It was only a matter of time before one of the most popular shows on the CW Television Network got its own soundtrack. Much like other teen-centered TV dramas of the past, like Fox’s The O.C. and other vampire-minded hit shows like HBO’s True Blood, Vampire Diaries (which airs Thursday nights on CW) is trying to capitalize on its hit show with a hit soundtrack. And it was a bloody good decision.
Based on the L.J. Smith novels of the same name, the second-year TV series revolves around two brothers (Stefan and his elder, Damon) who obsess over the same gorgeous girl (Elena) and fight to control the fate of a whole (fictional) town (Mystic Falls, Virginia).
Viewers have long commented on the beautiful and fitting music that accompanied key episodes in season one (2009) and now season two, which began in early September. As of October 12, they have a chance to hear 16 tracks that span nearly 65 minutes on The Vampire Diaries: Original Television Soundtrack. It not only features some familiar names from the alternative music realm, but one of the hottest album covers of the year (featuring the aforementioned main stars of the show). Then there’s the music itself.
Composer Michael Suby’s “Stefan’s Theme” clip and rock vets Placebo’s Kate Bush cover “Running Up That Hill” set the tone right for a dark opening to the album. The deep bass and contrasting light, tremolo-aided electronics and guitars of the former track, and the thumping, downtempo beats and cut-up vocals of the latter make for an excellent one-two punch.
Track three kicks up the volume some, as alternative rockers Silversun Pickups, led by the always youthful-sounding Brian Aubert contribute the excellent, urgent rock of “Currency of Love,” which was previously only available as an iTunes-only bonus track on second album, Swoon (2009).
The “Darktimes” remix of Bat For Lashes’ “Sleep Alone” thoroughly turns the groove inside out and adds a lower register vocal to Natasha Khan’s. It’s very well done, but the original would have fit here better, with its decidedly more ghoulish background vocals and overall darker mood.
If vampires like to dance, there’s a few choice cuts here. Howls’ “Hammock,” which sings about “howling at the moon” is a fine, low-key dance rock track. There is also the decent retro synth pop of Goldfrapp’s “We Radiate,” and rising 18-year-old dance pop star Sky Ferreira’s “Obsession.” The latter, at least lyrically, fits the show more so than the former, and has the potential to be a club hit in the vein of Katy Perry, who happens to be a fan of her work (and had a controversial way of showing it several months back).
Plumb’s (Tiffany Lee) “Cut” isn’t exactly Tori Amos, but her soaring vocals highlight this mostly quiet, piano-led number (with a harpsichord playing in the background) about not wanting to “die inside,” a feeling vampire characters can definitely relate to.
The compilation is dragged down a bit by some tracks, like female-fronted Digital Daggers’ cute but weak Tears For Fears cover “Head Over Heels” and the by-the-numbers pop rock of Mads Langer’s “Beauty of the Dark,” whose strong vocals are the high point and keep the track from totally sounding like Coldplay-lite.
The soundtrack ends with a string of worthy tunes, however, led by the Smashing Pumpkins’ “The Fellowship,” which is led not by a furious Billy Corgan guitar solo but a fast, minor-keyed synthesizer loop. The track is taken from the group’s upcoming late November release of the Teargarden by Kaleidyscope Vol. II: The Solstice Bare EP.
The Gorillaz contribution “On Melancholy Hill (Feed Me Remix)” at first focuses on the soft, calming Damon Albarn vocals, but smartly preserves the song’s main beat for the bulk of it. The soundtrack ends appropriately with another Suby selection, “1864,” complete with scary and suspense-filled strings.
In all, The Vampire Diaries: Original Television Soundtrack does a fine job of bringing beauty into the dark vampire world, as heard on the show itself, and including a passable balance of rock and dance-pop tracks. Though it’s not the greatest compilation you’ve ever heard, there’s definitely more songs to dig among the 16 than not. Younger alternative rock and pop music fans are especially advised to give this a good listen.