Thursday, December 30, 2021

Team Sisson's Best of 2021

Happy holidays from Team Sisson, and congratulations on receiving Chris Schuck's 20th Annual Surprise Birthday Bash for Jesus. As always, we've picked and exquisitely sequenced tracks from 18 of our favorite albums of 2021 for your listening pleasure. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Album: Dandelion
We'll kick off the 20th anniversary edition of the Birthday Bash with local act The Greeting Committee, making their second appearance after being featured in 2018 with "17" off of  This Is It.  These guys are getting bigger and bigger both in their national profile and in their sound.  You heard the first 39 seconds of "Ada."  Are you freaking kidding me?  What 39 seconds of anything have you heard this year that was better than that?  If you're interested the GC will be heading out on a pretty impressive two month American tour next year that ends with a hometown show at the Uptown Theater on April 9th.  We'll see you there!  Making it on to the 20th Anniversary edition of the Birthday Bash isn't the only accolade the GC have racked up this year.  Exclaim! named Dandelion to their list of the 30 worst album covers of 2021.  It's not that bad though right????  Ok, it's pretty bad but hey, you don't have to look at it, just listen!  
Also check out: "Can I Leave Me Too?", "Float Away", "Make Out

2. Squid - "Narrator"
Album: Bright Green Field
First of all, check out the run time on "Narrator." One of our goals with the Birthday Bash is to cram as many tracks into the old fashioned 80 minutes max run time afforded by the compact disc you no doubt are wondering how you would even play. In fact, this year our first track list came in at exactly 80:00 minutes which was exactly ONE SECOND too long.  This caused, at first a lot of swearing, then a complete tear down/re-build of the track list.  At this point you're asking yourself, why make a CD at all?  Why open yourself up to the limitations of this antiquated format?  None of us have CD players anymore!  Ok, great questions and comments everyone.  Don't think I'm not wondering the same thing every year around this time.  This would be so much easier if it was just a Spotify playlist.  I guess that's really the answer though.  If it was easy it wouldn't mean anything.  If it was just the playlist I would have been done weeks ago, and none of you would care. I choose to do the rest of it......that is burn the CDs, create the artwork, print the CDs, print the CD jackets, cut the CD jackets out and slide them into the jewel cases, address the bubble mailers, mail them, update the the hopes that when you find the Birthday Bash in your mailbox there is an implicit understanding that this thing took a lot of effort.  And that effort means I really want you to listen to these tunes because maybe you haven't heard some of them, and I'm hoping your new favorite song is in here somewhere.  And I know it is, because every year I find my new favorite song by doing this.  So anyway, we probably could have picked something shorter from BGF and made room for one or two more artists, but "Narrator" is so gosh darn good we really had no choice.  Also, you may be interested to know Squid is one of those weird bands where the drummer is the lead singer.  How do they do that?
Also check out: "GSK", "Pamphlets"

3. Low - "Disappearing"
God this album is good.  How can you not love this sound?!?!  Low return to the Birthday Bash after appearing on the 2018 edition with Double Negative.  This husband and wife duo have been making great albums for over 20 years (talk about relationship goals), but really punched us in the stomach when they took their usual formula and added an absolutely insane amount of  distortion on Double Negative Hey What is more of the same and as the kids say, we're here for it!  This was one of many albums this year where it was really hard to decide which song to include.  At first it was going to be the single "Days Like These" (Pitchforks's #3 Best Song of 2021). Then when the album came out we fell in love with the opener "White Horses," but we felt the last 90 seconds of syncopated beeps and boops might be too much for some of you so we arrived at "Disappearing."  I don't hear any complaints. 
Also check out: "Hey", "More

4. Black Country, New Road - "Science Fair"
Album: For the first time
The morning of February 8, 2021 was not a good one for me.  For one thing, this was the morning of a travel day and the end of a a beautiful ski weekend in Telluride, CO where I and Tim Laycock along with three other skiing lawyers shredded the mountain by day and stayed in the ski-in condo closest to the primary lift in the whole resort.  It should have been magical, and really it was until the evening of February 7, when we gathered after our last day on the slopes in the aforementioned condo to watch the most inexplicable Super Bowl (oops, I mean Big Game,.....please don't sue me NFL) of all time where my beloved Chiefs managed to not only lose to but get destroyed by a cartoon team with a quarterback older than me. Needless to say I was looking for an escape the next morning so I popped in the ear buds, found a "best music out this week" thread on Reddit and started jamming while doing payroll and waiting for the other guys to wake up.  You see where the is going.  For the first time had just been released so I took a listen and was hooked immediately by the opener "Instrumental" (which ironically is an instrumental).  Obviously I was on an emotional rebound at the time so I was prone to find pleasure in just about anything to chase away the blues, but Black Country, New Road has remained one of my favorites all year.  And guys, did you hear that?  They have a sax player!  How could we not love this band.  We're not the only ones though. BC,NR have been critical darlings since they started gigging around London in 2018. For most of the year I thought I'd bring you "Athens, France" but made a last minute switch to "Science Fair."  There are only six tracks on the LP and all of them are good so you can't go wrong. 
Also check out: "Track X", 

5. Viagra Boys feat. Amy Taylor - "In Spite of Ourselves"
Album: Welfare Jazz
At least a couple of you may recognize "In Spite of Ourselves" as a cover of a John Prine song.  Big thanks to Cory for taking me to see John Prine a few years ago pre-COVID (feels like a few centuries ago) before he (John Prine that is) passed on after contracting, let's see what it says here, oh for f's sake, COVID.  Anyway, Welfare Jazz came out super early in 2021 and I listened to the whole thing and really liked it, but when I heard the closer I knew it would be on the Bash this year.  They took this sweet and playful song and without changing any of the lyrics turned it in to something way more sinister and gnarly, but while keeping the overall catchiness of the melody. I haven't looked at my Spotify summary for the year.  I don't have to actually because I know this is the song I listened to the most this year. And hey, as before the rest of Welfare Jazz rocks too. I mean they do have a sax player.  Y'all know how we feel about the sax. 
Also check out: "Ain't Nice", "Creatures", "Girls & Boys"  

6. The Martha's Vineyard Ferries - "After You"
Album: Suns Out Guns Out
I don't remember where we heard it, but at some point in the spring of 2021 we were introduced to/blown away by The MVFs through the excellent song "Jail Material".  The band is comprised of members from other decently well known acts like Shellac & Codeine.  If that doesn't impress you, from their bandcamp page: "Over the course of two prior releases — 2010’s ‘In The Pond’ (Sickroom) and 2013’s ‘Mass Grave’ (Kiam) — The Martha’s Vineyard Ferries quietly carved out a high-IQ corner of the U.S. rock underground reserved for taut, deathly catchy songs that showcased deft (if get-to-the-point) instrumentation. That the band have been kinda/sorta under the collective radar has more to do with their being otherwise occupied (more on that in a minute) than a lack of artistic ambition; they’ve slayed before and after a long break, they’re back to slay again."  I don't know why I event try to come up with anything to say about these bands.  What they all write on their bandcamp pages is so much better.  
Also check out: "Betty Ford James

