The new year is here, but there is one show from 2015 that I can't seem to stop thinking about: Amazon's Transparent. The series, which centers on Mort Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambor), a transgender woman, her children, and her ex-wife, has been lauded for several reasons, including its progressive look at LGBT lives. In addition to its important subject matter, the show boasts stunning writing by showrunner Jill Soloway, a talented and dynamic cast that includes former child star Gaby Hoffman and indie filmmaker Jay Duplass, and a soundtrack to Transparent that's as powerful as the show itself.
The Pfeffermans are a musical bunch, from Josh’s management of Fussy Puss to Maura’s dire rendition of "Somebody That I Used to Know,” and the soundtrack in Season 1 did an excellent job of establishing itself as a showcase of the Golden State’s golden age. The second season of Transparent, available for streaming on Amazon now, bears a notably more modern tracklist, featuring the finest cuts the 21st century can offer. The actual soundtrack isn't yet available, but it'll likely soon join its predecessor on Amazon. Until then, appreciate Transparent's great tunes by revisiting some of the best musical moments from the show's second season so far.
Best Use Of Modern Rock
"Future People" by Alabama Shakes (Episode 7, "The Book of Life")
A quick change of soundtrack could have rendered the scene of this grown man stuffing hunks of ham in his face as comical, but the jarring opening chords of Alabama Shakes' "Future People" really brought the feels. Give it a listen and see if you disagree.
Honorable Mention: Kurt Vile as the backing for the whole rest of Episode 7. As mentioned in a Pitchfork review of his album, B’lieve I’m Goin’ Down , Vile says the phrase “I guess” frequently in his songs — an equivocation you know the Pfeffermans can relate to.
Best Inclusion Of The Cast (A Cappella)
"Family Affair" by Sly and the Family Stone (Episode 4, "Cherry Blossoms")
Rita is undoubtedly lecherous, but I admit I proffered an uncomfortable laugh at this, because it was reminiscent of Melora Hardin’s random outburst of song in The Office and it gave me a serious cross-cultural TV boner. If anyone can turn a Sly and the Family Stone singalong into a creepy moment, it’s Rita, and fans all suffered a collective cringe when she kept powering through.
Honorable Mention: "Humble Thyself In The Sight of The Lord" (Episode 5). The inclusion of this sweet rendition of a hymn further compounds the uncomfortable situation with Colton's uber-Christian family.
Most On-The Nose Musical Moment
"Lesbians in The Forest" by Carole Pope feat. Peaches (Episode 9, "Man on the Land")
This Carole Pope song, covered by Peaches, was so on the nose that it might as well have been a punch in the face, but its total lack of subtlety made it all the more incredible. Try to stop yourself from singing it out loud.
Best Implementation Of Modern Dance Music
"Dance Yrself Clean" by LCD Soundsystem (Episode 2, "Flicky Flicky Thump Thump")
If the pool party depicted in this episode reads like the least fun aquatic fiesta ever, it’s because it is. But you know what doesn’t suck? The mix of sounds, supposedly spun by one of the hip DJs posted up by the pool. The crowd is chock full of L.A. music industry scenesters, and the music is appropriately hip. Empress Of, Twinsmith, Ghastly and Heems are all in rotation here, but the best electronica at play here is more vintage than those baby beepers: Dance Yrself Clean, by LCD Soundsystem. “I need a party,” Ali says, a sentiment Maura later echoes by grinding with herself in the mirror to Sia's "Chandelier."
Best Car Singalong
"Closer to Fine" by The Indigo Girls (Episode 8, "Oscillate")
Maura, Ali, and Sarah blasting "Closer to Fine" on their way to a women's music festival was so, so much fun to watch, and a great depiction of their family relationship.
"Someone to Watch Over Me" (Episode 8, "Oscillate"), "New World Coming" (Episode 3, "New World Coming")
The show does a spectacular job of sprinkling cover songs throughout its episodes. Though I am partial to give this vote towards the funeral dirge rendition of "Hava Nagila," there was also a lovely version of "Someone to Watch Over Me" sung by Hari Nef.
Honorable Mention: Fussy Puss may not be a real band yet, but they should be, as shown by These girls' heartbreaking cover of Mama Cass Elliot’s “New World Coming” wows in Episode 3, and to make things even better, the song comes again with the great Nina Simone purring the vocals later in the episode.
The music of Transparent really is just as great as the show itself.