Music writer (and friend of AllMusic) Steven Hyden spoke to them last year about their decision making process and what deep cuts made the cut, and when the second season premiered, a series of his tweets alerted us that we were in for more of the same.
We at AllMusic have assembled some choice selections from R.E.M. (with a new remix from a possibly maligned album), Chicago stalwarts Wilco, and very unexpected deep cuts from Tangerine Dream, Brian Wilson, Italian superstar Mina, and the best song from National Lampoon’s Vacation.
“Handshake Drugs” by Wilco
As Steve giddily pointed out, the first episode of season 2 showcases not only a Wilco deep cut, but a live version. Featured on Wilco’s 2005 album Kicking Television: Live in Chicago, this version gets even skronkier than the studio version, chasing some Television-esque guitar solos to ground and frantically exploding into a crescendo.
“Strange Currencies” by R.E.M.
This feedback-riddled track first appeared on Monster, R.E.M.’s oft-maligned answer to the grunge movement which shocked lifelong jangle fans but has had a bit of a reappraisal in recent years. The band actually offered an updated remix specifically for this project and the Bear-centric video is available here:
“Holiday Road” by Lindsey Buckingham
Easily the best song to be written for the National Lampoon’s Vacation film series, this road trip-worthy track from the Fleetwood Mac guitarist contains more upbeat positivity than the entire two seasons of the show put together. Despite only peaking at #82 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, it has made its way onto countless driving playlists over the years and was celebrated in this wryly introspective cover by matt pond PA.
“Tezeta” by Mulatu Astatke
This jazzy and snaking number can be found on a compilation called Ethiopiques, Vol. 4: Ethio Jazz & Musique Instrumentale, 1969-1974, a warmly sensual piano and saxophone meditation from 50 years ago.
“Bastards of Young” by The Replacements
Always raw and uncompromising, essentially any Replacements song could be dropped into a scene that wants to squeeze an emotion out of the viewer, so much so that The Bear also chose to include “Can’t Hardly Wait” later in the same episode.
“Citta vuota” by Mina
Mina is likely unknown to most of The Bear’s viewing audience, but AllMusic’s biography illustrates she “was a fixture on the pop music scene in the ’60s and ’70s before she retired from the limelight in 1978. Her lush and powerful voice put a distinctive mark on her music, which frequently jumped genres, from Italian pop and R&B to bossa nova, jazz, and even disco.”
“Diamond Diary” by Tangerine Dream
A truly unexpected musical cue, this song was originally written for Tangerine Dream’s soundtrack to the Michael Mann film Thief. Embracing icy synth sounds as only Tangerine Dream could, this track underscores a particularly crisp and introspective scene in the show.
“Stop Your Sobbing” by Pretenders
Originally by The Kinks, Pretenders’ first single is a sweetly acerbic life lesson punctuated by Chrissie Hynde’s sneering croon. Produced by Nick Lowe, the song from their first album offers no-frills advice on bucking up and moving on.
“The Crane Wife 3” by The Decemberists
Of course this show about Chicago area restaurant workers would choose a decades old song from Portland maritime indie rockers The Decemberists to soundtrack their television program. This tune from the band’s fourth album offers a resolution to the story laid out in “The Crane Wife, Pts. 1 & 2” (though strangely it appears first on the album).
“Vega-Tables” by Brian Wilson
Another unexpected musical selection, not only is this among the weirdest Beach Boys songs, the show chooses to use the 2004 rerecording Brian Wilson put together for the SMiLE project. Although if you think about it, for a TV show based in a restaurant, a song about eating vegetables makes as much sense as anything.
“Half a World Away” by R.E.M.
The season concludes with this plaintive ode from Out of Time, punctuated by Peter Buck’s chiming mandolin and Mike Mills’ percussive harpsichord. Sweeping and melancholy, the song ends on a run of upbeat notes, indicating a potentially brighter horizon in the distance.