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Editor's Choice

Friendship As Media

More of my friends are finding the time to get on Facebook, prompting various nostalgia trips as people from the past reconnect. This seems benign enough, but it's a little strange that the technological means makes possible a relationship that everyone involved in was happy enough to abandon to the mists of time. It's like Facebook has more at stake in that revived connection than the individuals reconnecting do -- and maybe that's true.

Actually, this seems like the essential bargain Facebook presents us with. It will facilitate our illusions of friendship and connection by making such social contact nearly effortless and highly insulated. We can broadcast gossip about ourselves and present ourselves in a flattering light and make contact with people we had forgotten about just by going to the site. It maintains our friendships for us by storing a configuration of the network of all the people who have ever mattered to us while exempting us from that particular effort that we had already, in fact, stopped bothering to make.

So we get friendship without the trouble of having to put effort into the relationships. It's friendship rendered convenient through technology, and the convenience to a degree denatures the original significance -- isn't the substance of relationships ultimately anchored in the effort we feel ourselves putting in? (Or am I simply mystifying the ideal of working at things?)

In exchange for making our social lives more convenient, Facebook seizes the right to transform our sociality into commercially useful information, turn our relationships into market research and use that data to anticipate and shape our future selves with the ads it calculates that we should be presented with. It manages our friendships and then processes the data interrelationships to guide the process of how we subsequently develop our identities through its site. Since it is mediating our friendships, and in effect making the effort for us, it is also directing what the fruits of that effort will be, supplying the framework through which friendships develop and making itself the very medium of friendship.

At that point, Facebook succeeds into making friendship a consumption product, and itself as the service provider. The other friends we have through it, on the other side the screen, are the product it marshals for us. And our consumption of Facebook, rather than the actual experience of friendship with all the effort that would otherwise require, now shapes our personalities -- in accordance with the commercial goals it has set out for ourselves. In that way, it isolates us more by promising to mediate our connections with the rest of the world. It deprives us of the option to make more effort, and make our social efforts more meaningful. Is this too pessimistic?

Music

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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Music

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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It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

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7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

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