7. Abstract Mindstate feat. Kanye West - "The Brenda Song"
Album: Dreams Still Inspire
Toward the end of the year I was going through the potentials list and noticed an unusual lack of rap/hip-hop artists so I think I either found an underground hip-hop blog or playlist or something (all I really remember is I was painting Sixty's room at the time).  However it happened I came across this throwback song called "A Wise Tale" that I really liked by some duo called  Abstract Mindstate. Turns out Abstract Mindstate was seminal duo in the Chicago rap scene in the 90's and early 2000's. They never caught their big break and eventually got on with their 9 to 5 lives with the rest of us.  Then, apparently during his 2018 Wyoming recording sessions, Kanye overcame a bout of writers block while listening to one of their old mix tapes, so as a thank you he offered to produce an album for them if they got back together, and thus Dreams Still Inspire was born.  I'm not sure this ended up being a super big break for them.  I mean face it, not one of you had heard of them until this moment, but now you've heard of them and you know Dreams Still Inspire is damn good.   Tell a friend.  Buy a t-shirt.  Watch their movie.  Oh yeah, there's a trailer for a documentary about them out there.  Not sure when or where it will be released, but I'll give it a watch.  Now, this next part has nothing to do with Abstract Mindstate, but I would be remiss if I neglected to mention my best local hip hop story of the year. One hot Saturday this summer I found myself without refreshments so I went to my favorite liquor store, Pina Wine & Spirits in Raymore to grab a few Pale Ales.  As I made my way back to the beer cooler I noticed two young men dancing and holding fanned out handfuls of what I have to assume was monopoly money.  As I got closer I saw someone was filming them and realized I had walked into a music video.  These guys were doing a guerilla hip hop video in the my liquor store!  I just tried to find it on youtube and it doesnt look like they put up whatever they shot that day.  Maybe because I walked in front of them as they were pantomiming their rap.  Maybe because rapping in front of a bud light display featuring a cardboard cutout of Travis Kelce doesn't look as cool as they thought it would.  Anyway, after selecting my cold foamers I talked with the young artists and learned the rapper was named El Leiko and the song featured his cousin Baby Zo.  I promised them I'd look them up on Spotify which I promptly did, and guys, I really wanted to like it but yikes.  That's all I'm going to say.  Anyway, please check out my new friend El Leiko.  Nice kid.  Oh right, also check out Abstract Mindstate. 
Also check out: "Move Yo Body"

8. Wavves - "Sinking Feeling"
Album: Hideaway
I say this every year, but more than ever I have almost no idea what any of you may have heard this year.  How do you all consume music?  Terrestrial radio?  Satellite?  YouTube music?  I don't think it's much of a secret I have always tried to make this thing a collection of songs that hopefully are mostly new to you guys.  So here we are at "Sinking Feeling."  More than any other song on the Bash this year I feel like this one might actually be a top 40 or modern rock radio hit, so if you've already heard it a hundred times I apologize.  If not, you're welcome.  I'm no musician so I can't explain it, but there's something off about the chord progression of this song, but in a good way.  I can't get enough of whatever it is.  If this impresses you, Hideaway was produced by Dave Sitek.  Yes, that Dave Sitek (from TV on the Radio...the same Dave Sitek who attached wind chimes to the head of his guitar when Mrs. Sisson and I saw them that magical week when we saw first TV on the Radio, then The Roots at the  Ameristar Casino in KC many years ago, and haven't been back one time since!)! 
Also check out: "Through Hell", "Hideaway

9. Parquet Courts - "Black Widow Spider"
Album: Sympathy for Life
So, "Walking at a Downtown Pace" may actually have been the song of the year, but surely you've heard it a bunch of times already.  If not you might want to re-think what you've been allowing into your ears this year.  OK, at this point its cliché for me to say when Parquet Court first came on to the scene I thought they'd be a gimmick act.  Their first hit was "Stoned and Starving" which I felt was light on being good but heavy on references to things a certain subset of the population would like no mater what the music sounded like. Here we are 8 years later and the PQs have release three additional albums, all of which have been featured on the Bash so I have to ask myself, are the Parquet Courts one of my favorite bands?  Maybe!  Are they one of yours?  

Album: 1975
From the Amoeba summary: "1975 is songwriter/scholar Julian Saporiti's new album for his multi-media No-No Boy project. Saporiti tackles the complex issues of immigration and the Asian American experience with impeccably arranged folk/rock songs that include clips from field recordings."  You guys know I'm always up for some folk songs about the struggles of Asian American immigrants (see Kishi Bashi from the 2019 Bash).  That being said TBGDBiW hooked me right away mostly due to the geography of the song.  As you may know, both of my parents attended the University of Wyoming where they met and eventually, well, created the conditions that led to this 20 year run of amazing end of year mix CDs. One of the jokes in my family growing up is my dad wanted to name me Thermopolis which is a town (maybe city by Wyoming standards) in central Wyoming known for its hot springs. When I heard the line "bunch of Japs playing jazz at the Thermopolis prom" I knew you guys had to hear it too.  Hope you like it. 
Also check out: "Imperial Twist"

11. Typhoon - "Empire Builder"
Album: Sympathetic Magic
Long time listeners may have noticed I have a real weakness for Typhoon.  I try every year to limit the number of repeat Bash artists, and this year did a better job than usual with only four double dippers, but try as I might I couldn't keep Sympathetic Magic off my list.  Typhoon is a Portland eight piece (yeah, eight) we've loved since 2010's Hunger and Thirst
Also check out: "We're In It", "Welcome to the Endgame", "Evil Vibes"  

Album: Home Video
If you're the type to listen to NPR there's a good chance you've at least heard of Lucy Dacus. She's been a favorite of the All Songs Considered team for a while now.  I guess if it was a secret now you know we're an NPR family and thus we've been smitten with Home Video all year too.  I naively thought I'd maybe bring you "VBS" or "Hot and Heavy," but let's be real with each other.  There was really no chance you'd be listening to anything besides "Thumbs" right now.   I don't think I need to explain what the song's about.  She splits it open and lays it on the table for you to admire/be horrified.  You should really check out the awesome Song Xploder podcast about "Thumbs."  
Also check out: "Brando", "Going Going Gone

Album: recollection (reimagined) 
I was introduced to Ben Caplan through the song "Birds With Broken Wings" which would almost certainly made it on to the 2015 Bash had I heard it that year.  Digging in to his catalog I came across "Down to the River" which was on 2011's In the Time of the Great Remembering and is another song I've always kicked myself for not hearing in time to share with you.  Then this year Mr. Caplan released an album of stripped down, re-recorded (reimagined) songs featuring mainly acoustic guitar, piano and his impressive voice. From the Great Dark Wonder review: “For years, I‘ve had friends and fans express their desire to have recordings of my songs being performed solo,” he recalls. The pandemic "was the time to finally take on that project."  I hope you give a listen to his back catalog and see which version of "Down to the River" you prefer.  Either way, just know that a drowning man is just a living man who hasn't run out of his last bit of breath.  Sigh. 

14. TV Priest - "Decoration"
Album: Uppers
I seriously think I could have filled at least half of the 2021 Bash tracklist with UK rock bands.  Apologies to Black Midi, Idles & Yard Act all of whom narrowly missed the cut this year with their respective fantastic albums.  Believe it or not I was introduced to TV Priest that same eventful morning I described back in the Black Country, New Road section.  My favorite favorite of the year is still coming up, but TV Priest is super close to the the top.  
Also check out: "Press Gang"

15. Teen Mortgage  - "Shangri-La"
Album: Smoked
From their bandcamp bio: "Washington DC’s tinnitus transmitting twosome, Teen Mortgage, return post pandemic with Smoked, their 2nd release through greasy Brooklyn cassette slingers, King Pizza Records. Once again, the duo are back to smack you over the head with seething surf punk riffs setting the scene to explain this cultural wasteland they call America."  Rock and Roll baby!  They released the single "Such Is Life" very early in 2021 and I've been banging my head to it all year.  In October they released the five song EP "Smoked" which doesn't actually include "Such Is Life,"  but hey, such is life.  

