Top 10 Recent TV-Show Soundtracks
A few choice adjectives come to mind when musing on bawdy Eastbound & Down character Kenny Powers. "Inspiring" is not one of them.
However, as Rocks Off watched this week's season finale of the side-splitting HBO series, we were pleasantly surprised as we heard indie troubadour Kurt Vile's arresting - and unexpectedly fitting - "He's Alright" accompany the episode's closing scene.
Such a discovery inspired us to ponder ten recent TV shows with quality soundtracks. Most are still on the air, and those that aren't are available on DVD.
10. Weeds: Showtime's black comedy-drama features a soundtrack as unassumingly cool as its unorthodox storyline. Known artists like Regina Spektor, Sufjan Stevens, DeVotchKa and Ween appear alongside a generous collection of relative unknowns, leaving us eager to delve into its tracks and make potential new musical discoveries.
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9. Gossip Girl: We were virgins to this teen-drama, but a little research led to learning that the CW series features tunes by Crystal Castles and the Strokes' Albert Hammond Jr. But it was the soundtrack's title, OMFGG, that first caught our attention. Regrettably, we learned the clever abbreviation innocently stands for "Original Music Featured on Gossip Girl."
8. Heroes: While we're not too familiar with this show's storyline, its soundtrack had us at the mere mention of Wendy & Lisa, who wrote the score for the NBC sci-fi drama. Sharing the company of Prince's prior protégées were artists like Wilco, The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Morning Jacket and the New Pornographers.
7. Scrubs: It seems Zach Braff and decent soundtracks go hand-in-hand, and Scrubs is no exception. ABC's comedy-drama includes low-key tunes by artists like Eels, Joseph Arthur, Guided by Voices and the Old 97's.
6. Mad Men: Loyal viewers who struggle returning to modern times once flipping off this AMC drama might benefit from purchasing the show's official soundtrack, and thus extending their vintage experience a bit longer - 33 minutes and 13 seconds longer, to be exact. The '50s- and '60s-inspired soundtrack features authentic throwback artists like Perry Como, Brenda Lee, Chubby Checker, and Ella Fitzgerald.
Though you might be surprised to see contemporary indie-prog rockers The Decemberists on the tracklist, their "The Infanta" was prominently featured in the opening montage of a 2008 episode, the only contemporary song to make an appearance on this otherwise era-specific show.
5. Skins: This sharp British teen drama is like the Menudo of raunchy adolescent sitcoms; the cast is entirely replaced every two seasons, and the show's writers have an average age of just 21. It's probable its young staff influences the show's fresh and edgy soundtrack, as viewers can except to hear artists akin to Brian Jonestown Massacre, Santigold, Florence & the Machine and Glasvegas.
4. The O.C.: Though this one is also filed under "Teen Dramas We Have Yet to Watch," it was the most interesting to research. Experienced music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas had a heavy hand in the show's soundtrack, often featuring indie-ish artists like The Black Keys, Air, Band of Horses, and LCD Soundsystem.
O.C. creator Josh Schwartz envisioned music as "a character on the show," and cast bands like The Thrills, Modest Mouse, Death Cab For Cutie and the Walkmen in guest appearances.
3. My So-Called Life: We know; we said recent TV soundtracks, but we couldn't help throwing in a nod to a favorite throwback, the show that helped pave the way for all the aforementioned teen dramas on this list. The short-lived ABC series featured a soundtrack characteristic of its mid-'90s era; Juliana Hatfield, Buffalo Tom, Sonic Youth and the Lemonheads appeared on the series' soundtrack, which sometimes tickles our turntable to this day.
2. How I Met Your Mother: The music supervisors of CBS's witty situation comedy clearly have extensive musical knowledge, as its soundtrack spans an array of genres. Popular modern artists like Radiohead, Pavement, and Wilco are paired with indie acts like Dr. Dog and Belle & Sebastian, while chill throwbacks like Otis Redding and Big Star round out the full circle. And what comedy wouldn't be complete with some token feel-good, big-haired '80s names like Whitesnake, Motley Crue and Ratt?
1. Bored to Death: HBO's hip "noir-otic comedy" not only features an intriguingly funny storyline (about a Brooklyn-based, pot smoking, white wine drinking writer who moonlights as an unlicensed private detective), but it boats a cool soundtrack to boot.
In just two seasons, viewers have been treated to tracks by indie artists including Lykke Li, Freelance Whales and M. Ward, not to mention a quirky theme song courtesy of Bored to Death star Jason Schwartzman's current musical project, Coconut Records.
Honorable Mention: Big Love's soundtrack, featuring a collection of hymnal-inspired instrumental tracks written by David Byrne.
Any other shows with cool soundtracks we're forgetting?