The second season of "Fargo" is a time warp back to 1979, complete with feathered hair, high-waisted jeans and '70s tunes blaring on the speakers. And so far, the soundtrack is garnering as much attention as the plot.
The show's musical choices pivot from German requiems to '70s prog rock to haunting modern covers. Marguerite Phillips, who got her start picking music for the Duplass brothers' films, served as the music supervisor for this season.
"It happened to be one of my favorite periods of music of all time," Phillips said of '70s music.
When she first met with show creator Noah Hawley, he sent her off in eight different directions. She dove deep into Jethro Tull, Kansas City music, girl punk bands, international hits, prog rock and more — all from 1979 or before.
Hawley had "some crazy, crazy, fantastic ideas," Phillips said. "By far, it was the most challenging project I've ever worked on."
6 things to listen for on the "Fargo" soundtrack
1) Covers of songs from Coen brothers moviesThis season, Hawley arranged a musical tribute to his muses: Almost every episode features a cover song from a different Coen brothers movie.
Several of the covers, Phillips said, are by Austin-based musicians — a nod to where Phillips grew up and Hawley now lives. The most recent cover was Jeff Tweedy, of Wilco, covering Jose Feliciano's "Let's Find Each Other Tonight." Feliciano himself performed the song in the original "Fargo" movie.
2) Noah Hawley himself singingThe first Coen brothers-inspired cover song came at the end of episode one. "Go To Sleep You Little Baby," from "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" played over the end credits.
And who covered it? Hawley himself.
"I had no idea that Noah could sing!" Phillips said. "I was just totally blown away by it. It's beautiful."
3) Alien-inspired tunesPhillips said Hawley played two songs for her the first time they met: "The Eve of War" by Jeff Wayne and "Children of the Sun" by Billy Thorpe.
Both reference alien beings, and both have been played this season. ("Children of the Sun" has actually been played twice.)
Put those together with the show's maybe-UFOs and scattered talk of celestial visitors, and it feeds this season's feeling of paranoia.
4) International artists from the '70s
Hawley asked Phillips to track down international music from the era.
So far, we've heard the Yamasuki Singers "Yama Yama" from 1971. Yamasuki was actually a project by two French musicians: They released a Japanese-inspired concept album in 1971.
(Another "Fargo" connection: "Yama Yama" plays over the end credits of "Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter," a "Fargo"-inspired project.)
5) German classical music
Composer Jeff Russo, who has scored the whole season, looked to German classical music for inspiration, Phillips said.
Season one also had nods to German music. The fourth episode of season one ended in a requiem, so Hawley decided to do the same for the fourth episode of season two. Mahler plays as the Gerhardt family wrestles with the idea of war against Kansas City.
6) Character anthems
Phillips worked on bringing the characters to life through music. There's a song that she feels represents each character — but she couldn't reveal them all, because some song choices might give away plot points.
Ed Blumquist, for example, is perfectly summed up by Burl Ives' "One Hour Ahead of the Posse."
"It's from the '50s, [Ed] wants to live in the world he grew up in, in the '50s," Phillips said. He wants to have a wife and a house and a family like his father did, and he's obviously in over his head. It starts off as just kind of a jolly, crazy song, but it gets pretty dark — just as Ed's story in this season does."
Constance, Peggy Blumquist's co-worker at Dazzle salon, is likewise captured by Cris Williamson's "Song of the Soul."
"That song was, so I've been told, kind of a calling card for lesbians in the '70s. If you had that album at your house, it was a way of saying that you were a lesbian without having to say it."
Get more behind-the-scenes details on this season of "Fargo" from the Aw Jeez podcast.