16. Springtime - "Will To Power"
Album: Springtime
Sprimgtime are an art-rock featuring Australian musicians Gareth Liddiard (the Drones/Tropical Fuck Storm), Jim White (Xylouris White/Dirty Three), and Chris Abrahams (The Necks).  BTW, I was introduced to Tropical Fuck Storm this summer through the track "Soft Power" from 2018's A Laughing Death in Meatspace and subsequently went on a  very enjoyable TFS deep dive.  They released Deep States this year which I enjoyed but didn't hook me the way Springtime did.
Also check out: "The Viaduct Love Suicide"

17. Homeboy Sandman - "FYI"
Album: Anjelitu
Anjelitu is an EP consisting of six tracks, all of which were produced by Team Sisson favorite, and long time Homeboy Sandman collaborator Aesop Rock.  In fact, Aesop's own Garbology was in strong consideration for the Bash this year.  From the rapreviews writeup: "It doesn’t hurt Sandman at all that the entirety of “Anjelitu” is produced by Aesop Rock, an artist with an even longer tenure in hip-hop music whose entire career can be summed up by 'I do what the fuck I want and people just happen to like it.” " You know what happens when people make music only to please themselves though? More often than not they make damn good music."  I'll second that.  Give Anjelitu a spin and I think you'll agree.
Also check out: "Lice Team Baby

18. Rural Internet - "I am not brave"
Album: escape room 
So......there's no way you will agree, but in my opinion we saved the absolute best for last.  Rural Internet is the act I was most excited about this year.  They actually released two LPs this year with Breaking Up in February followed up by escape room in September.  I spent two full weekends in November listening to Breaking Up & escape room over and over again trying to figure out which track I could share that captured what I though was great about the band, but at the same time didn't feature a million f-bombs since my niece and nephews listen to the Bash every year.  A lot of the tracks met the first criterion, but none of them met the second!  Believe it or not I think "I am not brave" is the cleanest track on both albums.  Fantano at theneedledrop did a pretty positive review of Breaking Up, but google or youtube "rural internet escape room review" and you'll get a lot of reviews of rural internet providers and escape rooms, but not yet a single professional review.  I can't beleive this album is the best thing I heard all year and no one else seems to have noticed it, so I guess you literally heard it here first.  The Birthday Bash started as an attempt to share awesome tunes with friends who probably wouldn't hear them otherwise, so to do just that with the last track on the 20th version of this thing is really kind of poetic.  Shut up.  I'm not crying.
Also check out: "Government", "Brainworms", "Zipper", "Tension", "Bubble"                 

Here are some other albums that were in contention and deserving of recognition this year.

Julien Baker - Little Oblivions
Kid Kapichi - This Time Next Year
Yard Act - Dark Days
Shame - Drunk Tank Pink
Boundaries - Maidan
The Blue Stones - Hidden Gems
The Armed - Ultrapop
In The Pines - Interlude
Dinosaur Jr.  - Sweep It Into Space
Psykhi - Youth
Pom Pom Squad - Death of a Cheerleader
Tamar Aphek - All Bets Are Off
Turnstile - Glow One
Ty Segall - Harmonizer
Black Midi - Cavalcade
Anchoress - The Art of Losing
Aesop Rock - Garbology
Mark Haldeman and Co. - Recklessly Optimistic
Solemn Brigham - South Sinner Street
For Those I Love - For Those I Love
Idles - Car Crash

Once again, happy holidays from Team Sisson!  Have a great 2022!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Monday, December 28, 2020

Team Sisson's Best of 2020

Happy holidays from Team Sisson, and congratulations on receiving Chris Schuck's 19th Annual Surprise Birthday Bash for Jesus. As always, we've picked and exquisitely sequenced tracks from 21 (well, really'll see) of our favorite albums of 2020 for your listening pleasure. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

1. Iglooghost - "Eoe (Disk*Initiate)"
Album: n/a
As above, we have always tried to sell The Bash as a collection of songs from our favorite albums of the year.  As an aside (just one sentence into it this year...buckle your seatbelts people) the original inspiration for this whole Birthday Bash concept was Jason Cafer's best of the year compilation mix you would find at the listening station at Streetside Records in Columbia in the late 90's/early 2000's (wanna feel old?).  Jason Cafer is now a psychiatrist and Medical Director for Behavioral Health Services at SSM Health/St. Mary's Hospital in Jefferson City, as well as a published author of some pretty good psych pharmacology reference books, but back then, while he was in school at Mizzou he had a show on our college station and was plugged in to both the local and national indie music scene in a way that really impressed me.  As I'm reminiscing here, I also remember he got in some hot water after he played a song in the middle of the night with some questionable lyrics that a Karen had a problem with.  Ah the memories.  Anyway, "Eoe(Disk*Initiate)" is not on an album, nor do I have any suspiscion it ever will be, although you can buy this song as an album on Bandcamp (which I did).  However, it's probably the best thing I've heard all year so I had to include it, and not only that, but I made it the opener to what promises out to be another killer Birthday Bash.  Let's go!!!!!!!!

2. BC Camplight - "I Only Drink When I'm Drunk"
Album: Shortly After Takeoff
Here's a peek behind the curtain for you.  Occasionally I'll check the metacritic album score rankings for the current year to see if there's anything I've missed that's been getting a lot of buzz.  This is rarely a fruitful exercise, but a couple of months ago I took a chance on Shortly After Takeoff after seeing it pretty high on the 2020 list (as of press time it's the 10th most critically lauded album of the year).  The opener "I Only Drink When I'm Drunk" sucked me in. I stuck around for "Ghosthunting,"thinking "Back To Work" slaps, and before you know it I'm on my third listen and loving every minute of it.  I wouldn't say this is happy or uplifting it's perfect for the 2020 Bash.
Also check out: "Cemetery Lifestyle"

Album: tbd
You guys know I'm always scanning the Arts & Entertainment sections of Irish newspapers to look for up and coming bands.  Well, when I saw The Galway Advertiser named The Clockworks Best Galway Band 2020, I had to take a listen!  From the write-up: "GALWAY HAS produced many fine rock bands over the years, but none has ever caused the stir outside of Ireland in the way The Clockworks have.
Signed to Alan McGee's Creation23 label, praised by Annie Mac of the BBC, and, pre-Covid, enjoying sell-out gigs in London, the hype is entirely justified. Stripped down riffing, that combines a punk energy with an indie sense of melody, and a strong, socio-political point of view, The Clockworks - James McGregor (vocals/guitar ), Sean Connelly (guitar ), Damian Greaney (drums ), Tom Freeman (bass ) - are a band with something to say, and they say it wrapped in thrilling tunes."
These guys have yet to release a proper album, but I couldn't keep "Enough Is Never Enough" off The Bash.  These fingers are made for pointing!

4. Painted Shield - "On the Level"
Album: Painted Shield
I should probably keep this to myself, but I came thiiiis close to including a track from the new Pearl Jam record Gigaton.  Make fun of me all you want buy guys, it seriously slaps.  As a compromise I'm giving you "On the Level" from Stone Gossard's project Painted Shield. Team Sisson favorite Mason Jennings provides vocals along with keys from Brittany Davis and drums from Matt Chamberlain (you've probably heard the name) to round out the group.  Jeff and Mike from PJ also contribute here and there.  Also, quite unbelievably it seems Stone and Mason have never actually met.  From a Rolling Stone writeup: "In the meantime, the band is just looking forward to getting together in the same room, something they have yet to do. 'Can you imagine when we all might be in the same state?' Gossard asks. 'And what does that look like?’ We’re hoping to get the first group hug filmed. We want to document it. We’ll be like, ‘Oh my God. I’m actually able to touch you.”  Here's hoping these guys actually get together and tour someday when the world gets back on track.  Cory, you in?

Album: Brave Faces Everyone
From the Kerrang review: "To say that Spanish Love Songs wear their trauma on their sleeves is an understatement. Fronted by vocalist/guitarist Dylan Slocum, the LA-based quintet have been venting their various frustrations via their Menzingers-ish, gruff-yet-melodic punk rock since 2015’s debut LP, Giant Sings The Blues. Things are no better on this third record. ​‘It won’t be this bleak forever,’ Dylan sings on second track Self-Destruction – his voice trembling, as it usually does, as if he’s on the verge of tears – before adding a sly, sarcastic ​‘Yeah, right’ to an already unconvincing statement. The truth is – as this album’s title suggests – everything is fucked. These are tales of broken hearts and broken homes, drug abuse and booze, friends dying and loved ones lying, not to mention the drudgery of day-to-day life in a world that, as Dylan sings on Kick, is going to do just that to you. In other words, it will be this bleak forever and there’s nothing anybody can do about it."  Brave Faces Everyone seems mainly to be music as therapy for the lead singer.  I'm often amazed and thankful that there are people in this world who wear their emotions on their sleeve like this.  If I had a therapist I don't think I'd say half the stuff this guy screams into a microphone for the world to hear.  I absolutely love this record, and I think you do too. 
Also check out: "Losers", "Beachfront Property", "Kick"

6. Run The Jewels - "out of sight (feat. 2 Chainz)"
Album: RTJ4
Bangers baby!  I can't believe RTJ is still a thing, but these guys have stumbled on to the rap coca-cola formula so they'd be dumb to end it.  Plus it seems like they've been best bros from day one.  We first caught the El-P (El-Producto)/Killer Mike bug when back in 2012 the former produced the latter's solo record R.A.P. Music which remains to this day one of our favorites.  At the time we only knew Killer Mike from a couple of verses he contributed to Outkast songs, one of which was on the Scooby Doo soundtrack. After that record El-P, who was already a legendary MC stepped out from behind the mixing board to join Mike behind the mike and they have been crushing it with RTJ ever since.  We really struggled with picking a track to include on The Bash this year.  "JU$T" was the obvious choice, but if you haven't already heard that one, I just feel sorry for you.  BTW, check out the phenomenal Song Exploder episode about JU$T.  Really interesting stuff.  Speaking of interesting, El-P is four years older than me.  Wanna feel young?
Also check out: "JU$T", "ooh la la", "walking in the snow

7. Yves Tumor - "Gospel For A New Century"
I would attempt to explain Yves Tumor to you, but as the Spotify bio states: "Few projects at the forefront of contemporary art truly push visceral sonic boundaries in the way that Yves Tumor does.  With an arc that impartially sits between psych-rock and modern pop, comparisons only sere as limitations intended to define that which cannot be.  Yves Tumor melds restraint and chaos; diluting reality by giving meaning to the abstract and allowing for dissonance to be seen and heard as harmony."  Damn!  Heaven To A Tortured Mind might be the most critically acclaimed record on The Bash this year coming in at #7 on Pitchfork's 50 Best Albums of 2020 list, with "Gospel For a New Century" as in my opinion the standout track.  Not just my opinion though, Pitchfork ranked it at #7 on their 100 Best Songs of 2020 list.  For those who question why I continue to reference Pitchfork I really have no answer.  I know they were bought by Condé Nast in 2015, laid off a ton of their staff and are no longer the authority on music they once were.  That being said, the writers they still have are pretty solid and no other entity has stepped up since to take the throne.  I also never leave home without American Express travelers checks so maybe I just like to live in the past.  Anyway, here's the Pitchfork writeup: "On 'Gospel for a New Century,' Yves Tumor preaches the fr eedom to exist as they are. That means fully inhabiting their newfound rock star persona and doing away with the thin line between art and artifice. In one moment, Yves is dragging serrated horn samples across cavernous guitars; in the next, they’re casually settling into a groove worthy of Prince. This is a love song at its core but, facing down the barrel of this year, its sense of longing resonates further than that. 'How much longer till December?' Yves asks at the end of the chorus. However far away, it can’t come soon enough."
Also check out: "Strawberry Privilege", "Kerosene!"  

8. The Kraken Quartet, Adobo - "Hold My Breath"
Album: Backdrop
Here's how The Kraken Quartet describe themselves on their website:  A massive force of percussion and electronics, The Kraken Quartet is a genre-crossing group known for its highly energetic and engaging performances. Since their formation in 2012, the Austin-based band has been heralded for merging elements of minimalism, math-rock, indie, post-rock, electronica, and the avant-garde.  I'd never heard of them until this year and guys, they're really good.  From what I've seen of them they don't really fit anywhere, but they're the kind of band you would happen upon in an opening slot or an afternoon at a festival and become the thing you were most excited that you saw.  This year they teamed up with Adobo (singer and guitarist of the band Hikes) for a four song EP that we've been loving since we heard it.  
Also check out: "Backdrop"

9. Hachiku - "I'll Probably Be Asleep"
Album: I'll Probably Be Asleep
Hachiku was another NPR music discovery for us.  We freaking love the sonics on this record.  From the Louder Than War review: "As a whole, I’ll Probably Be Asleep has a certain homespun feel to it: intricately and delicately put together. Every track is heavily layered, with Hachiku building them up like a dreamy sonic soup. Along with the heavy use of reverb, it makes many of the songs difficult to unpick; working out the exact source of each sound is an impossible task."

10. Bartees Strange - "Mustang"
Album: Live Forever
"Mustang" came in #36 on Pitchfork's 100 Best Songs of 2020 list. From the writeup: "With 'Mustang,' Bartees Strange took everything he knew about indie rock and put it into one massive song. Set to walls of guitar and synth hooks, his lyrics contain a nod to the music that inspired him as a Black teenager interested in punk and indie, and to the unfulfilling jobs he worked for years to pay the bills before quitting to focus on performing and producing. A lot has been made of a Bartees Strange being black man from a suburb of  Oklahoma City (Mustang) who grew up listening to and performing in rock/punk/hardcore bands, but we can't criticize as it really is a good story.  If Wikipedia can be trusted on the matter, Mustang, Oklahoma appears to be an incredibly boring place.  We were planning on giving you "Boomer" for most of the year, but called a last second audible and really, either one would have made you extremely happy.  Just try to wipe that smile off your face!  You can't do it!
Also check out: "Boomer", "Kelly Rowland"

11. M. Ward - "Independent Man"
Album: Migration Stories
We've been M. Ward fans since 2003's Transfiguration of Vincent.  I could listen to M. Ward sing the phone book.  Better yet, I could listen to M. Ward sing one of Donnie T's nonsensical run-on sentences (i.e. Look, having nuclear—my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart—you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I'm one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it’s true!—but when you're a conservative Republican they try—oh, do they do a goes on from there).  Not to make light of the dead, but the Pitchfork review also mentions our former dear leader: "Under the Donald J. Trump administration, singing about migration is an explicitly political act. But M. Ward is constitutionally predisposed towards mystery and understatement, so his Migration Stories sidesteps protests and outrages. The album, Ward’s 10th as a solo artist, unfurls at a deliberate pace, luxuriating in a dreamworld conjured out of memories, shared stories, and flights of fancy."  Here's his Tiny Desk Home Concert.  
Also check out: "Unreal City", "Migration of Souls"

12. Chester Watson - "Porcelain Geisha"
Album: A Japanese Horror Film
Long time Birthday Bash fans probably recognize the formula for the track listing always includes a minimum of three and a maximum five purely hip-hop/rap songs.  This year we hit our minimum quota, albeit with three artists that have all been featured on previous Bash offerings.  Now that we've completed production on the physical media, my annual mixtape maker's remorse revolves around a desire to have included something off the impeccable Blu & Exile's Miles.  That is not to say though Chester Watson does not belong here.  Quite the contrary, this former ballet dancer and son of a Bar-Kay has become one of my favorite rappers out there.  His vocal style makes it seem as though he's expending as little effort as possible, but the complexity of his rhymes tells a different story.
Also check out: "Life Wrote Itself"

