Sunday, 05 October 2014 00:00

"Hemlock Grove's" Subtle Stellar Soundtrack

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We need to talk about something-- Eli Roth’s Netflix Original Series, "Hemlock Grove."  As fans eagerly await the third and final season (confirmed Sept 2 by THR), we’ve become addicted to the two available seasons, partly because of the cinematography, direction, and so forth, but we’ve also noticed the music is as peculiar as the show.

Hemlock Grove

Exactly 167 Hemlock Grove inspired playlists exist on 8tracks, 24 on Spotify, hundreds on YouTube (one in particular with over 300,000 views) — it’s clear that the music in the series has made an impression.

The eerie show is loosely based on Brian McGreevy’s book of the same title and follows the twisted and slightly fantastical behaviors of protagonists Roman Godfrey and Peter Rumancek. The story brushes dust off of old legends, rips open healing wounds, and breathes life into the dark corners of the "human condition."

Of the novel, director Eli Roth says, "A wonderfully creative and twisted reinvention of classic monster archetypes, wrapped up in a mysterious thriller. I loved it. Brian McGreevy is a welcome new voice in horror literature, but be warned: it’s not for the faint of heart, or stomach."

Back to the music — it didn’t really strike us until the final episode of season one, but the soundtrack is quite good. The opening season comprises 13 episodes and according to TuneFind, only used 40 songs. The second season — a bit shorter at 10 episodes — contained more songs for a total of 51 throughout the season.

Regardless, it’s clear the song placement is extremely deliberate, and almost all of the placements are featured either as prominent background or full-feature. What’s most striking, to us, about the soundtrack is that each song invokes a certain visual association, and when you look up to see the actual footage it almost always matches what you had in mind.

That said, the music selection also seems to have a Wagnerian leitmotif quality in that most characters have a certain aura that’s captured in the music when they’re on screen.

For example, in season one’s finale, Roman is smoking in an empty pool, and there’s something very dangerous, yet conflicted about the scene. The sync kicks in with the chorus of "Make Me A Bird" by Elektrik People, and it’s perfect. The track has an otherworldly feeling with retro synth, aquatic-sounding bass, and ethereal guitar accents, with a fresh and hip vocal. Everything about that scene is implied in the song. If you closed your eyes and listened to the track, you’d envision a semi-sexy, dark, and slightly dangerous scene.Roman Smoking - Hemlock Grove

By comparison, Peter’s season send-off is accompanied by Perfume Genius’s "Sister Song," a somber and gentle ballad evocative of a nomadic and folksy scene. As gypsies, Peter and his mother psychically embody the "folk" ideal, and appropriately, in the scene, Peter and his mother have packed up and left town after a series of tragedies.

Those are merely two glaringly juxtaposed examples, but the folk and high-tech hipster motifs follow the characters throughout both seasons (hear also "In The Morning" by Branches, you can probably figure out who’s pictured).

If you haven’t started watching yet, you’ve until early 2015 to catch-up. See the trailer below and check out much of the music on our Spotify playlist!

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