The Office Season 2
When’s the last time you watched The Office? The show was so ubiquitous when I was in high school and then college that I hadn’t bothered to revisit it until recently — and I was struck by not just how funny but how good the show was, particularly in its second season. In later seasons, after Pam and Jim got together, The Office became a much goofier show than it was in the beginning, when the tension between one of TV’s greatest will-they-won’t-they couples was at its height. There’s a melancholy strain in those first couple seasons, as Jim pines for Pam and Pam resigns herself to an unfulfilling relationship with Roy out of fear of the unknown. Few shows have managed to do so much with so little; a simple glance toward the camera or under-the-breath comment functions as the punchline in most scenes, and since the show rarely ventured outside the office until later seasons, it wrung so much drama and comedy out of typically ho-hum workplace events like performance reviews and team-building exercises. The Office also boasts one of the best ensemble casts in TV history, a group of relatively normal-looking, mostly un-famous actors who do amazing, subtle work. Season 2 in particular is a damn near perfect season of television (my favorite Office episode is the premiere, “The Dundies”); check it out on Netflix and thank me later. — Lara Zarum, TV Editor
Perfume Genius — “Slip Away”
Ebullience was never something I would have ascribed to Perfume Genius, particularly with his last album, Too Bright, whose sound was dirty, foreboding, and as Mike Hadreas puts it himself on “Queen” (its most upbeat song), felt “riddled with disease.”
And ebullience was also not something I would have thought I wanted from his music — until “Slip Away” came out last week. (It’s off his upcoming album, No Shape.) What’s great about the song is that it pairs sounds of ecstasy and even inspiration (the emotion most prone to sonic corniness) with traces of the heaviness and murk with which I previously associated — and sought — much of Hadreas’ music.
While the song climaxes, multiply, onto the type of dictatorially life affirming percussion you might find in a trailer for a tearjerking young adult fantasy film, Hadreas’ lulling voice is layered over itself and filtered to sound almost uncomfortably condensed, and the moments of the song that drive toward those heights — and quickly pull us back from them — are strung together with a rumbling tension. It’s the kind of affirmation that doesn’t quite let go of anxiety — and thus doesn’t seem like as much of a lovely escapist lie as the best pop songs often do. Somehow, it’s even better. — Moze Halperin, Senior Editor
My pick this week is T2 Trainspotting, and while I’m completely willing to admit that I am absolutely its target demographic — I was 17 when the original came out, and both film and soundtrack are touchstones for my late teens — I’d also that if anything, that makes me more critical of the sequel, because it has a lot to live up to. My friends and contemporaries from that era have had mixed responses to the new film, but for me, it’s a really beautifully realized evocation of the passing of time, of the way your own youth can seem like a nostalgia tour, and of how you can feel both affectionate toward and horrified at your former self, feeling in some ways like a diminished, frailer version of that person, and in others like someone who is wiser and better able to exist in this strange, hard world. Go see it. — Tom Hawking, Editor-in-Chief