13. King Krule - "Comet Face"
Album: Man Alive!
From the Pitchfork review: "The lanky London outlaw with cement-mixer lungs delivers his most anguished album yet, in which impending fatherhood collides with his habitual torments."  Cement-mixer lungs!  We came thiiis close to bringing you something from King Krule's 2017 The OOZ (probably the Sisson boys' favorite "Dum Surfer"), but while we loved the sound on The OOZ we decided you guys might dislike the lack of melody and overall unpleasantness.  That same sound is largely present on Man Alive!, but we couldn't resist introducing you to it a second time.  For most of the year we had "Alone, Omen 3" on the tentative Bash track listing but made a last second switch to "Comet Face."  
Also check out: "Stoned Again"

14. Moon Hooch - "#4 Solo"
Album: Life on Other Planets
In recent years we've fallen back in love with the saxaphone, in no small part thanks to bands like Too Many Zooz (thanks for the rec Eddie!) and Moon Hooch.  Both of these bands started out busking in NYC subway stations and have since moved above ground to take over the world, or at least fill this specific little niche  that we can't get enough of.  Speaking of their commonality, check out "Stonk" featuring Leo P from Too Many Zooz.  Moon Hooch was first brought to our attention by NPR Music back in 2013, and in 2014 we featured a track from This Is Cave Music on that year's epic Bash.  From their bio: "Though the band—whose members initially met as students at the New School—turned heads in the music industry as relative unknowns with a charismatic, unconventional sound (they play with unique tonguing techniques and utilize found objects like traffic cones attached to the bells of their horns to manipulate tone, for instance), they were already a familiar and beloved sight to strangers in New York, who would react with such joy and fervor to their impromptu subway platform sets that the NYPD had to ban them from locations that couldn’t handle the crowds. NY Mag once referred to their sound as 'Jay Gatsby on ecstasy,' while the NY Post fell for their 'catchy melodic hooks and funky rhythms,' saying they had 'the power to make you secretly wish that the short [subway] wait becomes an indefinite delay.”  Listen to literally any of their songs/watch any of their videos and tell me you wouldn't be sweaty at the end of one of their shows.  I can't wait to soak two shirts and then buy some merch (ironically probably a shirt) someday when I see these guys live.  In addition to playing melt your face of sax jams, they're also also doing Cameos now so if you're looking for a last minute Christmas gift.....
Also check out: "Candlelight", "Bronst"  

15. Marlowe - "O.G. Funk Rock" feat. A-F-R-O
Album: Marlowe 2
L'Orange is becoming, at least for us Danger Mouse 2.0.  Danger Mouse of course years ago went on an incredible run of producing some of the out favorite music year after year from Danger Doom to Gnarls Barkley to Beck to The Black Keys to The Good The Bad & The Queen.  Someone can dig in to our archives to fact check this, but I think at one point we had featured a Danger Mouse produced track at least six years in a row on The Bash.  He's not there yet, but L'Orange has now made our "Three Timers Club."  We first introduced you to L'Orange's sick ass beats with Marlowe just two years ago when we blessed your with "Lost Arts" from their self-titled debut.  Then last year we brought you a track from his collaboration with Jeremiah Jae, Complicate You Life With Violence.  L'Orange is back this year with rapper Solemn Brigham to bring us the Marlowe 2.  From the Medium review: "Marlowe 2 feels like both artists stepping it up in a major way. L’Orange appears to experiment even more than usual this time around with various sounds and styles from both music and apparently radio theater, never straying too far away from his signature traits of dusty boom-bap with a sort of ominous vibe, but also never offering up anything that sounds like something he’s previously done, and the whole album has a nice variety to accompany the vocals. As for Solemn, he shreds every verse he drops on here, showing off his flow and delivery even more. Just peep the opening song “Spring Kick”. Brigham keeps rapping until his vocals just fade out with the beat, never letting up, resulting in the track sounding like a legitimate kick to the face in the best way possible."  I don't know about you, but I love it when music sounds like a kick to the face.  Seriously, check out Marlowe 2.
Also check out: "Future Power Sources", "Otherworld

16. Nada Surf - "Something I Should Do"
Album: Never Not Together
As I do these write-ups I'm starting to realize the overall tone of The Bash this year is super super depressing.  So, here's some Nada Surf to turn that frown upside down!  Holy math says we're never not together.
Also check out: "So Much Love"

17. The Arosa - "In Chemicals"
Album: n/a
Here we come to the third track on The Bash that has yet to be featured on a proper album.  In our defense we added "In Chemicals" to our Best of 2020 list in mid-March so typically by now there would be something more substantial to talk about.  In the past we'd just move this to the maybe pile for next year, but nothing makes sense anymore and all we know is we've been wearing this track out all year so in case this is the last time we get to do this we want to go out guns blazing!  Despite no evidence of an album there's an "official video,' though at press time it's only had 549 views (wait, what????).  Can we really be the only people who have been smitten by the repeated crash heavy builds into a steady beat complete with the fills that fill our souls?  There's not a lot out there about them, but Spotify says they're "young English hounds out of Birmingham who combine British flair, British panache and British swagger in a most exciting way.  Flaming guitars with a Stone Roses resonance, machine-gun drums, chant-like vocals and a highly infectious chorus to yell out at the top of your vibrating lungs."  I mean, that sounds like the best thing ever, and after listening to "In Chemicals," I bet you'll have a hard time arguing.

18. House of Teeth - "Dophin Megapod (it's just fucking pure energy)" feat. guitar by Madeline Normand
Album: Turnstile Stopped
Speaking of not a lot out there, we bring you a track and artist that seem to exist off the grid.  Please click the track link above.  At press time it has an unbelievable 3 views.  Google House of Teeth and you'll get results for a bunch of dentist offices and creepy ass books.  Google House of Teeth music and you'll find a bandcamp page and a facebook page.  From the looks of the FB page this band was active in 2013-2014 and not a lot since.  We took a chance on Turnstile Stopped after seeing a post about it on one of music subreddits last month and were obviously impressed.  But look guys, we're not here to wonder why others haven't seen the light, but to tell you why we did.  This music makes us smile!  Full stop.  I bet it makes you smile too.  What else do you want?

19. Drive-By Truckers - "Babies in Cages"
Album: The Unraveling
Alright, not all of these will  make you smile.  Y'all know the DBT's are among my top five favorite bands of all time.  They've historically been pretty prolific at releasing albums, but it's been 4 years since they released American Band, which I am in the minority of DBT fans in ranking as one their best works.  Patterson and Cooley have talked about a bout of writers block that set in after American Band, but the floodgates have opened back up as this year they released both The Unraveling and The New OK.  Neither are masterpieces, but both are solid as sears!  
Also check out: "Thoughts and Prayers", "21st Century USA", "The New OK" (from The New OK

For my birthday last year, my loving, beautiful wife got us tickets to see Jeff Tweedy at the Canal Shores Golf Course in Evanston, IL.  We made a weekend of it, calling into service her brother Brian and his fiancé Melody who reside in Chicago as guides.  After some very touristy activities we all attended the show along with thousands of other Chicagoans who spread picnic blankets across the the 18th fairway of this golf course.  It was an exceedingly pleasant setting, but as dusk enveloped us we were jarred into reality by the angular bass and guitar of the opening act who I later learned were something of a big deal in Chicago.  Of course I'm talking about Ohmme.  I'd hoped to tell you this story last year, but the song I was most smitten by at the show, "Give Me Back My Man" wasn't on and album released that year.  In fact, it wasn't on their 2020 album Fantasize Your Ghost either.  Apparently it's a B-52's cover so they just play it live.  No worries, FYG is chock full of tracks you will enjoy the hell out of.  From the Paste review: "...Fantasize Your Ghost makes it clear that Ohmme can run circles around most rock bands. Their use of fascinating texture and consideration for every layer of their songs—whether subtle or overt—is a gift. Even their more traditionally-structured songs like “The Limit” or “Some Kind of Calm” contain intrigue and finesse. A record like Fantasize Your Ghost could only come from a band that’s equally thoughtful and inventive as they are technically sound. Each spark of this record has the potential to flicker and fade or explode with great magnitude, and those unforeseen outcomes will leave listeners hanging on their every note."
Also check out: "Ghost", "The Limit", "3 2 4 3"

Album: A Hero's Death
We close out yet another killer Birthday Bash with yet another killer track from these Irish lads, who were featured just a year ago with the track "Too Real" from Dogrel.  We've been digging A Hero's Death since it came out this summer.  To launch the album they live streamed a performance of the entire track list, calling it A Night At Montrose.  Here's "A Lucid Dream" from that performance.  Wait...Montrose?  Did they really play the Knights hall in my hometown?  The VFW?  Short Street Tavern?  Ok, upon some investigation it appears this was recorded/streamed from a studio at 2FM, RTE which as far as I can tell is a radio station in a Dublin neighborhood called Montrose.  Maybe it's an Irish version of the KEXP studio?  Anyway, hope you like it.  Here's their La Blogotheque Takeaway Show 

Here are some other albums that were in contention and deserving of recognition this year.

Blu & Exile - Miles  
Algiers - There Is No Year
Shabaka and the Ancestors - We Are Sent Here By History
Kassa Overall - I THINK I'M GOOD
Pictures of Venom - bug
Lanterns on the Lake - Spook The Herd
Andrew R Morris - One Fine Sweet and Sunny Day
Loma - Octillo
Jonsi - Shiver
Emile T. - Don't Get Buried in Your Hometown
Aesop Rock - Spirit World Field Guide
Dylan Cartlidge - Yellow Brick Road
Partner - Never Give Up

Once again, happy holidays from Team Sisson!  Have a great 2021!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Team Sisson's Best of 2019

Happy holidays from Team Sisson, and congratulations on receiving Chris Schuck's 18th Annual Surprise Birthday Bash for Jesus. As always, we've picked and exquisitely sequenced tracks from 19 of our favorite albums of 2019 for your listening pleasure. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

1. Mini Meltdowns - "I Wanna Die"
Album: Destined for Disaster
As per usual let's start things out with some gnarly guitar rock!  Big thanks to Jim & Greg at Sound Opinions for turning us on to Mini Meltdowns.  I believe they were featured on a late year Buried Treasures episode and we were immediately hooked.  Destined for Disaster is really just a 4 song EP, but man does it snarl!  According to their label page it's four songs "that deliver quick riff-tastic blasts that show off Phillip's growing comfort in performing front and center."  Evidently the band's front man is a dude named Jon Phillip who is, according to Spotify, "a respected and prolific drummer."  That's all well and good but let's get back to the description "Riff-tastic"!  Who doesn't love a good riff every now and again?  For more supporting documentation, according to their bandcamp page "We're a punk rock band."  Yep.  Thanks.  According to Team Sisson "I Wanna Die" is the perfect opener to another killer Birthday Bash!  Strap in baby! 
Also Check Out: "Afraid of Everything", "You Bring Me Down"

2.. Sego - "Neon Me Out"
Album: Sego Sucks
Let's keep the adrenaline going with the opener from Sego's excellent, and misleadingly titled second LP, Sego Sucks. Most of the reviews focus quite a bit on the "USA" chant in "Give Me."  For instance (from Paste), "If I told you that a band wrote a USA chant into one of their songs in 2019, which band would you guess? Kid Rock? Ted Nugent? Or maybe Lynyrd Skynyrd? But you probably wouldn’t guess a socially-conscious, self-aware, lyrically adroit young band from Los Angeles. That band is Sego, and their second album Sego Sucks has countless amusing lyrics that will whiz past if you’re solely engaged in their fun-loving, melodic alternative rock choruses."  I'd be ok with just fun loving alt rock choruses!  Sego Sucks has been a Team Sisson bath time favorite this year.  Ok, that sounds weird.  Our night time ritual still involves me sitting in the boys' bathroom as they take their bath while I generally rock out with a Bluetooth speaker.  Do they need me in there?  Probably not at this point, but this truly is the only time in the day I have carved out to "get some tunes going" as they (and I) say.  In fact, most of this Bash is tunes I first heard over the splashing/giggling/fighting that takes place during the nightly bath.  And that does include (again......from Paste) "one of the best rock choruses of the year."  As I often say.........please enjoy.
Also Check Out: "Whatever Forever", "Give Me", "Heart Attack", "Sucker/Saint"

3. Spielbergs - "Five on It"
Album: This is Not the End
What?  Is this thing only kick ass guitar rock? I'm ok with that!  That's what you're probably saying at this point.  Funny thing.  I didn't realize until the moment I'm typing this is Spielbergs are NORWEGIAN!  Team Sisson's run of bringing you at least one Scandinavian artist on The Bash lives on!!!!  Sigur Ros, The Hives, Team Me, Of Monster and Men, Iceage, etc. etc. etc!  So these guys are apparently from Oslo.  As it happens, my sister and her family hosted a foreign exchange student from Oslo last year, whose father, among other things started and ran the "Over Oslo" music festival.  Looks like a killer event.  Long distance shout out to Hannah!  If you're not sold on This is Not the End, there's a song called "McDonalds's (Please Don't Fuck up My Order)."  Uh, yeah.  Try to frown now loser.
Also check out: "We Are All Going To Die"

4. Kishi Bashi - "Summer of '42"
Album: Omoiyari
Ahhhh, that's nice.  We like the strings too.  Omoiyari (roghtly: thinking of others fosters compassion) deals with some dark subject matter (Japanese internment during WWII and how that relates to our country's increasing vilification of immigrants), but our two cents is this is just some beautiful music.  Hopefully you get the message, but if not at least you're having a better time than when you weren't listening to it.  Kishi Bashi became an NPR Music darling seven (seven!) years ago.  In a related story, at Leanna's work (she works now) Christmas party at an ax throwing place....where I nearly won the whole enchilada....and had I won you'd be hearing a lot more about that part of it......but anyway, I of the other husbands was from Alabama and said he claimed to like music so I asked him (quite foolishly as it turns out) if he knew anything about Alabama Shakes.  When he asked what they sounded like I said, "you know sort or like NPR music."  That pretty much ended the conversation.  In fairness I don't think they have radios in Alabama, much less NPR so it was sort of a stumbling on an Amazonian tribe situation.  So, in summation, as long as you're not throwing axes this album will wedge it's way into the bullseye of your ear.  Wait....
Also Check Out: "A Song for You"

5. Leonard Cohen - "Happens to the Heart"
Album: Thanks for the Dance
You know, I never really got into Leonard Cohen while he was alive.  I mean there's obviously "Hallelujah" which I along with 8 billion other people love, but beyond that he never really caught my attention.  It wasn't until I heard his "Nevermind" which was the perfect theme song for the very underrated True Detective Season 2.  Then came You Want It Darker, which was released a little less than three weeks before his death.  If I had to do it over the title track would have been featured on the 2016 Bash.  I am righting that wrong with "Happens to the Heart."  I mean how good is this song?  It's like when he spoke these words he knew he would have already left us. 
Also Check Out: "The Night of Santiago"

