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!



Sunday, December 31, 2017

Team Sisson's Best of 2017



Happy holidays from Team Sisson, and congratulations on receiving Chris Schuck's 16th Annual Surprise Birthday Bash for Jesus. As always, we've picked and exquisitely sequenced tracks from 22 of our favorite records of 2017 for your listening pleasure. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

1. Ron Gallo - "Young Lady, You're Scaring Me"
Album: Heavy Meta
Let's kick things off with some catchy garage rock by Philly's Ron Gallo.  We heard "Young Lady, You're Scaring Me" earlier in the year and liked it quite a bit.  Then when Sound Opinions did an interview we were hooked.  I listened to Heavy Meta back to back three times that night.  So good.  Almost gave you "Kill the Medicine Man" since A) it rocks equally hard and B) I am a bit of a medicine man myself. 
Also Check Out: "Kill the Medicine Man", "Why Do You Have Kids?", "Please Yourself", "Black Market Eyes", "Put the Kids to Bed"

2. Sir Sly - "High"
Album: High
Every year we put a song on the Birthday Bash which we think might be a traditional radio hit, but since we don't listen to a lot of terrestrial radio it's hard to know. Not that there is anything wrong with radio hits.  Many times radio hits are hits because the songs are really good.  And we have nothing against good songs, we just try to give you tunes you might not have already heard a million times.  So, with that being said, we're sorry if you've heard "High" a million times already, but then again, if you haven't what the hell have you been listening to?  Come on man.  It's time to step up your game!
Also check out: "&Run", "Altar"

3. Eamon - "Lock Me Down"
Album: Golden Rail Motel
We were initially hooked by the track "Before I Die", but unbeknownst to Team Sisson, Eamon has been around for a long time.  Golden Rail Motel is actually his first album in 11 years, and previously he had a hit with "Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back".  Didn't ring any bells for us, but we have been loving Golden Rail Motel this fall.
Also check out: "I Got Soul", "Be My Girl"

4. The Rural Alberta Advantage - "Dead/Alive"
Album: The Wild
The RAA have now earned a spot in the Birthday Bash hall of fame.  Four records since 2009, four inclusions on The Bash.  I think only Murder By Death can claim a similar streak, although that's probably wrong.  Anyway, what I'm trying to say is we absolutely love the RAA.  Now, that being said I'm looking at past tour dates on their website and amazingly, they have never played Kansas City.  What is that all about RAA?  We give you all this love and get nothing in return?  Our Love... for you is All We've Ever Known.  We hope you play This City, preferably In The Summertime, or else we may start Letting GoAlrightDrain The Blood.
Also check out: "Brother", "Toughen Up", "Beacon Hill"

5. Caro - "Closet Lunatic"
Just about every year one of our favorite (or in this case favourite) songs is released as a single from an album that will be released the following year, or just as a standalone track, as was the case with that amazing Polyphonic Spree song "What Would You Do" back in 2012. This presents us with a real Sophie's Choice situation.  Either we include the song on The Bash, but by doing so we undermine the whole idea of The Bash as a collection of tracks from the best albums of the year, OR we wait until the following year and run the risk of forgetting about what is probably now your favorite song, which is a situation with no winners.  The former usually wins out, and 2017 is no exception.  There is no Caro album yet.  I don't know if there every will be.  But "Closet Lunatic" is so damn good we couldn't keep it from you.  Now I know it sounds very (very) much like Alt J, so if you're the type to be offended by songs that "rip off" other songs then you might want to skip to track 6.  However, if you want to have your socks rocked off, turn it up!  Speaking of Alt J, check out the Song Exploder podcast where they talk about how they made "In Cold Blood" from their 2017 record Relaxer.
Also check out: "Eyes On The Ground", "Cold Comfort", "Admit/Resist"

6. Mark Lanegan - "Nocturne"
Album: Gargoyle
We here at Team Sisson have been fans of Mark Lanegan for a very long time, going back to the 90's when he fronted the Seattle grunge rock band Screaming Trees.  Since then he has done many things, including joining Queens of the Stone Age ("Hanging Tree" from Songs for the Deaf remains one of our favorites) and teaming with Greg Dulli from the Afghan Whigs to form the duo Gutter Twins.  Speaking of Greg Dulli, we have twice almost featured the Afghan Whigs on the Bash, first in 2014 with Do to the Beast, specifically the track "Algiers" (which we may have liked strictly because the opening few seconds sound exactly like "Far From Any Road" by The Handsome Family.....which was the theme song to True Detective season one), and then again this year with In Spades, with the catchy "Arabian Heights."  Back to Mark Lanegan, we initially found out about Gargoyle when we caught his great interview with Marc Maron on WTF.  Marc also did a killer interview with Ryan Adams around the same time.  You should check that out, once you're finished listening to Gargoyle of course.
Also check out: "Beehive", "Emperor"

