with 1998’s H20.

    Carpenter will always be the Master of Horror; his oeuvre is timeless. And while he’s not angling to make another movie anytime soon, it’s clear he has never stopped peaking when it comes to scoring. Much like Lost Themes, Lost Themes II, and last year’s Anthology, Carpenter is as unstoppable as the Shape that defined him.


    Happy Halloween, indeed.

    –Michael Roffman

    Honorable Mentions

    The Smashing Pumpkins – “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)”

    “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)” is a methodical alt-rock burn, buoyed by searing rhymes and foreboding lyrics: “Spit like a poet’s gun,” Billy Corgan sings, and true to his word, he does. –Laura Dzubay

    Khalid – “Better”

    Khalid’s trademark emotional honesty flourishes on new single “Better”, which finds him celebrating companionship with an unnamed listener against a scintillating R&B backdrop. –Laura Dzubay

    HEALTH/Soccer Mommy – “MASS GRAVE”

    HEALTH and Soccer Mommy’s collaboration is everything you’d expect from a song called “MASS GRAVE”: dark and haunting, with a sweeping, industrial atmosphere and a chorus that repeats like a curse. –Laura Dzubay

    Wale – “My Boy ( Freestyle)” ft. J. Cole


    Both Wale and J. Cole get ample chances to shine in “My Boy (Freestyle)”, a catchy collaboration as rhythmically cohesive as it is energetic and alert. –Laura Dzubay

    Other Songs We’re Spinning

    Cat Power – “Stay” (Rihanna Cover)

    Chan Marshall sticks to the minimalist genius of past Cat Power ballads, choosing to pair her smoky, aching vocals with nothing more than skeletal piano chords on this Rihanna smash. –Lake Schatz

    Noname – “Don’t Forget About Me”

    Noname’s new album, Room 25, is full of neo-soul magic, but “Don’t Forget About Me” is a standout, balancing characteristically soft energy against an intimate, unshakable hook. –Laura Dzubay


    Amigo the Devil – “Everyone Gets Left Behind”

    Folk rock troubadour Amigo the Devil’s “Everyone Gets Left Behind” is a ridiculously infectious song that features drumming from the one-and-only Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine. –Spencer Kaufman

    Erin Rae – “Bad Mind”

    Emerging Nashville songwriter Erin Rae plaintively shares a tragic family story that shaped her own sexual journey in a time and place where being different felt like it had dire consequences. –Matt Melis

    Matthew Dear – “Horses” ft. Tegan and Sara

    Glitchy microhouse is rarely this beautiful as Matthew Dear and Tegan and Sara sing of a love with equestrian strength and grace. –Ben Kaye

    This Week’s Playlist