A ‘True Detective’ Season 2 Soundtrack Wishlist


Season two of True Detective can’t come soon enough for fans, who have been clamoring to figure out what mythological references and other hidden treasures might await based on a few scant clues about the new narrative. Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, and Rachel McAdams star in the new season — and based on the mustachioed trailer we just saw, featuring the haunting vocals of Lera Lynn, music will continue to play as big a role in the tone of the series as ever. The clip inspired us to create a soundtrack wishlist for the second season, which is set in “the scorched landscapes of California.” Feel free to share your own picks, below.

Dirty Three

The wailing violin, abrasive feedback, and mournful melodies of Warren Ellis, Mick Turner, and Jim White’s trio Dirty Three hints at something dark and wild. It’s the howling wind before the storm. True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto is already familiar with Ellis’ work. Grinderman was featured in season one, which sees the guitar player with Dirty Three collaborator Nick Cave.


We’ve written about the enigma known as Jandek before, whose self-released albums have been haunting listeners since 1978. Little is known about the artist, who might be Texas-born Sterling Richard Smith, but the music speaks for itself. As writer Douglas Wolk told NPR: “It’s like somebody making music from a description of what songs are without ever actually having heard any. You listen to those sounds on his records and you think, ‘What is this? How did he make this? What does it mean that he made this?'”


A bunch of art students got together in 1969 and formed a proggy folk band, singing about mysticism, murder, and mayhem. The tone fits the occult narrative hinted at in the season two synopsis involving Ben Caspar, “the corrupt city manager of a fictional California city who’s found brutally murdered” with Satanic symbols carved into his chest.

Chico Magnetic Band

Another otherworldly contender is Chico Magnetic Band, fronted by Algerian-born French musician Mahmoud Ayari. If Jimi Hendrix went undiscovered and fell deep into some heavy psych with non-verbal vocals and experimental electronics, this is what it might sound like. Author and musician Julian Cope writes:

Even though this absolutely brilliant and overwhelming album is but a half an hour in length, it is so chock full o’ balls and amazing riffs that consistently make all the right moves at the right times it’s downright scary and seems twice the length due to its raging density of vision. Given that (and that fact it seems almost entirely culled from moments of only the top tier fab waxings in my collection) it also seems far longer than THAT because everything on it counts SO BAD it lights a fire in my head, creates a fevered dickswell and comes close to bursting my heart every time I spin it.

Dead Can Dance

Pizzolatto has indicated that season two’s California setting will take place in lesser known areas of the state that “capture a certain psycho-sphere ambiance.” Dead Can Dance’s music spans time periods and genres, and feels dark and sprawling like the desert at night. Lisa Gerrard’s haunting vocals were made for the psycho-sphere.

Nine Inch Nails

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are the safe names that always pop up when something dark and dreary is involved. Nine Inch Nails is apparently rumored to take over soundtrack duties for season two, replacing T Bone Burnett. We aren’t totally opposed (making this less of a “wishlist” pick and more of a “trying this on for size” kind of thing), as long as any NIN tracks that appear during the episodes are on the instrumental tip.

Something acid western-appropriate

In an interview with EW, Pizzolatto related True Detective to a western: “You have these spiritual ancestors of the type of men who settled the frontier, but now they’re roaming this exhausted frontier.” The show’s narrative archetypes about good and evil also fit the genre. California band Spindrift plays like a darker greatest hits of the spaghetti western canon (with a pinch of David Lynch/Angelo Badalamenti in the above track), but any band that feels acid western-appropriate would fit nicely.

Death Grips

Conceptually bleak, vocally aggressive, and noisy as hell. Whatever dark fictional California city Pizzolatto is aiming for, Sacramento-born Death Grips probably invented it first.

Y La Bamba

Pizzolatto seems to love his alt-country female vocalists and dark Americana bands, but season one was overwhelmingly white and often too repetitive. Portland’s Y La Bamba brings a Mexican folk influence to their work. The above track would be a bit of a welcome departure, but something like “Juniper” sounds more typical of what the show has highlighted before. Here’s what Mother Jones has to say about singer Luz Elena Mendoza:

Portland-based band Y La Bamba draws from Mexican folk songs and mariachi singers as influence for its eerie tunes. . . . Lead singer Luz Elena Mendoza has a distinctive and charged voice, filled with nostalgia and mourning. She often manages to sound both completely in control and completely unhinged. Y La Bamba’s recent EP, Oh February, showcases her chilling vocals, and also demonstrates how she continues to evolve and experiment.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Arkansas-born Sister Rosetta Tharpe is known as the “Original Soul Sister” and influenced the likes of Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. The singer’s bluesy, gospel-inspired style with early rock accompaniment would bridge the tone of the seasons nicely (season one featured Bo Diddley).