Welcome to the Seven Forums.
I do not see the first 3 things that you mentioned:
...Folders sort by date as expected
...New files are top most in the list
...Recent Places populate as expected
Can you please post a screenshot of what you are seeing and maybe some steps to duplicate your results.
(Screenshots and Files - Upload and Post in Seven Forums
If I click one time on the column labeled "Date Modified", I get a triangle pointing down & the newest file is on top:
Clicking once more on the column labeled "Date Modified" yields a triangle pointing up and this sort:
The bar is there when the system is busy gathering the info requested... pretty much like the flashlight in XP.