7. P.O.S. - "Wearing a Bear"
Album: Chill, dummy
Hahahahahahaha.  You thought we wouldn't put yet another Minnesota rapper on The Bash?  Well then you were dead wrong!  In the 16 years of the Birthday Bash I think we have featured either a Rhymesayers or a Doomtree artist at least 10 times, maybe more.  In general, 2017 was a great year for hip-hop with Tyler the Creator & Vince Staples making awesome records that almost made our list, and RTJ & Kendrick making records that did.  Nevertheless, we had to make room for P.O.S.
Also check out: "Faded", "sleepdrone/superposition", "Thieves/Kings", "Born a Snake"

8. Algiers - "The Underside of Power"
Album: The Underside of Power
In looking around at other best of lists I found a site I'd never heard of called The Quietus.  They actually released a top 100 albums of the year list that included a whopping 15 bands/artists I've ever heard of.  Out of those 100 only one Birthday Bash artist made their list, and this is what they said, "The blending of seemingly disparate, cross-generational, pan-century styles of music - Franklin's gospel vocals that veer into screams, Mahan's sulking bass, Tesche's grubby guitars and Tong's rhythmic pounding - and the omission of any real, tangible references to current events beyond subtext points to something much deeper. Something much older. And something much, much darker in its nefarious reach and longevity over the course of human existence. It is a nod, to quote Frantz Fanon once more, to the fact that “Imperialism leaves behind germs of rot which we must clinically detect and remove from our land but from our minds as well.”  Took the words right out of my keyboard!
Also check out: "Walk Like A Panther",  "Cleveland", "Cry of the Martyrs"

9. Idles - "Mother"
Album: Brutalism
From Rough Trade Records: Bristol’s finest post-punk polemics Idles have been promising to do great things for some time now, and with their debut album Brutalism they absolutely fulfil that promise, and a furious promise at that. Politically charged, refreshingly confrontational and infectiously volatile, Idles are a band like no other. Bringing the unsettling reality of the world we live in into their frantic assault on the senses, they are a band that until now could only be truly understood by witnessing in a live environment - but with Brutalism it surely feels like they have captured the intensity of that live sound. Bottled up here are the abrasive, memorable lyrics of Joseph Talbot delivered with all of the spite and wry humour he puts across on the stage .Dedicated in part to the loss of his mother, who adorns the record’s cover, and partly to a perceived decimation of society, from the NHS to public services across Britain, Brutalism is a deadly serious indictment on popular culture. For fans of Fat White Family, Sleaford Mods and McLusky.  Couldn't have said it better myself.  We loved Brutalism this year.
Also check out: "Stendhal Syndrome", "Divide & Conquer", "Well Done"

10. Kendrick Lamar - "DUCKWORTH."
Album: DAMN.
"You take two strangers and put 'em in random predicaments, give 'em a soul so they can make they own choices and live with it, twenty years later them same strangers you may could meet again, inside recording studios where they reaping their benefits, then you start reminding them about that "chicken incident," whoever thought the greatest rapper would be from coincidence, because if Anthony killed Ducky, Top Dawg would be servin' life while I grew up without a father and die in a gunfight."
If you don't know about Kendrick by now I just feel sorry for you.  As previously discussed on this blog, we consider good kid, m.A.A.d city to be one of the top five rap records ever made.  To Pimp a Butterfly was similarly great, and now we have DAMN.  We had a damn hard time deciding which track to put on The Bash.  "XXX." featuring U2 was the early favorite, largely due to the sickest beat we heard all year which kicks in at the 1:18 mark.  Let's also pause to appreciate the fact that U2, arguably one of the biggest bands in the world, is doing guest work on a Kendrick record.  We also loved "DNA." (I got, I got, I got, I got....etc.....check out the awesome video featuring KC's own Don Cheadle).  HUMBLE. is obviously great.  Sit down.  Be humble.  In the end we decided on the closer "DUCKWORTH." which tells the unbelievable story of Kendrick's father (Ducky) and his youthful run-ins with Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith, who years later signed K-Dot to his label, TDE.
Also check out:  Kendrick's entire catalog

