TV Shows and the Musicians Who Were Born to Soundtrack Them


In case you were wondering why fans of both The Hold Steady and Friday Night Lights have been losing their shit all week, here’s what happened: the band’s frontman has announced plans to release a solo album called Clear Heart Full Eyes, an homage to the show that was recorded in Texas and whose title is a play on FNL‘s most memorable catchphrase (“Clear eyes, full hearts can’t lose”). The news got us thinking about how wonderful it would be if our favorite programs were scored by bands we love, which led us to compile the following wish list of TV shows and the musicians who were born to soundtrack them. Add your pairings in the comments.

Friday Night Lights and Neko Case

Sorry, Craig Finn, but by far the most memorable musical moment on Friday Night Lights was the long, slow sequence at the end of Season 1 where the state champion Dillon Panthers paraded through town in slow motion, to the ominous strains of Tony Lucca’s “Devil Town.” Of course, that song was a Daniel Johnston cover, and there has yet to be a TV show in history that’s strange enough to be scored entirely by him. (Give American Horror Story more time and it might get there.) The general mood is more in line with Neko Case — slow, dreamy, equal parts romantic and melancholy, and tinged with a 21st-century Americana.

True Blood and X

Have you noticed how spot-on True Blood‘s music cues are? Especially the songs that play over the credits and always seem to serve as the perfect commentary on the preceding episode? And yet, the show has that grating theme song, Jace Everett’s “Bad Things” (which many have pointed out is unpleasantly reminiscent of Chris Isaak’s “Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing”). To remedy this, we say hand all soundtrack duties over to the reunited LA punk icons X. True Blood is a Southern Gothic show, and X’s music has always had a rootsy, noir feel. Over the years, band leaders Exene Cervenka and John Doe have delved deeper into country and folk music in their side projects and solo work, which would only further their ability to capture the mood of Bon Temps, Louisiana.

Battlestar Galactica and Janelle Monáe

What would you get if you crossed the best sci-fi TV show in years with the woman who created the best sci-fi concept album in years (2010’s The ArchAndroid)? We can’t imagine the result would be anything short of brilliance.

Twin Peaks and Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Epic, strange, nightmarish, experimental. All of these descriptors apply to Twin Peaks, but they suit the sprawling compositions of post-rock radicals Godspeed You! Black Emperor just as well. Of course, it would be difficult to improve on David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti’s original score for the series, but hey, just look at what Godspeed did for Glenn Beck!

Parks and Recreation and The Kinks

So, we’re basing this entirely on one album, but bear with us — it’s a great and hugely fitting one. Parks and Recreation is a light satire of the politics of a small city; The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society is a similar project, although the town The Kinks had in mind is probably more rural. But what really makes the show and the band such a good match is that they both excel at writing singular, funny characters.

Portlandia and The Dandy Warhols

Yes, yes — we know Portlandia has its very own, in-house rock star in Carrie Brownstein, and a whole host of indie-celebrity guest stars to boot. And we certainly wouldn’t say no to a Wild Flag soundtrack. But just think for a moment about how perfect it would be to have The Dandy Warhols write the music for the sketch show? Although they’ve been out of the spotlight for a while, they are basically the poet laureates of hipster mockery — remember “Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth” and “Bohemian Like You”? And guess what? The Dandies are from Portland, too!

Deadwood and Nick Cave

Americana might be the obvious choice for Deadwood, the best and most profane TV Western of all time. But when it comes to tough, gory darkness, no one does it like Australia’s own Nick Cave — who we can definitely imagine sitting down to a tumbler of whiskey with the town’s most colorful tavern owner/whoremonger, Al Swearengen. And, of course, Cave knows from Westerns, having written a damn good one of his own.

Glee and Gossip

OK, we realize that the entire point of Glee is that its teenage characters break out into song every few minutes, increasingly obviating the need for a plot. But allow us to indulge a fantasy for a moment: The entire New Directions crew contracts a season-long case of laryngitis. Who will fill in for these plucky, stereotype-busting teens? Enter Beth Ditto’s Gossip — a band that totally embodies Glee‘s celebration of weirdos of all shapes, sizes, and sexual orientations, and manages to do it in a way that’s far less irritating (and more fun musically) than the show has been this season.

Enlightened and Björk

Is anyone else watching Enlightened, the new HBO comedy that has Laura Dern playing an executive who has a nervous breakdown that eventually leads on a path of spiritual fulfillment? Well, it is pretty excellent, so you should check it out. Dern’s character is always struggling to maintain her newfound calm, but sometimes lapses into her old, raging ways due to the stress of a new, degrading job and cohabiting with her mother. We have often thought of Björk’s music as serene and meditative — except, of course, for the moments when it’s loud and cathartic.

Seinfeld and Wale

We mean… right? Not only did the guy make The Mixtape About Nothing, but he has seen every episode. Basically, what needs to happen is, there needs to be a special edition DVD re-release of Seinfeld with a commentary track that is just Wale rapping over every episode.