Saturday, December 24, 2016

Team Sisson's Best of 2016

Happy holidays from Team Sisson, and congratulations on receiving Chris Schuck's 15th Annual Surprise Birthday Bash for Jesus. As always, we've picked and exquisitely sequenced tracks from 21 of our favorite records of 2016 for your listening pleasure. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

1. Car Seat Headrest - "Vincent"
Album: Teens of Denial
Pretty early in the year Robin Hilton opened an All Songs Considered podcast with "Vincent" after a lengthy preamble in which he suggested the race for best song of the year was already over.  At the time I had to agree, but Teens of Denial is no one hit wonder.  I came thiiiis close to giving you "Drunk Drivers, Killer Whales."  This record reminds me a lot of Cloud Nothings with the lo fi production and youthful exuberance.  Teens of Denial came in #24 on Pitchfork's Best of 2016 list.  Here's what they said about it "This is how bands are made in 2016: Not in the garage or in the basement, but in the backseat of your mother’s car. Graduating from a period during which he released approximately 11 albums of smart but scrupulously ambition-free indie rock through Bandcamp, songwriter Will Toledo stabilized his lineup, expanded his sound, and resigned himself to his talent. A feel-good album about people chemically incapable of feeling good, Teens of Denial reckons mental illness, alienation, and a blooper reel’s worth of false epiphanies without angst or coddling, the only real redemption being a chance to fuck up again. And if you don’t have the time for lyrical exegesis, you can pump your fist instead—the music certainly warrants it. How Toledo manages to keep such close company with depression and still find the will to rock is a mystery. That he does it with humor is a miracle. Pray that he never takes happiness seriously. –Mike Powell" On the All Songs Considered Year in Review show, Bob Boilen audaciously stated Teens of Denial is one of the ten best rock albums ever made, and he was serious about it!  What else do you need to hear?  Here's their Tiny Desk Concert.  Here's their KEXP performance.
Also check out: "Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales", "Fill In The Blank"

2. Battleme - "Shake Shake"
Album: Habitual Love Songs
I really have no idea how I came across Battleme, but somehow "Shake Shake" appeared on my best of 2016 spotify playlist pretty early in the year and I'm glad it did.  It looks like before Habitual Love Songs they had a couple of songs on Sons of Anarchy.  Based in Portland, Battleme is mostly the stage name of Matt Drenik whose main gig is in the band Lions.  Speaking of Portland, the new season of Portlandia starts up January 5th!  I can't wait!  Maybe Battleme will make a cameo???
Also check out: "Go", "The Post Is Dead", "Pete's Song"

3. Parquet Courts - "Berlin Got Blurry"
Album: Human Performance
We liked Parquet Courts enough to put them on the Bash a couple of years ago, but really didn't expect them to show up here again.  Yet here you are reading this sentence so obviously we were wrong!  There, I said it.  Despite what you may have heard we do, on occasion make mistakes.  Oh, and you're Mr. Perfect who never makes a mistake?  Must be nice to be you.  Me?  It's nice being me too because I'm listening to Parquet Courts and having a great time!  These guys are based in Brooklyn and apparently write super catchy songs that we like.
Also check out: "Dust"

4. Chester Watson - "Will Darkness"
Album: Past Cloaks
I happened to click on a Pitchfork review of Past Cloaks back in February and this was the first sentence; "The Florida teenager Chester Watson is a rapper in the mold of Earl Sweatshirt or MF DOOM."  I mean, that sounds pretty good....and that's exactly what Past Cloaks sounds like!  You would think this was a Madlib production, but apparently all the beats were made by Chester himself and some of the other guys in his crew.  There isn't a ton of info out there on Chester, but I have read he's 19 years old, originally from St Louis, and his dad was formerly a producer for the Three 6 Mafia and now plays keyboards for the Bar Kays.  The Bar Kays!
Also check out: "Phantom"

5. Andrew Bird - "Roma Fade"
Album: Are You Serious
We here at Team Sisson have long been fans of Andrew Bird, with tracks from The Mysterious Production of Eggs and Armchair Apocrypha appearing on previous versions of the Birthday Bash.  Admittedly it has been several years since his violin stylings and virtuoso whistling have caught our attention, but this year Are You Serious made us sit up straight and zip it.  In particular the song "Roma Fade" has stuck in our heads all year.  You can hear the story of how the song was made on the fantastic Song Exploder Podcast.  We saw him open for Wilco several years ago and is quite good live, so why don't you go see him?  Don't know when he's coming to your town?  If you live in MO he's playing the Blue Note in Columbia January 16th, then opening for the Lumineers at Chaifetz Arena (WTF is that???) in STL January 21st and here at Sprint Center on January 24th.  Here's his Tiny Desk Concert from May 2016.  Good right? Here's a KEXP performance.
Also check out: "Capsized", "Left Handed Kisses"

6. A Tribe Called Red - "R.E.D."
Album: We Are The Halluci Nation
You know, I probably should have included something from the A Tribe Called Quest reunion album, We got it from Here...Thank You 4 Your Service which is excellent, but instead you get this 12-6 curveball.  I'm not sure how I came across A Tribe Called Red, but I'm glad I did.  Here is an excerpt from their website; "Bursting forth from Canada’s capital, native Producer and DJ crew A Tribe Called Red is making an impact on the global electronic scene with a truly unique sound.  Looking to the future, without losing sight of their past, ATCR straddles a broad range of musical influences based in modern hip-hop, traditional pow wow drums and vocals, blended with edgy electronic music production styles."  It's not just interesting for it original back story.  The music is damn good.  You probably figured out that is Yasin Bey (formerly Mos Def) on the track "R.E.D."
Also Check Out: "The Virus", "Stadium Pow Wow"

7. Allan Rayman - "All at Once"
Album: Hotel Allan
So, "All at Once" is not actually on any album yet, but Hotel Allan came out this year, and it is chock full of tracks that sound equally awesome.  I actually happened up on Allan Rayman for the first time just after Thanksgiving and have been listening on a loop ever since.  I don't really know how to even classify this music.  Soul? R&B? Funk? Call it whatever you want, or better yet shut up and just listen!  There isn't much info out there on this guy.  In fact, about all you can find are articles about how there isn't much info on this guy.  What I can surmise is he's from Wyoming, currently lives in Toronto, doesn't do interviews, doesn't do stage banter, and pretty much doesn't do anything  but release lots of killer music.  This is the 2016 find we're by far most excited about.  Hope you dig it too.
Also check out: "The Cage", "27"

8. Radiohead - "Burn the Witch"
Album: A Moon Shaped Pool
What can I say?  This isn't the best or most daring Radiohead record, but as a Radiohead record it somehow floats to the top of my list.  Float is a good word for it too, because some of the best Radiohead tunes evoke a floating on a cloud kind of feeling.  Notwithstanding, "Burn the Witch" always reminds me of the score Johnny Greenwood made for the movie There Will Be Blood (I drink your milkshake......where did that movie go?  I've never seen it anywhere on the dial.  Bring it back whoever decides what movies play on the channels I happen to be watching!!!).  Anyway, this whole record is so pretty and somewhat surprisingly came in #1 on the NPR listener poll.
Also check out: "Daydreaming"

9. Too Many Zooz - "The Block (feat. Beats Antique)"
Album:Subway Gawds
Big thanks to Eddie Thomas (you know, the guy who throws more junk than a TFO clearance sale) for introducing Too Many Zooz into our lives.  Much like Moon Hooch from the 2014 Bash, these guys made a name for themselves busking their high energy saxaphone/trumpet/drum (not drums....drum) sound on subway platforms in NY.  This year they put out a proper album that is quite good.
Also check out: This subway performance, another subway performance, hmmmm....another subway performance?

10. Miike Snow - "Ghengis Khan"
Album: iii
Couldn't get "Ghengis Khan" out of my head all year.  At least until I heard "My Trigger," at which point I couldn't get that one out of my head.  If Wikipedia is to be believed Miike Snow is a trio originally from Sweeden, thus continuing our Cal Ripken-like streak of including Scandanavian artists on the Bash.  Prior to making their own music, these guys wrote songs for pop stars like Madonna and Kylie Minogue.  They actually wrote the Brittney Spears song "Toxic" and won a Grammy for it.  Speaking of Ghengis Khan, have you listened to the Hardcore History series on Ghengis Khan?  If not you need to finish the Bash, maybe listen to it one more time, because its so good, then obviously a third time, and then immediately find Dan Carlin's Hardcore History and prepare to be entertained, educated, and possibly confused about how the word Ghengis is supposed to be pronounced.  You'll understand when you listen.  Anyway, Miike Snow.  They're good.
Also check out: "My Trigger"

11. James Blake - "Radio Silence"
Album: The Colour In Anything
This is the second appearance for James Blake on the Bash, and if he keeps making music as good as on The Colour In Anything, you can expect to see him on the list again.  Speaking of which, since I can't think of anything to say that I didn't already say the last time James Blake was on the Bash, we should probably at this point mention some Team Sisson favorites (or favourites as James Blake would spell it) who didn't quite make the cut.  Wilco in particular made a very strong record, Schmilco, that we are only now starting to connect with. Had we been on our usual schedule of getting this thing out well after Christmas, you would probably be listening to "Locator" right now.  Imagine that!  So, to summarize, James Blake is awesome.
Also check out: "I Need A Forest Fire"

12. Shovels & Rope - "Buffalo Nickel"
Album: Little Seeds
Shovels & Rope is a husband and wife duo from South Carolina that makes some great tunes.  First Colbert, then Top Chef Charleston, now Shovels & Rope?  If they keep this up they might start putting South Carolina back on maps!  S&R are playing Knuckleheads in KC on March 23rd.  See you all there!
Also check out: "Botched Execution", "I Know"

13. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down - "Nobody Dies"
Album: A Man Alive
Back in 2012 my company sent me out to Silicon Valley for some training on our automated dispensing cabinets. I wanted to check out Amoeba Records in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood while I was in town and my first night there Thao Nguyen was playing a free show in the store. Amoeba was only 20 miles or so from where I was staying, so I figured I'd just cruise on up and watch the show.  What I didn't fully anticipate was the god-awful traffic.  After 2 1/2 frustrating hours on the road I finally got there in time to see her packing up her gear and walking out. (The same thing happened the next night when I tried to drive down to see the Pacific Coast Highway, but didn't get there until after dark.)  Anyway, we've been fans of Thao for a while and we think A Man Alive is her best work yet.  Others agree.  Paste has it #30 on their best of 2016 list and it came in #55 on the All Songs Considered listener poll.  Here is her KEXP Full Performance.
Also check out: "Astonished Man"

14. Drive-By Truckers - "Ramon Casiano"
Album: American Band
As many of you know, we moved back to KC this year.  One of the benefits of our new/old home is we don't have to drive 2 1/2 hours to see shows.  Of course with the kids now it isn't as though we're out at Record Bar every Thursday night (in fact, I have no idea if Record Bar is still open or not), but Tron and I caught the DBT's this summer at Crossroads KC and I have to say, it was probably the best Truckers show I've ever been to.  First of all, Son Volt was the opener, although it was really just Jay Farrar and a couple of fiddle/banjo players.  They did every song off of Trace and it was freaking fantastic.  Then the Truckers came out and as usual melted our faces off for >2 hours.  It was a great night.  Now, as far as American Band, it's been a while since the DBT's have made anything we went gaga for, but for my money American Band their best work since The Dirty South.  We had a hard time deciding which track to give you because there is seriously no filler on this album.  If you like the DBT's, and I know you do, then you'll love American Band.
Also check out: "What It Means", "Guns of Umpqua", "Surrender Under Protest", their Tiny Desk Concert, their KEXP performance,

15. Pinegrove - "Old Friends"
Album: Cardinal
Pinegrove came out of nowhere this year to with a very critically acclaimed record.  The Onion AV
Club had them at #4 on their best of 2016 list.  This record is very good.
Also check out: their Tiny Desk Concert, "Aphasia"

16. Sturgill Simpson - "Brace For Impact (Live A Little)"
Album: A Sailor's Guide to Earth
Sturgill got a lot of buzz from the indie press a couple of years a go for Meta Modern Sounds of Country Music.  We liked that one, but it didn't hook us nearly as hard as A Sailor's Guide.  Just really good, really catchy songs up and down the track list.  Oh yeah, and there's a Nirvana cover in there!  Marc Maron did a fantastic interview with Sturgill on his WFT podcast that you should definitely check out.  You can also find a duet he did with Stephen Colbert on any Waffle House Jukebox.  Seriously.
Also check out: "In Bloom", "Keep It Between The Lines"

17. Swet Shop Boys - "Zayn Malik"
Album: Cashmere
The best thing we saw on TV all year was HBO's The Night Of, which followed the plight of a young man of Pakistani descent who was accused of a murder he didn't commit (or did he?!?!).  We were unfamiliar with the actor who played the main character, Nasir Khan, or Nas.  It turns out his name is Riz Ahmed, he's British (of course), he's in the new Star Wars movie, and he raps! ***Update - We just saw Rogue One and he isn't just in the movie, he's one of the main characters!***  He, along with Heems from Das Racist make up the Swet Shop Boys.  As you might imagine, a lot of their material involves living as brown people in a western world that assumes all brown people are terrorists.  The beats are good, the lyrics are thoughtful, so you know, you're welcome.
Also check out: "T5"

18. The Philistines - "A Twitch of the Death Nerve"
Album: The Backbone of Night
As you may be aware, we have long been fans of 89.3 the Current out of Minneapolis.  This year we moved back to KC and discovered a very similar station had been added to the terrestrial radio dial, 90.9 The Bridge.  The Bridge was around before we moved away, but I don't remember them playing as much good music as they do now.  I can't tell who changed, the station or my tastes.  Either way I'm loving it.  They play a lot of local music, and The Philistines caught my ear this summer.  One of the YouTube clips of them calls them "Kansas City space rockers."  I'm not sure about that, but they do rock.  Here's the bio on their website: "With a barrage of spaced-out, razor-sharp guitars, a grooving rhythmic onslaught, and melodic keyboard tapestries, The Philistines take vintage ideas and form them into modern psychedelic sonic movements. The six-piece group has made a name for itself with forceful, engaging live shows that match its provocative, bombastic rock sound. Since The Philistines' inception in late 2013, they have become one of Kansas City’s most recognized bands, supporting prominent touring acts, playing prestigious music festivals (including Middle of the Map Fest, Crossroads Music Fest, and Alejandro Escovedo’s SXSW Day Party), and receiving a healthy amount of accolades in the media, all before releasing their first album. In 2015, the band began touring throughout the Midwest and working on its debut LP with engineer/producer Paul Malinowski (of Shiner) at Massive Sound Studios. The Backbone of Night was released on The Record Machine on May 27, 2016"
Also check out: "Stygia"

19. Modern Baseball - "Apple Cider, I Don't Mind"
Album: Holy Ghost
Spotify lists The Hotelier, The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, and previous Birthday Bash includees The Front Bottoms and a bunch of other poppy punky emoy bands from the Northeast as artists related to Modern Baseball.  These guys are from Philly, having met while attending Drexel and forming in 2013.  Wondering about the name?  Apparently the night they first became a band they found a book called "Modern Baseball Techniques."  Like a lot of they artists on the Bash this year I really don't remember how I first heard Holy Ghost, but it was on heavy rotation over the summer at Team Sisson HQ.
Also check out: "Wedding Singer", "Everyday"

20. Banks & Steelz - "Speedway Sonora"
Album: Anything But Words
File this one under double unexpected.  The pairing of RZA and Paul Banks from Interpol is surprising enough, but that we liked it so much is shocking.  This didn't get a lot of love from the critics, but as long time Wu-Tang disciples and Interpol fans, this scratched us right where we itched.
Also check out: "Giant", "Love + War"

21. Bon Iver - "33"GOD""
Album: 22, A Million
When For Emma, Forever Ago came out, how many of you would have guessed Justin Vernon would become this?  He was a guy and a guitar recording break-up songs in a cabin in the wilderness and now he's the epicenter of all things indie rock, or whatever you want to call it.  If you're looking for another "Skinny Love" on here, keep looking.  This record is a feat of modern music production, but not at the expense of melody.  I could have picked a track at random for the Bash and you would have been perfectly happy with it.
Also check out: "666", "29 #Strafford APTS"

Wow, what a great mix!  You're not done yet though.  It's time for the THE 8TH ANNUAL BIRTHDAY BASH TRIVIA CONTEST!!!!!!!

Last year we sadly did not have a winner.  The question was as follows:  Which members of the Doomtree collective have appeared on previous versions of The Birthday Bash?  I'm sure you've been waiting all year for the answer, so here it is: P.O.S., Dessa, & Sims

Hopefully one of you feels lucky this year.  As always the winner will receive a prize pack of Birthday Bash artist swag.  T-shirts, hats, belt buckles, whatever looks cool.  Here's the question:

As a youth, one of the artists featured on the Birthday Bash this year trained to become a ballet dancer.  Who is it?

To be eligible to participate in the 8th 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 Good luck and have a great 2017!


At 12:54 pm on 12/31 when the rest of you were ringing in the New Year, Adam "Zentz-Tron" Zentz was celebrating 2016 by sending in the correct response.  That of course being Chester Watson, who studied ballet for several years as a lad.  Your first clue should have been in the opening verse of "Will Darkness" which includes the line,  "Ballet slippers indented with more than real arches, Mind's eye shreikin' and sharper than six steel archin.'"

