The Ideal ‘True Detective’ Soundtrack: A Southern Gothic Spotify Playlist


You’ll be entirely unsurprised to know that everyone at Flavorwire central has been going crazy over True Detective, and we’re going to find the rest of this week just as interminable as you will. In the meantime, though, we’ve been re-watching the first few episodes, and along with all the little details that may or may not be clues, we’ve also gotten to thinking about the show’s music. The incidental score has been great, as has the choice of songs, but still, there’s a whole bunch of Southern Gothic-influenced sounds that could fit on the show’s soundtrack. So to tide you through until Sunday, here’s a speculative Spotify playlist of 15 songs that’d make a fine True Detective OST.

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds — “Black Crow King” Not quite the Yellow King, but still. Also, the longer you listen, the more you come to realize that the King in question is batshit crazy: “I just made a simple gesture/ They jumped up and nailed it to my shadow/ My gesture was a hook/ Spread-eagled like a hooker/ You know, my shadow’s made of timber!” Um, OK, we’ll be leaving now, Mr. Black Crow King.

The Gun Club — “Black Train” Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s borderline-deranged howl is all too evocative of all the fucked-up shit that’s going on behind True Detective‘s closed doors.

Iron & Wine — “Sodom, South Georgia” A latent air of menace, almost submerged in a melody that’s as lazily pretty as a long Southern summer day. The lyrics, “All the dead white boys say god is good/ White tongues hang out/ God is good” are all the more discomfiting for how affectless Sam Beam’s delivery is.

Jolie Holland — “Springtime Can Kill You” In a similar vein, a song about how sitting in your room can drive you more than a little crazy.

Jim White — “Wordmule” “Look out for hustlers for preachers for shysters/ Them silver-tongued saints who pretend to do good.” Yes indeed.

Wovenhand — “Dirty Blue” 16 Horsepower’s David Eugene Edwards is one of the foremost practitioners of Southern Gothic, which means that it’d be criminal to leave him off this playlist.

TG Olson — “III” Something from Olson’s wonderful album of Blood Meridian-inspired instrumentals is a perfect fit here, and flows nicely into…

Jackie O Motherfucker — “Hey Mr Sky” A quietly sinister alt-country song about death in the first light of a cold, silent dawn: “Hello, Mr. Sky/ Hello, hangman.”

The Handsome Family — “Sunday Morning Coming Down” “The reason why I don’t drink is that I’ve had trouble with it in the past.” Haven’t we all, Rust. Haven’t we all.

Karen Dalton — “Katie Cruel” A song for a woman scorned and abused. All too relevant, sadly.

Gillian Welch — “The Devil Had a Hold of Me” And while we’re on relevant, the imagery here is terrifying: “Now I was just a girl of two/ With a golden heart and a button shoe/ The devil had a hold of me/ I turned my head and I could see.”

Mark Lanegan Band — “Bombed” Suitably surreal imagery for a show where time stretches and bends into, yes, a flat circle (albeit, in this case, because Lanegan is on a shitload of heroin): “When I’m bombed, I stretch like bubblegum/ And look too long straight at the morning sun.”

Tom Waits — “What’s He Building in There?” Seriously, what has Rust Cohle been up to in that shed? (If you’ve watched this week’s episode, click here to find out.)

Horse Feathers — “Last Waltz” “We’re sick in the head, our hearts got the blues/ Where in the world, oh where is the sun?/ There’s a blackness that’s bit/ Its biting’s not done.” Not until next week, anyway. But still…

The Scientists — “Swampland” “They come with boots of blood/ With pitchfork and with club/ And they’re chantin’ out my name/ And they got doggies screamin’ on a chain.” Yep, shit is going to end badly.

Dr. John — “Gris Gris Gumbo Ya-Ya” I mean, c’mon — you can’t get any more Louisiana than this.