Editor's Choice

False memories and advertising

As someone who is extremely wary about the inescapable influence of marketing, I find things like this sort of terrifying: PsyBlog has a post about how false memories are (1) easy to implant, and (2) influence our behavior much the same way real memories do. Researchers convinced participants that they had an unpleasant experience with egg salad in the past and this caused them to eschew egg salad during the study.

What this study clearly shows is that not only is it possible to instil false memories in a significant minority of people, but that these false memories can have a marked effect on behaviour.

Naturally this should make us wonder which of our preferences, attitudes, or phobias even, might be based on false recollections. Could that distaste for yellow peppers have stemmed from a false memory of getting sick after eating them? Or could that desire for a seaside home be built on childhood beach trips misremembered as enjoyable?

(Methodological questions: Wouldn't anyone in their right mind reject egg salad? Does this have any bearing on Phil Moskowitz's pursuit of the world's best egg-salad recipe?)

It seems to me that the marketing war is fought mainly on the terrain of memory -- which, incidentally, is why nostalgia is so dangerous. Ad campaigns, when they are not trying to undermine the principles of cause and effect so as to make their free associational assertions seem stronger, are basically trying to rewrite our memories, and we are easily persuaded to cooperate because the false memories are generally preferable to the real ones. The problem is the false ones from marketing come with a commercial virus built in to them, slanting our recollection of what pleases us toward shopping experiences, or toward experiences that require branded goods. Perhaps the most important skill, then, for someone who seeks to resist consumerism is the ability to forget everything, treat each day like a blank slate, a la the protagonist in Memento. Similarly, the best way to avoid brand consciousness, which hinges on our passion for grooming our social identities, is to aspire to have no identity at all. Ugh. Such is the hegemony of consumerism that best mode of resistance appears to be self-inflicted amnesia.


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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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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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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