Jess Locke’s 7 Sinister Songs

“Dark, melancholic and slightly dissonant music has always resonated with me and has influenced the music I make a lot,” says Melbourne singer Jess Locke, the first addition to the roster for Smith Street Band’s Pool House Records. “Maybe it’s because people usually avoid talking about this kind of thing in everyday life? Or maybe I am just a particularly sinister person? But there is something about all of these songs that just captures a feeling that words can’t.”


‘Dark Hours’

Ainsley Farrell

I love how minimalist this song is. I always feel like the less going on, the more impact everything has. That clean guitar, punchy drums and understated vocals in the verse make the backing vocals in the chorus extra eerie. Also, in the film clip for the song, Ainsley makes a great vampire.


‘Cross Bones Style’

Cat Power

Apparently this song was written right after Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) woke from a nightmare. Some people hate hearing about other people’s dreams but I always find it fascinating. It’s not because I think you can find a lot of literal meaning in them. Sometimes words and images that come out of dreams don’t necessarily make any sense but that mystery is part of the fascination. They give a kind of emotional snapshot of something that maybe can’t be put into words. And that’s what this song does – it’s uneasy and hypnotic, but as a whole, it’s cathartic.



Michael Hurley

I first fell in love with Cat Power’s version of this song, but the original is no less gut wrenching. Michael Hurley’s vocals rival the weeping of the violin. It’s songs like this that remind me of the power of the human voice as an instrument – so immediate and so devastating. This song just takes me into another world.


‘Death Take Your Fiddle’


Everything about this song hits me right in the chest every time I hear it, the raspy breathing, the sleepy vocals, and obviously the lyrics.


‘Clap Hands’

Tom Waits

Tom Waits does dark and sinister well, probably better than anyone else I can think of. He is just a great storyteller and just has this ability to fully become the characters he’s singing about and to create whole worlds in a single song. The characters are often sinister, not necessarily likeable but they feel completely real. And that voice. It was hard to pick just one of his songs for this playlist because there are so many great ones, but this is one of the creepier ones and it’s of the first Tom Waits album I ever heard, Rain Dogs.


‘Nosferatu Man’


This song to me sounds like the modern day soundtrack to Nosferatu creeping around his castle. There is so much tension in the verses and then the chorus lets it all back out again as if that’s the moment when Nosferatu jumps out of the shadows to take another victim. I remember first listening to this record after a friend had mentioned in passing that they were listening to a lot of this band, Slint, and for some reason I remembered the name and sought it out. This song always stuck out to me the most.


‘The Words That Maketh Murder’

PJ Harvey

Sometimes reality is scarier than nightmares. This song – and the whole album it’s on, Let England Shake – matter-of-factly paints a picture of the horrors of modern war while still somehow being extremely catchy. The repetitive backing vocals march along like soldiers to the end.


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