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Soundtracks to Binge-Listen

. 4 min read
Soundtracks to Binge-Listen

Martha Cleary

I’m a veteran binge-watcher. I consumed all nine seasons of Suits in 3 weeks, have watched Mad Men in its entirety multiple times and only had to stop watching Luther compulsively because I started having anxiety dreams about it. Going into lockdown, one of my fears was that my love of binge-watching (and insistence that it is possible to work and watch TV) would interfere with any resemblance of normality I was trying to sustain. Thankfully, the opposite has turned out to be true.

For one reason or another, many of us will have been spending a huge amount of time in front of screens recently and sometimes you just need a break. As I’m sure is the case for many people out there, my binge-watching capacity isn’t what it was 8+ weeks ago so instead I have turned my attention to TV soundtracks. Here are a few of the best synced shows out there at the moment for your listening (and viewing) pleasure.

Go down a rabbit hole of all the music from the shows listed below via my ‘good tv show music’ playlist HERE.

High Fidelity (1 Season, 2020 -)

Based on Nick Hornby’s book (1995) and the John Cusack led film (2000) about record store owner and all-round music obsessive Rob, it’s no surprise that the 2020 TV rework of High Fidelity features a fantastic soundtrack. Starring Zoë Kravitz in the lead role and set in Brooklyn, the adaptation is 10 episodes well-choreographed, angsty, heartbroken music nerd crack, brimming with playlists, mixtapes and snobbery. I have watched it 4 times since it dropped on 14th February.

Musical highlights include: Thomas Doherty’s sultry Scottish cover of Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love To You”; Swamp Dogg’s “Lonely” taken from his 2018 album ‘Love, Loss, and Auto-Tune’; Mavis John’s soulful classic “Use My Body” which provides the backdrop for a drinking montage.

Sex Education (2 Seasons, 2019 -)

If you’ve somehow managed to sleep on the critically acclaimed British comedy-drama series that is Sex Education, there has never been a better time to venture into the socially awkward world of Otis and Maeve (and to start browsing online for dressing gowns as fabulous as Gillian Anderson’s). With much of the original music for the show coming from ‘The Troubadour of Teenage Angst’ Ezra Furman, the soundtrack as a whole is clearly thoughtfully put together.

Musical highlights include: Hot 8 Brass Band’s “Sexual Healing” as it plays an important role in the title sequence of the second season; Ezra Furhman’s take on LCD Soundsystem’s “I Can Change”; Sharon Van Etten’s “Seventeen” which emerges during one of the most emotional scenes of the second season.

Insecure (4 Seasons, 2016 -)

Over the past few months, I have been recommending the hilarious and moving Insecure to anyone looking for a lockdown TV fix. With Solange Knowles listed among the music supervisor’s for the Golden Globe-nominated show created by Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore, the show’s music choices are expectedly curated, with recent episodes even including a cameo from Vince Staples.
Musical highlights include: As S4E3 Lowkey Thankful draws to a close, Mýa’s “Case of the Ex” very aptly starts playing and until that moment I’d forgotten what a tune it is. SZA’s “Supermodel” never goes amiss on any soundtrack in my opinion, but appearing on S2E2 Hella Questions, it's irreplaceable, as is Moses Sumney’s “Plastic” in S1E8 Broken as F**k.

She’s Gotta Have It (2 Seasons, 2017-2019)

Lasting only two seasons, the Netflix reboot of Spike Lee’s original 1986 film She’s Gotta Have It undoubtedly had its flaws, but it’s soundtrack - complete with album cover cutaways between scenes to allow the viewer space to enjoy what they had been hearing - was near perfect. From the opening title music “Main Theme”, performed by Bruce Hornsby and originally written by Spike Lee’s father Bill Lee, to an episode entirely dedicated to Prince (which thankfully outshines a misplaced “Raspberry Beret” dance number that comes later), both seasons feature a solid selection of new, old and timeless picks.

Musical highlights include: Jill Scott - “Golden”, Heather Headley (who appears in the show as Nola Darling’s therapist) - “I Wish I Wasn’t”, The Isley Brothers - “Between The Sheets” (AKA one of the sexiest songs ever), Marvin Gaye - “Trouble Man”, Maxwell’s spellbinding cover of “This Woman’s Work”, Frank Ocean - “Self Control”, Héctor Lavoe - “Periodico De Ayer”, War - “Galaxy”... And all the Prince songs used throughout.

Big Little Lies (2 Seasons, 2017-)

Last but not least, the stylish, manipulative and backstabbing world of Big Little Lies. Starring big names throughout including Laura Dern, Zoë Kravitz, Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, Shallene Woodley and Alexander Skarsgård, arguably the biggest star of the show is music supervisor Susan Jacobs. Praised for her work on films like American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook, her work on the drama set in Monterey, CA saw the show receive the first ever Music Supervision Award at 2017’s Emmys.

Musical highlights include: Martha Wainwright’s “Bloody Motherf**king Asshole” blasting out of Jane’s headphones as she returns from a run (a track I immediately added to my running playlist); the inspired choice of Michael Kiwanuka’s “Cold Little Heart” as the title music for the show; a heartbreaking rendition of Elvis’ “The Wonder Of You” from Villagers.

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Get to know Martha better, @marthajsc  for all her latest music endeavours.