Astonishingly, this is Adam's third Birthday Bash Trivia Contest win!  Please join us in congratulating him, and have a great 2017!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Team Sisson's Best of 2015

Happy holidays from Team Sisson, and congratulations on receiving Chris Schuck's 14th Annual Surprise Birthday Bash for Jesus. As always, we've picked and exquisitely sequenced tracks from 20 of our favorite records of 2015 for your listening pleasure. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

We apologize for our lateness, not our greatness........that's what we said last year.  This year we've taken lateness to the next level. Today is January 18th and most of you will start receiving the Birthday Bash in your mailboxes today.  At this rate in a couple of years we're going to have to start calling it Chris Schuck's Annual Easter Extravaganza.  In our defense we actually were on schedule to get the Bash out the week after Christmas, but an unexpected home improvement project became necessary.  This coupled with our proximity to any store that carries any of the supplies needed (namely Epson ink) led to the situation we find ourselves in.  Anyway, despite the delay we hope you like it.  On with the show.

1. Laura Marling - "False Hope"
Album: Short Movie
Let's kick things off with the second appearance on the Bash by Laura Marling.  As we've stated in the past, we make an effort to minimize the amount of artists that appear on multiple Bashes.  While you may (I mean you absolutely) enjoy getting the Birthday Bash and listening to it, we do all the work to put it together every year for more than the handful of thank you's.  We do it because we like music, and it's easy to get stuck only listening to what you liked in high school. Finding new music is so easy now because you can stream almost anything, but finding new music that you like, I think, is more challenging than ever for the same reason.  Anyway, we find it challenging yet highly rewarding.  All that being said, it wasn't too challenging to find Short Movie since we were already "Marling's Darlings" (a way of describing Laura Marling fans that I just made up).  "False Hope" was in contention for song of the year, and the rest of Short Movie is quite good.
Also check out: "Gurdjieff's Daughter", "I Feel Your Love", "Strange"

2. Dan Mangan + Blacksmith - "Mouthpiece"
Album: Club Meds
I believe Dan Mangan first came to Team Sisson's universe via XM radio on a long car trip.  The song was "Robots."  Go ahead and check out the beauty of this song and the outstanding accompanying video. We'll wait.  Good?  Robots need love too right?  Well when very early in 2015 we heard Vancouver's own Mr. Mangan, had teamed up with Blacksmith we knew we'd have a winner on our hands.  "Mouthpiece," and more specifically the well timed high hat flourishes hooked us immediately.  This is no one hit wonder though.  Give it a listen.
Also check out: "Vessel", "Forgetery", "Basket", and a full performance on KEXP

3. Father John Misty - "The Ideal Husband"
Album: I Love You, Honeybear
Let me say this to you.  I have no idea whether John Q Public has heard "The Ideal Husband" already or not.  If I were programming a modern rock or even a top 40 station, or maybe even a classic rock station I would have this one in heavy rotation.  But since we only get cowboy hat country on the radio here I can only assume one of two realities.  Either you have heard this song a thousand times and are now sick of it, or you have never heard it and now want to hear it a thousand times.  We actually considered putting FJM's "Hollywood Forever Cemetary" on the 2012 Birthday Bash.  When I first heard it I thought "I Love You, Honeybear" might be something pleasant to play at work (when I work weekends it is just me and a single technician, and that technician is always forced to listen to music of my chosing..mwahahha).  When blasting this through work speakers though you really get a sense (mostly audible, and a little visual when you see the reaction of your coworkers) of how vulgar most these songs are.  Luckily my staff by now is used to tuning out my music so I think I got away with it.  Speaking of weekend music, one of my techs is endlessly amused about how on one of our weekends this song came on very loudly when I was on the phone with one of the docs.  I should not be in charge of people.
Also check out: "The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment"

4. San Fermin - "The Woods"
Album: Jackrabbit
I first heard Jackrabbit on an NPR first listen in the spring and was immediately hooked.  At that time I though for sure "Emily" was destined for the Birthday Bash, but over the year the opener "The Woods" revealed itself as the "Bashworthy" track.  However, I did hesitate to put "The Woods" on the Birthday Bash because of the rather dark subject matter.  You're all big boys and girls though so you're just going to have to deal with it.  Pitchfork only gave Jackrabbit a 5.2, but while I disagree with the low score, I didn't make the connection between San Fermin and Dirty Projectors until I read the review.  To me the difference between the two bands is Dirty Projectors is almost completely devoid of any listenability while San Fermin checks all my boxes, including lots of instruments and great melodies.  If you're a veteran Bash listener, you know I like me some "highbrow, heavily orchestrated chamber indie with literary aspirations."  If you do too, then Jackrabbit is for you.
Also check out: "Jackrabbit," "Parasites"

5. Kendrick Lamar - "The Blacker the Berry"
Album: To Pimp a Butterfly
To Pimp a Butterfly is the album of the year.  Hands down, no question about it.  Remember how much we loved good kid, m.A.A.d. city back in 2012?  At the time I stated with no hesitation it was one of the five best rap albums ever made.  To Pimp a Butterfly might be better.  It had already been established that Kendrick Lamar is an elite rapper, both in lyrical composition and performance.  To Pimp a Butterfly takes this and backs it up with layers and layers of fascinating music. Funk, soul, rock, jazz, there's something for everyone here.
Also check out: "Alright", "King Kunta", "How Much a Dollar Cost", "Wesley's Theory"

6. Kurt Vile - "Pretty Pimpin"
Album: B'lieve I'm Goin Down...
We've been big fans of Philadelphia's own Kurt Vile since we first heard "Jesus Fever" a few years ago.  Loyal Birthday Bash listeners may recall his "Snowflakes are Dancing" on the stellar 2013 installment.  Therefore it may not be a surprise I can't get enough "Pretty Pimpin", although as usual when it comes to Kurt Vile, I can't explain why.  There isn't anything particularly inventive about the music, the lyrics are, well how do I put this nicely, complete garbage, and the vocals don't really do much to inspire.  Nevertheless as a person who normally avoids listening to music he really likes for fear it will become tiresome, I can listen to "Pretty Pimpin" all day every day.  I'm going to go ahead and announce "Pretty Pimpin" as the Team Sisson Song of the Year (applause break...also please notice each mention of "Pretty Pimpin" is linked to a different performance!!!!!).  Now that is not to say the rest of B'lieve I'm Goin Down... (Team Sisson Album Name of the Year) isn't great as well.  See for yourself...unless you don't want to be a B'liever (Team Sisson Fake Superfan Nickname That Only Really Works In Print of the Year).
Also check out: His Full KEXP Performance,

7. Tom Russell - "He Wasn't a Bad Kid, When He Was Sober"
Album: The Rose of Roscrae: A Ballad of the West
This is the most controversial addition to the Birthday Bash in quite some time, mainly because The Rose of Roscrae isn't actually all that good.  Let's back up.  The first I ever heard of Tom Russell was maybe 15 years ago when KOMU's Jason Cafer played "The Sky Above, The Mud Below", which still ranks as one of my all time favorite tunes.  As far as I can tell Tom Russell wrote it, but it sounds so old it wouldn't surprise me if it was written 150 years ago. This guy is way into the old west, cowboy asthetic.  Well in spring 2015 I learned Tom Russell had just released a two disc "western opera" which was to be his opus.  I quickly found a copy and listened to the first 30 thrilling minutes. Unfortunately there were 90 minutes left that, well, left something to be desired.  No matter, I'm so impressed by the ambition of this project I had to give you one of the standout tracks.  I have played The Rose of Roscrae in its entirety at work and it has become a bit of a carrot and/or whip to those who've heard it (you know....I could put on that western opera again).  Since all we ever hear in Olney is country music I honestly thought it would get a more favorable reception than what I usually play (surprisingly my staff is not that in to Kendrick).  It used to be country and western music right?  When did we lose the western?  Another question for another blog, but you should dig into Tom Russell's work.

8. Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear - "Dead Daffodils"
Album: Skeleton Crew
Most of you know we currently live in downstate Illinois amongst a bunch of Cardinals and Cubs fans (although we had no idea there were any Cubs fans until around the all-star break this year...then suddenly they were everywhere.)  The tragedy of this is as a lifelong Royals fan I have completely missed the last two beautiful years of baseball in KC.  Really my only source of comfort is listening to the Border Patrol (810 AM in KC) in the mornings on my phone as I get ready for work.  One morning early this year they took a break from panicking over the Royals offseason moves (Kendrys Morales? Chris Young?  Alex Rios?  How are any of these guys going to work???) and spent some time gushing over Kansas City's own mother/son duo Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear.  I believe they had just played on Letterman.  In an amazing bit of cosmic timing, that evening the local undertaker (who is now the frontman of our band, currently named Code Blue, although he has suggested we just go by a symbol...actually a photo of a guitar with a wig on it) texted me to turn me on to the very same band.  We both thought it was pretty bad ass that the band is actually a guy and his mom.  After all that though I listed to Skeleton Crew a couple of times and was less than impressed.  Then around Thanksgiving I was starting to think about the Birthday Bash track list and gave it another listen...and haven't stopped listening since....I can't get enough of this thing. In fact I'm going to have to say in a very strong year for music, Skeleton Crew turned out to be my second favorite record, my apologies to every artist not named Kendrick Lamar.  "Silent Movies" was the obvious choice for the Birthday Bash, but I love "Dead Daffodils" so much, with lines like "autumn reminds me of old fashioned stuff", I had to give it to you.
Also check out:  Their Tiny Desk Concert, "Silent Movies", "Live By Water"

9. Jason Isbell - "The Life You Chose"
Album: Something More Than Free
Birthday Bash alumnus Jason Isbell really surprised us this year.  While we have been fans since his days with Drive-By Truckers, it has been a long time since we went ga-ga for anything he did.  That all changed this fall when we listened to Something More Than Free.  This one has been on heavy rotation at Team Sisson HQ.
Also check out: "24 Frames", "Children of Children", "Something More Than Free"

10. Imam Baildi - "Argosvinis Moni"
Album: Imam Baildi III
Wild card!  I heard "Argosvinis Moni" on, well I believe it was the all songs considered mid-year best of 2015 so-far show (I remember I was mowing when I heard it).  I scrolled back and listened to this song four times before I went on with the rest of the show.  For the rest of the year I have repeatedly gone back to Imam Baildi III and have never been disappointed.  Please don't mistake me for a big world music fan.  I just love the horns and grooves.  Imam Baildi take Greek songs from the 40's and 50's and mix them with more contemporary styles which leads to this neat little sound that is both old and fresh.  Also, they are named after a Turkish dish called Imam Bayildi, which we all know as stuffed aubergine or eggplant.  Want to know more?  Me too, but that's all I can glean from Wikipedia.
Also check out: "Simioma"

11. Sleater-Kinney - "Surface Envy"
Album: No Cities To Love
Sleater-Kinney is back!  Ten years after Woods and a lengthy hiatus they returned with a killer album.  This in another one that came out very early in 2015 and included several worthy tracks. Check out this cool video of some of their fans, including Sarah Silverman, J Mascis, Vanessa Bayer, Andy Samberg and the guy from The Walking Dead singing along to the title track.  Here's a full concert.
Also check out: "No Cities To Love", "Bury Our Friends"

12. Torres - "Strange Hellos"
Album: Sprinter
Torres was an early year NPR darling that I really enjoy.  Every year it seems there are a couple of acts that involve women singing softly over crunchy guitars that I can't get enough of.  This year Torres fit that bill.  It's not just me though.  Sprinter came in #10 on the AV Club's best of 2015 list.  I'm sure in listening to this you're thinking, "hey! Torres sounds an awful lot like Axl Rose!"  Well just like Axl, she grew up in a strict Christian house that didn't allow secular music.  So you were right.   Here she is doing a tiny desk concert.
Also check out: "Sprinter"

13. Lucero - "Can't You Hear Them Howl"
Album: All a Man Should Do
Lucero is a band that has been on the periphery of my musical tastes for years, but I've never given them much of a listen until this year.  Now I'm digging into their back catalog and really, um, digging it. By now you should know I love horns in rock music.  There's nothing not to like on All a Man Should Do, and how can you go wrong with the horns on "Can't You Hear Them Howl"?  You can't! So don't try!!
Also check out: "Baby Don't You Want Me", "Young Outlaws", "Went Looking For Warren Zevon's Los Angeles"

14. Wilco - "Taste the Ceiling"
Album: Star Wars
I mean come on, did you really think I could leave Wilco off the Bash?  It has never happened in the 14 years of this thing and Star Wars certainly wasn't going to be the album that ended that streak.  That is all.
Also check out: "Random Name Generator"

15. The 4onthefloor - "Fancy"
Album: All In
The state of Minnesota checks in with yet another band we discovered listening to 89.3 the Current. We made an effort to expand our horizons a bit and listened to more KEXP out of Seattle and a little KCRW, In fact, for most of the year we had the KEXP find, Kinski slated to appear, but they were eventually edged out.  The 4onthefloor, along with being a kick ass rock and roll band have an equally kick ass name, which is more than just clever, but represents how all four of the guys in the band play kick drums.  (Get it???)
Also check out: all of it!  Here is the visual album version of All In!

16. Doomtree - "Cabin Killer"
Album: All Hands
Speaking of Minnesota here is the second of a pair of Twin Cities artists (did you see up top where we said we these tracks are "exquisitely sequenced"?).  We have featured multiple members of the Doomtree collective on the Bash in previous years (might make a good trivia question).  I thought I liked Doomtree, but then I saw this video where they got their own beer, and now I am full on in love with them!  This one was tough to figure out which track to include, but "Cabin Killer" made the final mix largely on the strength of Sims' verse.
Also check out: "Final Boss"

17. Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton - "Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)"
Album: Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
While a key member of Team Sisson has long been a fan of Broadway musicals, we are only now for the first time in Birthday Bash history including a show-tune.  Why?  Because the music accompanying this show is really really good.  By now most of you will have heard about Hamilton, the hip-hop musical about the life and times of Alexander Hamilton and the birth of our nation, played exclusively by black and Hispanic actors.  You should really listen to the whole cast recording.  Well actually you should try to see the show, but I think it's sold out for over a year and secondary market tickets are going for $400 minimum.  Anyway, it is just so interesting, and contains so many easter eggs, meaning every time you listen you catch another slick turn of phrase or homage to a classic rap song.  Don't throw away your shot to listen!

18. Team Me - "F is for Faker"
Album: Blind as Night
What would the Birthday Bash be without a little Scandinavian flavor?  Following in the footsteps of Iceland's Sigur Ros, Sweden's The Hives and The Soundtrack of Our Lives, and Denmark's Dungen, we bring you the Norwegian sensation, Team Me.  These guys are huge in Norway.  In 2011 their debut earned them the Norwegian version of the Grammy (you probably know it as Spellemannprisen) for best pop group.  I actually heard "F is for Faker" on the 2014 Austin 100 and planned to include it on that year's bash, but Blind as Night wasn't released in the states until 2015.
Also check out: "Kick & Curse", "All Time High", "Blind As Night"

19. Wild Child - "Fools"
Album: Fools
I have this ipod that I play at work on weekends when it is just me and a tech.  The techs love getting to hear my music (sarcasm) and I love not having to listen to the soul crushing monotony of what they call country music these days.  Oh, speaking of that, I was in New Orleans in December and missed Kenny Chesney at Pat O'Briens by 10 minutes.  My friends from Kentucky were there and told me about it.  I assume they knew what he looked like because the Kentucky state flag is a picture of him and Jason Aldean drinking a beer on the back of a pickup truck while they support the troops. Anyway, ipods are kind of irrelevant now so I don't put much new music in it (since none of us "own" music to put on an ipod anymore), but I still get to discover music I put on it a long time ago because most of what I used to put on it was samplers and other people's mixes and so on.  Anyway, I kept hearing this song that I loved and I would go over to the stereo to see it was "The Tale of You and Me" by Wild Child.  So, one night I was on a quest to find some new and interesting music and remembered this song so I looked and found out they put out a record in 2015!  Not only that, but it's great!  Wild Child is from Austin and that's about all I know.  It looks like they're playing Rose Music Hall in Columbia March 23.  Hey Columbia people, where is Rose Music Hall?
Also check out: "Meadows", "Break Bones"

20. Murder By Death - "Last Thing"
Album: Big Dark Love
Murder By Death has entered the pantheon of bands that Team Sisson will love no matter what.  Probably because of the cello.  The great thing about this band from Bloomington, Indiana is they never make the same record twice, but the sound is consistent throughout.  We included a track from Red of Tooth & Claw in 2008 and Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon in 2012.  If I haven't convinced you by now there's something wrong with you.
Also check out: "Big Dark Love", "Strange Eyes"

And there you have it.  Another killer year for the Birthday Bash.  Since it was such a great year for music here are some of the other albums we considered.

D'Angelo - Black Messiah
The Dodos - Individ
Steve Earle - Terraplane
Metz - II
Girl Band - The Early Years
Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment - Surf
Kinski - 7 (or 8)
Low - Ones and Sixes
Fred Thomas - All Are Saved
Benjamin Clementine - At Least For Now

OK, I guess the only thing left to do is THE 7TH ANNUAL BIRTHDAY BASH TRIVIA CONTEST!!!!!!!

Last year's winner, Mike Kallenberger walked away with a prize pack so sweet it gave him Type II Diabetes.  Here's what he won:

Yep, that's a Rural Alberta Advantage t-shirt, a Moon Hooch t-shirt and a Family Crest t-shirt.  You want to add something that freaking cool to your wardrobe?  Then answer this question:  Which members of the Doomtree collective have appeared on previous versions of The Birthday Bash?  I'll give you a big hint: more than two but less than fifty of them have appeared.  Before you get too excited read the fine print below.

