There's Always Music in the Air: Revisiting the 'Twin Peaks' Soundtrack

By Caitlin Malcuit

“Each day, once a day, give yourself a present.”

That’s the advice Agent Dale Cooper gives to Sheriff Harry S. Truman, the original “Treat Yo Self” for those who never deny themselves the chance to indulge. And if you’re planning to sate your “Twin Peaks” craving before the welcome return to Showtime on May 21, it’s worth revisiting one of the gifts left behind from the series’ original run.

“Soundtrack from Twin Peaks” remains a triumph of the ambient genre, all at once mastering atmosphere and soapy melodrama in its concise 11-track package. This is all thanks to frequent David Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti—with some touches from Lynch, of course, because he can’t help himself. Badalamenti’s dirge-like synths, finger-snaps, and ample use of cymbal brushes are a hallmark of “Twin Peaks” sound, forging the mood for the misty treetops and seedy secrets of the titular Pacific-Northwest town.

The bass synth plunks away at your brain, and spurs on a sudden craving for doughnuts and coffee.

A majority of the record features the show’s instrumentals and character themes, with three vocal tracks from dream-pop siren Julee Cruise. It opens, natch, with “Twin Peaks Theme.” The bass synth plunks away at your brain, and spurs on a sudden craving for doughnuts and coffee as it layers with the lighter refrain, just before moving on to the requiem of “Laura Palmer’s Theme.” The former netted Badalamenti a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance in 1990.

“Audrey’s Dance” is a slinky, hypnotic work that tells you how peculiar the show really can be, even when divorced from the contextual scene. “Dance” puts you on edge, but you’ll want to sidle up to the jukebox all sexy-like, too. It works well as a companion to “Dance of the Dream Man.” Though a little more accessible as a stand-alone jazz piece, it’s still “off” enough to unnerve you with the screeching sax.

As for the vocal performances, Julee Cruise works beautifully with Badalamenti; he tempered her belting abilities down to the gauzy assonance we now know and love. Cruise also makes a few appearances on screen as the Roadhouse Singer, punctuating action with her ethereal voice. But you get the chance to enjoy the full length versions here. Mellow and prayerful lullaby “Into the Night,” which plays on a vinyl in an abandoned cabin, benefits from a complete listen. “Falling” is just “Twin Peaks Theme” with lyrics, but the reverb on Cruise’s voice serves as a nice compliment to the eerie ambience instead of sounding pasted on. “The Nightingale” is a gooey-eyed malt shop slow dance that sonically matches the contemporary 1950s aesthetic of the show.

If “Soundtrack from Twin Peaks” wasn’t just Season 1 material, then the biggest crime would be the absence of Season 2 feature “The World Spins.” However, that emotional gut-punch of a track is best savored in the moment. It’s another Julee Cruise song, but “The World Spins” and the other vocals can be found on her record “Floating into the Night.“ Consider it a bonus!

So grab a cup of coffee—Agent Cooper takes his black, by the way—and enjoy the gift of one of the best soundtracks to grace television. I’ll see you again later in May.

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