The Musical Performances in Twin Peaks: The Return Ranked

After 20 years, Twin Peaks has garnered a cult following unlike any other TV show. Crazy fan theories spring up, helped in no small part by the open-endedness, but the one constant across the first two seasons has undoubtedly been the music.

With Twin Peaks: The Return, David Lynch has expanded upon the musical side of things and overwhelmed us with performances from artists littered throughout, usually to end each episode. It’s been a while since we did a Ranking (Death Grips, for anyone who cares), but these performances presented the perfect opportunity to unfairly judge and make opinions that will undoubtedly make people angry.

16. Au Revoir Simone – ‘A Violent Yet Flammable World’ (Episode 9)

Dainty isn’t the first descriptor of choice for Twin Peaks, which is why this track kinda flies by without really attaching itself to the series. Not to say that the song isn’t wonderful, it’s just that Sky Ferreira snorting with laughter and scratching her armpit before this performance is more Season 3’s speed.

15. Chromatics – ‘Saturday’ (Episode 12)

A dreamy instrumental playing in the background of a bar as two people gossip over a beer. It’s Twin Peaks as fuck, but unfortunately as far as musical performances go, it’s one of the more subdued ones in a series that has a lot of amazing erratic moments.

14. Edward Louis Severson III (A.K.A Eddie Vedder) – ‘Out Of Sand’ (Episode 16)

I like Eddie Vedder, but this wasn’t very Eddie Vedder at all. It was just some dude in a bad hat crooning for just a smidge too long. The song itself is fine but when I saw Eddie Vedder on the confirmed cast list I was expecting something more than ‘Out of Sand’. It’s just disappointingly reserved and bland, especially considering it’s subsequently outshined by the much-requested ‘Audrey’s Dance’.

13. Santo & Johnny, ‘Sleep Walk’ (Episode 7)

While this outro is not a performance like the others in the list this closing scene depicts everyday life in small town America. The busy diner is a respite to everything that’s going on outside. It’s a little slice (lol) of peace. Also, the dude who bursts in shouting “Where’s Billy?!” makes me laugh because we never find out where he went.

12. Sharon Van Etten – ‘Tarifa’ (Episode 6)

I have watched, rewatched, and then watched this scene again, but I cannot find much to say on it. The song is pretty, and I love the harmonies, but it’s just very non-descript. But hey, I guess it’s a great respite after witnessing Satan-incarnate Richard Horne run over a child.

11. Au Revoir Simone – ‘Lark’ (Episode 4)

Au Revoir Simone and Chromatics are the only bands to feature twice in the new series, and it makes sense – the influence that the show’s first two seasons have had on each of them is pretty on the nose. However, that dreamy, echoing influence means that the other, more animated performances rank much higher on this list.

10. Chromatics – ‘Shadow’ (Episode 1&2)

Seeing Chromatics pop up for the first time at the end of the premiere of the season was pretty great, providing a reminder almost immediately that The Roadhouse is where it’s at. While the song isn’t the best to appear in the show, it was definitely the best way to kick off the recurring Roadhouse scenes. Little did we know the scene would introduce us to one of the best and most important new characters, too, with Freddie bloody Sykes walking in to call the bar, “The dog’s bollocks.”

9. The Cactus Blossoms – ‘Mississippi’ (Episode 3)

Giving off an Everly Brothers vibe, Part 3’s ‘Mississippi’ is a hypnotic and smooth song that helped hint at the variety of acts David Lynch had invited to perform at The Roadhouse. A light and disarming performance, The Cactus Blossoms bring a fun, retro feel to a town that’s had its fair share or suffering. For real this group is great, even if they don’t finish spelling “Mississippi” in one line.

8. Julee Cruise – ‘The World Spins’ (Episode 17)

Even if the performance felt a little shoehorned in, and it was unfortunately cut short, Jullee Cruise returning to the Roadhouse one last time for ‘The World Spins’ needed to happen. It’s fitting that the Roadhouse original would close out the fantastic season, fading in amongst a baffling scene. As it faded in above one of the show’s defining visuals (lots of very good trees), it just felt comforting before the unnerving end that would come moments later in ‘Part 18’.