To be eligible to participate in the 7th 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 Good luck and have a great 2016 (what is left of it anyway)!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Team Sisson's Best of 2014

Happy holidays from Team Sisson, and congratulations on receiving Chris Schuck's 13th Annual Surprise Birthday Bash for Jesus. As always, we've picked and exquisitely sequenced tracks from 19 of our favorite records of 2014 for your listening pleasure. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

We apologize for our lateness, but not for our greatness.....

1. The Family Crest - "Beneath the Brine"
Album: Beneath the Brine
We kick things off with The Family Crest.  I told some buddies on a float trip this summer I was really into a San Francisco string band fronted by an opera singer.  This statement was met with what in hindsight was a predictable amount guffaws, chortles and cachinnations.  When will I learn?  I stand by it though.  The Family Crest has all the things I like in a band these days.  Lots of different and sometimes interesting instruments, big catchy vocals, and music that swells.  Man do I love a good swell.  Here they are doing a Tiny Desk Concert
Also check out: "The World", "Love Don't Go"

2. Sun Kil  Moon - "Ben's My Friend"
Album: Benji
Sun Kil Moon is the stage name of Mark Kozelek.  You may, but probably don't know him as the guy who played bass for Stillwater in the movie Almost Famous.  Benji came out early in the year and was initially regarded as a front runner for album of the year (came in #16 on Metacritic's best of 2014 list).  Since then I've seen a few articles talking about how it was overrated, or doesn't hold up over multiple listens.  Let me tell you something, Benji is the gift that keeps on giving.  This is one of the few records on this year's Bash mellow enough for me to put on at the office, but compelling enough for me to keep going back to it.  Every time I listen to it I pick up some new interesting turn of phrase or sad story (lots of sad stories on this one).  He does a great job of singing almost conversationally, but making it all fit into the song.  I've seen the fantastic opener, "Carissa" on a lot of best songs of 2014 lists.  I can say for sure I have listened to Benji more than any other record this year.  Please enjoy.
Also check out: "Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes"

3. Moon Hooch - "Bari 3"
Album: This Is Cave Music
Saxophone is a high risk/high reward instrument.  It can make or ruin a song.  Sun Kil Moon utilized a sax at the end of "Ben's My Friend," which could have potentially ruined the whole experience (it didn't for me though).  Meanwhile Moon Hooch without saxophones is just a drummer...literally.  As you can probably tell via my ham fisted description, the band consists of two saxophone players and a drummer.  They all met at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music  in New York and honed their sound busking in subway stations.  How disappointed would you be if your kids got in to that school?  Sure, it means they're incredibly talented, but it also means they're going to be borrowing money from you the rest of their lives.  OK.....I'm sure (not really) that's a slight exaggeration.  Here's Moon Hooch doing a Tiny Desk Concert
Also check out: "EWI"

4. Azaealia Banks - "Gimme a Chance"
Album: Broke With Expensive Taste
Azaealia Banks was the next big thing 3 years ago, but never really got anywhere with it.  I was a bit suspicious back then when I first heard her first single, "212."  It seemed to be more interesting for its shock value (copious use of the C-word) rather than musical quality.  Since then she's released a couple of mixtapes, started some twitter wars and fought with her record company (Interscope), who eventually let her out of her deal.  So now finally we have a proper album, most of which we've heard in bits and pieces over the years.  For that reason it isn't a real cohesive listen, but that's what I like about it.  There are a wide range of styles on this record so it doesn't get stale at any point.  Despite all the non-music related press, Azaealia does have some real chops so we'll probably be seeing more of her in the future.
Also check out: "Heavy Metal and Reflective", "Chasing Time"

5. Lana Del Rey - "West Coast"
Album: Ultraviolence
I have never been able to figure out if I'm supposed to like Lana Del Rey.  It seemed like she was getting a lot of good press when Born To Die came out in 2012 and I really liked her song "Video Games", but then that SNL thing happened.  It was so weird they spoofed it the very next week on Weekend Update.  Then Ultraviolence comes out this year and it sounds amazing, but I see a ton of bad press...not really related to the sound of the record but to the subject matter.  It kind of reminds me of the first couple of years of Colbert when conservatives would willingly go on because they didn't realize he was goofing on them.  Come on people, she's goofing on you!  Or maybe not.  Either way, who cares?  For some reason I have started getting Maxim magazine.  I didn't order it and no one has told me they ordered me a gift subscription.  Anyway, Lana Del Rey is the cover story of the December/January issue.  In it she describes her frustration with her previous record company.  "I knew what I wanted to do.  I wanted to incorporate cinematic strings with a heavier, nastier sound and lyrics."  Cinematic strings?  Check.  Heavier  nasty songs?  Check!  Mission accomplished.  Again, this record sounds amazing.
Also check out: "Ultraviolence", "Shades of Cool"

6. Chris Staples - "Dark Side of the Moon"
Album: American Soft
This was a total NPR find (as were The Family Crest and Moon Hooch).  It looks like Mr. Staples has  been around since the late 90's both as a solo act and in other bands.  It was "Dark Side of the Moon" that hooked me though, mostly because it encapsulates the emotions, fears and desires of fatherhood in a really amazing way (...I want to love you, I want to pass it on, I want to give, and give, 'til it's all gone, I want to know you, while we have the time, 'cause that's all we got to leave behind....).  Here he is playing a 20 minute set at KEXP.
Also check out: "Hold Onto Something"

7. Sylvan Esso - "Coffee"
Album: Sylvan Esso
A couple of years ago, Cory Finely, Jacqueline Onassis Wilson and I went to see the Decemberists play at the Uptown Theater in KC.  Great show.  The opener was this band called Mountain Man.  I had never heard of them but was 100% sure I knew what they would sound/look like.  It was going to be 4 dudes with beards of varying lengths playing somber droning Pacific Northwest rock.  To our surprise Mountain Man turned out to be four women wearing robes and singing a Capella.  It turns out one of those girls (Amelia Meath) turned in her robe and started singing over electronics (provided by Nick Sanborn of Megafaun) in the band Sylvan Esso.  If Hozier's "Take Me To Chuch" isn't the song of the year, then "Coffee" is.  Good luck not getting this stuck in your head.  Here they are playing a set on KEXP.
Also check out: "Play It Right", "Come Down"

8. Aa - Fish Phone
Album: VoyAager
I can almost guarantee the Birthday Bash is the world's only Best of 2014 list that includes Aa (I believe its pronounced "big a little a").  Here is their record release party of today this has a total of 135 views!  I mean come on!  This was uploaded over 10 months ago!  There are like 5 guys in the band (three wonder I like them).  Shouldn't more that 135 people care about this music?  I guess not (three wonder nobody besides me likes them).  Well I make no excuses.  I like Aa and I love the song "Fish Phone"!  I hope you do to.

9. Run The Jewels - "Lie, Cheat, Steal"
Album: Run the Jewels 2
I think it's safe to say RTJ2 was the most critically acclaimed rap record of the year (#1 on Pitchfork's list for example), which should be no surprise since the duo of Killer Mike and El-P have been kicking ass together since they started collaborating back in 2012 on Killer Mike's solo record R.A.P. Music which was one of our favorites of that year.  The song "Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck)" featuring Zack de la Rocha has also appeared on several best tracks of 2014 lists.  Love RTJ but also love cat sounds?  You're in luck!    Meow the Jewels—a remake of Run the Jewels 2—is set to be remixed using only cat sounds, and the proceeds will go to charity thanks to a Kickstarter that’s already pledged $65,000!!!! This is actually happening!
Also check out: "Blockbuster Night Part 1", "Oh My Darling (Don't Cry)"

10. TV on the Radio - "Happy Idiot"
Album: Seeds
We here at Team Sisson have been big fans of TVOTR since Young Liars way back in 2003.  For most of that time they have been critical darlings, but lately it seems the music press has cooled a bit.  Maybe they've just outstayed their welcome as the hippest band in the world, or perhaps they're simply too popular to be cool anymore, but I for one still love their sound.  Here's a full set on Morning Becomes Eclectic.
Also check out: "Lazerray"

11. The Rural Alberta Advantage - "Runners in the Night"
Album: Mended With Gold
The Rural Alberta Advantage has quietly become one of my absolute favorite bands.  Mended With Gold is so freaking good!!!  I only wish we lived closer to civilization so I had a shot at seeing them live because I imagine they are quite entertaining.  That is all.
Also check out: "Terrified", "Vulcan, AB"