6. L'Orange, Jeremiah Jae - "My Everything is Bulletproof"
Album: Complicate Your Life with Violence
This is L'Orange's second year in a row being featured on The Bash, having earned his spot last year with his work with Solemn Brigham on the Marlowe project.  Truth be told I wasn't wowed by the single "Dead Battery", but once I gave the rest of the album a listen I fell in love.  L'Orange is quickly becoming appointment listening in our house.  This guy is interesting in that he doesn't produce tracks, he produces full albums.  Looking at his back catalog he's done albums with Kool Keith (see below), Mr. Lif and Topeka's own Stik Figa.  CYLwV is one where we really struggled to decide which track to include.  We came very close to giving you "Cool Hand" which features a verse by Team Sisson favorite Chester Watson.  The whole album is great though.  Give it a spin!
Also Check Out: "Behavior Report", "After Alley Life"

7. Adia Victoria - "Clean"
Album: Silences
Silences was produced by Aaron Dessner (of The National).  In discussing her vision for this, her second album Adia said "I wonder what it would sound like if Billie Holiday got lost in a Radiohead song?"  Great question!  Here's the answer. 
Also Check Out: Her Tiny Desk Concert, "Different Kind of Love", "Bring Her Back"

8. The Comet Is Coming - "Summon The Fire"
Album: Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery
Continuing our semi-recent proclivity for including saxophone led trios (Moon Hooch in 2014, Too Many Zooz in 2016), we bring you The Comet Is Coming! Drums, synths & sax.  How could it possibly sound this good?  From the Pitchfork review, "Lifeforce is an album in the truest sense, with each song blending into the next for continuous listening. Mostly low- to mid-tempo, the band skillfully integrates bleak and radiant tones, leading to an impressive nine-track suite of ambient, spoken-word and grime-infused compositions."
Also Check Out: Their Tiny Desk Concert, "Blood of the Past"

9. Fontaines D.C. - "Too Real"
Album: Dogrel
As far as I can tell, the good Irish boys Fontaines D.C. took over the critical darling position Idles held in 2016 & 2017.  Dogrel was nominated for the Mercury Prize and won the BBC Radio 6 Music Album of the Year.  The former is something.  I have no idea if the latter is anything, but it's on their Wikipedia.  But it's not just everyone's favorite, BBC Radio 6, these guys have been all over Best of 2019 lists.  Overall Dogrel came in at #20 on Metacritic's list with a few other #1's in there (Crash Records, Hot Press, Live4ever, Rough Trade).  But hey, music isn't a contest.  Most of the music we liked this year didn't show up on any list aside from the one you're reading.  And by that measure all you need to know is we really liked Dogrel.  Do you like it (of course you do)?
Also Check Out: "Big", "Sha Sha Sha"

10.. Lana Del Rey - "Mariners Apartment Complex"
Album: Norman Fucking Rockwell
We've become pretty big LDR fans here at Team Sisson HQ, but we're not alone as NFR has been featured prominently on end of the year lists.  In fact, according to Metacritic, NFR is mentioned more than any other album on 2019 top 10 album lists (thirteen 1st place votes & eight 2nd place votes).  The last paragraph of the Pitchfork top 50 album list is one of the best things I've read all year (although aside from this I pretty much only read prescribing info and meeting requests so it isn't a high bar), "Norman Fucking Rockwell! is an album that arrived feeling like a greatest hits collection. Future generations will marvel that one album contained “Venice Bitch” and “Mariners Apartment Complex” and “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have - but i have it.” And they will scoff in disbelief that Lana Del Rey was once treated as anything but the poet laureate of a world on fire."  Amen.  Plus there's a Sublime cover.  What else do you want?
Also check out: "Venice Bitch", "Doin' Time", "Fuck it I love you/The greatest"

11. Copeland - "Pope"
Album: Blushing
I'll always have a soft spot for the long shuttered Johnson County Cajun restaurant Copeland's. This of course was the scene of my famous interaction with former Chiefs defensive end and six time pro-bowler Neil Smith (who was an owner) who offered to bring me some hot sauce, which I wanted, but refused because Neil Smith shouldn't be bringing me anything.  That guy is a legend!  Did the memory of that evening's crawfish etouffee in any way cloud my judgement in selecting a band of the same name for the 2019 Birthday Bash?  I'd like to say no, but I'm not a robot either.  On the other hand, we have been digging Blushing from these Florida based dream rock purveyors since we first heard it back in February. From the glowing Entropy review: "As with most things worth investing in, it’s all about the quality of the components and Copeland is made with such high caliber pieces that they are hard pressed to make a misstep. To begin, you have to recognize that Aaron Marsh is shockingly talented. Marsh’s angelic voice and innovative piano work since Beneath Medicine Tree has always pushed Copeland above and beyond the pack of early 2000s emo. Pair Marsh with the atmospheric and mood-setting guitar work of the Laurenson brothers and you’ve got a team whose discography is damn-near perfect. Enter 2019’s Blushing, the crown jewel of Copeland’s post-Eat, Sleep, Repeat period (and perhaps their best album of all time)."  These guys have been floating around as a band since 2001 and we're just now hearing them.  THIS is why I do this dumb project every year.  It makes me look for what's new, or at least new to me.  Growing up in a classic rock/oldies household and listening to the same songs over and over again year after year is what motivates me.  There is so much good stuff out there I've never heard and probably never will....but I'm going to make an attempt to find it.  If you get one of these things I really hope you appreciate it, but even if you don't I'm going to keep making them and sending them out because I LOVE doing it.  I also love Blushing so give it a spin double click.
Also Check Out: "Lay Here"

12 The French Tips - "Buzzkill"
Album: It's the Tips
Guys seriously, click on the band name above and check out their website.  Scroll down and the first thing you see is the news feed which just says "You guys sound like Buffy meets L7 - Some Dude."  Man that cracks me up.  Scroll even further and find the artist bio that says "Dark magic dance trio The French Tips (Angela Heileson of Dirt Russell, Rachel Couch of Marquina, Ivy Merrell of Dark Swallows) have been chilling Boise to its bones with witchy punk rock riffs since 2017."  We like a lot of those things.  Dark magic?  Boise?  Witchy punk rock riffs?  Now you're on board!  Looks like they're playing the Treefort Festival in Boise in March.  Sounds like a good time!  Like a lot of these bands I don't exactly remember how I got clued in, but I think I'm the only person outside of the Gem State who has.  Their video for "Buzzkill" only has 794 views (well now 795)!  Let's show them some love Birthday Bash Nation.  Also, do you mind if I start referring to all of you as Birthday Bash Nation?  Cool.
Also check out: "Dancelite"

13. Mike Krol - "Left for Dead"
Album: Power Chords
From the Pitchfork review, "Pledging allegiance to fuzz, this power-pop barrage squares off against heartache, disappointment, and sleepless nights—and survives."  This is Mike Krol's fourth album, but the first that has drifted into our ears, doing so way back in January.  We've been rocking out to these fuzzy riffs all year long, and now we hope you do a little of the same.
Also Check Out: "What's the Rhythm", "An Ambulance"

14. Yugen Blakrok - "Mars Attacks" feat. Kool Keith
Album: Anima Mysterium
South Africa's Yugen Blakrok got her foot in the door last year with a spot on Kendrick's Black Panther sound track, then kicked the freakin' door in this year with Anima Mysterium.  When the recommended if you like examples are Dr. Octagon & Deltron 4040, well sir you have my attention!  I can't say enough about this album, so I wont even try.  Just turn it up to 11 and let it wash over you.  You'll thank me.
Also Check Out: "Gorgon Madonna", "Picture Box", "Carbon Form", "Land of Gray"

