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Ranking the Musical Performances of Twin Peaks: The Return

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Ranking the Musical Performances of <i>Twin Peaks: The Return</i>

Twin Peaks: The Return is officially behind us, and we can’t help but to react the same way Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) did when he saw Laura Palmer’s (Sheryl Lee) portrait at the Sheriff’s Department. Moving on from having this reliable Sunday night relationship is going to be tough. It doesn’t help that Mark Frost and David Lynch left us without a complete sense of closure. (Seriously—what the fuck happened to Audrey?) But pretty much anyone who’s ever endured the end of a relationship knows that music is the best cure, and in this particular scenario, we already have a built-in soundtrack to help us move on from this mind-blowing (literally—see Matthew Lillard’s Bill Hastings in “Part XI”), convoluted conundrum that successfully passed off as a TV show.

Ranging from lesser known acts who appeared on TV for the first time to renowned, big-name artists who in reality would never grace the stage of the Roadhouse, the musical performances in Twin Peaks: The Return punctuated each episode, giving the viewer just another element to anticipate each week. The selection proved that not only is Lynch an exceptionally progressive visionary, but he’s also a man with excellent taste in music, curating a really spectacular line-up. No wonder he required such a huge budget for the revival, and thank goodness Showtime awarded it to him.

In some cases, the music out-shined the plots themselves—many of these performances were so addictive that we’ve watched them over and over again. (Other the other hand, some were forgettable at best.) So, without further ado, check out Paste’s ranking of the damn fine musical performances of Twin Peaks: The Return:

15. Hudson Mohawke, “Human” (“Part IX”)


To be honest, I kind of struggled over whether or not to include this one. Yes, Mohawke was an act at the Roadhouse, and yes, the beat is actually really cool, but does his performance even count? He appeared for all of 15 seconds, and afterward, I was too busy trying to figure out why the druggie sitting in the booth looked so familiar and why she was scratching her armpit. Turns out, it was Sky Ferriera, and turns out she has a seriously inflamed rash. Someone get her some ointment.

14. Chromatics, “Saturday” (“Part XI”)


With their mysteriously atmospheric sound, Chromatics is definitely a band fit for the Twin Peaks universe. The instrumental version of band member and music producer Johnny Jewel’s song created a surrealistic vibe in the Roadhouse, but as the focus shifted to a conversation being had in the booths, their performance was reduced to background music.

12./13. Au Revoir Simone, “Lark” (“Part IV”) and “A Violent Yet Flammable World” (“Part IX”)


This isn’t the first time David Lynch and Au Revoir Simone have collaborated, so when it came down to choosing artists to appear in The Return, I’m sure this trio was near the top of his list. Both of the songs they performed had signature Twin Peaks qualities: dreamy voices, haunting harmonies, ominous keyboards. Their performances, however, were pretty one-dimensional, a staunch contrast to the plots that they followed up.

11. Cactus Blossoms, “Mississippi” (“Part III”)


These brothers looked like a couple of wholesome good ol’ boys, with their slow-burning harmonies and ‘50s country attire. On paper, their sound works well with the plot, creating kind of an eerie vibe to go along with all the confusing plot points that took place during this episode. Watching them play on stage made me a little uncomfortable, though, almost as uncomfortable as they looked. But maybe discomfort is what makes their performance charming.

10. Lissie, “Wild West” (“Part XIV”)


Lissie  is definitely an outlier when weighed against the rest of the acts. Her liveliness echoed throughout the entire bar, completely changing the solemn, mellow atmosphere that most of the other artists created. Out of everyone, her spirited performance seemed to garner the most enthusiasm from the crowd—I can tell why Lynch is a fan. However, it totally did not match the headspace I was in after watching the events unfold at Jack Rabbit’s Palace, listening to the conversation being had at the Great Northern Hotel and seeing Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie) bite off a chunk of a guy’s throat. Give me some pensive music to reflect over this episode, David.

9. The Veils, “Axolotl” (“Part XV”)


With their jarring vocals and edgy lyrics, the Veils’ show amplified the happenings at the bar: A girl gets extracted from a booth by two men and proceeds to crawl among the crowd, weaving through the feet of concert-viewers—then, all of a sudden, lets out a Laura Palmer-style shriek. The whole scene was almost like watching an exorcism in a horror movie, or anything else from David Lynch’s oeuvre, for that matter: You want to look away, but it’s so provocative and alluring that you can’t.

