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The enduring musical legacy of Twin Peaks

With Xiu Xiu’s covering the show’s soundtrack and a slew of musicians announced for season three, we look at the lasting influence of David Lynch’s series on music

Earlier this week, experimental pop duo Xiu Xiu released their tribute to the music of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s iconic TV series Twin Peaks. Originally commissioned by Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art for a Lynch retrospective, Xiu Xiu: Plays the Music of Twin Peaks includes a rockabilly cover of “The Pink Room”, a shimmering rendition of “Packard’s Vibration”, and spoken word readings of “Laura Palmer’s Diary”.

It’s a haunting and beautiful ode to the show, but it’s far from the first of its kind. Despite Twin Peaks ending its initial run over 25 years ago, the show has proven to be an enduring reference point for countless artists, not just for its instantly recognisable soundtrack by Grammy-winning composer Angelo Badalamenti, but also the strange atmosphere that Lynch cultivates and the unique characters that he and Frost created.

But if musicians love Twin Peaks, then Lynch also loves musicians. Julee Cruise made her name thanks to the series, while Chris Isaak and David Bowie both made memorable appearances in the Twin Peaks universe. Most recently, the full cast list of the show’s third season revealed that a host of musicians, including Lynch favourites Sky Ferreira, Sharon Van Etten, Chrysta Bell and Trent Reznor (as well as, more bizarrely, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder) would all appear in the show.

To commemorate the release of Xiu Xiu’s tribute and the show’s third season in 2017, Dazed has scoured the internet for a tribute of our own. Float with us in a world of blue, through some of the very best of the artists inspired by Twin Peaks.

SKY FERREIRA

Last year, the David Lynch Foundation hosted a concert to celebrate its tenth birthday, featuring a range of artists covering classics from Lynch’s films. Sitting alongside Zola Jesus’ version of “In Heaven” (Eraserhead) and Lykke Li’s take on Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” (Wild at Heart) is Sky Ferreira’s jazzy cover of “Blue Velvet”. Ferreira’s admiration of Lynch is nothing new: her 2013 album, Night Time, My Time (a reference to the words spoken by Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk By Me) was a melting pot of Lost Highway-esque 80s shoegaze and 90s grunge. And now, it looks like Lynch is returning the compliment, casting her in an as-yet unspecified role in Twin Peaks season three.

As for her music videos, the style is typically Lynchian. The title track’s video contains all the seediness of a 90s motel, with a scantily-clad Ferreira walking around a pink room, similar to the one that Laura and Donna visit the Roadhouse in Fire Walk By Me. In another scene, she’s seen standing on an empty road, backlit by the harsh blaze of a headlight, harkening back to Laura and James Hurley’s dramatic farewell at the end of the film. Video director Grant Singer takes the seemingly innocent – a rocking horse, a highway – and twists it into something irrevocably dark, in much the same way that Lynch turned the ceiling fan in Laura Palmer’s house into an object of dread. And, if that isn’t enough to convince you, the song’s closing lines (“I’m going faster and faster”) nod explicitly to words spoken by Laura in Fire Walk With Me.

MOUNT EERIE

Phil Elverum of Mount Eerie’s songs have always concerned themes of nature, with his 2009 album Wind’s Poem including repeated references to towering mountains, purifying flames and icy winds. It’s therefore no surprise to find out that Lynch’s portrayal of nature played a large part in Elverum’s perception of it. “Living in a place that looked just like the TV show, it informed my own romantic view on the creepiness of the woods,” he said in an interview with the Village Voice. The track “Between Two Mysteries” makes an implicit reference to the show (‘Between Two Worlds’ and Lynch’s beloved ‘mysteries’) and an explicit one in that it opens with a sample from Badelmenti’s iconic “Love Theme”. “The town rests in the valley beneath twin peaks, buried in space / What goes up there in the night, in that dark, blurry place?” Elverum sings against the harsh backdrop of strings.

EL-P

I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, the second album by Def Jux rapper El-P, begins with a sample from Fire Walk With Me – the same reference used by Sky Ferreira above. “Do you think that if you were falling in space that you would slow down after a while or go faster and faster?” asks the voice of Donna Hayward. “Faster and faster,” Laura Palmer replies. “For a long time, you wouldn’t feel anything. And then you’d burst into fire, forever.” In a way, the whole album seems to trail from this premise. In El-P’s dystopian future, a world where prisoners are raped before execution and drugs and violence reign, the whole system appears to be ‘falling and burning’. The listeners find themselves in a state of amoralism: “Why should I be sober when God is so clearly dusted out his mind?” he spits on “Smithereens”.

NICOLAS JAAR

In his Essential Mix for BBC Radio 1, electronic musician Nicolas Jaar takes delight in pairing hedonistic tracks like Ricardo Villalobos’ “What You Say Is More Than I Can Say” with moody instrumentals from Jonny Greenwood’s There Will Be Blood soundtrack. This is similar to the common progression seen in Lynch’s scenes, from ‘pathos’ to ‘relief’; for example, the horror of Laura’s death in Fire Walk With Me is resolved in the next scene where, in the Red Room, she sees her angel. Perhaps most interesting in the mix is the marrying of the opening track, an interview with Badalamenti discussing how he wrote the Twin Peaks theme with Lynch, with a heavy bass drone, which blends effortlessly into “Greenfields” by The Brothers Four – all tied together with those signature Badalamentian cello strikes.

BERNARD + EDITH

Manchester electronic pop duo Bernard + Edith speak openly about the influence Twin Peaks has had on their music. “I know it sounds stupid, but we just fell in love with Twin Peaks,” they said in an interview with Dummy. Flashing strobe lighting accompanies the video for debut single “Poppy”, drawing parallels to Lynch’s signature blackout visuals. Talking about jazz singers in the same interview, the band’s Greta Butler notes how “a lot of singers, like Billie Holiday... had so much pain in their life, and you can hear it in their voice”. Badalamenti’s jazz soundtrack was an iconic part of the series, physically embodied by the presence of jazz singer ‘Little’ Jimmy Scott in the season two finale. Like Twin Peaks, Bernard + Edith take something seemingly conventional – in Lynch’s case, it’s soap operas and crime dramas, while in their case it’s the pop song – and imbue it with something wholly weirder and darker.