Mogwai made the year’s best TV soundtrack by composing in the dark

Mogwai made the year’s best TV soundtrack by composing in the dark

In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.

It’s been a big year for TV soundtracks that took the poky path to official release: The more recent seasons of David Carbonara’s jazzy tone poems for Don Draper and company arrived with Mad Men On The Rocks, followed by the aptly titled eclecticism of At Long Last… Music And Songs From Arrested Development. But neither the collected works of Davids Carbonara or Schwartz (the latter of whom gave Arrested Development every song from “It Ain’t Easy Being White” to “Big Yellow Joint”) cohere as an album as well as Mogwai’s Les Revenants. Collecting the Scottish post-rock band’s work for the French horror series that Sundance Channel broadcasts as The Returned, Les Revenants came to life while the show that inspired it was still coming together. It’s a curious case of composing in the dark that involved a back-and-forth between band and show, as Mogwai’s moody instrumentals (plus a cover of the vintage gospel number “What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?”) took a more defined shape as the information supplied by the production progressed from scripts and photos to actual instructions on tone and scene length. The final track on Les Revenants, “Wizard Motor,” is The Returned’s go-to cue for climaxes, its multiple melodies weaving together like the latest revelations (or non-revelations) in the show’s story about a small town where the dead spring up from the ground and stubbornly refuse to munch on human flesh. More muted and mysterious than the heartstring-tugging Explosions In The Sky impressions W.G. Snuffy Walden did for Friday Night Lights, it’s a new high for post-rock on TV—and an absolutely indispensable element of The Returned. And it’s made all the more haunting when it’s used under a gradually unlocking memory that confirms that something strange is truly afoot in this tiny village in the French Alps.

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