Finding Clues Hidden In the 'True Detective' Soundtrack
  • WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2014

  • Posted by: Matt Howard

Many have been bitten by the rattlesnake narrative that is HBO's True Detective. The most recent episode, which aired on Sunday night, set its personal best ratings record with 2.6 million viewers and a 10.9 million average across all platforms. For scale: Lena Dunham's Girls brought in a little over 900,000 on Sunday (yes, nearly two million people changed the channel when Lena Dunham came on!). These fanatical True Detective viewers, myself included, have taken to Twitter and Reddit to puzzle piece together the breadcrumbs strategically left behind by writer Nic Pizzolatto as lead characters Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) attempt to uncover the truth behind a series of occult murders and disappearances. But this emphasis on the whodunit theories and easter egg screenshots might have us all spiraling deeper into the Yellow King rabbit hole where we could easily be missing one of the show's most brilliant aspects—its music.

*SUBTLE SPOILERS LIE AHEAD

When it comes to soundtrack supervising, the touch and taste of music legend T Bone Burnett could keep a sinking plot afloat. His country, blues, and other eclectic contributions to True Detective have helped embellish the unrelenting uncertainty that comes with an occultist bayou murder. For starters, let's look at the show's introductory theme. The song, "Far From Any Road", was written and performed by The Handsome Family, a New Mexico-based folk/bluegrass outfit who are well-versed in the art of the murder ballad. The chilling imagery illustrated by the song's lyrics suit the show perfectly:

"And strange hands halted me,
The looming shadows danced,
I fell down to the thorny brush and felt the trembling hands."


And the song's following verse could easily be interpreted by Reddit's finest detectives as it might contain its own clues:

"When the last light warms the rocks,
And the rattlesnakes unfold,
Mountain cats will come to drag away your bones."




Throughout the six episodes that have aired, Burnett has injected a variety of different genres and time periods of music. I was most excited to hear him poignantly utilize Father John Misty's "Everyman Needs a Companion" as we begrudgingly watched Marty deceive his wife with another young woman. Although Misty's song's theme is blatantly relevant to that of the narrative, it would be interesting to find more clues hidden throughout the lyrics of the others.

For example: Prior to making his adulterous decision, Marty faces the dilemma of his demons; hands full of groceries, he contemplatively stands outside of a strip-mall bar. The song overlaying the scene is Waylon Jennings' "Waymore's Blues", whose lyrics play:

"Well I got a good woman, what's the matter with me?
What makes me wanna love every woman I see?
I was triflin' when I met her now I'm triflin, again
And every woman she sees looks like a place I came in
Looks like a place I came in, place I came in."


The LA Times created a great 32-song playlist of songs that have been used on the show stretching from Kris Kristofferson and Lucinda Williams to Wu-Tang and Bosnian Rainbows. Listen to the mix below, and let us know if you have any confounding lyric-related theories that could hint at the impending fate of our beloved Rust and Marty. Even though at the end of episode 8, we'll inevitably discover that we were all wrong and Pizzolatto left all of these false clues to make us look like assholes and remind us who the real True Detectives were. Or maybe it's Maggie's dad and the lawnmower man?

Read the Episode 7 Soundtrack Recap

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