12. Cloud Nothings - "I'm Not Part of Me"
Album: Here and Nowhere Else
Over the past three years we here at Team Sisson have been trying to keep the Birthday Bash fresh by introducing new artwork and minimizing repeat artist appearances.  If sales remain sluggish we may have to introduce a new character in 2015.  Anyway, in 2012 we brought you a track off of Attack on Memory, which was one of our favorites that year (produced by Steve Albini...did you see the Chicago episode of Sonic Highways?  Albini's studio, history and business practices were featured heavily in that episode. You should check it out).  And now here we are again with Here and Nowhere Else!  That makes three repeats in a row.  Mission failed!  We just couldn't keep Cloud Nothings off the list.  Here features the same loud, catchy songs with absolutely insane drumming, but with more polish to the production. In fact, the Pitchfork reviews of Cloud Nothings and RAA both mention how each band's respective drummer seems to be trying to win the title of best drummer in indie rock.  What's not to like?
Also check out: "Now Hear In", "Psychic Trauma"

13. The Faint - "Help in the Head"
Album: Doom Abuse
Remember how in the early 00's a lot of rock bands rediscovered disco?  I'm thinking of Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, The Bravery, etc.  I was a big fan of all those bands (well, not the Bravery...sorry Bravery fans....or more likely...Bravery, that was mean).  The Faint had a similar sound, but for some reason I never really even heard them, much less got into them.  And now here they are on the Bash.  However, I feel I must tell you I am including them largely on the strength of the amazing first 10 seconds of "Help in the Head."  However, the rest of the album is quite enjoyable too.  Here's a full set on KEXP
Also check out: "Evil Voices", "You Stranger"

14. Sea Oleena - "If I'm"
Album: Shallow
I don't really know much about Sea Oleena.  Now that I think about it, this was yet another NPR find, but I don't really remember what they said about her.  Shallow is a collection of very pretty songs that I find myself humming over and over again.  Shallow has been on heavy rotation in my office over the past few months. 

15. Hozier - "Jackie and Wilson"
Album: Hozier
I just scrolled through Metacritic's exhaustive list of best album of 2014 lists and got nearly to the bottom of the page before I saw Hozier listed.  Am I finally at the age where I just don't get it anymore?  I mean, The War On Drugs was listed 50 times before I saw Hozier......I can't stand The War On Drugs!!....and isn't "Take Me To Church" the song of the year?  I mean he did sing it at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show!  Oh that the problem?  Is he too mainstream?  No, that can't be it....Taylor Swift is listed a bunch of times too.  How did Taylor Swift get all this crossover mass appeal along with hipster cred?  Is it because she writes catchy songs?  But Hozier writes catchy songs.....can you possibly listen to "Take Me To Church" without humming it for the rest of the day?  Let me answer for!  I don't know what's going on in the world anymore....but I do know Hozier has a bunch of really great songs.  I gave you "Jackie and Wilson" because it's awesome and I assumed everyone had heard "Take Me To Church" enough.....maybe I was wrong.
Also check out: "Take Me To Church", "From Eden", "Angel of Small Death & The Codeine Scene"

16. Wolf Alice - "Moaning Lisa Smile"
Album: Creature Songs EP
The last two cuts from the 2014 Bash were Cold Specks' Neuroplasticity and Royal Blood's Royal Blood.  I'm already having "Birthday Bash Editor's Remorse" over Cold Specks, but I'm perfectly at ease leaving Royal Blood off the list as I feel Wolf Alice offers essentially the same, if not better sound from across the pond.  Plus I looked at some modern rock radio station playlists to see what they're playing these days and saw a bunch of Royal Blood, so my assumption is you've already heard "Figure It Out."  However, if you're like me and live in a town where they arrest you on sight (sound?) if you're listening to anything other than cowboy hat country, then you probably haven't.  Check it out.  Wow...that was a lot on Royal Blood.  Meanwhile you're listening to Wolf Alice.  Shout out to 89.3 The Current in Minneapolis for introducing me to this band.  Veteran Birthday Bash listeners know I go to great lengths to listen to the Current at work, and when I heard them play Wolf Alice I assumed it was another Minnesota band I'd have no choice to put on the Bash due to their intense rocking (see Fury Things on the 2013 Birthday Bash).  However it turns out they're from a little know suburb of Minneapolis called London, England.  My geography is rusty!

17. Dudley Perkins - "Foot Surgery"
Album: Dr. Stokley
Busted again!  Dr. Stokely officially came out in 2013 but I didn't hear it until the first week of January.  I added it to my just created Best of 2014 back then thinking it would be a placeholder.  The rap music made in the previous two years was so unbelievably great surely there would be plenty of options better than some dude named Dudley.  Right?   Well, Dr. Stokely turned out to have quite a bit of stick-to-it -iveness.  Dudley Perkins isn't the greatest rapper in the world, but on Dr. Stokely he's rhyming over some of the best beats of 2014 (2013....whatever), none better than the one you're currently bobbing your head to.  Headphones baby...smack on your headphones and try not to thank me later.
Also check out: "Lung Specialist"

18. Spoon - "They Want My Soul"
Album: They Want My Soul
I guess this one was pretty predictable.  Long time Birthday Bash listeners know Team Sisson have been Spoon superfans for several years.  There's nothing complicated about their sound, but no one else really does what they do, or even tries to do what they do.  When's the last time you heard a band and thought they were a Spoon ripoff.  Well maybe if you've been to a wedding reception where the Spoon cover band, Poon was playing.....haha....I just made that up....comedy gold!  These and many more hilarious plays on words can be heard on the upcoming comedy podcast I will be making with local hairdresser and fellow wiffle ball enthusiast, Brad Cooley.  Potential show titles include "Cool & the Bang", "CB Radio" & "WTF with Marc Maron."  So, to summarize...listen to Spoon, because they are great, then listen to us to remember what the opposite of greatness sounds like.
Also check out: "Inside Out", "Do You"

19. Strand of Oaks - "JM"
Album: HEAL
We'll go ahead and count HEAL as the local record this year (for those new to the Bash, when we lived closer to civilization we used to try to highlight at least one local band each year on the bash....this year the only local band we saw was The Lawn Chair Rebellion featuring Steve Patterson....don't get me wrong....I love those guys, but it takes more than Band of Horses covers and a high profile guest appearance by the local undertaker to get on the Bash)...ahem.  Strand of Oaks used to just be this dude with an awesome beard named Tim Showalter from Indiana (where in the Hoosier State?  even Wikipedia is stumped), but now he has a full band and a record full of really great songs.  I guess he lives in Philadelphia now and is chummy with that awful band The War On Drugs....have I mentioned how much I dislike The War On Drugs?  Let's see...."JM" is a song about Jason Molina, a very talented musician (solo work & Magnolia Electric Co.) who lost his battle with alcoholism in 2013.  Usually we don't allow 7 minute songs on the Birthday Bash since we want to include as many deserving artists as possible, but "JM" has the combination of quiet & melodic with loud & crunchy we find irresistable, so sorry Cold Specks.  Maybe next year.  Here's a full set on KEXP.
Also check out: "Goshen '97", "Shut In", "Same Emotions"

That's it.  Nothing left to do but close your browser and sit quietly for 12 months until your next Birthday Bash arrives.  Well I guess there is one more thing to do.  THE 6th ANNUAL BIRTHDAY BASH TRIVIA CONTEST!!!!

Now I don't want to cause too much excitement, but last year's winner, Adam "Fiddy" Zentz walked away with a sweet National t-shirt, an even sweeter Eels t-shirt and as if that wasn't sweet enough, a sweeeeeet Deltron 3030 t-shirt.  I took a picture of Zentz's sweet booty...I mean what he won in the contest...but I can't find it.  You'll have to take my word for it.  It was sweet.

Here's the fine print.  To be eligible to participate in the 6th 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.

Now, for the incredibly easy trivia question:  Four of the nineteen artists included in the 2014 Birthday Bash have been featured on previous versions of the Bash.  Who are those artists?

The first person to submit a correct response will win a personalized prize-pack of 2014 Birthday Bash artist band merch (t-shirts, mugs, hats....whatever we can find that looks cool.....but probably t-shirts).  Please e-mail your responses with "Birthday Bash Trivia Contest" in the subject line to Good luck and have a great 2015!

Oh, one more thing.  Special thanks to Mike Kallenberger and Vinnie "DJ" Iuppa for sending us their Best of 2013 & Best of 2014 mixes.  If you're not friends with these dudes you should be.  Team Sisson out.

