A Handy Guide to the Music 'Gilmore Girls' Missed While It Was Away
On the one hand, they missed St. Vincent. On the other, they dodged Mumford & Sons.
When Gilmore Girls went off the air in 2007, many of us felt an immeasurable gap in our hearts. The final, seventh season was flat, yet had a scattered narrative, and didn't bring much closure. Gilmore Girls is a legacy show, lauded largely for its focus on its female protagonist and relationships through the lens of women. Lorelai Gilmore's music played a vital role on Gilmore Girls, much in the same way as other teen dramedies of yore (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The OC, Gossip Girl, etc.) But music's role in Gilmore Girls was more of a talking point, a pop cultural reference point or comparison, employed in a way that was both conversationally familiar. They gave space for music criticism and discussion, though usually pursuing a more pure rockist sensibility by ranking Rolling Stones records.
But even if you hadn't heard of a particular band or record, the reference was always positioned in an accessible way. Throughout the seasons, we would be introduced to new and old music by Lorelai and Rory: Lorelai was given Joe Strummer of The Clash's leather jacket from the 'Pearl Harbour Tour' as a birthday gift was a huge yet reservedly minimal season three plot point; The Bangles appeared onstage in season one served as a remembrance for any adult watching who grew up in the 80s; The Shins played a college spring break party when Rory was in her first year at Yale; and Lorelai and Rory took to building a Bjork snow-woman for a town instead of a traditional white, watery lump snowman. These examples only scratch the surface of the punk, rock, indie, pop, and blues that popped up continuously during their seven year stretch.
Now that the show is back next weekend on Netflix for a four-part Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, there is a huge chunk of pop cultural history the Gilmore will have missed. Essentially, they missed out on rise of Drake as a cultural force; Kanye West in the many versions of Kanye West; Beyonce's domination over the pop realm; Taylor Swift, too, for that matter; as well as the growing pains and shifts indie and alt rock had to go through in the changing view of a more inclusive climate. In celebration of the Gilmore Girls coming back to our screens, here are some—because we can't include all—of the great and important new music they have missed since being off air. We'll see which pop cultural and music references from the last near decade will make their way into the fast-paced conversations between Lorelai and Rory.
Bon Iver — For Emma, Forever Ago
Justin Vernon would come to define a generation of sad, soulful boys. I would go to parties in university and long after where men felt content to pick up an acoustic guitar (that seemed to appear out of nowhere??) to play "Skinny Love."
Adele — 19
There is no way Lorelai or Rory would be immune to the power of young Adele's "Chasing Pavements." They probably would have listened to Adele before she hit it big.
Beyonce — I Am... Sasha Fierce
Pop music on Gilmore Girls was largely relegated to the past, like Madonna or Cyndi Lauper. But Beyonce is such a cultural force that, especially since this solo album bears her alt-ego, the Gilmore Girls would not be able to ignore "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It).
Laura Marling — Alas, I Cannot Swim
London's alt-folk scene was just starting to reach an audience. Laura Marling, one time collaborator with Marcus Mumford and his other Mumfords, along with Emmy the Great, Noah and the Whale would be the representatives of that scene. Marling's Alas, I Cannot Swim is a stunning debut of songs written from Marling was a young teen.
Mumford & Sons — Sigh No More
Laura Marling would not be the one to really make nu-folk stick. That honour is placed squarely in the hands of Marcus Mumford and Mumford & Sons. Banjos, suspenders, and a revival of the concept of gentlemen would go on to spawn and many-a Etsy inspired wedding. No one escaped this trend that has only just started to settle down, but we still have The Gentleman Expo.
Florence + the Machine — Lungs
Florence Welch's witchy debut certainly stayed on par with the indie rock coming out of England at that time; harkening back to a certain, more grounded connection to life and earth. Resident red-headed witch Welch would certainly conjure up some space in the Gilmore living room.
Sonic Youth - The Eternal
Sonic Youth appeared on an episode of Gilmore Girls in its final season. Kim Gordon thrashed about with her kids. Before Gordon and Thurston Moore split in 2011, they would deliver The Eternal.
Beach House — Teen Dream
Rory's sentimentality, though not often physically shown, was very evident in her selection of music. Her music selection was often dictated by certain moods. So, Beach House's Teen Dream would be an excellent pairing for the young Gilmore.
The National — High Violet
Arguably the album that launched The National into our wider purview, High Violet is still an accomplished record. Songs like "England", "Sorrow", "Bloodbuzz Ohio" are exemplary, as well as the reverb intro "Terrible Love."
