We look at some of the most incredible soundtracks that have helped create the best TV
Ben Butler

12:08 9th May 2016

Although great films are often lauded for their equally great score's, the medium of TV arguably contains some of the most incredible musical backdrops imaginable. With that in mind, here are some of TV's most amazing soundtracks you have to wrap your ears around. 

True Detective - T Bone Burnett & Various Artists

The first season of True Detective contained an utterly immaculate score, and The Handsome Family's 'Far from Any Road' acting as the main theme was an inspired choice. It's a menacing, portentous triumph. That's not forgetting the second season's pioneering theme performed by the incomparable Leonard Cohen, that slowly, and deliberately revealed more lyrics, directing and warning us to the impending apocalypse of action.

Mad Men - David Carbonara

Former trombonist David Carbonara composed Mad Men's rich soundtrack, and to much acclaim. Perfectly selected period pieces featuring artists from Miles Davis to Chubby Checker created a mirror for the show's beautiful visual imagery. Thankfully, the score cleverly avoided the obvious pitfalls, and it never once dragged the show into cliché. Stick this one on with an Old Fashioned or two, or three, or four... 

Hannibal - Brian Reitzell

The late-great Hannibal became quickly adored for it's aesthetic brilliance, resembling an excellently crafted cooking show in places, but that's not to say it's audio lacked any of the same resonance. The show's hypnotic style was mimicked in it's initially alluring, but ultimately terrifying soundtrack. It effortlessly moves from lulling, ambient tones to grand, sweeping statements, and is therefore a must-own.

Lost - Michael Giacchino

J.J. Abrams was once apparently quoted as saying, "To watch Lost without Michael Giacchino is not to watch Lost", and he might be on to something. Having also worked on Super 8, Up, The Incredibles, Star Trek and Jurassic World, Giacchino is one of the biggest names in the business, and rightfully so. His moving, powerful soundtrack is integral to the show, but it's equally awing in your headphones.

Breaking Bad - Dave Porter

Porter's excellent, charging theme song and numerous musical inclusions aside, Breaking Bad's music selections are also consistently great. In the final episode of season two, TV on the Radio's 'DLZ' plays just as Walter White has growled, “Stay out of my territory,” at a rival meth-cooker. As the song's raccous reverberations builds, it is evident that the chemistry teacher is not quite the same person, nor will ever be. In a heartbeat the show's trajectory has changed, with it's soundtrack excellently setting itself, and the show up, for greatness.

Les Revenants - Mogwai

There's few artists you'd imagine who would better with crafting an expert soundtrack than Glaswegian post-rock giants, Mogwai. Innocence, adulthood, and pure horror are dealt with by Mogwai's aching, droning work here. It's a breathtaking score for sure, but is anyone really surprised?

The O.C. - Alexandra Patsavas (Music Supervisor)

So, The O.C.'s comprehensive soundtrack may feel like a bit of jukebox rather than a proper score, but who could really criticise it in the end. From the iconic theme song, 'California' by Phantom Planet, the soundtrack featured an incredible who's who of indie-giants: Death Cab for Cutie, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Bloc Party, and The Killers all featured in what became a taste-setter for a generation of California obsessives. Modest Mouse even play live in an episode, what more could you really ask for?

Game of Thrones - Ramin Djawadi

The epic series has become pretty much the biggest fictional TV show in the whole world. It's incredible world-building is matched by a soaring score that also features a number of impressive additions from notable indie-bands. And, what better band to feature for the 'The Rains of Castamere' than The National, kings of sorrow themselves. On the other end of the spectrum, The Hold Steady's 'The Bear and the Maiden Fair' is a rambuncous track, that perfectly cuts through the episode's mounting drama, played over the credits to juxtapose the extreme events beautifully.

The Leftovers - Max Richter 

Speaking to the Guardian Richter’s explains how he chose to depict the show’s primary theme of loss, “The Leftovers is all about things disappearing... so I chose instrumentation that reflected that, by using material that was made mostly of instruments with a pronounced decay in their sound”. Richter's score is of course, entirely apt, a stunning backdrop to the just-as stunning events of the nihilistic series. And, the show had a great excuse to feature ‘Where is my Mind’ by the Pixies whenever possible.

Twin Peaks - Angelo Badalamenti

News that Twin Peak's soundtrack is to be re-released on vinyl this year has been met with real jubilation. Twin Peaks' eerie, masterful tone has a lot to do with Angelo Badalamenti's continually impressive, and timeless score. From the instrumental theme, to Julee Cruise's ethereal 'Falling' Twin Peaks' soundtrack arguably set the standard for TV music for decades. Showing, and demanding that great television must be underpinned by a great soundtrack.

  • Sometimes without you even realising it, soundtracks create atmosphere, build tension and trigger emotive responses. 2014 had some undeniably amazing soundtracks, but films like Mad Max and Inside Out challenge that standard and surpass in the music department. Here are the top 8 soundtracks of 2015 so far.

  • Inside Out: Another masterwork from compositional genius, Michael Giacchino. Already raking in credit from the Jurassic World soundtrack earlier this year, Giacchino toned down the dramatics for Inside Out, instead crafting a soundtrack that reflects the literal spectrum of emotion this film revolves around with finesse and depth. See it without crying, we dare you.

  • Montage of Heck: Hailed as "the most intimate rock-doc of all time", Brett Morgan's Kurt Cobain film features a wide range of Nirvana and non-Nirvana tracks from throughout Cobain's music career. Featuring a few rare alternative takes and demos, the film is worth seeing for those exclusives alone.

  • Mad Max: Fury Road: Written for the most part by Dutch composer Junkie XL, Fury Road has been hailed as a modern masterpiece for its stark and dry atmosphere - an atmosphere that is accentuated by anamazing soundtrack. XL had previously worked on The Dark Knight series and Man of Steel, so expect to see his name held in the same regard as Hans Zimmer very soon.

  • Welcome to Los Santos: Not a film soundtrack, fine, but this additional compilation for Grand Theft Auto 5 is too great to not include. Curated by The Alchemist, this awesome mix features Killer Mike, Earl Sweatshirt, Future Islands, Wavves and Little Dragon.

  • The Diary of a Teenage Girl: Despite it's limited release, this graphic novel turned film is a charming and progressive coming of age story that is soon to turn cult, the soundtrack is being released on vinyl for goodness sake. Featuring spots from T.Rex, The Stooges, Television and Nico - old but gold.

  • While We're Young: The latest comedy-drama from Wes Anderson collaborator Noah Baumbach starring Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts. On the music side, the biggest star is LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy who composed and curated the soundtrack. With a few Murphy originals, a David Bowie cover and songs from Tribe Called Quest, Paul McCartney and Lionel Richie - the whole soundtrack is gold.

  • Minions: Love them or hate them, the new Minions film is adorable fun. With a soundtrack chock-full of 60s gems from The Who, Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Turtles, there's something for the parents and the kids.

  • Insurgent: The second part of the destructive Divergent film/book series, what the film may lack in tact, it makes up for with a star-studded cast of musicians behind it's soundtrack. Featuring collaborations from M83/Haim as well as Woodkid/Lykki Li and tracks by Royal Blood, Imagine Dragons and Anna Calvi - what more could you want?

Photo: Press