 1/9/15 11:54 CST
 We have a winner!  The aforementioned Mike Kallenberger has risen to the challenge and correctly identified TV On the Radio, The Rural Alberta Advantage, Cloud Nothings and Spoon as the four bands previously featured on the Birthday Bash.  We here at Team Sisson salute Mr. Kallenberger for his ability to read context clues and/or scroll down to see previous track listings.  Thanks for playing everyone.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Team Sisson's Best of 2013

Happy holidays from Team Sisson, and congratulations on receiving Chris Schuck's 12th Annual Surprise Birthday Bash for Jesus, this year featuring artwork by our staff graphic designer, and two selections made by the newest member of Team Sisson.  As always, we've picked and exquisitely sequenced tracks from 20 of our favorite records of 2013 for your listening pleasure.  We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

1. Villagers  - "The Waves"
Album: {Awayland}
We first heard {Awayland} early in 2013 and it has remained one of our favorite albums throughout the year.  Villagers are an Irish folk band that, as you can hear, are not shy about using modern music technology to enhance their songs.  I am a big sucker for any song that starts out pretty and swells to a loud conclusion which describes multiple tracks on {Awayland}.
Also check out: "Earthly Pleasure", "The Bell"

2. Jonathan Boulet  - "You're a Animal"
Album: We Keep the Beat Found the Sound See the Need Start the Heart
We had to bend the rules on this one a little bit.  We Keep the Beat actually came out in June of 2012, but we didn't hear it until this year, and we're betting that you've never heard it.  "You're a Animal" first caught our ear as the definite standout track amongst a huge SXSW sampler.  The rest of the record is pretty great too.  Jonathan Boulet is Australian, and honestly that's about all the info I can find on him.  Here's the opening paragraph of the bio from his online store: "A precociously inspired 21 year old skate rat from Northwest Sydney, Jonathan Boulet makes a brand of ceremoniously uplifting, deeply colourful pop that sounds like something for which you’ve been inadvertently searching but never dreamed you’d find."  Birthday Bash've found it!
Also check out: "This Song is Called Ragged"

3. Chance the Rapper - "Good Ass Intro"
Album: Acid Rap
Early in 2013 a Chicago teenager I'd never heard of, Chance the Rapper put out a free album that was getting amazing reviews, so naturally I downloaded it hoping to jump on the bandwagon of the next big thing.  Initially I was not sold.  I didn't care for the nasally sing-songy flow and the constant yelping, although after several listens these are some of the things that make Chance stand out against some of the other young rappers in contention for the bash this year (A$AP Rocky, Earl Sweatshirt).  One thing that gave me a new appreciation for Acid Rap was the amazing two episode series This American Life did on Harper High School in South Chicago (download them here & here).  I thought I had some idea of what it was like for kids growing up in our inner cities, mostly because I've seen Boyz N the Hood and Menace II Society a hundred times.  Those two episodes opened my eyes to the fact that a) I have no idea and b) it is so much worse that whatever idea I though I had.  Now I'm listening to Acid Rap with a much greater appreciation for the stories within, and a new found respect for anyone who can make something so beautiful coming out of there....and then giving it away for free!  Speaking of which, download your own copy here.
Also check out: "Everybody's Something"

4. Typhoon - "Dreams of Cannibalism"
Album: White Lighter
I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard Typhoon.  I was walking Flanders down Cherry St in KC listening to Jim and Greg on Sound Opinions who were doing a show about unknowns from Portland.  They had some local personality on talking about all these bands and when she started describing Typhoon I became very excited.  Basically I was expecting Arcade Fire, but cooler since they were from Portland.  Then they played a song from their most recent record at the time, Hunger & Thirst, which confused me because I didn't like it at all.  I went home and listened to the whole album and hated it.  What I wanted to like about them initially was the amount of people in the band (11) and the presence of horns, but the songs just didn't click with me.  So this summer when I heard there was going to be a new Typhoon record I was ready to be disappointed.  Boy did they turn things around.  If you were to force me to pick my #1 record of 2013 I think it would have to be White Lighter.  Here they are playing an NPR Tiny Desk Concert.
Also check out: "Young Fathers"

5. Laura Mvula - "Green Garden"
Album: Sing To the Moon
OK....let me level with you.  There is a little bit of a formula to the Birthday Bash.  We always try to have a couple hip-hop songs, something heavy, something light, something folky, and a little soul.  Here my friends is your soul.  Laura Mvula is the latest in an ever growing line of English soul singers with serious chops.  This pick is largely due to our love of the track "Green Garden," but the whole record is solid.  It's a nice sunny Sunday afternoon listen.  Here she is doing a Tiny Desk Concert.
Also check out: "She"

6. James Blake - "Retrograde"
Album: Overgrown
Team Sisson was first exposed to English producer, James Blake when the track "Limit To Your Love" appeared on one of Leanna's mix CD's back in 2010.  It sounds like a boring guy and a piano song until the bass kicks in at 0:56.  Her old car used to have pretty good speakers so we would frequently blast that song into the Kansas City air.  Well..maybe not "we".  Anyway, Overgrown is more of the same; fragile vocals, pianos, strings and synths over a superb low end.  And what can I say about "Retrograde"?  I mean just listen to it!  How great is that?  In fact, Overgrown won the 2013 Mercury Prize, which is England's top music award...sort of like our Grammy awards, only not a complete joke.   I believe they "shortlist" 12 Albums every year, and out of those 12 one is crowned the winner.  In fact, a whopping five of the artists on this year's Birthday Bash were on the Mercury Prize "Albums of the Year" list.  Hmmmm....that might make a good trivia question.
Also check out: "Overgrown"

7. Ólafur Arnalds - "Old Skin"
Album: For Now I Am Winter
My obsession with Iceland continues.  Not only is it one of the most beautiful places on Earth, some of the most beautiful music you've ever heard comes from there. Just listen.
Also check out: "For Now I Am Winter"

8. Arcade Fire - "Normal Person"
Album: Reflektor
Arcade Fire made another record and once again it's great.  Big surprise.  Wake me up when they make something that isn't great!  When I heard that James Murphy was going to produce the new Arcade Fire, I thought it could either be a wild success or a spectacular disaster, and the reviews have pretty much followed suit.  Either you love it or you hate it, but it seems like people generally love it.  There are a lot of great songs to choose from, but I picked "Normal Person" because my favorite part about Arcade Fire is when all ten of them go berserk on stage, and this song has the most "berserk potential" (trademarked) on Reflektor. In the spirit of the holidays, here they are as the musical guest on the Between Two Ferns Holiday Spectacular!
Also check out: "Afterlife", "Reflektor"

9. Fury Things - "Vapors"
Album: Fury Things
Fury Things are a Twin Cities three-piece band I first heard this summer listening to The Current at work.  I actually got busted for streaming music in my office so now I have to record long chunks of internet radio using audacity and bring them in on a flash drive.  That probably seems like more work than it's worth right?  Well spend a week in my department without bringing in your own music and you'll be ready to put your head in a vice.  How is it possible that EVERY song on country radio is about drinking beer and driving pickups?!?  Don't believe me?  Watch this.  Anyway, I really don't know much about Fury Things other than they're named after a Dinosaur Jr. song and their brand of loud, fuzzy rock provides sweet relief from the never-ending country "music" which blares just outside my door.

10. Parquet Courts - "Donuts Only"
Album: Light Up Gold
Parquet Courts have been critical darlings all year, and are peppering several best of 2013 lists.  At first I was very suspicious.  It seemed to me this was yet another case of a band becoming popular based solely on a single lyric.  For example, I would bet the farm that if Marcy Playground's hit song was called "Chex & Candy" rather than "Sex & Candy" none of us would have ever heard of them.  In the case of Parquet Courts, the song everyone initially played from Light Up Gold is called "Stoned and Starving."  It seems to me that the only thing stoners love more than smoking weed is hearing songs about weed.  Popularity explained.  However, after several listens, (easy to listen several times when the album is only 39 minutes long) I've come around.  Light Up Gold can be enjoyed not just by potheads, but everyone including sportos, motor heads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, and even dickheads.  They all think Parquet Courts are a righteous band!
Also check out: "Stoned and Starving"

11. Yamantaka//Sonic Titan - "One"
Album: UZU
By a slim margin, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan may have been Team Sisson's favorite band comprised of Japanese-Canadians in 2013.  I checked them out based on the description of their sound in a Pitchfork review and then proceeded to blast UZU on repeat during one of my many trips to and from Springfield. These Canucks have quite an interesting thing going.  Evidently the have two live shows; one a drag rock opera and the other a "full on rock show."  According to their website, "YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN are a psychedelic noh-wave opera group fusing noise, metal, pop and folk music into a multidisciplinary hyper-orientalist cesspool of 'east' meets 'west' culture clash in giant monochrome paper sets."  There are only two ways something like this can go, but I think UZU is very, very good, so we hope you enjoy "One"
Also check out: "Windflower"

12. Danny Brown - "Side A"
Album: Old
Danny Brown started making some noise that made it to my ears two years ago, although evidently he's been on the fringes of the rap game for so long he's feeling old, hence the name of the album.  It's easy to laugh him off as some crazy person who got some attention because he looks and sounds different.  I mean he has this crazy hair and is missing some front teeth, but my goodness is Old great.  He has it arranged into two sides, with side A chronicling his life in inner city Detroit, and side B bringing the party jams, although not the kind of party I in my rapidly advancing age will ever attend.  What got me excited about Old was hearing an early release of "Side A."  I must have listened to it ten times in a row.  I just love how the song starts with a drawn out cymbal crash, a simple ominous tone, then Danny coming in almost as soon as the beat kicks in, as though he has a lot to say and he's not going to waste any time.  There are so many other great tracks.  "25 Bucks", "Torture", "Side B", "Kush Coma".  Do yourself a huge favor and check out Old.  I'm telling you......this thing is unfreakingbelievable.
Also check out: "Dope Song", "Dip"

13. Arctic Monkeys - "R U Mine?"
Album: AM
This is actually the second time the Arctic Monkeys have been featured on the Bash. I believe we put their first hit, "I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor" on the 2006 edition.  They've been making solid music ever since then.  The track "Do I Wanna Know" has been all over the top tracks of 2013 lists, but I love "R U Mine?"  Do U Like?
Also check out: "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?"

