Alternative music in national TV shows.

By: Sam Kayuha, In The Record Store staff writer.

Nick D’ & The Believers joined the podcast last year, and one point singer and keyboard player Nick D’Andrea discussed what was perhaps the biggest level of exposure they have had so far, when one of their songs was selected to appear in the Freeform’s “Pretty Little Liars.”

“They have a very devoted fan base so even if the song is playing very faintly in the background they’ll track you down online,” D’Andrea said. “You’ll see it reflected in Spotify and stuff like that.”

Many television shows of today make use of music, using it much more dramatically than background music. Here are four of the best modern shows that are only made better by the soundtracks.

Breaking Bad: One of the shows most responsible for the modern “Golden Age of Television,” AMC’s “Breaking Bad” was a five-season evolution of both character and atmosphere — from Walter White’s cancer diagnosis to his foray into meth-cooking, the show moves from realistic portrayals of suffering to lighthearted moments, to a darkness that eventually engulfs even the jolliest characters.

One scene in particular embodies that switch. Walt, fresh from drug-cooking hiatus, comes across a rival dealer in a hardware store and offers a grim, iconic threat. TV on the Radio’s DLZ,” with its pulsating, menacing melody confirms that “This is beginning to feel like the dawn of the loser forever,” as Walt truly becomes one of TV’s greatest villains.

Mad Men: A fantastic drama in which the changing world of the 1960's is a character in itself, “Mad Men” uses music to add to the gut punch that was the end of many episodes. Songs by Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Nancy Sinatra and Vanilla Fudge are all used poignantly.

The earlier seasons might as well the be the antiquity in its post-war, Kennedy-era sheen. But the show’s fifth season takes the hardest counter-cultural turn, exemplified by a Beatles song that was the band’s move toward psychedelia and an existential realignment that would influence the upcoming summer of love and the hippie movement.

The Beatles big break from the days of matching suits and mop tops came with “Revolver,” released in August of 1966. It’s closing track, “Tomorrow Never Knows,” is the band’s first foray into avant garde experimentation, a checkpoint for the change music and culture were about to take. Don Draper’s aging is apparent after his younger wife gives him the record and tells him to “Start with one.” His reaction is literal and symbolic.

Atlanta: Donald Glover’s surreal dramedy is the first show to deal directly with a city that has been a capital of creativity in music for decades.

In 2017, it seems impossible for its rap scene to be any more influential. The past few months have seem Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles,” produced by Atlanta native Mike Will-Made-It, and Migos’ “Bad and Boujee” produced by native Metro Boomin and featuring two Atlanta natives and a transplant, become consecutive number one songs. Atlanta’s own, Future, also just put out two records in two weeks, both topping the charts. 

The show’s promos were soundtracked by Tame Impala’s New Person, Same Old Mistakes,” and the episodes are scored by an ecclectic mix of Atlanta artists and others; Migos, Young Thug and Outkast, along with Funkadelic, Beach House and Bill Withers.

Easily one of the best shows of 2016, “Atlanta”’s excellence was spread around to every aspect of the production, especially the music.

Broad City: One of the best and most relevant comedies of recent years, the music of “Broad City” has received acclaim along with the show’s stars, Illana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson.

Featuring mostly lesser-known artists, the show has carved out a soundtrack that fits perfectly with its hip stars and New York setting. The soundtrack is so ear-catching that the show’s music supervisor, Matt FX, has been profiled by Billboard and the New York Times.

Photay is an electronic composer who has had songs featured in the show, and wrote music specifically for it. No Sass is used in a scene that involved cooking up homemade fire crackers.

Even when it isn’t in your face, music adds emotion and atmosphere to television. While some shows can afford tracks by the Beatles, others like “Broad City” use the ingenuity of smaller artists — both to masterful effect.