Season premiere of 'Caprica,' Tuesday on Syfy

Diane Werts
Newsday (MCT)

REASON TO WATCH: When humans aspire to live on in a virtual world "in which death has been conquered," are they playing with faith, or with fire? That's just one key question in "Caprica," a sprawling adult thriller of a tech-obsessed world overflowing with intrigue — in family rivalries, corporate takeovers, criminal factions, religious sects, terrorist cells and among their many intersections.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: This show's near-future urban landscape looks pretty much like ours. Neon nights, rainy days, weekend sports at the stadium. But Capricans live in fear of terror from an outcast religion of "monotheists." Are these misunderstood believers? Ruthless zealots? Or just thrill-seekers who get off on power and violence?

The answers are as provocatively elusive here as in creator Ronald D. Moore's previous gem, "Battlestar Galactica." Moore essentially tackles what drives humans and civilizations as they mature — money, moral dilemmas, power, spirituality, pleasure and that old bugaboo, progress.

"Caprica" embodies this not in societies at war, but within family dynamics. Eric Stoltz is a techno-mogul losing his bearings after his genius/terrorist daughter's death, though he suspects that Zoe's "synaptic records" and emotions — in other words, her self — may be still "alive" within a cybernetic robot he created. Esai Morales is his frenemy, a lawyer from a minority known for mobsters, struggling with his own downward spiral after his teen daughter's death in the same attack.

MY SAY: As the adults overreach to resurrect their family connections, the ends matter more than the means, to the point that even the ends don't matter anymore. The kids seem the more thoughtful players here, their schemes certainly less toxic than those of parents driven to blackmail and murder in pursuit of the same heedless self-satisfaction of which teens are so often accused.

If this review feels big on broad themes and light on specifics, suffice to say that "Caprica" is keenly produced to teem with visceral detail. It's the kind of intoxicating tale you have to just let wash over you.

BOTTOM LINE: The densely packed plots can be confusing, but "Caprica" is so palpably throbbing with passion that turning away doesn't feel like an option. Delving deeper does.



Returns at 10 p.m. EDT Tuesday n Syfy (after a 10a.m.-8 p.m. marathon of all previous episodes)


The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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'Curb Your Enthusiasm' S9 Couldn't Find Its Rhythm

Larry David and J.B. Smoove in Curb Your Enthusiasm S9 (HBO)

Curb Your Enthusiasm's well-established characters are reacting to their former selves, rather than inhabiting or reinventing themselves. Thus, it loses the rhythms and inflections that once made the show so consistently, diabolically funny.

In an era of reboots and revivals, we've invented a new form of entertainment: speculation. It sometimes seems as if we enjoy begging for television shows to return more than watching them when they're on the air. And why wouldn't we? We can't be disappointed by our own imaginations. Only the realities of art and commerce get in the way.

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Wars of attrition are a matter of stamina, of who has the most tools with which to keep fighting. A surprising common tool in this collection? Humor.

The name of the game is "normal or abnormal". Here's how you play: When some exceedingly shocking political news pops up on your radar, turn to the person next to you, read them the headline and ask, "is this normal or abnormal?" If you want to up the stakes, drink a shot every time the answer is abnormal. If that's too many shots, alter the rules so that you drink only when things are normal—which is basically never, these days. Hilarious, right?

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