14. The National - "Graceless"
Album: Trouble Will Find Me
Here's some dad rock for you!  The National is actually the first pick by the newest addition to Team Sisson, Charlie.  During his first couple of months with us, we struggled to find a bedtime routine that put him to sleep.  We discovered cradling with butt patting seemed to do the trick.  One night I was playing Boxer during this routine and what a revelation!  I had always thought of The National as a quiet band, so good for putting a baby to sleep right?  But I had never really appreciated the frenetic rhythm of those songs, until I was butt patting along to them.  You should really try it!
Also check out: "Sea of Love", "Don't Swallow the Cap", "Pink Rabbits"

15. Kurt Vile - "Snowflakes Are Dancing"
Album: Wakin On a Pretty Daze
We first became acquainted with Kurt Vile when we heard "Jesus Fever" off his Smoke Ring For My Halo record and included it in the first run of our other mixtape project, Baby Hipster (yes yes yes....Toddler Hipster is in the works...turns out when you actually have a baby, it takes longer to make these things).  Here's something I'll bet you didn't know; Kurt Vile is huge in his hometown of Philadelphia.  So huge in fact that August 28th of this year was officially named Kurt Vile Day in Philly.  The men of Team Sisson love all of Pretty Daze so picking a song to feature was a bit of an adventure, with "Snowflakes" making a late move at the buzzer.  "Wakin on a Pretty Day" may be the best song, but it's over 9 minutes long which doesn't work when we try to get as many tracks on The Bash as possible.  We thought it was going to be "Never Run Away", but at the last minute Charlie decided we needed to bring you "Snowflakes".  You're welcome.
Also check out: "KV Crimes"

16. Laura Marling - "Master Hunter"
Album: Once I Was An Eagle
Last one in.  I actually heard "Master Hunter" for the first time listening to a 2013 wrap up show. I have since familiarized myself the the rest of Once I Was An Eagle and am quite fond of it.  This is also Charlie approved listening.  I've been hearing about Laura Marling for what seems like ages (she's only 23), but just now discovering her music.  Hope you like it.
Also check out: "Devil's Resting Place"

17. Deltron 3030 - "City Rising From the Ashes"
Album: Event II
There were several records we here at Team Sisson were really looking forward to in 2013, like Queens of the Stone Age with the re-united Songs for the Deaf lineup and the new Thom Yorke led Atoms for Peace.  Unfortunately, the only record that actually met our expectations, and in fact far exceeded them was Event II.  We have been big fans of Deltron 3030 since the self-titled debut in 2000.  In fact, the only speeding ticket I've ever gotten from a cop in a car (I've gotten two from cops on foot....true story) was due to me leadfooting it to Deltron on 71 highway near Harrisonville, MO.  Deltron 3030 is comprised of Del the Funky Homosapien, who you may know as the rapper on the first Gorillaz record, Dan the Automator, who is the legendary Bay area producer responsible for several classic albums including Dr. Octagonecologyst, and turntablist Kid Koala. Event II is a continuation of a quasi-futuristic concept.  Whereas Deltron 3030 was set in the year 3030, Event II is set in the year 3040, and chronicles the return (?) of the "dynamic" Deltron who will save the planet maybe?  I don't really know what's going on.  It's about the future.  What I do know is there are some killer guest spots.  There is an opening monologue by Joseph Gordon Levitt, two skits featuring David Cross complaining about the kids these days (in 3040), an appearance by chef David Chang talking about the food in 3040, and best of all, the Lonely Island contribute a hilarious song called "Back In the Day".   The best and most surprising thing about Event II though is just how bouncy the music is compared to what you may expect from Automator.   For my money this is pound for pound the best sounding rap record of the year. There...I said it.
Also check out: "Melding Of The Minds"

18. The Front Bottoms - "Twin Size Mattress"
Album: Talon Of The Hawk
As soon as I heard the track "Au Revoir" on All Songs Considered I knew we would be putting it on the Bash.  Then I listened to the rest of Talon Of The Hawk and suddenly there were a few other contenders, with "Twin Size Mattress" standing out.  So anyway, here's my apology for leaving off what would have probably been your favorite Birthday Bash track this year. On the same All Songs Considered, the host Bob Boilen talked about seeing The Front Bottoms on a whim, having never heard of them and he was the only person in the room that didn't know every word to their songs.  Pretty sure the exact same thing would happen to me if I went to see them play The Holiday here in Olney.
Also check out: "Funny You Should Ask"

19. Eels - "Wonderful, Glorious"
Album: Wonderful, Glorious
I first heard the Eels in high school.  High School!  They actually had a song on the radio back then.  Since then I have heard practically nothing about them.  Imagine my surprise this year when I found out that not only are Eels still a band, they're making excellent music.  I don't know how I've missed them this whole time.  In fact, just yesterday I heard "Fresh Blood" off of a record they released in 2009, Hombre Lobo, and it blew me away.  Hope you like it too.
Also check out: "Kinda Fuzzy", "Peach Blossom"

20. Sigur Rós - Rafstraumur
Album: Kveikur
As I said before, my obsession with Iceland continues.  I have it marked as my #1 fantasy vacation destination, but Leanna states she will NEVER go to Iceland.  Looks like I'm going to have to go with someone else.  Who wants a free trip to Iceland?  Well....not'll have to pay your own way...but we can sit next to each other on the plane.  Ok, Sigur Rós....prior to making Kveikur they lost a member whose name I have no chance of remembering or spelling...but anyway...he was described as their multi-instrumentalist, which reminds me of when Wilco lost (fired) Jay Bennett.  In both cases the subsequent music was more guitar based and lost some of the magic.  This however is not necessarily a bad thing, as you can hear.  I actually thought Sigur Rós was a goner when they went on indefinite hiatus a couple years ago and Jónsi made that amazing solo record.  But they're back baby!  I think I've told this story on this thing before, but waaaaaay back when I was living in Columbia I saw Kurt Loder on MTV news talking about this band from Iceland that had people passing out at their concerts (something about being overwhelmed with emotion?).  That day I went to Streetside records and picked up a copy of Ágætis byrjun, just thinking about buying it (yes kids, buying music).  As I was browsing, some rando who didn't work there (I was there a lot so I knew) asked if I was going to buy it.  I said I was thinking about it.  He then said kind of breathlessly, "It's like...the best thing ever."  That was all I needed to hear.  After some initial confusion (when am I supposed to listen to this?) I was hooked....apparently for life.
Also check out: "Hrafntinna", "Brennisteinn", "Stormur"

Wow....that was awesome!  Could anything make this multimedia experience more interactive? Ummm....only a little thing called THE 5th ANNUAL BIRTHDAY BASH TRIVIA CONTEST!!!!

Last year was a bit of a disappointment as yet again there was no winner.  As you may recall, the question was as follows.  One person pulls double duty by actually appearing in two different tracks on this year’s Bash. Who is it?  Of course the answer was Ronald Reagan, who appeared on the track "Reagan" by Killer Mike (duh), as well as in the intro to Aesop Rock's "Zero Dark Thirty."  You all must be kicking yourselves at this reveal.  Fear not, a new question awaits.  First, the fine print....enlarged for ease of viewing.

To be eligible to participate in the 5th 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.

Now, the question.  Five of the twenty artists included in the 2013 Birthday Bash were on the "Shortlist" for the 2013 Mercury Prize.  Who are those artists?

The first person to submit a correct response will win a personalized prize-pack of 2013 Birthday Bash artist band merch (t-shirts, mugs, hats....whatever we can find that looks cool).  Please e-mail your responses with "Birthday Bash Trivia Contest" in the subject line to Good luck and have a great 2014!

1/15/14 15:12 CST
We have a winner!  Adam Zentz-Tron is well on his way to having a great 2014 as he has correctly identified the five Birthday Bash artists on the shortlist for the 2013 Mercury Prize!  Those artists, in order of appearance are Villagers, Laura Mvula, James Blake, Arctic Monkeys & Laura Marling. Join me in congratulating him!