BEN & JIM: Favorite Songs of 2008

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Welcome back to the round table (although there’s only two of us, so the table doesn’t necessarily need to be round) discussion of power-pop-occasionally-Warp-Tour-attending, Ben and indie-minded-see-you at-SXSW-in-March-music-enthusiast, Jim.

Today, Ben and Jim discuss their favorite songs of 2008:

Ben’s Top-10 Mix
1. Underoath, “Too Bright To See, Too Loud To Hear”
2. Lydia, “Hospital”
3. Deas Vail, “White Lights”
4. The Matches, “Point Me Toward the Morning”
5. The Hush Sound, “Honey”
6. Valencia, “Holiday”
7. Straylight Run, “Wait and Watch”
8. PlayRadioPlay!, “Lococommotion”
9. Automatic Loveletter, “The Answer”
10. People in Cars, “Clutch”

Jim’s Top-10 Mix
1. Weezer, “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived”
2. Vampire Weekend, “A-Punk”
3. Sons & Daughters, “Gilt Complex”
4. Santogold, “Creator”
5. What Made Milwaukee Famous, “Sultan”
6. The Raconteurs, “Consolers of the Lonely”
7. Hot Chip, “Shake a Fist”
8. MGMT, “Time To Pretend”
9. ISHC, “Seatbelt”
10. Dizzee Rascal, “Sirens”

Jim: Unbeknownst to everyone, we sent each other mixes of our 10 favorite songs of the year (so far). Not surprisingly, there wasn’t any overlap.

First, Let’s talk about our favorites. My favorite song of your batch was “Honey” from The Hush Sound. It’s got a little Fiona Apple/Regina Spektor flavor to it, and for my tastes, it’s right down my alley. The Valencia song was good, I’m a sucker for sing-a-longs. The track sounds like it could be an Angels and Airwaves song–Tom Delonge might even be a little jealous.

I also enjoyed Lydia’s “Hospital,” just for the fact that it wasn’t as predictable as many emo-minded bands can be. Instead of the song exploding, the mood was chill throughout. There was also a nice soulfulness in the singer’s voice.

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Ben: “Honey” is The Hush Sound at their best. Not only is Greta Salpeter beautiful, her voice is amazing. “Holiday” by Valencia is just a flat out great pop-punk song. It’s the kind of song that every pop-punk songwriter wishes they had written. I had a hard time picking which Lydia song I wanted to include on my mix because all 11 tracks on their last album, Illuminate, are amazing. Vocalist Leighton Antelman has a very soothing voice that fits perfectly with the music Lydia makes.

(above: Both Ben and Jim agree on the goodness of The Hush Sound.)

This is totally unrelated to the music, but I winced every time I saw the band name Automatic LoveLetter, was that wrong of me?

Of course not. It is a very corny name that isn’t exactly designed to attract male listeners. Nonetheless, Juliet Simms is an amazing vocalist.

I didn’t necessarily hate any songs on your mix, and I understand the more I listen to each song, the more I’ll get it, but I wasn’t feeling The Matches, “Point Me Toward The Morning.” It’s not that I despised the song, it’s just that I’ve heard a gazillion songs like it. I’m also tired of the that recording technique that takes a snippet of the vocal track and makes it sounds like a walkie-talkie. The formula of the song is also very predictable: verse–drum-fill–chorus–breakdown–drop-out–build-up–chorus. Not to pat myself on the back, but I successfully predicted every part of the song while listening to it for the first time. People In Cars’, “Clutch,” was a also a song I didn’t care for much. The guitar parts were very interesting, but then I think they overused them. The vocals are also a dime a dozen.

I agree with you about that recording technique. I think it can sound fine when used effectively, but most of the time it is not. I do not believe it takes anything away from “Point Me Toward the Morning” though. The Matches are a very quirky pop-punk/alternative rock band, and that song is probably the most formulaic and catchiest on their last album. “Clutch” probably isn’t a song I would include if we sent each other our mixes about a month later. I agree with you about Etay Pisano’s voice. He is not a very great singer, but I love the emotion he sings with.

Besides The Hush Sound being my favorite, here are a couple moments I liked on your mix. I’ve always thought Straylight Run was interesting. Their songs always seem to draw me in for one reason or another. PlayRadioPlay! remind me of the Postal Service. I wanted their song, “Loco Commotion” to go more places, but all in all, I dig like their sound. I’m also aware that you can’t judge a band by just one of their songs. What were you feeling off of my mix?

How can someone say that they honestly dislike “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived” by Weezer? Sometimes bands release album samplers that have like 15-second clips of all the songs on the album. That song is just like that, except they actually created an incredibly ambitious track by pretty much playing a complete different song every 30 seconds.

I can not possibly dislike International Superheroes of Hardcore’s “Seat Belt”. Who doesn’t like it when an incredibly influential pop-punk band (New Found Glory) decides to write a hardcore parody album under different personas just for shits and giggles? Besides, what is more hardcore then wearing your seat belt?

I think “Sultan” by What Made Milwaukee Famous and “Gilt Complex” by Sons & Daughters are both decent songs, but not songs that would make me want to check out the bands. “Gilt Complex” is a nice little pop-rock song and I enjoy the singer’s voice. I like “Sultan” but I don’t think it has much lasting value. Also, that synth solo really reminds me of pirates.

Pirates? Maybe they can contribute a song to the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie? I’m sure they’d enjoy the royalty checks. Fair enough.

What bands on my mix could you see yourself getting into?

I could definitely see myself getting into Vampire Weekend and The Raconteurs. I have now heard two songs by the Raconteurs and I have enjoyed them both. I also really like how they recorded their album in secret, and announced it was coming out a week before the release date. I have heard great things about Vampire Weekend and I like “A-Punk”.

Any lowlights for you?

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Dizzee Rascal’s “Sirens” is probably my least favorite song on the mix. It doesn’t help that I only listen to about 10 rap songs a year, but this song just gets on my nerves. His voice annoys me and that background noise that sounds like a car screeching is very irritating (I don’t think this song could be any less catchy).

(right: Dizzee Rascal’s feelings are hurt after he found out that Ben doesn’t like his voice.)

MGMT’s “Time to Pretend” and Hot Chip’s “Shake a Fist” are both very–meh. I don’t dislike them, but I don’t like them. I think I would like “Time To Pretend” more if there wasn’t so much annoying background noise. For some reason, MGMT’s singer reminds me of the singer from the Silversun Pickups. “Shake a Fist” is an interesting song. It’s entertaining, especially the breakdown around the 2-minute mark, but it is not a song I would ever find myself listening to.

Unless of course it’s on a mix I send you. I hear ya about Dizzee Rascal’s voice. It’s sort of an acquired taste. Alright, last question, cause I know you have some schoolwork to do, but if you had to remake your mix, what songs what you consider adding?

I would consider adding “The Resistense” by Anberlin, “Miss California” by Jack’s Mannequin, “Life is Looking Up” by Forgive Durden, “Decode” by Paramore, and “Backseat Bingo” by Fire in the Hole.

Mine’s pretty much the same, although Coldplay’s “Lost?” has been rising, falling, and occasionally appearing in my Top-10. The Morning Bender’s “Waiting For A War” will also probably make my list by year’s end.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.