Aside from being this summer’s surprise hit, Netflix’s original sci-fi series Stranger Things has managed to strike a sentimental nerve among it’s viewers.
From it’s constant homage to the 80s movies most 90s kids were raised on, to it’s clever writing that pays equal tribute to both Stephen King and Steven Spielberg, it’s a show that relies heavily on retromania.
Stranger Things is set in 1983 the show respectfully utilizes era-correct pop culture references to bring a comforting sense of nostalgia and sentimentalism without being obnoxiously self-aware. As discussed in my previous article Living In Analog: How Music Shapes Stranger Things, the most integral part of the show’s nostalgia trip is the original soundtrack from Survive’s Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein.
In addition to being one of the most interesting aspects of the show, the evocative synth soundtrack heightens the mood and even carries the show in spots when some of the emotional scenes run the risk of being corny or underwhelming. It’s not one bit surprising the extremely positive fan reaction lead to Lakeshore Records releasing two volumes of the original soundtrack on Apple Music, as well as a CD and vinyl release soon to follow. With most of the country finishing the relatively short amount of eight episodes, as well as the release of the soundtrack, there isn’t much for the fans to do while eagerly awaiting news on whether the show has been picked up for a second season or not. Turns out there’s still a few things you can check out in terms of music.
The most obvious would be to listen to Dixon and Stein’s band Survive, who just recently signed to the Relapse Records. Set for a release next month, Survive’s sophomore album RR7349 promises to be a twisted instrumental album of dark soundscapes and mysterious textures. The first single from that album “A.H.B.” already makes good on that promise delivering a five minute digital dirge that reminds me of a more ominous Kraftwerk.
Just like the plot twists of Stranger Things, the production team behind it still have a few surprises up it’s sleeve.
Quite a few of the cast members are musically inclined. With the show’s popularity among the buzzfeed generation, you’ve probably seen the viral video of child actors Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin (who play Dustin and Lucas respectively) singing impromptu lyrics to the show’s theme song, Finn Wolfhard (who plays Michael) doing a quick guitar cover of “Lithium” on twitter, or one of many self-filmed youtube videos of Millie Bobby Brown (who plays Eleven) doing various pop covers from Adele to Amy Winehouse.
On a more serious note, one of the main stars Charlie Heaton (who plays Jonathan Byers) was formerly the drummer in the UK based White Stripes-meets-Sleigh Bells, noise rock outfit Comanechi before jumping ship to try his hand at acting. Even the slimy teenage bully Tommy (played by Chester Rushing) fronts his own rock band making a name for itself in the underground indie scene.
Most surprising is the show’s would-be stereotypical fluffy haired 80s boyfriend Steve Harrington (played perfectly by Joe Keery) plays in the Chicago based psych-rock band Post Animal.
While it’s somewhat hilarious to think of Hawkins High’s most dreamy bad boy being in a band, it’s even more surprising they are actually quite good! Being a Chicago native I recall hearing of the band’s name quite a few times, as well as seeing them listed on the roster at Schuba’s downtown, but it wasn’t until I watched this show, that I gave them a proper chance. I wasn’t disappointed!
Combining the psychedelic aesthetics of Tame Impala with the experimental charisma of White Denim, Post Animal has a decent sized catalog of music for a band relatively unknown outside of Chicago. After burning through their collection of EPs and albums, I’m sure this will be a band I’ll be checking out live in the near future. That is if the show’s popularity and Keery’s dreamy swagger doesn’t sell out every ticket to the city’s legions of thirsty fan-girls first.
Stranger Things is definitely the breakout show of the summer and for all the right reasons. Solid story telling, the post 2000s comeback of Winona Ryder, a bright young cast, and of course the best sentimental nostalgia Netflix has to offer, but just like the show’s mysterious underbelly known as “the upside down,” the music savvy cast is more than meets the eye. Aside from cute viral videos, and selfie-covers, there are quite a few competent musicians ready to keep us busy while we plan our next nostalgia trip to Hawkins, Indiana.
Aaron (or Coop) is a freelance writer, multi-instrumentalist and overall lover of all things music. As an advocate for indie record labels and artists, he is passionate about local scenes and do-it-yourself artistry. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s bad, he’s not afraid to explain why.