Welcome to the first batch of enthusiastic recommendations of 2022. To start off, let's go back to 1969.
The Beatles, Get Back
The three-part, six-hour documentary is the most joyous time I spent in front of a TV in a long time. There is little in the way of narrative; most of what we see is just Paul, John, George and Ringo acting naturally — which is to say, arguing and goofing off. The film reveals them as the music nerds they were, constantly breaking into songs by their idols, all four beaming with giddy joy. In between, the band rehearses their own, still-nascent songs. It's pure magic hearing the raw material as they fumble for words, try out melodies, play with variations, and then suddenly lock in on the exact right formula.
What touched me the most was the original studio version of The Long and Winding Road. The official one on the Let It Be album, loaded with a backup orchestra and a choir, is mawkish, syrupy, and uncharacteristically pompous. What I didn't realize is that the garish ornamentation is the work of the record's infamous producer, Phil Spector, who acted without the approval of whole band. Paul McCartney himself hated it with such a passion that he eventually released a de-Spectored version of the album, aptly named Let it Be, Naked.
The best part about 2022, so far, is rediscovering what the track was meant to sound like. Glorious.
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Apple Music
The Documentary is available to stream on Disney+
Patrick Wack, Dust
The large-format images in the book are evocative and unmistakably chilling. Patrick spent four years surreptitiously photographing the East Turkistan or Xinjiang Uyghur Region of Central Asia, which in the last few years has been the scene of atrocities — such as mass-incarceration — committed by the Chinese government against the ethnic Uyghur population. The book oscillates between bustling photos of city life and dusty, otherworldly panoramas of the surrounding area. There is no explicit evidence of violence, but the muted, heavy tones of the landscapes and cityscapes charge the atmosphere with a doomed feeling of an approaching dust storm. Through the lack of sun, the photographer provides no escape, both seducing and trapping the viewer.
Patrick Wack's Instagram
George Tooker, Government Bureau (1956)
I discovered this painting AND painter a couple of weeks ago at the Met. The repeating, anonymous faces of civil servants alternating with the backs of waiting people create a chilling depiction of modern alienation. I have been very inspired by the use of artificial light in Hopper's paintings, which offers a source of hope and refuge to his nighthawks. In Tooker's painting, the same lamps have the exact opposite effect — their menacing, inhumane glow seems to erase identities. After I came home from the museum, I looked up more of George Tooker's fantastic work online, bewildered that I never encountered him until now. This is a good guide to dive into.
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