Who knew that television shows could expand our musical horizons? From Marty Robbins on Breaking Bad to Vashti Bunyan on True Detective, these are some of the best musical surprises on TV dramas
"To live in a old shack by the sea, And breathe the sweet salt air, To live with the dawn and the dusk …" The Eden Ahbez track Full Moon that played over the end of Fargo's second episode on Sunday night was a unusual choice to soundtrack the scene with Mr Numbers and Mr Wrench getting busy with their ice drill – a pensive, dreamy meditation that undercut the violence and took the mood into a weirder space. But it wasn't the only example this week of TV shows using songs that you might not expect to hear – or even know. On Monday night, viewers of John Simm's new thriller Prey were intrigued by who was singing in the final scene of the first episode (it was the Cranberries, No Need to Argue).
This trend for using more obscure(ish) tracks from the past is refreshing in a time when getting on the OST of a TV drama has become an established part of the music industry's promo cycle for new songs. Last week even Bruce Springsteen tried debuting tracks from his last album, High Hopes, on The Good Wife. For me, hearing songs that aren't in the charts or getting a big push feels a bit more interesting – you're not likely to hear them in too many other places. With that in mind, here's a quick playlist of songs like Full Moon – as ever, feel free to add your own below.
Train Song by Vashti Bunyan, True Detective
From Wu-Tang Clan to Grinderman, Bo Diddley to Captain Beefheart, True Detective's soundtrack is filled with swampy, dark, brooding numbers – thanks to the taste of music supervisor T Bone Burnett. This freak-folk number from Vashti Bunyan featured in one of the show's lighter moments as we see Detective Hart (Woody Harrelson) and court reporter Lisa Tragnetti playing cops and perps outside of office hours.
El Paso by Marty Robbins, Breaking Bad
A Marty Robbins cassette (cassette!) featured in the (very) cold open for Breaking Bad's last episode Felina – a good example of diegetic music – a soundtrack that's being played as part of the action on screen. The cowboy classic El Paso, with its tale of a cowboy so in love with a Mexican girl that he shoots a man just for having a drink with her, featured on Robbins' 1959 album Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs.
The Rains of Castamere by Sigur Ros, Game Of Thrones
OK, this last clip is in a slightly different league, but really, who'd have thought we'd be seeing Sigur Ros members Jonsi Birigisson, Georg Hólm and Orri Páll Dýrason moonlighting as a Westeros wedding band?
Rest at the source
What music has TV introduced you to, ONTD? My personal fave, ofc: