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 18....you'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 music...so 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 CondĂ© 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 number..........it 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 fiancĂ© 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 digress.......one 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 csisson11@hotmail.com. Good luck and have a great 2020!


Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Team Sisson's Best of 2018



Happy holidays from Team Sisson, and congratulations on receiving Chris Schuck's 17th Annual Surprise Birthday Bash for Jesus. As always, we've picked and exquisitely sequenced tracks from 22 of our favorite records of 2018 for your listening pleasure. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

1. Hot Snakes - "Six Wave Hold-Down"
Album: Jericho Sirens
Yeah baby!  We're not f'ing around this year.  Get your ass out there or hand it back in!  I would love to write something interesting about this band, but their label, Sub-Pop have completely mastered writing about this band (this will be a great reference if you keep reading). Here are some of my favorite lines from their artist bio/album announcement:
  • "The band ceased activity in 2005 but reunited for a triumphant world tour in 2011, planting the seeds for what has cum [sic]." 
  • "After a 14-year hiatus from the studio, Hot Snakes have kicked down the door back into our lives with their new album, Jericho Sirens, due out March 16 from Sub Pop. Fresh, warm piss, bottled and sold as lube."
  • “I considered stopping playing guitar on a social media poll after I completely mastered the instrument,” (Swami John) Reis says. “But so many people kept sending me letters and voicemail messages, asking me at the dry cleaners, or the butcher shop to bring back Hot Snakes. They were missing rock and roll music. I’ve always considered Hot Snakes to be more in the vein of the proto-Vog movement of the early ‘70s. But to these people, this is their rock ‘n’ roll. I understand that. I totally understand people’s desire to be controlled and humiliated by my guitar. Anyone can play the stupid guitar. What they want is for me to use it as a branding iron.”  
  • "The new album blasts out of the speakers with the furious “I Need a Doctor,” inspired by Froberg’s experience needing a doctor’s note in order to miss an important work function. “Yeah, I had to be quick on my feet,” says Rick. “Luckily a friend had a stack of stationary from Planned Parenthood and I used that to forge a note relieving me of my obligation to go to a really lame Christmas party at a karaoke joint.” 
  • "Hot Snakes will return to the road in 2018 to incinerate the villages, and they’re already looking ahead to more music."
Also Check Out: "I Need a Doctor", "Having Another"

2. Madison Ward and the Mama Bear - "Childhood Goodbye"
Album: The Radio Winners
You may remember from the 2015 Birthday Bash, KC's own Madisen Ward  and the Mama Bear are comprised of Madisen Ward, and his mother, Ruth Ward.  The mother/son duo is itself an interesting angle, but this band is much more than a heartwarming story.  The music they make is absolutely superb.  In fact, the Chicago Sun-Times said almost the exact same thing.  "The idea of a mother-and-son musical duo is adorable enough. What’s even better with Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear’s “The Radio Winners” (Glassnote) is that the music is good.  Really good. As in a contender for album of the year."  Album of the Year?  I'll try to update when they actually release their list.  Did you catch Joseph Gordon Levitt in the "Childhood Goodbye" video? Did you see in the "Everybody's Got Problems" video they played at the Levitt Shell in Memphis?  Did this remind you of Murray's band shell tour on Flight of the Conchords?  If so then you probably already know Flight of the Conchords had a pretty excellent concert recording on HBO this year.  If not you should check it out.  Back to MW & MB, here's their Full Session' on 909 The Bridge.
Also Check Out: "Everybody's Got Problems"

3. Murder By Death - "True Dark"
Album: The Other Shore
The Other Shore, which for our money is MBD's finest work since Red of Tooth and Claw, was released in late August.  In September I somehow convinced my main man Cory to go with me all the way to Lawrence, KS to see them live.  Despite the dilapidated venue (which is considered one of finest buildings in Kansas...perhaps because it has running water?) it was an incredible show.  The Other Shore is, according to front man Adam Turla, "basically a space western."  We start with a couple on a dying planet parting ways, one is staying on Earth, the other going to some other planet.  The one who left wakes up from cryosleep three years too early and goes mad on his spaceship.  The other follows and in the end they're re-united.  I think.  If that saga doesn't convince you, the band has their own pizza restaurant!  Yeah, didn't think I was going to say that did you?  If you're ever in Louisville, KY you should check it out.  I wonder if they're going to be on Top Chef this season?  One half of Team Sisson plan on seeing MBD New Year's Eve at Record Bar (and 1/4 of Team Sisson is super excited about it!).  Y'aughta go!
Also Check Out:"Alas", "Stone", "Chasing Ghosts"

4. grandson - "Stick Up"
Album: a modern tragedy vol. 1
You may have heard "Blood//Water" at some point this year.  Wait...I mean you SHOULD have heard it.  grandson has been releasing singles over the past couple of years and this year released the five song EP a modern tragedy vol. 1 which we wore out at Team Sisson HQ.
Also Check Out:"Blood//Water", "6:00", "Overdose"

5. Shame - "Tasteless"
Album: Songs of Praise
We finally arrive at a 2018 Birthday Bash record that has earned some measure of critical acclaim.  One thing we love about December is all the Best of 20__ lists, and more specifically is learning about all the previously unknown music sites..  I mean we feel like we keep up with music fairly well, but it is always shocking to find out what else is out there.  I mean NBHAPS?  What the hell is that?  This year we're trying to keep track of where our favorites (favourites in the case of Shame) land on these other lists so we've added the very exciting "Placement on Inferior Best of 2018 Lists" feature (see below).  As for Shame, these guys kick some serious ass.  Here's a full set filmed by La Blogotheque.  Any questions?
Placement on Inferior Best of 2018 Lists: The Loud and Quiet - #25, NBHAPS - #4, treblezine - #49, The Skinny - #47, Noisey - #47, The Line of Best Fit - #11, Paste - #12
Also Check Out:"One Rizla", "The Lick"

6. boygenius - "Stay Down"
Album: boygenius
Boygenius is a girl, girl, girl trio comprised of Lucy Dacus, Pheobe Bridgers and (most of all) Julien Baker (I mean she does most of the singing), all of whom have found some level of success as solo artists (if you consider having a Tiny Desk Concert proof of success....come on y'all....you have to click on these links!).  In fact, Lucy Dacus' Historian came in # freaking 1 on Paste Magazine's Best of 2018 list.  Apparently they met while touring and decided to create this beautiful, self-titled EP.  We've been seeing "Me & My Dog" all over the Best of 2018 Songs lists...and as I'm listening to it as I type this I'm kind of regretting not putting it on the Bash.  I wanna be emaciated!!!!!!!  Boygenius was fairly universally critically acclaimed this year, but now that they've been Team Sisson acclaimed....they can be officially emaciated!  Or whatever.
Placement on Inferior Best of 2018 Lists: Sonic Magazine - #20, treblezine - #34, NPR - #12, Uproxx - #23, Consequence of Sound - #7, Pitchfork - #29
Also Check Out: Their Tiny Desk Concert, "

7. Marlowe - "Lost Arts"
Album: Marlowe
Mmmmmmm.....god I love this.  There's no hook.  The whole thing is a hook!  Solemn takes a deep breath at 0:27 and flows for almost 2 straight minutes!  Marlowe is a collaboration between North Carolina rapper Solemn Brigham and Seattle producer L'Orange.  Big thanks to KEXP for introducing us  As we always say, support your local public radio station!.  Pitchfork actually reviewed Marlowe and prior to giving it a paltry 6.7/10 said, "On their first collaborative album, Seattle producer L’Orange and North Carolina rapper Solemn Brigham craft spirited, old-school rap that owes a hefty debt to Madvillain. L'Orange is a rare specimen of one of hip-hop’s most endangered species: the loop digger. Over the last five years, the Seattle producer’s dusty, sample-based beats have caught the ears of classically minded MCs from all over the country, but he tends to avoid selling them piecemeal, preferring to engage in album-length collaborations with rappers like Kool Keith, Mr. Lif, and Jeremiah Jae. For his latest such release, L’Orange has teamed up with the largely unknown North Carolina rapper Solemn Brigham under the name Marlowe. True to the producer’s form, it’s an album of austere rap that evokes the turn-of-the-millennium underground: There are no synths, no hooks, just bars, bars, bars over a collage of vinyl chops."  Hey!  That's like exactly what I just said.  No hooks!  Don't be coy.  You love it too.
Also Check Out: "The Basement", "Things We Summon"

8. U.S. Girls - "Pearly Gates"
Album: In a Poem Unlimited 
U.S. Girls is the project of Meghan Remy.  She's made six albums over the course of 10 years, but has just now caught our attention.  In a Poem Unlimited, shortlisted for the Polaris Prize, is a grab bag of styles and grooves.  This is definitely not one of those records where every song sounds pretty much the same.  There's something here for everyone, so if that's a group that includes you then you'll probably like it as much as we do.
Placement on Inferior Best of 2018 Lists: FlavorWire - #3, Vinyl Factory - #49, treblezine - #42, The Skinny - #45, Noisey - #30, Consequence of Sound - #47, Paste - #13, Pitchfork - #22
Also Check Out: "Velvet 4 Sale", "Mad As Hell", "Rosebud"