11. Valerie June - "The Front Door"
Album: The Order of Time
Let's slow things down with some Valerie June, who made quite a bit of critical noise back in 2013 with Pushin' Against A Stone, which was co-produced by Dan Auerbach at the height of his Black Keys fame.  There is a great New Yorker (consistently my favorite airplane read)  Profile on The Order of Time.  Here is a passage that describes the record, and then "The Front Door" way better than I ever could:
"I kept listening to “The Order of Time” because of its slower, more patient turns. I was captivated by the album’s ethereal slowness, its almost psychedelic wandering. In the past few months, I’ve grown enamored with the leisurely calm of certain songs of hers. They linger on the textures of everyday life: coming and going, the possibilities of love and loss, the passage of time, the engine of ambition.
I kept returning, in particular, to “The Front Door,” which describes the final minutes of a spent relationship. There’s a feeling of stillness as it rises from the quiet, with June mumbling and whispering, like she’s hiding her words behind the light churn of organ and the glimmer of pedal-steel guitar. She eases into the arrangement, then repeats the final lines, over and over, and they begin to stand on their own: “Bound, / Farewell, I’m bound / To leave you / Waiting by / The front door.”'
If ethereal slowness isn't your thing, would it help if I told you Valerie June has the best hair of any human being alive?  Yeah, I thought so.  Here's her La Blogotheque Take Away Show.
Also check out: "Shakedown"

12. Courtney Barnett, Kurt Vile - "Fear Is Like a Forest"
Album: Lotta Sea Lice
You guys already know how much we here at Team Sisson love the Trash Pickin', Field Goal Kickin' Philadelphia Phenomenon (minus the trash pickin' and field goal kickin'), Kurt Vile.  This year he teamed up with Courtney Barnett for Lotta Sea Lice, which sounds EXACTLY how you think it would.  In case you don't know, Courtney Barnett first mumbled her way into our hearts in 2014 with The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas which featured the awesome "Avant Gardener."  Since then a pairing with Kurt Vile seemed inevitable, yet slightly dangerous.  Despite looking very similar with similar songwriting styles, they hail from almost polar ends of the earth (Philly & Sydney) and play guitar with different hands (she's a lefty).  This is the dictionary definition of the Coriolis Effect (isn't it?), so a duet between the two could have potentially led to a matter/antimatter catastrophe.  Fortunately for all of us they threw caution to the wind and gave us an entire record of duets.  We liked all of it, but loved "Fear Is Like a Forest."  Now you're loving it too.  You're welcome.  Here's their Tiny Desk Concert.
Also check out: "Continental Breakfast"

13. All Them Witches - "Don't Bring Me Coffee"
Album: Sleeping Through The War
We are so excited to bring you Nashville's psychedelic rock quartet, All Them Witches.  This might be our favorite find of the year.  We have been rocking out to Sleeping Through The War pretty much constantly since we first heard it this fall.  It was pretty tough deciding which track to give you, but we ended up going with "Don't Bring Me Coffee" as that opening line is such an earworm.  Ain't nobody gonna tell me how to run my town.  Yeah, you're muttering it too.
Also check out: "Bulls", "3-5-7", "Alabaster"

14. Run the Jewels - "Talk to Me"
Album: Run the Jewels 3
Brave men did not die face down in the Vietnam mud so I could not style on you
I didn't walk uphill both ways to the booth and back to not wild on you
You think baby Jesus killed Hitler just so I'd whisper?
When you're safe and sound and these crooks tap your phone and now have a file on you?
What, me worry? Nah, buddy, I've lost before, so what?
You don't get it, I'm dirt, motherfucker, I can't be crushed
Fuckers, open the books up and stop bullshitting the kid
My dick got a Michelin star, I'm on par with the best ever took the gig
I'm a super cat, from don dada to dusk, don't bother to touch
I got firm clutch on the grip and the bucks
I might ghost ride a tank, take a ride to the bank
I'm the son of Rick Rubin rushing full-thrust
Don't flash weak shit to the Shark Tank judge
Talk real good 'cause I'm smart and stuff
We a good crew to fuck with, better to love
 Yes!!!  RTJ has been killing it for three straight records now, but we still hold the Killer Mike solo record (produced by El-P) in higher esteem.  Honestly, a record of just El-P beats with no vocals would probably be damn good, but he and Mike keep rapping over them and my god it sounds like melted butter on my speakers (ok....obviously I'm not great at this....feel free to insert your own simile)!  In the spirit of the season, here's "A Christmas F*cking Miracle" from RTJ1.  Speaking of which, here they are again with Stephen Colbert doing "Jingle Jingle (Santa Party)."  Here's their Tiny Desk Concert.
Also check out: "Call Ticketron", "Legend Has It", "Don't Get Captured"

