Album: Various Artists

The Wire (Nonesuch)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that The Wire, David Simon's Baltimore-based police procedural series, is the most consistently excellent tele-drama of this millennium. The music is a large factor in the show's impact, both grittily illustrative of its ghetto milieu, and offering ethical commentary on the narrative.

This soundtrack album intersperses snippets of dialogue – trenchant observations like "We used to make shit in this country" and "If it's a lie, then we fight on that lie" – among various versions of Tom Waits's "Way Down in the Hole" (by DoMaJe, Neville Brothers and Blind Boys of Alabama) that serve as the show's theme, plus tracks representing the different racial communities entangled in the serpentine plot, from The Pogues' "The Body of an American" and Stelios Kazantzidis's "Efuge Efuge" to the slew of powerful Baltimore hip-hop from Ogun, Tyree Colion, Diablo and Mullyman. A compelling array of hard-hitting cuts, all topped off with Blake Leyh's haunting closing credits music "The Fall", gives a lingering reflection of the show's dark pathos.

Download this: 'Way Down in the Hole', 'The Fall', 'The Life, the Hood, the Streetz', 'Projects', 'Step by Step'