My 10 Greatest Encounters With Art
My first list for Ryan from The Office is a celebration of some of my personal favorite works of art.
- •Sprained Ankle - Julien BakerThis sparse, beautiful album perfectly expresses it's content and the circumstance of it's creation through both it's sparse, lonely execution and through it's burning sincerity. I tattooed a few of the penultimate lyrics of bittersweet closer "Go Home" on my arm, and Julien responded with a gracious and earnest message. Just as every great work of art paradoxically possesses a fatal flaw; this record's inherent vice is that it is an album about loneliness that makes us feel less alone.
- •The BeatlesLet this entry be a stand in for the greatest band of all time's entire catalog. Their eclectic, epic, masterful discography spanned hundreds of songs, dozens of records, all in just a few years where there was never a dull moment. From the pure, raw, youthful energy of the early records to the freeing, increasingly experimental later efforts that left no creative muscle unexercised, The Beatles had it all, most importantly, they taught us that "The love you take is equal to the love you make."
- •"Best Of You" - Foo FightersDave Grohl and the rest of the band clearly compressed a lifetime's worth of passion into this single that clocks in at just over four minutes. The lyrics are ambiguous enough that they can refer to anything, but the band's powerful performance and Dave Grohl's gut-wrenching delivery force an incredibly pointed response, and you would be hard pressed not to find an evocative and immediate situation in your life that this anthem seem perfectly applicable to.
- •The Party Scene - All Time LowAn album made about being reckless, ambitious, and seventeen, made by four guys who were, well - reckless, ambitious, and seventeen. The loose, rambunctious performances paired with garage-like under-production give the album a gritty but honest feel that elevates it far above your typical high-school band debut. Frontman Alex Gaskarth's energetic lyricism conjours up familiar images and stories about the sensations, anxieties, and ecstasies of growing up.
- •This Side Of Paradise - F. Scott FitzgeraldF. Scott Fitzgerald's debut novel is a bildungsroman that documents the education and coming-of-age of Amory Blaine, a literary-inclined, solipsistic Princeton student who occasionally has a way with words - which is to say, Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald. The episodes which contribute and take away from the protaginist's identity are documented in Proust-esque detail, while the angsty adventures feel more like Salinger. I read this book every semester to remind me how I've grown, to know myself.
- •BoyhoodRichard Linklater may as well have been filming me those 12 years he worked on his masterpiece, Boyhood. The titular boy's life parallels mine right down to the film's subtle time stamps, but the movie transcends it's concept, and while it remains firmly rooted in its time frame it manages to express something about how we experience time. I can't think of a film, or any work of art that more powerfully expresses how we reach out and try to grasp infinity but ultimately fail to reach it.
- •"The Bluebird" - Charles BukowskiSay what you will about the self-indulgence on almost constant display in the work of Charles Bukowski, but once in a blue moon, the poet grasps the sublime. There is perhaps no greater example of this than his Opus, the brief but powerful, "The Bluebird." Too rhetorical to be purely surreal in it's central conceit, yet too gritty to be entirely metaphorical, Bukowski writes an interior world of the body that's as concrete and devastating as the one we know, but that can be remedied with poetry.
- •The Perks Of Being A WallflowerIt can feel blasphemous to conflate a beloved book with it's cinematic counterpart, but the film and novel versions of Perks seem like two halves of the same whole. The novel more indulgent and detailed paired with the more impressionistic and focused film give Stephen Chbosky's double take on the story a sense of inseparability. Yet both are affective works about growing up and the messy relationship between past and present, and through it all, Perks affirms the power of education empathy.
- •The X-FilesI've been following the adventures of Mulder and Scully since I was in utero. On an individual episode level, episodes range from so-bad-it's-good camp to downright television masterpieces. The X-Files was and still is remarkably flexible - able to jump between intricate mythology episodes, mysterious stand alones, frightening monster-of-the-weeks, self-reflexive comedies, and high-concept experiments. And that constant dialogue about "Truth" never forgets it's philosophical implications.
- •The Greatest Generation - The Wonder YearsThe Wonder Years' masterpiece was released just a few weeks before I graduated high school. It concluded Dan "Soupy" Campbell's trilogy of albums about growing up with the revelation that maybe we'll never achieve our dreams, but that is never an excuse for giving up the struggle to be a better person. The unforgettable climax is a call to action to accept our inherent flaws and also scrutinize our privileges. Such is the power of art, to encourage us to the best with what we are given.