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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.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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