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Test your Twin Peaks music knowledge!


Want to impress everyone at the Triple Nickel’s Twin Peaks Night? This week’s column has everything you need to know about the show’s musical DNA.
  • Want to impress everyone at the Triple Nickel’s Twin Peaks Night? This week’s column has everything you need to know about the show’s musical DNA.
We live in the “Golden Age of Television,” or at least that’s what we keep being told by the cultural think-piece commentariat. While most of contemporary “prestige” TV’s cultural cachet is probably still wrapped up in the Aug. 27 Game of Thrones finale, another series finale generated some excitement this past Sunday, that of the long-anticipated and unlikely continuation of Twin Peaks.

If you’ve been watching Twin Peaks: The Return as religiously as I have, this Saturday, Sept. 9, offers a great way to cap off the wild ride with the Zodiac’s fourth annual Twin Peaks Night, which features live music by Fort Collins-based “avant-pop” act Stella Luce in addition to burlesque performances ... and plenty of damn good cherry pie.

While I know plenty of musicians who are hooked on Game of Thrones, I’ve yet to see many latch onto it as musical inspiration, save the defunct local math-rock quintet Celestial Mechanics naming one of their tracks “Winter Is Coming.” Twin Peaks, meanwhile, has not only heavily influenced the face of modern television, but long held the attention of musicians — Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor admitted to Pitchfork that the band delayed tour dates in the early ’90s so they could watch the shows live.

The new season features not only a starring role for singer Chrysta Bell, but filmed musical performances from a wide variety of acts, including Nine Inch Nails, Sharon Van Etten, Eddie Vedder, Portland synth-pop quartet Chromatics, and Minneapolis classic country duo The Cactus Blossoms, putting an atmospheric spin on a concept that otherwise might suggest a variety show.

Much of Twin Peaks’ eerie and dreamlike aesthetic is directly tied into its music, which holds true for all of director David Lynch’s oeuvre. Many remember Blue Velvet for its surreal, lip-synching pantomime of Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams,” while Mulholland Drive inserts a striking Rebekah del Rio cover of Orbison’s “Crying” as a dreamy ellipsis in the film’s structure. Eraserhead’s dread-filled atmosphere owes much to Alan Splet’s claustrophobic soundscape, which combines ominous machine noise with Fats Waller’s jaunty pipe organ playing.

Lynch himself has put out several solo records that flirt with the same tenor as his dreamlike cinematic “voice” — though they frequently veer more thoroughly into the realm of nightmares. In addition, Lynch oversaw and produced the underrated ’50s-dream-pastiche Fox Bat Strategy album, featuring session musicians who appeared in his film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, and contributed vocals to the collaborative 2010 album Dark Night of the Soul, which earned producer Danger Mouse a Grammy award and was the final project of Sparklehorse leader Mark Linkous.

The artists perhaps most responsible for executing the culturally memorable “Lynchian” music, however, are Lynch’s frequent soundtrack composer Angelo Badalamenti and singer Julee Cruise.
Badalamenti, a keyboardist and former arranger for Nina Simone and Shirley Bassey, was originally brought in as a vocal coach for actress Isabella Rossellini in Lynch’s film Blue Velvet, and ended up assisting the director in writing the song “Mysteries of Love” when the rights to This Mortal Coil’s seminal dream pop reworking of Tim Buckley’s “Song to the Siren” could not be acquired. Far from a pale imitation of This Mortal Coil, the song was perhaps the first example of what would be Lynch’s signature sound — melancholy, strangely innocent and guileless, driven by lush synthesizers and led by the ethereal voice of Julee Cruise.

While Cruise’s breathy, dreamy vocal stylings were not her “natural” voice, as she explained in a 2017 interview with The Guardian, the erstwhile stage actress and touring member of the B-52s captured something magical with Lynch and Badalamenti, and went on to record two critically acclaimed albums with the pair before moving in a more jazz and electronica-influenced direction.

While the return of Twin Peaks has subverted many expectations, including musical expectations — I doubt anyone was truly prepared to hear an intensely downtuned deconstruction of “American Woman” or a looping hip-hop beat from German producer Blunted Beatz — but when the familiar strains of “Falling” kick in at a pivotal moment, it proves to be a surprising windfall of emotion. And, after all, music is all about expressing emotion, so Lynch and his musical cohorts, whose DNA now inhabits artists from German jazz band Bohren & der Club of Gore to Lana Del Rey, have undeniably earned their place as pop-culture touchstones.

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