9. The War and Treaty - "Healing Tide"
Album: Healing Tide
Big thanks to 90.9 the Bridge (support your public radio folks) for exposing us to The War and Treaty.  A couple of months ago I heard them play "Hi-Ho" and was immediately hi-hooked!
Of all the Birthday Bash artists this year, excluding MBD of course, I'm most excited about seeing The War and Treaty live.  I can only imagine they put on the type of show that turns me into a puddle of joy and sweat.
Placement on Inferior Best of 2018 Lists: American Songwriter - #12
Also Check Out: "Jeep Cherokee Laredo", "Are You Ready to Love Me"

10. Donovan Woods - "Truck Full of Money"
Album: Both Ways
I actually found out about Both Ways this summer while browsing the Amoeba Music "Music We Like" section.  Both Ways is the fifth album for the Samia, Ontario native, whose previously released music has been nominated for Polaris Music Prize and JUNO awards.  I will say, I usually don't vibe with this sort of music.  At times it feels like that overproduced cowboy hat country music without the twang, but something about it really appealed to me.  I initially thought you would be getting the lovely "Good Lover", but there were several songs in contention.  I don't think you'll find Both Ways on a lot of other Best of 2018 lists so count yourself lucky to be our friend, and let it melt in your ears.
Also Check Out:"Burn That Bridge", "I Ain't Ever Loved No One", "Next Year"

11. The Greeting Committee - "17"
Album: This Is It
When you strap in for the Birthday Bash, most years you can count on hearing one killer local artist, but this year we're treating you to a double dip of KC music!  In fact we thought very hard about tripling down by also including Tech N9ne's "Don't Nobody Want None."  I mean how great is that song???  I first heard The Greeting Committee one stormy summer Sunday night a few years ago on the local Buzz while on a clandestine trip back to town for a Monday morning job interview.  I believe the song was "Hands Down."  That's a lot of unnecessary specific information isn't' it?  Anyway, they've been kicking around KC since they were all in high school (I believe their first live performance was at a Blue Valley High talent show) and this year really caught our ears with This Is It.  We had a hard time deciding which track to include.  We love "17", but we're in love with "More."  To all my STL friends, don't despair.  Sure your music scene is lackluster at best (although I've been seeing Foxing on a lot of end of the year lists), but at least you can go see The Greeting Committee March 7 at Delmar Hall.  Cheer up.
Also Check Out:"More (Mas)"

12. JR Thomas & The Volcanos - "Rockstone"
Album: Rockstone
We never thought we'd put a reggae artist on the Bash, but something about Rockstone, and particularly the title track scratched us where we itched.  Actually, I can tell you exactly what we liked about it.  Some background, I usually do bath time with the boys, and while they splash around they typically ask if we can "get some tunes going'' (a phrase they picked up from me), to which I am usually more than happy to oblige.  On one October evening, after a particularly stressful day of work, I came home to a tense house, suffered through one of those dinners where no one is happy, then at bath time I put on Rockstone and immediately the stress started to melt away.  For that I will always love this record.  I hope you love it too.
Also Check Out:"Mr. Harriott", "Brian Wilson"

13. Dessa - "Fire Drills"
Album: Chime
If you're playing the Birthday Bash drinking game, go ahead and raise one (wait wait wait.....don't put it down just yet.....the Scandinavian band is coming up very soon).  Our love affair with Minnesota rappers continues.  Dessa last appeared on the Bash as a solo artist in 2010 with "Mineshaft II" from A Badly Broken Code, then with the Doomtree collective on "Cabin Killer" from All Hands in 2015.  As an aside, I just scrolled down to confirm this and god almighty was that 2010 Birthday Bash phenomenal!  If you're new to the Birthday Bash and interested in what you missed, we have them archived all the way back to 2007.  Just scroll and enjoy.  Anyway, we've been rocking the Me Too classic "Fire Drills" all year, which is built around a sample Dessa recorded on her phone in Istanbul.  Here's her full performance on KEXP.
Also Check Out: "5 out of 6", "Good Grief"

14. Rayland Baxter - "Casanova"
Album: Wide Awake
If "Casanova" isn't the song of the year I don't know what is.  From the popmatters review; "Baxter has never made a bad record, but he's also never made such a sublime one. Buoyant piano-forward arrangements give a sense of un-seriousness, levity, even as the lyrics can sneak up on you with social commentary or endless humanity. It's actually the antithesis of Father John Misty: something that could be explored endlessly for depth and nuance but could also just play happily in the background to please multiple generations on a long family road trip."  Here's some trivia; Rayland's dad, Bucky, played pedal steel on a bunch of records you've probably heard, including Ryan Adams' Gold.  Hey Zentz, remember the night Ryan Adams did three encores at the Blue Note?
Also Check Out:"Amelia Baker"

