HBO's 'True Detective' is a very good television show -- it's up there with 'The Wire' and 'The Cosby Show.' If you are not already watching it, it is seriously so good that you should probably tell your boss you're sick, borrow someone's HBO Go password, go home, and watch all five episodes right now so you can be caught up in time for the new episode on Sunday night.
It follows two Louisiana detectives, Rustin "Rust" Cohle (played by the one-and-only Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (played by Woody Harrelson). They are in pursuit of some sort of twisted, satanic-y, occult-y killer. It is a beautifully shot show that captures the hauntedness of rural Louisiana. And there's a lot of action, including a scene at the end of episode four that might very well be the best action scene since Michael Mann's 'Miami Vice.' Along the way, Cohle drops mad references to existential, pessimistic, nihilistic, anti-humanist, anti-almost-everything, mega-bummer philosophy. It's thrilling and gripping, but quite heady.
It is a very serious show. So serious that, yesterday, BuzzFeed shared "A True Detective Reading List." It includes books like Robert Chambers' 'The King In Yellow,' which is directly referenced in the show, and books by H.P. Lovecraft and Thomas Ligotti, both of whom have been nodded to as muses by 'True Detective' writer Nic Pizolatto. Not many shows come with homework suggestions, but this one does. Librarians across the country are probably putting all their Nietzsche books on the front shelves right this second.
The 'True Detective' soundtrack is also very good. Academy and Grammy Award winner T Bone Burnett is the executive music producer and composer. The opening theme is The Handsome Family's 'Far From Any Road.' So far, episodes have featured music by Nick Cave's Grinderman, Vashti Bunyan, The Melvins, The Black Angels, 13th Floor Elevators, and Lucinda Williams.
All those musicians and groups make dark or eery or heavy or otherworldly music that somehow captures the show's peculiar, sinister, gothic and doom-y vibe. With this vibe in mind, here are 10 albums you should check out if you like 'True Detective.'
Sunn O))) - 'Monoliths & Dimensions' (Southern Lord)
Sunn O))), the drone/doom metal project that includes Red Bull Music Academy lecturer and performer Stephen O'Malley, makes world-shaking and thundering music for the darkest and dreariest of dark and dreary nights. Drown in the rumble and broken bits of absolutely everything.
David Allen Coe - 'Penitentiary Blues' (SSS International)
Scuzzy prison blues for scuzzy prison dudes like the ones Detectives Cohle and Hart bump up against on the regular. And there's a little dash of Satan in Coe's scummy tunes too.
Pharmakon - 'Abandon' (Sacred Bones)
Along with Sunn O)))'s O'Malley, Pharmakon, the recording project of Margaret Chardiet, perfomed last year as part of Red Bull Music Academy's Drone In Progress show. Her music is total terror. Awful screams and brutal industrial junk scrapes. Think about how hopeless it all is. Disappear into her nightmare.
Earth - 'The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull' (Southern Lord)
Stretches of land and swamp and dirt so vast they feel like another world outside of time and space. Some other brutal and oddly glorious eternity. This is the Louisiana landscape of 'True Detective.' This is also 'The Bees Made Honey...,' the ominous, twangy masterpiece by Earth.
The Haxan Cloak - 'Excavation' (Tri Angle)
London's Bobby Krlic makes music under the name The Haxan Cloak. His gloomy, bass-heavy electronic sounds bring to mind the sort of muggy torture chamber where the Yellow King is almost certainly chilling out right now. (Check out Haxan Cloak's recent Headphone Highlights feature with RBMA Radio.)
Noah Howard - 'The Black Ark' (Freedom/Polydor'
'The Black Ark,' one of the finest albums by Louisiana alto saxophonist Noah Howard, is filled with mysterious madness and radical chaos. The horns scream (including the horn of the late Arthur Doyle). Everything rattles. It is the sound of the fragile world swarming formlessly forever.
Iancu Dumitrescu - 'Pierres Sacrées / Hazard and Tectonics' (Ideological Organ)
The Romanian Iancu Dumitrescu is considered a spectralist composer. He makes spectral music. That's what it's called.
Swans - 'The Seer'
If Detectives Cohle and Hart do not track down the killer, whether it be Satan or the Yellow King or some random person, maybe we should put Swans leader Michael Gira on the case. It makes sense. Swans have been spelunking the darkest corners of the world and the human condition for more than 30 years now. In the process, they've created some of the most sonically and philosophically profound music ever. (Wait, are we sure Gira is not the Yellow King?)
William Fowler Collins - 'Perdition Hill Radio' (Type)
The New Mexico-based experimental musician William Fowler Collins sometimes uses modified field recordings to maximize the dread factor of his already doom-sunk music. It is the sound of a journey to the end of eternal hell-night. A long, moonlit dirt road that winds around itself and swallows itself and never ends.
The Cramps - 'Songs The Lord Taught Us' (Illegal)
You'd never know from watching 'True Detective,' but it is okay to laugh sometimes. The Cramps are funny. But also super evol. And history has proven there is almost no better way to face the horrorible, terrible world than with big twangy guitars and an even bigger smile.