Friends with Benefits: Whitney, Sinkane, Rhys Darby, and More on the Year that Was

Our pals from the worlds of music, film, and TV offer their lists for the best of the year.

We like lists, as you might have noticed. But sometimes we get a little sick of the sound of our own voices. So we asked some friends from around the world of music, TV, and film to tell us about their favorite things from 2016. Keep reading for lists from Boulevards, Kate Moennig, Julien Ehrlich of Whitney, John Ross Bowie, Sinkane, Rhys Darby, Janet Varney, Katy Colloton, and Bryan Safi and Erin Gibson.

Boulevards’s Five Best Jams to Help You Rave Un2 the Year 2017

Rick James — “Throwdown”
It’s party funk at its best: heavy basslines, funky melodies, groovy syncopation. Enough said.

The Brothers Johnson — Light Up the Night
The basslines on this album are epic. It’s a great record to set the mood for Saturday nights.

The Doobie Brothers — “Minute by Minute”
Yacht rock at its finest. Great hooks, great riffs, great songwriting. It makes me want to be on a boat and sip whisky.

Prince — Controversy
Sex funk never gets freakier than this. The synth usage is ahead of its time.

Michael Jackson — Off the Wall
A great, timeless boogie-disco record. The dance anthems on this record are jamming.

Boulevards released his debut LP Groove! on Captured Tracks in April 2016Read our Breaking feature on him from FLOOD 3.

Kate Moennig’s Top Nine Things to Do in Philadelphia This Winter

1. The Mutter Museum
2. Climb the lion in Rittenhouse Square
3. The Reading Terminal
4. A long walk around Society Hill and Old City. Be sure to look up at the architecture.
5. Dandelion English pub
6. Alma de Cuba Restaurant
7. Federal Donuts
8. Any soft pretzel at any vendor (with mustard)
9. Sassafras bar in Old City. Ask for Bridget.

Kate Moennig currently stars in Showtime’s Ray Donovan.

Julien Ehrlich of Whitney’s Top Five Songs of 2016:

“Easier Said” by Sunflower Bean
I feel like you’ve cracked the code when you can bring the chorus back for a third time with an even smaller arrangement. So catchy.

“Girls @” by Joey Purp and Chance the Rapper
The hook is so sticky. We turned it into our tour mantra for whenever we lose something important. “Where all my keys at?”

“Kanye West” by Young Thug
I probably could have picked anything off of Jeffery, but hearing Wyclef on this track is like comfort food.

“Natural Blue” by Julie Byrne
This is a new discovery. I heard it for the first time at the end of our last European tour and have been using it to help ease myself back to normal sober life—which is kind of ironic because the lyrics seem to be about touring and the romantic relationships you find yourself in from city to city. I’m psyched for the rest of this album.

“Self Control” by Frank Ocean
I was headphone-splitting Blonde with someone I had just met when I first heard this song. We both cried and didn’t think twice about how we must have looked to each other. “Self Control” is the most powerful love song of 2016.

Julien Ehrlich’s Top Five Moments of 2016 (in no particular order)

Holding the Light Upon the Lake vinyl for the first time
Beating Tracy in Madden
Being interviewed by Elton John for the New York Times
Writing for LP2 in Lisbon
Train tunnel rave in Gothenburg

Whitney’s debut LP, Light Upon the Lake, was released in June 2016 by Secretly Canadian. Read our Breaking feature on them from FLOOD 4.

John Ross Bowie’s Top Five Records of 2016

Beach Slang — A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings
It’s hooky, scrappy power-pop, and it’s ten songs in twenty-nine minutes. Delicious.

A Tribe Called Quest — We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
Both bracingly new and a slammin’ return to form. They sound great, and their guests (André 3000! Busta Rhymes!) do too. RIP Phife.

Mike Doughty — The Heart Watches While the Brain Burns
Mike Doughty sounds like no one else, and no one else sounds like Mike Doughty. Another great release from this troubadour.

Various Artists — Crazy Ex Girlfriend Soundtrack
Rachel Bloom is a genius, Adam Schlesinger is an unparalleled pop craftsman, and we are the richer for their collaboration. Second best network comedy after the one I’m on.

Flo-Rida — “My House”
MY JAM. That simple piano riff reminds me of Boogie Down Productions, and it’s my “Shut up and crank it” song whenever it comes on the radio.

John Ross Bowie currently stars on ABC’s Speechless.

Sinkane’s Top Ten Records of 2016

1. Solange — A Seat at the Table
Continuing the rich tradition of black folks eloquently and poetically describing the struggle. She did a fantastic job pairing the music to the message. The album is honest without feeling heavy; rather, it feels optimistic and romantic. It’s calm and deep like a Southern Sunday afternoon but also nocturnal and crisp. Fresh and lucid. In the tradition of art from the Harlem Renaissance, and black music of the ’70s, this record will show the world the beauty in the struggle. Congratulations to you, sis! I’m very inspired.

2. Jamie Lidell — Building a Beginning
One of the most sincere records I have ever heard from one of the warmest and most earnest human beings that I have ever met. This record is about coming together. It’s about love. We all have to deal with the ugliness of the world but we also have each other in these times.

3. Eric Copeland — Black Bubblegum
So sophisticated. The beats are punishing! It’s good to know that Eric comes correct even after all these years.

4. Kanye West — The Life of Pablo
Probably the most progressive black record ever made. It’s just so challenging and far ahead of its time.