15. Parquet Courts - "Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience"
AlbumWide Awake!
From Wide Awake to Wide Awake!. Parquet Courts have gone from what I considered kind of a novelty act back in 2013 to a member of the Birthday Bash "Three Timer's Club." Wide Awake! was produced by our old friend Danger Mouse.  Good to have him back.  Parquet Courts recently played a gig with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.  How cool is that?  Mizzou themed podcast listeners might recognize "Wide Awake" as the theme music from Rock M Nation's podcast Dive Cuts.  Did you hear we got Kelly Bryant?
Placement on Inferior Best of 2018 Lists: FlavorWire - #5, treblezine - #17, The Skinny - #2, Paste - #2
Also Check Out: "Freebird II", "Mardi Gras Beads"

16. Iceage - "Pain Killer"
Album: Beyondless
How could we possibly leave Iceage off the Bash this year? I mean first you have the horns.  You will find my love of horns in rock music is well established as you scroll down this page.  Plus for whatever reason nary a Birthday Bash goes by without at least one Scandinavian band cracking the lineup.  The tagline from the Noisey review of this record states, and I quote, "The Danish group's new album Beyondless is wonderful. Fuck the facts, Iceage are the greatest rock and roll band in the world."  Seems like they'd place Beyondless higher in their Best of 2018 rankings with that kind of statement (see below).  Anyway, Team Sisson will not go out on that limb, but this is a damn fine listen.  "Pain Killer" actually features Sky Ferreira, whose Night Time, My Time was all over the Best of 2013 lists.  In fact, it came it at #51 on Pitchfork's 100 Best Albums of the Decade So Far List (2010-2014), coming in ahead of Team Sisson favorites like Acid Rap, Whokill, There Is Love in You, R.A.P. Music, Old, and Attack On Memory.  Wait, what?
Placement on Inferior Best of 2018 Lists: FlavorWire - #8, NBHAPS - #27, treblezine - #11, The Skinny - #37, Noisey - #21, Paste - #24, Pitchfork - #40
Also Check Out: "The Day the Music Dies", "Take It All", "Catch It"

17. Editors - "No Sound but the Wind"
Album: Violence
"No Sound but the Wind" has a pretty interesting history.  Apparently Editors started performing it way back in 2008.  They released it as a single in 2010, and it topped the charts in Belgium. Seriously.  A different version of the song was included on the Twilight: New Moon Saga soundtrack.  It has since apparently evolved into the beautiful version featured on Violence that I've been going back to over and over again this year.  Here's what the band had to say about why they keep tinkering with the song: "It's quite well known in some countries, and it may seem slightly strange that it appears here, but we never though we presented it quite as well as it should have been. As with 'Magazine', it had some unfinished business to attend too. Leo was really keen on bringing us all into the song but to keep it really somber and sparse as it's really the only moment of quiet reflection on the record."
Placement on Inferior Best of 2018 Lists: NBHAPS - #26
Also Check Out: "Cold", "Magazine", "Hallelujah (So Low)", "Darkness at the Door"

18. Low - "Always Trying to Work It Out"
Album: Double Negative
We've been big fans of Duluth, MN slowcore mainstays Low for quite some time.  "No Comprende" was one of the last cuts from the 2015 Birthday Bash.  But Low has NEVER sounded like this!  From the Pitchfork review: "This record would knock listeners on their asses coming from any band at any time, but it is extraordinary that Low is doing such challenging, relevant work 25 years into their career. Long gone are the days when the group could dumbfound with just a handful of sounds: the splat of a snare; guitar, and bass that sounded suspended in codeine; Sparhawk’s perma-mourn; the heavenly Mimi Parker on halo. The prevailing slowcore sound of their first half-dozen albums cast Low’s musical identity in metal, to borrow an image from 2001’s landmark Things We Lost in the Fire, so much so that one could have easily overlooked the slow expansion of their sound over the last decade and a half.

The work on Double Negative, while often sounding completely radical in its own right, isn’t uncharacteristic, per se. It taps into the band’s wanderlust, its generous melodic sensibility, its considerable aptitude in creating atmosphere, not just in the abstract but in the realm of drone. The album is like a discovery of a new mutation of still-recognizable DNA. And finally this new strain of sound isn’t just bold for Low; it’s just plain bold.  

