A slightly different Best of TV 2014 edition today as we’re shifting the focus off costuming and onto music. It is Music Monday after all. One of this year’s best shows is Amazon’s Transparent and a lot of the posts on TV Ate My Wardrobe from the last few months have been written with the Transparent soundtrack playing in the background. This has been via Spotify and one of my favorite things about this site is the number of playlists that pop up from a TV or movie soundtrack. When I look at my most played tracks of the year they are all either from a TV show/movie or it is an artist I first heard via a soundtrack (Girls is a big source of new music for me) with “Mayla” from Transparent featuring in my top 10.
Now the album has been released by Amazon and it is a 17-track wonder. Sure there are some vital tracks missing and while I am beyond thrilled to see the full length Glitterish cover of Jim Croce’s “Operator” featured (along with the original version), it is shame that neither version “Dreamboat Annie” makes the cut (I’m guessing this is a licensing issue). I’ve been listening to a whole lot of Heart over the past few months thanks to Transparent (coupled with Virgin Suicides flashes) and while it is disappointing each of the other 17 tracks is an auditory beauty.
This soundtrack is special for a number of reasons and nostalgia is part of this. The opening theme sets the tone for each episode and the piano accompanying scenes from home movies is sad, haunting and beautiful all at once; even though the scenes in those videos are not specific to me they manage to capture something familiar. The rest of the soundtrack also operates in this way at times with certain songs elevating feelings of joy and pain.
“Oh Sister” by Bob Dylan replaces the usual theme on “Best New Girl” which indicates that there will be something different about this episode, which there is as it all takes place in 1994 (the year they have flashbacked to on several other occasions). This is nostalgia of another kind as Maura gets to be free for the first time although Camp Camellia doesn’t turn out to be the welcoming safe space Maura hoped it would be.
Music is used as performance on multiple occasions from Maura and Davina’s rendition of “Somebody That I Used to Know” that is meant to be triumphant and instead turns sad as each of Maura’s children leave before the piece has even finished; their empty seats are a stark reminder of how selfish her children are. The piano version that is used later in the episode takes this song to a haunting place that I didn’t know was possible.
It’s funny that I talk about how great Spotify is in terms of soundtrack playlists and the easiest way to procure the Transparent album is on digital download when vinyl plays an important part in the show. There is an everything old is new again vibe to this show in how memory plays an important part in the Pfefferman family dynamic and Josh’s record collection works on several aesthetic and narrative levels. It is what prompts the Glitterish “Operator” cover (further complicated by his intimate relationship with one of the band members he is working with) and there is a romanticism attached to his music collection, which I’m sure a lot of us can identify with. Josh is the ultimate romantic in that he falls in love so easily and his copy of “Dreamboat Annie” disrupts Ali’s relationship with her best friend Syd as it spills several secrets both old and new. It also impacts Josh’s new relationship as Ali reveals Josh’s predication for falling in love at the drop of the hat to Raquel. This record causes a whole lot of damage so here is a live version of the title track to make up for it not being on the digital version of the soundtrack.
Transparent makes my heart ache and sing all at once; the soundtrack does the same by capturing these feelings and adding another layer to an already incredible production.