I was driving recently and listening to a podcast that features “Pagan music.” That’s both music by Pagans and music with Pagan themes or interest. One thing that struck me is that a lot of overtly Pagan music is very literal. It’s basically like Christian rock: they’re both just talking literally about these symbol-systems and experiences that you have to undergo to understand. That doesn’t mean the songs are obscure, just that sometimes they’re a little too on-the-nose. If we’re literally out here on the full moon (just passed) doing magic, it’s not weird to want some music that instills a sense of mystical wonder. So here are a few songs that I feel create that kind of mood. They’re all magical in one way or another, but they don’t just say “we’re doing magic on the Sabbath” (I have literally heard songs that do that).
This may come as no surprise, but one of my favorite bands is The Decemberists. I first learned about them in grad school. I was introduced to them, I shit you not, from this Questionable Content strip. The title says the joke at the end is like one of their songs. So I immediately looked them up. I remember, too, that Amazon was giving away an mp3 of a song, maybe “The Engine Driver.” So I grabbed that, and proceeded to get as much as I could. I even found a used CD of The Tain when I went back to school, in the local music/book store (that is, naturally, out of business now). This is a long, personal introduction just to say this: their new album is out!
Here’s a late-night album I’m fond of. My partner got me into Muse quite by accident. She never really pushed anything at me. She simply listened to Muse, and I wondered who wanted to be Queen so badly (this is a joke, but based on reality: Muse is quite vocally indebted to Queen. Who wouldn’t be?). I’ve chosen The 2nd Law for a very simple reason: it’s the album I know best. Between “Supremacy” and “Panic Stations” I knew more than other albums right away.
I thought I’d go for one of the obvious choices in my own musical history and read some Blue Oyster Cult! I chose Cultosaurus Erectus, given that it’s considered the band’s greatest album by certain malcontents — that is to say, once upon a time, the fan club’s president wrote a piece that was basically “fight me, this underrated album is actually the best.” I can appreciate that. But the first track on this album is also the whole reason I got into the band at all. And the whole album is crazy.