Arguably one of the top shows on television today which best showcases the vast and diverse populous of present-day New York City would be none other than HBO‘s High Maintenance.
Since being picked up from its humble beginnings as an online series (started in 2012) by HBO in 2016, the comedic-drama has earned a legitimate following thanks to its down-to-earth storylines and a realistic portrayal of cannabis use in an era when Americans are gradually coming to terms with the beneficial realities of legalization, progressive idealism in tow.
The show’s producers have been very aware over the first four seasons that in order to effectively tell the stories behind the reasons why everyday New Yorkers from all walks of life turn to cannabis, they’re going to need a soundtrack worthy of such diversity—and they deliver, thanks in large part to music supervisor Liz Fulton.
The 58 songs used throughout the fourth and latest season of High Maintenance which arrived in February 2020 check off nearly every box needed to match the action and quirky adventures a major metropolis like New York City provides on a 24/7 basis. The soundtrack is abundantly lively and interesting enough to always keep viewers engaged with the storyline even during those B-roll shots of “The Guy” bicycling around Greenpoint or Park Slope.
The show’s music also does a wonderful job of providing individual themes for its revolving cast of characters and ensemble players with whom the audience must connect and emotionally invest within a 25-minute window each week. Since the show’s premise loosely follows “The Guy” (played co-creator Ben Sinclair) along with a select few sparsely recurring characters, the heart of each episode focuses more on the often complex worlds surrounding each of The Guy’s clients—who come of all ages, social lifestyles, and cultural backgrounds. With the audience forced to embrace new characters and unfamiliar storylines in each episode, the music provides that much-needed glue of connectivity to help break the ice and pull viewers in.
So how diverse is this season’s soundtrack? The 10 episodes of season four have featured music from emerging contemporary indie-pop artists like Molly Burch, Brad stank, Ohtis, and Shura mixed in with some of the more popular names found in north Brooklyn record stores and beyond including Blood Orange, Father John Misty, Cate le Bon, and Weyes Blood. The selections which represent New York’s indie scene in 2020 are balanced by the multi-cultural sounds of artists like Brazilian pianist and composer Antonio Adolfo, ’70s-era Colombian sister duo Elia Y Elizabeth, and Hungarian guitarist Gábor Szabó.
There’s also the warm familiarity of former pop hits like Paula Abdul‘s “Straight Up”, Faith Hill‘s “This Kiss”, The B-52s‘ “Rock Lobster”, and Usher‘s “U Remind Me”, which do a fine job in contrasting the soothing jazz piano of Hank Jones or the metallic sounds of Buddy Emmons‘ trademark Nashville pedal steel guitar.
Let us not forget that this is indeed a show about getting stoned, so the additions of dreamy psychedelia tracks like Limousine‘s “Oiseau du matin”, Bella Boo‘s “Alom”, Allah-Las‘ “Raspberry Jam”, and Divino Niño‘s “Melty Caramelo” are greatly appreciated after a few hits of one’s favorite strain.
Whether it be to aid a casual stroll or uptempo bike ride through the now-empty streets of New York, or a quiet night in with some freshly rolled joints of “Sour Diesel,” the soundtrack to this season of High Maintenance succeeds at the nearly-impossible job of transporting one out of this hellish reality, even if just for a few hours.
High Maintenance – Season 4 Soundtrack