5. The Avalanches — Wildflower
Welcome back, boys! This record is the funnest thing released in 2016. Chock full of sample gems, beautiful melodies, and great guests.

6. Oddisee — Alwasta
My favorite rapper/producer in the game. Oddisee makes timeless music; it sounds both familiar and modern at the same time. I can listen to this anywhere and feel safe. Every new release feels like discovering a lost gem. He speaks the truth and gives it to you straight, but it feels like a conversation rather than a rapper spitting. He’s eloquent and thoughtful but he never gives it all away.

7. Guerilla Toss — Eraser Stargazer
This record reminds me of being sixteen and listening to the Harriet the Spy/Fat Day split 7″ in my friend Greg’s basement. It was a time when all I really cared about was knowing what the next Troubleman release was going to be and why I didn’t take Greg up on going to see Unwound in Oberlin.

8. Helado Negro — Positive Energy
The album is really about Roberto Carlos Lange being an amateur enthusiast of psychic healing, and the fashionability of the supernatural and how it can actually transform into real belief.

9. A Tribe Called Quest — We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
These guys have some really good points…

10. Parquet Courts — Human Performance
Another album/band that takes me back to my youth. This time it’s driving from one thrift store to the next with my buddy Evan, listening to mixtapes full of Sonic Youth, Hum, Shudder to Think, Sleater-Kinney, Pavement, Built To Spill, and probably every single thing put out on Donut Friends Records.

Sinkane’s new album Life & Livin’ It will be released on February 10 by City Slang.

Rhys Darby’s Five Favorite Comedy Series

Funny because you get to watch my rise to tyranny.

The Detour
Funny because it’s madcap and brilliant.

The Detectorists
Funny because of its oddness (and it’s utterly charming).

Silicon Valley
Funny because these are geeks I can relate to.

Red Oaks
It’s not only funny! It’s also a sweet nostalgic trip.

Rhys Darby currently stars on TBS’s Wrecked. Read our In Conversation feature with him.

Janet Varney’s Five Favorite Female TV Characters From 2016 (Who Could Teach Me How to be Tough):

Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) from Happy Valley
I love everything about this British small-town cop drama, but top of the list is definitely Sarah Lancashire’s Catherine. She’s incredibly resilient and strong yet incredibly vulnerable and human all at once.

All the Clones (Tatiana Maslany) from Orphan Black
What a marvelous collection of raggle-taggle humans Tatiana expertly portrays on this awesome BBC show. It’s almost like she should win an Emmy for her performances. OK, so she’s got one, sure, but I say we throw her one for every clone!

Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis) from Halt and Catch Fire
This is a tough one because I got spoiled by naming a bunch of women in one above, and I really want to pick both the uncompromising genius Cameron and her more socially adept counterpart Donna Clark, played by the luminous Kerry Bishé. Halt and Catch Fire is one of my favorite shows and has been since the first episode.

Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) from Stranger Things
I mean, it’s Eleven. We all saw what she did to that Millennium Falcon. I was blown away by Millie Bobby Brown’s performance on the short-lived BBC show Intruders, and I was really excited to see her on everyone’s favorite Netflix show this year.

Laurence Basse as Herself on Project Runway
I’m a sucker for Tim and Heidi and all of the drama (and, let’s be honest, ludicrous sponsor-tie-ins) that each season of Project Runway promises and delivers upon. This season I want to be Laurence, who makes beautiful, tough togs while seemingly never succumbing to the emotional pressure of the show.

Janet Varney currently stars in IFC’s Stan Against Evil.

Katy Colloton’s Five Favorite Reality TV Moments of 2016

1. When Nick Viall became The Bachelor. Watching Nick sign up for yet another dating show made me feel better about being single in my thirties.

2. The seven times Lisa Vanderpump tried to apologize to Eileen on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. It taught me that if you don’t acknowledge something to be true, it isn’t true.

3. Mariah Carey’s glitter bustier confessionals on her chaise longue in Mariah’s World. Because true divas don’t sit up.

4. Watching Dorinda’s boyfriend John try to make amends with Bethany on Real Housewives of New York. It was like watching a game of whack-a-mole where Bethany was the stick and the mole was a dry-cleaning mogul.

5. Every episode of MTV’s Catfish. It’s a nice reminder to go out on Friday night so you never have to online date.

Katy Colloton currently stars on FunnyOrDie’s Teachers.

Bryan Safi and Erin Gibson’s Five Favorite Podcasts

My Favorite Murder
Murder tales from comedians Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. It’s like if Detective Olivia Benson did standup.

Ronna and Beverly
Your two loud aunts from Boston (played by comedians Jamie Denbo and Jessica Chaffin) who know everything about everything and nothing about everything. It’s like a hilarious visit home except you didn’t stay a minute too long.

You Must Remember This
Old Hollywood with all its glamour—and warts—as retold by film critic Karina Longsworth. Start with the Manson series, end with Joan Crawford, and feel like the celebrity insider you were born to be.

It’s STEM progress at its most entertaining: a science podcast hosted by two brilliant women who regale us with interesting science facts, like the story of echolocation.

Here’s the Thing
Alec Baldwin’s show is probably the best celebrity interview series around. Hear why Dustin Hoffman hated Bob Fosse, bask in Elaine Stritch calling the host “Alex,” and devour how the Sex and the City ladies all shared a house during the filming of Sex and the City 2. So good.

Bryan and Erin’s star in TV Land’s Throwing Shade.


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