The 11 best songs from The Umbrella Academy (and when exactly you can hear them)

When it was announced that ex-My Chemical Romance star-turned-comic book author Gerard Way was to have his Eisner-award winning series The Umbrella Academy adapted for television, one thing was certain: a killer soundtrack would be guaranteed.

When the series hit Netflix earlier this year, viewers weren't disappointed. Given Way's own eclectic back catalogue, first with MCR and then as a solo recording artist, it follows that the series' soundtrack is as unexpected and offbeat as the story itself. Peppered with hits that dig deep into rock's rich past, it also presents choice cuts from newer artists who may well represent its future. Here, we pick out the series' best songs, and tell you exactly whereabouts in the action you can find them.

This list is presented chronologically, according to where the song appears in the series. Disclaimer: This list might contain the vaguest of spoilers. Think twice about reading on if you wish to approach the series with completely fresh eyes.

The Kinks - Picture Book (1969)

Taken from the now-seminal The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society album – once described by Chief Kink Ray Davies as the band's "most successful ever flop" – this track bubbles with warm nostalgia as our protagonist takes a flick through a long-forgotten family photo album, re-living the ups and downs of family life as he goes. Given the song's subject matter, it's the obvious choice to soundtrack our first introduction to the Hargreeves family.

Hear it: As the babies are wheeled in to the Umbrella Academy for the very first time, about three minutes in to episode one.

They Might Be Giants - Istanbul (1990)

US alt-rockers They Might Be Giants gave this 1953 novelty song – originally recorded to mark the 500th anniversary of the fall of Constantinople, obvs – an inimitable make-over as part of their 1990 album Flood. Fast-paced, foreboding but twinkling with tongue-in-cheek mischief, it's the perfect accompaniment to Number Five's dimension-hopping hijinks as the first episode draws to a close. 

Hear it: During the shoot-out at Griddy's Doughnuts, around 50 minutes into the first episode.

Queen - Don't Stop Me Now (1978)

Written by Freddie Mercury in 1978, Don't Stop Me Now was a joyously delivered summation of his life manifesto; fun, fun and more fun. The Queen classic has long since become cinematic short-hand for 'shit's about to get real, but in a wildly entertaining fashion' – from its use in Sean Of The Dead's zombie-laden punch up to Hardcore Henry's climactic finale. Well, now it has another can't-look-away fight scene under its belt thanks to its inclusion here. It's what Freddie would have wanted.

Hear it: During another shoot-out featuring Number Five, this time in the department store around 49 minutes into episode two.

The Yardbirds - Lost Woman (1966)

The title of this track tells you all you really need to know about the decision to have it soundtrack our proper introduction to estranged Hargreeves sibling Vanya. The opener to 1966 album Roger The Engineer, this rollicking slice of bass-driven rock'n'roll shows the Yardbirds – otherwise known as the band where nascent guitar legends Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page cut their teeth – doing what they do best: combining pop-laden songwriting nous with futuristic blues guitar excellence.

Hear it: At the very start of episode three, as Vanya taps away on a typewriter and begins to tell her story.

Noel Gallagher's High-Flying Birds - In The Heat Of The Moment (2014)

No, not a cover of the Asia classic, but instead the first single to be released from Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' second album, Chasing Yesterday. Written about a trip into space, and reportedly inspired by "a documentary featuring an astronaut who likened going into space for the first time to 'touching the face of God'", its use in Umbrella Academy – where extra terrestrial happenings hint at a bigger picture surrounding religion – is all the more satisying.

Hear it: Over the opening scene of episode five, as Number Five wheels the remains of his beloved mannequin through a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

The Doors - Soul Kitchen (1966)

Actually written about Jim Morrison's favourite soul food restaurant, where he'd linger so long they'd have to kick him out at the end of the night ('Well, the clock says it's time to close now...'), this vaguely lesser-known track from The Doors' self-titled debut album is heavy with laid-back energy, seductive beats and easy-to-mistake-for-innuendo lyrics. Which, obviously, makes it the perfect accompaniment to any sex-in-the-air dance scene.

Hear it: As Klaus heads out drinking and dancing with Dave in Vietnam, in the first few minutes of episode six.

Gin Wigmore - Kill Of The Night (2011)

This "cabaret rock" stomper from New Zealand songwriter Gin Wigmore was released as part of her 2011 Gravel & Wine, and it drips with attitude and southern-fried swagger. Noticed how Number Five gets all the best songs for his showdowns? Yeah, us too.

Hear it: As Number Five intercepts the message being sent to Hazel and Cha Cha, about 50 minutes into episode six.

Radiohead - Exit Music (For A Film) (1997)

Just as Don't Stop Me Now has come to indicate a jolly bout of fisticuffs is on the horizon, Exit Music... signifies that a stirring, climactic montage is on the cards. Originally written by Radiohead to soundtrack the closing scene of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, this pensive piece is the perfect choice to capture the gloomy mood as the Umbrella universe really starts to fray at the seams.

Hear it: As episode six's closing montage kicks into gear, around 52 minutes in.

Heart - Barracuda (1977)

Originally written by Ann Wilson in response to a lurid rumour spread about her and her sister, Nancy, by their own record company in a bid to shift more units, this fiery, ferocious riposte is the perfect accompaniment for a woman on a mission against a world she feels has wronged her. Which is handy, as that's exactly where Vanya Hargreeves finds herself at the beginning of the final episode.

Hear it: As Vanya returns to her apartment and prepares for her final mission, around 14 minutes into episode 10.

Bay City Rollers - Saturday Night (1975)

Saturday night has long been synonymous with fighting – just ask Elton John – which makes this song's placement on yet another action-packed shoot-out all the more fitting. This track – whose thumping 'S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y - Hey!' chant allegedly inspired the 'Hey! Ho! Let's go!' refrain of The Ramones' Blitzkrieg Bop – has made its way into the movies before, with a version recorded by Ned's Atomic Dustbin appearing in 1993 black rom com So I Married An Axe Murderer.

Hear it: At the bowling alley shoot-out, around 27 minutes into episode 10.

Gerard Way ft Ray Toro - Hazy Shade Of Winter (2019)

Umbrella Academy creator Way and his ex-My Chem bandmate Ray Toro recorded two covers for the TUA soundtrack: a buoyant take on The Turtles' Happy Together which plays out over the end of episode five, and this version of the Simon & Garfunkel classic. Scuffed up around the edges and given a riff-heavy metallic twist, it's a gratifying close to an action-packed finale – and one that just screams 'Season two: coming to a TV screen near you soon'.

Hear it: As the end credits of episode 10 roll.

The Umbrella Academy is available to watch on Netflix now.

Briony Edwards

Briony is the Editor in Chief of Louder and is in charge of sorting out who and what you see covered on the site. She started working with Metal Hammer, Classic Rock and Prog magazines back in 2015 and has been writing about music and entertainment in many guises since 2009. She is a big fan of cats, Husker Du and pizza.