What Is Your Favorite TV Show’s Indie Rock Soundtrack Telling You?


The music industry has grown increasingly diverse and decentralized in recent years, but you’d hardly know it from watching television. From Grey’s Anatomy to Gossip Girl, the same bands seem to sound week after week, with the music supervisors’ mainstream indie rock picks serving as an (all too) easy emotional shorthand. Need a scene to say “sexy”? Just add The xx. Cathartic closure? The National. Perhaps hearing Sleigh Bells on yet another CW show lends a hint of the commonality that watching Elvis Presley perform on The Ed Sullivan Show had decades ago. Or maybe it’s just easier to conjure meaningful emotion with a zeitgeisty song than from a Botox-ed lip or a flighty teen starlet . Whatever it is, here are five bands you’ll hear on TV again and again — this year, at least.

The National

Is it time for a moment of melancholy television pseudo-closure, ideally in a long-played out romantic relationship? Bring in Matt Berninger’s sweeping baritone just before the credits role. Cue “Runaway” playing on a recent episode of Friday Night Lights as Matt and Julie say their goodbyes. Julie drives off — she needs to find her own life, wherever that is — Matt runs after her, tells he loves her, then lets her go. Or how about the most recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy, in that last segment of the show where ends are tied up in a tidy, emotionally manipulative, near-montage fashion. “England” fades in: sick children, Mark telling Arizona why Callie left her, the new interns drinking beer, Cristina and Owen eating cereal, Derek and Meredith talking fertility issues, and then, in a final moment between Arizona and Callie, The National grows louder, Callie drops a bombshell: she’s preggers with Mark’s baby!!! Roll credits. And then there was that moment on Gossip Girl last fall (watch it here), when “Afraid of Everyone” plays in the background as Chuck confronts Blair for driving Eva away ask asks if it’s possibly she still loves him. “This means war Blair,” he says, and Berninger swoops in to close the show.

The xx

Sexy shenanigans in a budding relationship, perhaps one that’s been prone to false starts in the past? It’s time for The xx, be it on last season’s Gossip Girl, when Nate and Serena decide to stop taking it slow and get it on in a coat-check closet (cue: “Crystalised”), on last season’s Grey’s when Meredith struggled with her new wifely identity by making sexy eyes at her Dr. McSteamy husband (cue: “Islands”), or last spring on 90210, when Annie popped in on Liam to “blow off some steam” and help him paint a boat (cue again: “Infinity”).

Florence & the Machine

After last summer, it’s hard to hear that “Dogs Days are Over” without immediately thinking of a certain pretty woman eating, praying, and loving, but Flo has gotten plenty of love on the little screen, too. As in the Eat, Pray, Love trailer, Florence Welch often appears on TV in moments of angsty female independence, like when Cristina chooses medicine over Owen on Grey’s (cue: “Cosmic Love”). And, even when she plays over a couple moment, like Vanessa trying to woo Dan on Gossip Girl with some Rear Window mise-en-scene last season (cue: “Between Two Lungs”), Flo’s strong voice and twinkling harps still suggests an independent, free-spirited woman struggling within the confines of couplehood.

Matt & Kim

If it’s a time of new beginnings, it’s time for some Matt & Kim. Whether it’s the opening of a recent Gossip Girl episode with Blair and Dan coming together to fight Julia (cue: “AM/FM Sound,” watch the it here), the opening of a recent Chuck episode where Chuck strolls into Buy More in a good mood, much to the surprise of Morgan and Casey (again, cue: “AM/FM Sound”), or on the second episode ever of Community (cue: “Daylight”), a ditty from the Brooklyn duo is an upbeat marker of a hopeful, fresh start, though oftentimes that hope is false and/or misguided.

Sleigh Bells

If things are getting crazy, if young people are being wild, then bring in the Sleigh Bells. On 90210, they ring as Adrianna is convinced to model topless (cue: “Kids”); on GG, they come in as Gossip Girl muses about Chuck’s newfound philanthropy, which is crazy for Chuck (cue: “Rill Rill”); and in a promo for Skins, MTV sounds the Bells (cue again: “Kids”) to make it loud and clear that good, clean fun will be in short supply on the new show.