Specks of Big Star appear in every episode of Twin Peaks. On the back of James Hurley’s Harley, or in a wood-panelled room at the Great Northern Hotel, where stiffness grows between the always-cordial conversation of Audrey Horne and Dale Cooper. Fixed in the gaze of an anxious Josie Packard, dressed in red.
David Lynch’s cult classic and the Memphis band come from the same breed of timelessness. In sights and sounds, both plot a set of emotional extremes—high highs matched by lower lows. Alex Chilton co-wrote the theme song to That ‘70s Show, though he also claimed to be “well versed in the walls of worst/In the windows of most” on “Downs,” an ode to the sedatives and self-destruction co-administered in a relationship.
In the ‘80s, Lynch began seeking his own dark corners of Americana. A checkered flannel stained with blood. He mulled over the knowledge that romance and tragedy can induce an identically manic response. But to pull it off, he needed the right soundtrack.
He attempted to include This Mortal Coil’s “Song of the Siren” in Blue Velvet. The track opens This Mortal Coil’s debut, It’ll End in Tears, alongside two Big Star covers: spacious renditions of “Kangaroo” and “Holocaust.” But when Lynch’s request fell through, he scribbled down some lyrics of his own and enlisted composer Angelo Badalamenti to arrange something similar. Add the dream pop musings of Julee Cruise, and “Mysteries of Love” was born.
Badalamenti, Cruise and Lynch collaborated fully on Cruise’s debut album, Floating Into The Night. Released months before the Twin Peaks premiere, the record merged arrangements by Badalamenti, lyrics by Lynch (written to reflect the late Laura Palmer’s perspective, speculation says), and vocals from Cruise, levitating with reverb. Cruise’s best known numbers come from this album, with “Falling” serving as the show’s theme song, its instrumental version scoring the notoriously long introductory credits.
While Cruise’s releases outside the realm of Twin Peaks go overlooked, her role in an enigmatic vocal tradition that has been carried on by the likes of Chromatics’ Ruth Radelet and Puro Instinct sisters Piper and Skylar Kaplan deserves note. In honor of 2017’s Twin Peaks revival, we’re supplying a selection of Cruise’s deepest and weirdest cuts to track where’s she’s been since last seen swaying onstage at the Roadhouse. —Cory Lomberg
Nothing like a club number circa 2002 to get the ball rolling. If Carly Rae Jepsen is the people’s popstar, she inherited the title from Cruise. I’m still waiting on her E•MO•TION—the more euro techno beats, the better.
Up In Flames
A highlight off The Voice of Love, Cruise’s second album with Badalamenti and Lynch. With climbing basslines and the faint drone of sirens, Cruise and co. boil two seasons of Twin Peaks (capped off by the second season’s particularly agonizing latter half) down to four minutes and change.
Many would peg Cruise’s Twin Peaks collaboration as her most significant. I daresay this song with Moby challenges that assumption. An amazing and strange feat.
Three Jack Swing
I was really rooting for Cruise on her 2010 record, The Art of Being a Girl. But the result is not a far cry from the soundtrack of Burlesque: a movie set in a Los Angeles burlesque club owned by Cher where many impractical events take place, yet the most unrealistic being Christina Aguilera having bangs.
Just when I thought I was out, she pulls me back in. Amongst Nick Cave, Alice Cooper, and more Moby, “Artificial World” marks Cruise’s contribution to a stellar Scream soundtrack. They just don’t make horror films (or dark electronica) like they used to.
Movin’ in on You
A harmony between Julee Cruise and Julee Cruise is bound to break hearts. Soft synths and a prom-song melody makes “Movin’ in on You,” another staple from The Voice of Love, the perfect counterpart to “Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart”—a fan favorite from the original Twin Peaks soundtrack.
Back to the basics. It feels right to close out this list with proof of Cruise’s crazy range. Cuts from Floating Into the Night that didn’t make the Twin Peaks soundtrack like “I Float Alone,” “The Swan,” and “Floating” are some of her most beautiful songs to date.