6 TV shows worth binge-watching for their soundtracks alone
TV has never been better. Ever since we started staying up til 3am gorging on box sets of The Sopranos and The Wire, a new standard for the medium has been set. No matter your genre of choice, there's probably an amazing television show that you've become hopelessly addicted to.
Such quality TV is all the better when accompanied by soundtracks of equal brilliance. Music on television has come a long way from the weird synth slap bass that introduces Seinfeld or 'Thank You for Being a Friend'.
Here are a few shows worth watching for their soundtracks alone:
Flaked is a new Netflix series developed by and starring Will Arnett. It's not great, and there are dozens of poor reviews and think pieces online to tell you why. But the soundtrack is magnificent.
Arnett tasked Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus with writing the music and it's everything an indie rock nerd could want. The theme song is a languid, woozy indie rock gem Malkmus wrote especially for the show and the score he wrote has his unique sonic character all over it.
Arnett also convinced Malkmus to cover Jimmy Buffett's classic slacker anthem 'Margaritaville'. Its inclusion kinda makes sense; Arnett's character does very little with his life. But he's also a recovering alcoholic, so it's a bit incongruous.
It might have been Malkmus' first composer job, but that didn't stop Friends ripping off Pavement's 'Rattled By The Rush' in the '90s.
Besides Malkmus' excellent work with the score, the show features a stack of great current indie rock. The scenes that use Warpaint's 'Undertow' and Kurt Vile's 'Pretty Pimpin' are both unforgettable. We also hear Hinds, EL VY, Youth Lagoon and more throughout the series.
Master Of None
Master Of None caused a huge stir in all the right ways when it premiered late last year. If you're in your late-20s or 30s and you haven't yet watched it, you're in for a real treat.
The nuanced humour and drama typified everything that's great about young creative TV writers today. But the soundtrack gave it the kick that made us want to keep watching. Hearing David McCallum's 'The Edge' over the opening titles of the finale episode was one of my favourite TV moments of 2015.
Father John Misty, Aphex Twin, The Slits, Arthur Russell, Yo La Tengo, Reigning Sound, Todd Terje, Beach House... the soundtrack is an indie music lover's wet dream. Plus, it works. The music often supports the narrative. It makes sense; our lives have awesome soundtracks, so of course Ansari and his friends' do too.
It's like a much cooler version of The O.C. soundtrack, in that it sounds like music the characters would actually listen to. It's only cooler because we're cooler than we were 13 years ago.
Speaking to Pitchfork, music supervisor Zach Cowie said he and Ansari's wanted to go a bit deeper than other shows.
"We're both record collectors that are kind of always looking for crate-digging kind of deeper stuff," he said. "That sort of becomes a sound that unifies the whole series."
The use of music in Master Of None is reminiscent of how Lena Dunham's Girls has been using music for the past few years.
The music is perfect for the show's audience, which the creators must perceive (accurately) to be similar to their characters. Hip indie tunes, a few obscure old tracks and well hyped new artists all feature throughout.
Sometimes its use of music is more powerful than the show's dialogue. The scene where Hannah skips the gloomy (but great) Sarabeth Tucker song 'Get Well Soon' to Robyn's amazing, empowering anthem 'Dancing On My Own' is a beautiful reflection of the redemptive power of pop music.
There's been a little bit of Australian love in the soundtrack too. Episode two of season five, which is screening at the moment, features the great Meg Mac song 'Roll Up Your Sleeves' over the end credits.
Okay, I'll concede that I've gone heavy on Netflix shows here. But Love is an interesting case. Its choice of songs (James, FIDLAR, The Breeders, !!!) is solid, but what's better are the stupid original performances that crop up every now and then.
Lead character Gus (Paul Rust) and his mates get together to write silly theme songs for movies. It's a genius idea and would probably be quite fun to do except for the fact it would never, ever work. The songs that they come up with are great and one of the most charming parts of the show.
On another occasion Rust teams up with Mark Oliver Everett (aka E from Eels) for a messy, rambunctious version of the Wings classic 'Jet'. It's a series highlight.
Treme is about music in the same away that New Orleans is about music. There are other, more pressing issues at hand, but take it away and it just doesn't make sense.
Unlike other soundtracks in this list, there's little attempt at appearing trendy. It's far more important for this show to be true to the spirit of its subject.
It highlights the cultural importance of music beautifully. Second line parades, Mardi Gras Indians and the vibrant live music scene of the city are all intrinsic to the show.
It also sheds light on the struggle of musicians at every level. From buskers like Harley Wyatt (played by Steve Earle) and Annie Talarico, one hit wonders like Davis McAlary, session players like Antoine Batiste and those who've "made it", like Delmond Lambreaux.
There are a slew of guest performances. Local legends like the late Coco Robicheaux, Kermit Ruffins and the Rebirth Brass Band, to stars like Elvis Costello, Fats Domino and Dr John all appear.
You don't have to love New Orleans music to love Treme. But you'll end up obsessed with it by the time you're finished the first couple of episodes.
The telling of 1920s Birmingham crime drama Peaky Blinders is all about embracing darkness. This carries through to its excellent soundtrack as well.
Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, Jack White and Arctic Monkeys all feature prominently. While these music selections are not even remotely historically accurate, it's a clever way of ramping up the edginess of the onscreen drama and perhaps broadening the appeal to those who usually wouldn't be interested (e.g. yours truly).
The music producer for the program is none other than Flood, who has worked extensively with PJ Harvey, as well as the likes of U2, Depeche Mode, The Smashing Pumpkins and dozens of other enormous rock bands. Hear him chat to BBC 6 Music's Lauren Laverne about how he got involved and what he brought to the show.