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DID YOU READ

My 10 Favorite Albums of 2008

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The following is not a list of the Top-10 Albums of the Year (c’mon, I’m one man, who am I to say if these are the best albums of 2008?), instead, this is simply a list of my Top-10 favorite albums of the year:

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10. Girl Talk, Feed The Animals
Yes, he’s just a mash-up artist, and what can a mash-up artist do besides layer acapellas over well-known instrumentals? Well, if you’re Girl Talk you take hundreds and hundreds of not just instrumentals, but bleeps, breaks, and beats and masterfully intertwine them with the naughtiest dirty south rap lyrics you can find. Feed The Animals isn’t just a simple collection of click-and-drag MP3 files, it’s an A.D.D.-pop-culture-musical-collage pieced together like a fine work of art.

9. Sons & Daughters, This Gift
Ah yes! They’ve made their first great album. This was my initial reaction after listening to Sons & Daughters’ sophomore effort, This Gift. Their debut, The Repulsion Box, had some “moments,” but it still seemed like the Scottish foursome hadn’t found their identity. This time, they found it, crafting one of the best rock albums of the year. Adele Bethel’s vocals are beautiful, Scott Paterson’s guitar licks steal the show on many of the tracks, and each song will leave your feet stomping for more.

8. The Raconteurs, Consolers of The Lonely
Throughout the duration of Consolers of The Lonely, I thought to myself, “If The Raconteurs wanted to, they could be the best rock, pop, country, or blues band in the world.” Because they can’t decide on one direction, sometimes Consolers of The Lonely feels a little jumpy, bobbing between the big rock of “Consoler of The Lonely,” the backwoods, southern-fried, “Top Yourself,” the Zeppelin-like “Rich Kid Blues,” and the burger and malt, retro-rock of “Many Shades of Black.” If only every band had these kinds of problems, huh?

7. The Cool Kids, The Bake Sale
I love the idea of The Cool Kids. As stated on their track, “88,” the group is attempting to bring back 1988, and who wouldn’t love to have that year back? Public Enemy would be fresh off the release of their groundbreaking, It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back, Run-DMC would be Tougher Than Leather, and The Beastie Boys would be between Licensed To Ill and Paul’s Boutique. With their old-school rhymes, sparse production and Bomb Squad-inspired snare drum blasts, The Cool Kids sound unique in our Timbaland-ruled world. My only complaint is that The Bake Sale was released as an EP. Didn’t anyone tell The Cool Kids that back in 1988 (before hip-hop albums became littered with 20 or more tracks) The Bake Sale would have been released as a proper full-length album?

6. The Morning Benders, Talking Through Tin Cans
Indie-pop-rock acts who are inspired by The Beach Boys, with daydreams of being The Shins are a dime a dozen. So even if you are inspired by the two bands mentioned above, how do you separate yourself from the rest of the pack? By creating some of the most feel-good, well-polished, catchy-as-sin songs of the year. Like many great singer/songwriters before him, Chris Chu has the talent of making the verse in a song just as memorable and sing-a-long-worthy as the chorus.

5. International Superheroes of Hardcore, Takin’ It Ova
After creating their mellowest album to date, Coming Home, and being dropped from their major label, New Found Glory took a page from Rocky Balboa’s book and went back to their roots by fully embracing their hardcore tendencies, forming the band International Superheroes of Hardcore. Their debut album, Takin’ It Ova, sounds like any great hardcore album from the late 80’s/early 90’s (everyone-shout-at-once choruses, machine gun drums, slow-down-the-mosh-pit breakdowns), but it’s different in that it’s lyrics are pure comic gold. Brilliantly written tongue-in-cheek songs about seat belts, emo kids, and super hero movies will leave you grinning from ear to ear, while thinking back to the glory days of Sick Of It All.

4. Hot Chip, Made In The Dark
Hands down, the best album Hot Chip has ever made. Their previous efforts–not saying they weren’t good–came off a little choppy, especially during the transitions between their dance club bangers and tracks where they wanted to flex their singer/songwriter muscle. Made In Dark boasts both types of songs, but instead of the album feeling uneven, it sounds like a well-made mix tape–I’m sure it also helps that Hot Chip created some grade-A, booty-shaking beats, sequenced the album perfectly, and wrote some really, really good songs.

3. Santogold, Santogold
Santogold seamlessly blurred the lines between hip-hop, dancehall, new wave, and indie-pop-rock on her self-titled debut album. Is she the first artist to do this in the last few years? No, but her penchant for pop and catchy hooks may make her more mainstream accessible than that one girl with the brightly colored lipstick (although Santogold’s beer commercials didn’t grip America like her counterpart’s movie trailer did). Comparisons aside, how freakin’ good were “Creator,” “Say Aha,” “Lights Out,” and “You’ll Find A Way”? The future’s looking bright for Santogold.

2. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
Just one album in and Vampire Weekend have already carved out their own signature sound–jangly indie-rock mixed with African-inspired music, lush string arrangements, Ivy League college wit, and a smidgen of swagger. I mean, c’mon, who else sounds like Vampire Weekend? (I had a friend earlier this year who called them a cheap rip-off of Paul Simon, but I think he was just reacting to the hype.) All of the songs on Vampire Weekend make me feel something special inside, and although I don’t know exactly what any of them are about, oddly, I do.

1. Weezer, The Red Album
Weezer’s best album since Pinkerton. For those who felt the lyrics were too simplistic, keep in mind we’re living in a different Rivers Cuomo-world. You can’t be writing songs about teenage Japanese girls after you’ve conquered the galaxy. Instead, you share the microphone with your bandmates (who wrote some solid songs in the process), take a dig at critics any chance you get, and throw any and all self-consciousness out of the window. If people thought Pinkerton was Weezer’s most honest album, the Red Album has to be considered their most fearless. How else do you explain the epic-ness of “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived,” the rap-rock of “Dangerous,” and “Heart Songs,” a tune that simultaneously shouts out Nirvana, The Fresh Prince, Iron Maiden, and Debbie Gibson?

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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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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