Kanye West — My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
The album that Pitchfork gave an stunning 10/10 signaled a shift in the coming years of what would dominate music. Rap's forward movement into the mainstream has long been documented and championed but when a supposed indie rock site full of music nerdery, nominally held to being rock purists, gives West's album a perfect score, then something changed among the gatekeepers of music critics.
PJ Harvey — Let England Shake
In the first season, Rory's prep school's resident savant bought them two tickets to see PJ Harvey, first mistaking the musician as man and admitting to not knowing who she is. This act caused tension (one of many) between Paris Gellar and Rory, though she never accepted the tickets. Anyway, adult Rory would be thrilled for PJ Harvey's thoughtful meditations of war on Let England Shake.
Radiohead — The King of Limbs
Radiohead released In Rainbows a few months after Gilmore Girls wrapped up. But The King of Limbs is a Radiohead record sits more comfortably with the show's fictional band, Hep Alien.
Lykke Li — Wounded Rhymes
Swedish singer Lykke Li's sophomore record Wounded Rhymes is a soft, raw record focused on the growing pains of being a young adult that, if we're being honest, is right in Rory's wheelhouse.
Lana Del Rey — Born To Die
Lana Del Rey's mythology often clouds who she is as a performer. Derived from her chanteuse, solo artist vibe, Del Rey gives us melodic, well, sadness on her debut that, in the vein of how the Gilmores fawned over female musicians, would at least be a topic of discussions of Del Rey's authenticity.
Jack White — Blunderbuss
Jack White is iconic for the youth of Gilmore Girls. Rory's best friend Lane Kim, who, when she married her bandmate Zack Van Gerbig, their wedding cake was the cover of The White Stripes Get Behind Me Satan. White's solo debut isn't so much a shift from his prior sounds for his other projects (The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather) but more like he turned it all way up.
Paul McCartney — Kisses From The Bottom
This album name alone is cannon.
My Bloody Valentine — m b v
The shoegaze band's return after 22 years since their sophomore release was an important moment for the genre. This record is one that holds tension with the past; of having a record like Loveless exist and then not putting forth effort as a band for the next two decades is a feat.
Drake — Nothing Was The Same
Rap held very little space on Gilmore Girls, unless it was Lane rapid-fire speaking about the kind of genres she hid in the floorboards of her teen room. Drake's immediate rise to fame is not one to be missed. While competing views exist on Drake's best (NWTS vs Take Care vs IYRTITL), Nothing Was The Same notes a shift in the rapper's sonic exploration that includes pop experimentation.
Blood Orange — Cupid's Deluxe
Dev Hynes' moment from project to project (Test Icicles to Lightspeed Champion to Blood Orange) marks the musicians exploration of sound and message that is littered with the history of punk, rock, jazz, blues, and electronic.
St. Vincent — St. Vincent
Annie Clark is a master shredder and incredible performer. As St. Vincent, Clark pushes rock forward while pulling from its long history of performative tricks and sounds. St. Vincent would occupy a similar space on a Gilmore playlist that Joan Jett or Annie Lennox would.
Alvvays — Alvvays
Some Cancon made its way to the ears of the Gilmore Girls (Arcade Fire, for example.) The success of "Marry Me, Archie" launched the soft indie rock Torontonian band into a new world where they were even covered by Death Cab For Cutie.
Taylor Swift — 1989
Taylor Swift is a pillar of pop and we had all best settle with that reality. 1989 was a triumph for Swift and her Swifties but she gained legions of new fans, too. There is a scene in my mind where "Shake It Off" is playing specifically for Kirk.
Belle and Sebastian — Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance
It would be surprising if noted Belle and Sebastian fan Rory Gilmore's adult character bypasses the first new Belle and Sebastian record of this decade. They released Belle and Sebastian Write About Love in 2010 but the young Gilmore grew of age with the Scottish indie rock darlings at their prime.
Sleater-Kinney — No Cities To Love
Sleater-Kinney's return last year was a triumph. Cities To Love is their first since The Woods and nonetheless a real stunner. Where "Modern Girl" left off, Cities To Love picked up, drawing on the lived experiences of being a woman.
Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit
Australia's Courtney Barnett is a subtle fusion of all the best parts of rock: punk, alt, with some folk sensibilities. Her storytelling is comparable to the greatest of folk writers but the girl can shred live and has the history and personal gumption of rock behind her.
Sarah has received many comparisons to Lorelai Gilmore. Follow her on Twitter.