Things are starting to feel a little more normal now, though I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. I went multiple days without leaving the apartment this week, and I didn’t even feel that guilty about it. Though I suppose you’re just as likely to feel guilty about leaving the house as staying in, since it potentially puts other, less healthy people at risk.
Whatever, the case is, I’m starting to embrace the solitude of isolation, but at the same time I’m looking at a bright blue sky out the window right now and thinking about how we’re basically missing all of Spring. But hey, at least there’s plenty of pop culture to get us through it, even if it seems apparent that there will be a lot less new things coming out in the next few months.
I’ve been rewatching the short-lived hangout sitcom Happy Endings lately, and it’s been pretty great comfort food. Not only was the writing on this show sharp, but most importantly, the cast’s chemistry is just unbelievable. Everyone on it is so funny and you really get the sense that they had a lot of fun filming this show, which makes for the kind of makeshift TV family that any ensemble sitcom could hope for. When people talk about Happy Endings, they often comment on how it was unceremoniously canceled after only three seasons. However, considering it was born out of network TV, its second and third seasons both are 20+ episodes, which (thankfully) gives the show the length of about a 4- or 5-season Netflix show.
In the midst of a national crisis, Bob Dylan released a song about one from nearly 60 years prior. People have commented on how this seems intentional, though Dylan has always followed his own personal whims so closely that I have a hard time believing he ever does anything with the public’s psyche in mind. That said, by writing a song about the Kennedy assassination, he taps into the time period where Dylan first emerged as the embodiment of both counter-culture and the zeitgeist. The 17-minute song sees Dylan indulging a host of other cultural references — from Shakespeare to Wolfman Jack — in the kind of impressionistic, semi-improvised fashion that recalls Dylan’s wildman mid-’60s period. I’m not sure if this song (his first new material in eight years) is building toward another album, but guessing from Bob Dylan’s website describing the song as something “recorded a while back”, I’d guess not. But if anything, it’s a nice reminder of Dylan’s ability to embrace spontaneity while also carrying an heir of stately respect.
It seems like a lot of the bigger pop artists are pushing their Spring album release dates back, but that didn’t happened with The Weeknd, probably because After Hours came out right as the coronavirus pandemic was starting to escalate. People being cooped up inside may account a bit for why After Hours has been arguably the biggest album release of the year, though the quality of the songs here also surely has to do with it. The Weeknd was always an artist that seemed decent, but I always kind of avoided for no good reason. I’ll admit his lyrics leave a bit to be desired, but his voice is fantastic and the sleek ’80s synth-driven production here is hard not to get hooked on.
I do miss going to movie theaters, but at least some of the movies that were in theaters when everyone started transitioning to in-door life are being released on video-on-demand. This year’s indie adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma was one of those movies and one whose striking costumes and set design made for nice escapism to a world that’s charming, if a little petty. Movies about 19th-century aristocracy are always a little hard to get into, considering both the language and subject matter is inherently stuffy. However, first-time film director (and music video veteran) Autumn de Wilde manages to imbue the source material with both a playfulness and respect for the source material that makes for an enjoyably complex (if somewhat slight) little love story.
One of the sadder stories (in a sea of them) last week was the passing of Fountains of Wayne co-founder Adam Schlesinger from COVID-19. Schlesinger had an eclectic career writing music for film as well as the band most famous for “Stacy’s Mom”. I wish I’d paid a little more attention to this career, though I suppose I have seen That Thing You Do!, Music and Lyrics, Josie and The Pussycats, and a lot of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Anyways, I’ve been spending the last few days catching up with Fountains of Wayne, and in particular their most successful album Welcome Interstate Managers. I’m not sure if this is their best album, since it is weirdly long for a cross-over success, but their power-pop mastery is more than evident, even if that mastery for most people starts and ends with one song.