7. Angelo Badalamenti – ‘Heartbreaking’ (Episode 11)

Oh Angelo.  Providing the perfect backdrop to what I think was one of the most heart-warming scenes of the series, the soft piano melody of ‘Heartbreaking’ was a welcome change of pace and scenery for the closing performance of episode 10. The familiar sound of Badalamenti’s composition, paired with lingering shots of Dougie-Coop’s face, had us all hoping that this would mark the return of the Special Agent. What a cruel way to toy with us, Lynch.

6. The Veils – ‘AXOLOTL’ (Episode 15)

The lead singer of The Veils is a pretty cool looking dude, but the hat he wears here is a little goofy. The scene accompanying their performance is definitely one of the weirder Roadhouse vignettes of the season, but damn if it isn’t captivating to watch. Hearing a song produced by El-P after he sampled ‘Fire Walk With Me’ around ten years ago is immensely satisfying, too.

5. Lissie – ‘Wild, Wild, West’ (Episode 14)

After this episode I felt like I could do anything. It’s so positive and energetic, which really reflects the change in momentum for the story. Gordon is so close to tracking down Dougie, Chad was arrested, Andy met the Fireman or the Giant and we met Freddy aka One Punch Man.

4. Rebekah Del Rio (ft. Moby) – ‘No Stars’ (Episode 10)

The singer who reduced us all to tears in Lynch’s Mullholland Dr. is breaking our hearts all over again with this spellbinding performance. Before she even utters a note, Rebekah Del Rio’s presence pierces the atmosphere with a sense of loss that is all too familiar to Twin Peaks fans. Also of note: Moby’s shiny bald head. Is it as good as James’ forehead? Probably not. Exceptional performance nonetheless.

3. Nine Inch Nails – ‘She’s Gone Away’ (Episode 8)

Oh man what’s happening here? Bad Coop is being resurrected and giving birth to a blob of Bob. But wait, what’s this? THE Nine Inch Nails?? Hello Trent Reznor laughing manically into the mic. In all seriousness, this was the strangest place to have this performance in between the blob of Bob and atomic bombs and throat frogs, but who the fuck cares because it’s Twin Peaks and this song was great.

2. Trouble – ‘Snake Eyes’ (Episode 5)

If anyone even tries to accuse David Lynch of favouritism for including his son Riley Lynch’s band, Trouble, they ain’t got shit. This piece was perfect for the introduction of Shark Head aka Richard Horne, possibly the best worst character in the series. The sleazy, jazz-rock song embodies Richard’s character as he casually finishes a drug deal and sexually harasses a woman. (What an asshole)

1. James Marshall – ‘Just You’ (Episode 13)

James. Oh, James. What is there to say about James and his forehead that hasn’t already been said? Well, let’s get one thing out of the way, first. ‘Just You,’ a song so many ridiculed from the original run of the show, is a banger. I won’t accept any other opinion on it, frankly. The scene the song originally appeared in is one of the best scenes ever put to TV. The saccharine scene with James, Maddie and Donna goes from goofy to terrifying within moments, perfectly summarizing the beauty of Twin Peaks.

Leading up to ‘The Return’, James became a meme. As the original sad boy, a mopey little shit initially thought to be a bad boy on a bike; he was one of the soapiest aspects of the show. He was everything that was good about the show, and everything that was bad. His involvement in the new season doesn’t do anything to change this, either. He’s still pining after girls, getting into fights, and wearing leather jackets.

But, it’s also a reminder that he’s not defined by the godawful Evelyn Marsh subplot in season two. Moving aside that unforgivable, but still kinda somewhat enjoyable in a trashy way arc, he was one of the defining elements of ‘Twin Peaks’ alongside Bobby. ‘Just You’ at the Roadhouse, for however silly it seems, is the definition of perfect fan service. Whatever reaction it would illicit from you upon viewing, there’s no doubt it got the biggest reaction whether you hated it or loved it.

Nathan Butler, Freya Cochrane, Emily Gunn, Joe Price.

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