8. Julee Cruise, “The World Spins” (“Part XVII”)


For someone as essential to the Twin Peaks world as Julee Cruise, it’s a shame that her performance seemed like an arbitrary addition to the penultimate episode. It was as though Lynch came upon the clip while organizing his hard drive and thought it’d make a nice background to the rolling credits. She gets some height on the list because of the callback to the last time she sang at the Roadhouse, back in the original series, but other than that, this performance was about as much of an afterthought to us as it seemingly was to Lynch, especially in the midst of everything else that was going on.

7. Sharon Van Etten, “Tarifa” (“Part VI”)


This episode was a whopper. After watching a kid get rocked by Richard Horne (Eamon Farren) driving a truck, Van Etten’s melancholy act was exactly what we needed to cope with a really depressing, hard-hitting episode. The smoky blended voices of “Tarifa” created a truly moving, emotional scene that sent chills down my spine. Van Etten played the stage so naturally, it’s surprising to think that this was her first stint at the Roadhouse.

6. Chromatics, “Shadow” (“Part II”)


Like Au Revoir Simone, Chromatics are very Twin Peaks, probably even more so than the synthpop trio. That’s why they were the perfect band to appear at the Roadhouse as the inaugural musical performance of The Return. Their delicate performance of “Shadow” really set the stage for some atmospheric upcoming acts to follow and gave us a moment of relief after finding out that Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) isn’t necessarily where we wanted him to be after 25 years.

5. Nine Inch Nails, “She’s Gone Away” (“Part VIII”)


What a perfect way to accentuate the most off-the-wall episode in the history of Twin Peaks (and potentially the world). Unconventionally situated closer to the beginning of the episode than the end, the Nine Inch Nails set perfectly captured the essence of Dale Cooper’s evil doppelgänger—and not only because Trent Reznor is kind of dressed like him—in the episode that tells the story of the Black Lodge’s origin. Funnily enough, what was happening on stage was the only part in in the episode that made sense.

4. Trouble, “Snake Eyes” (“Part V”)


If you’re questioning how such an obscure band made its television debut in a series like Twin Peaks, the answer may lie in David Lynch’s family tree. The band’s guitarist happens to be Lynch’s son, Riley. He plays alongside Lynch’s music supervisor Dean Hurley and Dirty Beaches’ Alex Zhang Hungtai to perform a badass, bluesy instrumental number, the perfect accompaniment to the intense scene where the sinister, reckless Richard Horne is introduced.

3. Eddie Vedder, “Out of Sand” (“Part XVI”)


The scene where Cooper finally returns to his normal self was a tough act to follow. But somehow Eddie Vedder, or Edward Louis Severson, as he was introduced, managed to steal the spotlight at the end of the episode, if only for a few minutes. Laura Dern, who plays Diane, was the catalyst to landing Vedder to appear at the Roadhouse, and boy, are we glad she did. It was such a beautiful, commanding performance that Audrey (Sherilyn Finn) and Charlie (Clark Middleton) finally came to a resolve to catch the end of it.

2. Rebekah Del Rio, “No Stars” (“Part X”)


This one totally hit home. The entire spectacle is so stunning—everything from Del Rio’s matchless voice to her Black Lodge dress to a low-key Moby playing guitar in the background. Del Rio is no stranger to Lynch’s entourage, as she also played a part in his 2001 film Mulholland Drive. In both roles, she creates an ethereal ambiance, but the best part about her performance at the Roadhouse was that she carried out the vibes for a lingering seven minutes without dropping dead unexpectedly like she did at Club Silencio.

1. James Hurley, “Just You And I” (“Part XIII”)


Lynch obviously didn’t give a fuck what people would think about putting James Hurley (James Marshall) on stage at the Roadhouse, and I feel the same about putting his performance at the top of my list. This move was so quintessentially Lynchian that it not only stopped us in our tracks, it ran us over with an entire train. I was elated to hear that James’ singing voice never matured, and that “Just You and I” is seemingly still the only song he knows. The only thing that would have made it even better was if Donna Hayward and Laura’s cousin Maddy were around to back up James themselves.

Honorable Mention: Sherilyn Fenn and Angelo Badalamenti, “Audrey’s Dance” (“Part XVI”)


Okay, so it’s not necessarily a musical performance, but it made a huge impression. First of all, it’s Audrey, and second, it’s the familiar Badalamenti-composed tune. Coupled together, the iconic Twin Peaks players created the dreamiest, most nostalgic moment in the entire revival. 10 out of 10, would recommend.

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