15. Hannah Williams & The Affirmations - "50 Foot Woman"
Album: 50 Foot Woman
Along with our newfound love of sax trios, we've found ourselves gravitating to more funk and soul acts over the past few years.  The Memphis soul group Southern Avenue and New Orleans funk mainstays Galactic were some of the final cuts from this year's Birthday Bash.  The UK outfit Hannah Williams & The Affirmations made the final list on the strength of the infectious title track, but the album has grooves for days and vocals for weeks.  Here's what Albumism had to say, "On every single track, three things strike you. Firstly, that the band is tight when necessary as well as loose-limbed and funky. Secondly that the vocal prowess of Hannah Williams is something special to behold. And thirdly, that the songwriting (courtesy of James Graham) is equal in power to both the band and Williams’ vocals. In short, the dynamics between all of these ingredients result in a terrific album that deserves the praise inevitably coming its way, and that may just be all the affirmation Williams and her cohorts need."
Also Check Out: "I Feel It", "Sinner", "I Can't Let This Slip Away"

16. Andrew Bird - "Sisyphus"
Album: My Finest Work Yet"
We've been fans of Andrew Bird (who aside from writing super catchy songs is a world class whistler) since we heard The Mysterious Production of Eggs way back in 2005 (can that be right?).  And we gotta be honest on this one, we miiiight not consider this album to be his Finest Work Yet.  However the song "Sisyphus" might be our favorite song of his yet (it's neck and neck with "Roma Fade").  We've been whistling this masterpiece since the first time we heard it back in February.  Only at home though.  One of my technicians is from Belarus and one day a few years ago she became very upset (to the point of crying) when she heard me whistling in my office because when she was a child her mother told her that when someone whistles, something bad is about to happen.  Like it's bad luck to whistle.  Which would be a terrible way to live, but I'm not trying to upset anyone at work so I no longer whistle on the clock.  So anyway, I usually don't make this distinction but I don't recommend anyone from eastern Europe listen to Andrew Bird, but as for the rest of you....
Also Check Out: "Manifest", "Olympians"

17. Big Thief - "Cattails"
Album: U.F.O.F.
If you scroll down I believe at some point you will see me making a case that Big Thief's Capacity was my favorite album of 2017, but it didn't get to my ears until after the Birthday Bash was already locked down on wax.  I didn't hear it until a magical and super uncomfortable KC Ski Club bus ride back from the annual flatlanders trip at Steamboat Springs.  On that trip I must have listened to Capacity five times, becoming more and more tired and sore yet unable to sleep with each trip down the tracklist.  Isn't it funny how the memories of the most miserable moments in our lives become something we look back upon fondly?  Now, to say that was a "most miserable moment" in my life is a bit of an exaggeration, but I did find something beautiful during a not so beautiful 18 hour bus ride.  Now it's 2019 and Big Thief is back, this time having released not one but two of the best and most critically acclaimed albums of the year with U.F.O.F. and Two Hands.  To be completely honest I have been saving Two Hands for the next situation where it's beauty (so I read) will lift me up during another uncomfortable situation.  Yeah, that's what I'm like.  Do you want to go throw up or keep reading?  The good part is I have heard U.F.O.F. and obviously it's excellent.  You should check out the Song Exploder episode on "Cattails."  If you haven't taken the hint over the past couple of years, Song Exploder is a killer podcast.  You're welcome.
Also Check Out: "UFOF"

18 Black Pumas - "Colors"
Album: Black Pumas
Have you guys already heard this?  I'm usually good at picking songs that will eventually end up on commercials, but never this fast.  At my parents' house during Thanksgiving I noticed "Colors" was playing in the background of a Bank of America ad.  We very nearly gave you  the track "Fire" which as I'm typing this realize sounds an awful lot like it could be a The Heavy song.....which was a Birthday Bash artist I predicted correctly would be a fixture on TV commercials (I believe one of their songs was part of a Super Bowl ad the month after the Bash was sent out).  I guess Madison Avenue is as fond of nostalgic soul music as I am.  So be it.  Selling records doesn't make you a sellout.  And no one sells records anymore so what does any of it mean?  It's getting too late in this list for these kinds of questions. 
Also check out: This "Eleanor Rigby" cover!

19. black midi - "953"
Album: Schlagenheim
You may (you almost certainly will) disagree, but I think we've saved the best for last here.  We have been absolutely smitten (gobsmacked?) by UK's black midi this year, and we're not the only ones.  They've been deservedly peppering Best of 2019 lists.  Our plan was to bring you the closing track, "Ducter",  but at the last minute we ran into yet another problem with the itunes CD burning functionality.  The first problem, which we ran into last year but hoped would resolve is that itunes will completely f____ up the "CD text" on a burned CD.  Meaning when you insert the disc into your automobile's CD Player the text that displays for each track displays either is the wrong song title, wrong artist, or displays nothing at all.  Seeing no better alternative most of these CDs were burned with the CD text turned off.  Now this year we find out the maximum length of a burned CD is now 113 minutes, not the 120 minutes it has always been (sorry Matt Pinfield)!?!?!?  This meant we had to further trim and re-sequence our list which we had spent hours painstakingly trimming to just under 120 minutes.  Sadly "Uh-Huh" by Jade Bird, "Hungry" by Run Child Run (which was released in 2018 but we loved so much were ready to grant a waiver), and "Nothing Is Safe" by clipping. had to be excised and we had to change our black midi selection to Schlagenheim's opener, "953".  This was simultaneously the easiest and hardest change as any song on Schlagenheim would have been an excellent representation, but we really had our heart set on "Ducter".  No matter, you get the equally awesome "953" and you're loving this krautrock/noise rock/math rock.....whatever, just rock.  Here's hoping your 2020 rocks as hard as black midi.

Here are some other albums that were in contention and deserving of recognition this year.

Malibu Ken - Acid King
Jade Bird - Jade Bird
The Twilight Sad - It Won't Be Like This All the Time
Steve Gunn - The Unseen In Between
Buke & Gase - Scholars
Ghost King - Dunbar Swamp
Czarface, Ghostface Killah - Czarface Meets Ghostface
Galactic - Already Ready Already
Swervedriver - Future Ruins
Freddie Gibbs - Bandana
Black Taffy - Elder Mantis
Ryan Bingham - American Love Song
Yak - Pursuit of Momentary Happiness
Quelle Chris - Guns
Tyler Ramsey - For the Morning
Run Child Run - Vanishing Point
Pile - Green and Gray
Baroness - Gold & Grey
Palehound - Black Friday
Mansionair - Shadowboxer
Shredders - Great Hits
The Black Keys - Let's Rock
Calva Louise - Rhinoceros
clipping. - There Existed an Addiction to Blood
Bon Iver - i,i
Sturgill Simpson - Sound & Fury
Gary Clark Jr. - This Land
Southern Avenue - Keep On
Have a Nice Life - Sea of Worry
Wilco - Ode To Joy

So that's it huh?  I feel so unsatisfied.  Well actually, if I may be so bold, there is one more little thing we like to call THE 11TH ANNUAL BIRTHDAY BASH TRIVIA CONTEST!!!!!!!

Sadly we did not have a winner last year, but in fairness it was a pretty tough question:  One of the artists featured on the 2018 Birthday Bash at one time attended the same university from which Kansas City Chiefs left guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (currently in IR) earned his medical degree in 2018.  Who is it?

The answer is of course my niece and nephews' favorite 2018 Birthday Bash artist Grandson, who at some point attended McGill University in Montreal.

Let's make things a bit easier this year, but first the fine print.  To be eligible to participate in the 11th Annual Birthday Bash Trivia Contest:

-You must have yourself received or have had an immediate family member receive the Birthday Bash.
-You may not have any past or present affiliation with the "University" of Kansas. Exceptions may be made on a case by case basis.

Here's the question (and this is an open book test):  How many artists featured on the 2019 Birthday Bash for Jesus appear on previous versions of the Birthday Bash, and who are they? 

Please e-mail your responses with "Birthday Bash Trivia Contest" in the subject line to Good luck and have a great 2020!