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Recess picks the best of 2017

Pictured from left to right, Elijah Wood in "I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore," Lorde performing in July and Kyle MacLachlan as Agent Dale Cooper in the original run of "Twin Peaks."
Pictured from left to right, Elijah Wood in "I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore," Lorde performing in July and Kyle MacLachlan as Agent Dale Cooper in the original run of "Twin Peaks."

As 2017, at long last, comes to a close, the Recess staff is taking a look back at some of the year’s greatest moments in culture. From the headline-toppers — like albums by Lorde and Taylor Swift or the numerous revelations of sexual misconduct by men in power in Hollywood and elsewhere — to the local movements, 2017 was a busy year. Here are the staffers’ picks for this year’s arts and culture in Durham and beyond:

“Twin Peaks: The Return”

When it was announced that, after 26 years, the cult classic to end all cult classics “Twin Peaks” would return in the form of a limited series event on Showtime, perhaps the best that could be asked of the show is that it would attempt to break from the coffee and cherry pie that has defined its nostalgic appeal since we last entered the Black Lodge. Under the full supervision of David Lynch, who directed all 18 hour-long episodes, “Twin Peaks: The Return” does all that and more, actively rejecting the soap-opera trappings of the original show. It’s a dark, brutal, sometimes agonizingly boring affair, but it’s full of some of the most indelible scenes this year in TV has brought us (doing to The Platters’ “My Prayer” what “Blue Velvet” did to “In Dreams”). If the summer of 2017 will go down in my memory as the summer I binge-watched “13 Reasons Why,” it was also the summer I found myself waiting in rapt anticipation every Sunday for a new addition to a show that — even in this, the Golden Age of TV — defies comparison. — Will Atkinson

“I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore”

This neo-noir gem won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance before landing at Netflix and receding into streaming obscurity. The film is — as one might have guessed from that bludgeoning of a title — bleak, gritty and thoroughly absurdist. It is also rollicking, hopeful and hilarious (with a head-banging, nunchuks-wielding Elijah Wood, how could it not be?).  Melanie Lynskey stars as a heroine whose plight, that of people around her being exceptionally terrible and careless, fashions her into a modern-day Sisyphus. When she and her neighbor (Wood) embark on an epic quest to get even following the robbery of her home, the film plays like a Tarantino caper flick, only set in Middle America and bathed in dystopian grime. This one — with its existential bent and genuine feeling — is a real keeper. — Jake Parker 

“Get Out”

Within a genre generally defined by stereotypical characters and hollow storylines, Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” is characterized by something rarely found in horror films: astute social commentary. Considered by many to be one of the best films of 2017 — and rightfully so — “Get Out” is not only creepy because of its actors’ strong performances, but also because of its examination of racial injustice in the United States. From its thrilling plot to its great moments of comic relief, the film is undoubtedly one of 2017’s most captivating to watch. To add, some of 2017’s best memes were inspired by the film's unsettling imagery. — Jessica Williams

King Krule, “The OOZ”

Perhaps the best album of his career yet, the release of “The OOZ” demonstrates King Krule’s (the English artist born Archy Marshall) commitment to producing music that does not conform to popular sound qualities. “The OOZ” does not shy away from utilizing experimental synth, heavy bass and distortive voice effects, yet still proved to be a rather successful album for an independent musician. “The OOZ” highlights the unwavering relevance of independent and alternative rock during an age of prominent pop icons. — Sarah Derris

Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile, “Over Everything”

Along with the calming sound of acoustic guitars, I loved the series of vivid imageries like “hair flag waving” that Barnett and Vile integrated into the song. They brightened up my gloomy bus rides to West Campus to take my midterms. Also, unlike most duets between male and female artists, this piece did not once mention the word “love” and was not about a painful breakup. Instead, the dialogue between Vile and Barnett turned into a song revealed much more about their emotional connections and shared passion in music. Although the song is rather long (about six minutes), I can listen to it endlessly. — Ashley Kwon

Lorde, “Melodrama”

I never really bought CDs in high school. The music streaming renaissance was in its first, fledgling years, and I didn’t see the point in the CD’s physicality — that is, until I listened to Lorde’s “Pure Heroine.” It resonated with me so deeply that I purchased a physical copy, despite the fact that the only CD player I had access to was in my car. “Melodrama,” like its predecessor,  has moved me in a manner that’s overwhelmingly personal. Perhaps it’s because Lorde and I are nearly the same age, going through the same young adult drama, or that I’ve also thought of myself as a liability and experienced innumerable relationship woes. Regardless, it’s comforting to know that my worries and joys are shared — in a beautifully vulnerable and well-made album, no less. — Nina Wilder

Sorority Noise at Carrboro’s Cat's Cradle, April 22

Sorority Noise played their first headlining show at Cat's Cradle in celebration of their third studio album “You're Not as _____ as You Think,” released in March. The LP centers around the suicide of frontman and vocalist Cameron Boucher’s close friend. In typical SN style, the album is deeply, almost cringingly personal, but it manages to transform that personal story into one that every listener can glean something from. Equal parts anger and hope, the album both acknowledges the turmoil that accompanies mental illness while working to hold onto the parts of life worth living. More than once that night, Boucher’s guitar pedals and microphones were disconnected from the speakers by falling crowd-surfers, and midway through the show he paused to encourage us to be safe, to take care of one another, to help each other up. He said, “If you brought any anxieties with you, try to leave them here. But be safe while doing it.” And really, isn’t that what shows are all about? — Alexandra Bateman

Taylor Swift, “Reputation”

It's the next best thing because Aaron Sorkin didn't do anything big this year. — Dillon Fernando

Confrontation of sexual harassment in the workplace

The year 2016 ended on a difficult note, with a man accused of multiple counts of sexual assault being elected to the White House. In 2017, women have come out with stories of sexual assault and harassment from prominent figures in media and entertainment, like Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K. and Matt Lauer. While these accounts were shocking and heartbreaking to read, retribution against these figures has been swift, showing that these industries are starting to take sexual assault seriously. Women are feeling more and more empowered to share their personal experiences with sexual assault, prompting a greater discussion of gender politics in the workplace. These conversations are difficult to have, but they could lead to greater change in the culture of the media industry as a whole. — Christy Kuesel

The popularity of musicals

This year saw a newfound appreciation for musicals as an art form, particularly among young adults who are becoming increasingly aware of the power of musical theater to transform, inspire, and protest. Musicals such as “Be More Chill,” “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Falsettos” are bringing important issues to light with grace and creativity and changing the lives of the adolescents who watch them. The intersection of acting, music and storytelling has encouraged teenagers all over the world to delve into musical theater and continue its path to modernization. By the time 2018 rolls around, don't be surprised if musicals look very different than they did ten years ago: the medium is changing for the better. — Sydny Long


ZenFish is not only bringing poké to Durham, but expanding the city’s already robust farm-to-table movement. By offering tours of the farms they source from, ZenFish allows consumers to learn exactly where and how their food is produced while at the same time promoting the work of farmers in the area. ZenFish expands the array of food options in Durham and expands the participation of local communities in the farm-to-table movement. — Georgina Del Vecho

Perkins Library’s “Humans of Paris” exhibit

It’s a very interesting exhibit about memes and stereotypes in 19th-century Paris, but it’s still very relevant and relatable today. How should we think about social or political comments in the forms of memes today? Should we just laugh it off, or should we think critically about it? I had a very enjoyable conversation with the curator of the exhibit, Kathryn Desplanque — her insights about the importance of history and a different perspective on art history were very thoughtful. — Eva Hong


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