If you listen to the Birthday Bash all the way through (and let's be serious, why wouldn't you?), I predict the line you will be humming to yourself for the next two days is Aaaaaalwaaaaays trying to work it out.
Placement on Inferior Best of 2018 Lists: Drowned in Sound - #1, The Loud and Quiet - #3, NBHAPS - #42, Vinyl Factory - #11, treblezine - #6, The Skinny - #43, The Quietus - #8, NPR - #17, The Wire - #10, Vulture - #2, The Line of Best Fit - #18, Paste - #9, Pitchfork - #8
Also Check Out:

19. Allan Rayman - "Amy"
Album: Harry Hard-On
Pretty much the only praise of Allan Rayman I can find online is below on this very site when we featured "All At Once" on the 2016 Bash.  Jesus Christ!  What is everyone listening to that isn't this?  As I said back then, about all you can learn online about Allan Rayman is that there isn't much known about Allan Rayman.  Here's one thing we know, Allan Rayman makes some kick ass music we can't get enough of.
Also Check Out:"Crush"

20. Runaway Brother - "Conscience in Tumult"
Album: New Pocket
I don't recall how I came across Runaway Brother, and there isn't a lot of info out there on them (seeing a trend here).  It looks like they're from Cleveland and according to bandcamp they're "a spunky Midwest emo band revitalizing the triumphant sounds of early 2000's pop punk/rock. They write catchy, ambitious tunes with smart pop hooks and relentless, theatrical stage energy. Come for the earworm melodies and stick around for Runaway Brother's incessant audacity." Relentless stage energy?  Incessant audacity?  I Gotta see these guys live!  Looks like here in KC they played Records with Merritt back on March 21st.  I'll try to catch them next time they come around.  I suggest you do the same.
Also Check Out:"Apply Care Directly"

21. Weakened Friends - "Hate Mail"
Album: Common Blah
Weakened Friends are a trio from, you guessed it, Portland.  Wait, it says here Portland, Maine!  How do you like that?  I have been loving their brand of throwback, late 90's/early 00's, guitar rock  (say early Weezer?) ever since happening upon the Pitchfork review of Common Blah.  I nearly gave you the opener, "Peel", but had to include "Hate Mail" which features the a nice crunchy bed of the guitar stylings of rock legend J Mascis.  How did he hook up with this band?  Here's what the band said: "As we started work on ‘Hate Mail’, it was clear that the sentiment of the track needed to be confident, aggressive, and loud. We employed the obvious: fuzzy guitars, distorted vocals and some aptly placed yelling. This sentiment was taken even further with a guest appearance from the king of loud-as-fuck guitars himself, J Mascis!”  Amen.
Also Check Out: "Blue Again"

22. Mimicking Birds - "Great Wave"
Album: Layers of Us
Portland's (Oregon, didn't think I'd ever have to specify) Mimicking Birds were signed to Isaac Brock's (he of Modest Mouse) label, Glacial Pace way back in 2010 and have since released three albums although sadly I'm just now hearing them.  Here's hoping these guys experience the traditional "Birthday Bash Bump" because they're super talented and write really pretty songs.  They also seem to have an affinity for Christmas songs.  You can find pretty killer Mimicking Birds versions of "Whose Child is This", "We Three Kings" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas" out there.
Also Check Out: "Sunlight Daze"

Here are some other records that were in contention this year.

Typhoon - Offerings
Calexico - The Thread That Keeps Us
Chris Dave and The Drumhedz - Chris Dave and The Drumhedz
Sunwatchers - II
Loma - Loma
Suuns - Felt
Gengahr - Where Wildness Grows
Jeff Rosenstock - POST-
Hop Along - Bark Your Head Off, Dog
The Breeders - All Nerve
Czarface, MF Doom - Czarface Meets Metal Face
Del the Funky Homosapien + Amp Live - Gate 13
The Record Company - All Of This Life
Ben Caplan - Old Stock
Goat Girl - Goat Girl
The Royal They - Foreign Being
Retirement Party - Somewhat Literate
Big Red Machine - Big Red Machine
Oneohtrix Point Never - Age Of
Jeff Tweedy - WARM

So that's it right?  No, no, no you beautiful baby bird.  Of course there's one more thing........It's time for the THE 10TH ANNUAL BIRTHDAY BASH TRIVIA CONTEST!!!!!!!

As always the winner will receive a prize pack of Birthday Bash artist swag.  T-shirts, hats, belt buckles, prayer candles, whatever looks cool.

Here's this year's 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?

To be eligible to participate in the 10th 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.

Please e-mail your responses with "Birthday Bash Trivia Contest" in the subject line to csisson11@hotmail.com. Good luck and have a great 2019!