15. Sylvan Esso - "Die Young"
Album: What Now/Echo Mountain Sessions
We thought Sylvan Esso might be a bit of a one hit wonder after their self titled debut, featuring the super infectious "Coffee."  Boy were we wrong!  You've probably heard "Radio" on the radio, which is a song about getting a song on the radio.  We decided to go with "Die Young" instead, but wait!  You're not listening to the What Now version, but rather the Echo Mountain Sessions version, which features members of Mountain Man and The Mountain Goats (kind of a theme developing here) along with Wye Oak and Megafaun all playing live instruments and having a grand time doing so.
Also check out: "Radio", "The Glow"

16. Sampha - "Blood on Me"
Album: Process
Sampha blew up this year as a solo artist after previously working the the background on music by Solonge, Kanye, Drake & Frank Ocean. You likely heard the beautiful "(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano" at some point this year, which came in at #26 on Pitchfork's Best Songs of 2017 list.  In fact, "Blood on Me" checked in at #61 on Pitchfork's Best Songs of 2016 list.  Here's his Tiny Desk Concert.
Also check out: "(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano", "Plastic 100°C"

17. John Murry - "Defacing Sunday Bulletins"
Album: A Short History of Decay
Truth be told, we only recently discovered John Murry while looking around at some best of lists to make sure there wasn't anything we missed on our initial track list.  That's when we stumbled upon a Best of 2017 list by the UK record store Rough Trade.  Incidentally their list also included Yesterday's Gone by Loyle Carner which we almost included, specifically the track, "No CD."  Here's what Rough Trade had to say about A Short History of Decay; "Second album from Cult US Singer Songwriter. A Short History Of Decay is an intensely personal document of an artist’s fall from grace. It contains all the tragic elements of that unwritten Southern Gothic novel: the revelations of a man coming to terms with the personal shortcomings, the flaws and the perverse twists of fate that led him to the end of one journey and the beginning of another."  That Southern Gothic novel thing makes sense as John Murry is originally from Tupelo, MS and according to wikipedia is the second cousin of William Faulkner, but has since moved to Kilkenny Ireland.  You know, that old cliche.  We almost gave you "What Jail Is Like" which we just found out is an Afghan Whigs cover!  As above, those guys are so close to making a Birthday Bash!!!!
Also check out: "Silver and Lead", "Wrong Man"

18. The National - "Turtleneck"
Album: Sleep Well Beast
At this point in the long and illustrious history of the Birthday Bash, we are increasingly cognizant of the fact that we have our stable of bands we love, and thus it is more and more difficult to prevent this mix  from becoming super predictable (they love Doomtree so I'll bet P.O.S. is on here somewhere.....OK, you got that one right).  But at the same time, there have been several records we missed over the years. For a while I had this great idea of a Birthday Bash misses mix where we highlighted our favorite records we discovered after press time, with The '59 Sound perpetually at the top of the list.  What I'm trying to say is we've been fans of The National for quite some time now, but I can't honestly remember them ever making the Birthday Bash until this year (great memory.....just scrolled down and saw we put "Graceless" from Trouble Will Find Me on the 2013 Birthday Bash).  So.......I'm hesitant to put them on here.......plus Sleep Well Beast gets awfully Postal Service after Turtleneck.  Side discussion: I'm all about bands trying new things, keeping it fresh, staying relevant, etc, but for some reason this second half of Sleep Well Beast is really making me question that position.
Anyway, at the risk of sounding predictable, Sleep Well Beast is really good.  Got a problem with it?  Notice you don't hear any Arcade Fire on this mix.  We liked Everything Now a lot, but didn't think it was quite Bash-worthy.  Although, I must say I was mowing the lawn with earbuds in the first time I heard it and immediately loved "Creature Comfort" (especially that line "Assisted suicide, she dreams about dyin' all the time, she don't mean she came so close, fills up the bathtub and put on our FIRST RECORD") I damn near ran the mower off the road (good thing it was a push mower and I was nowhere near a road).  Oh, you think mowing a lawn with earbuds blasting at full volume is a bad idea?  I happen to subscribe to the Dave Dameshek philosophy that I do not survive, I LIVE!  Although I've never been hang gliding, never been scuba diving, never seen the Mona Lisa, never been to Tokyo, never kissed someone on a train platform, never been in the Guinness Book of World Records, never even been in the Guinness Book of People Who Have Taken a Brief Tour of the Guinness Brewery Wherever It Is In Ireland, etc, etc etc.  I did join a softball team this year though.  Oh god, I need to go to a dark room and listen to some sad ass National songs.
Also check out: "Carin At The Liquor Store"

19. G Yamazawa - "North Cack" feat. Joshua Gunn & Kane Smego
Album: Shouts to Durham
In what we described above as a great year for hip-hop, we are so glad to be able to bring you G Yamazawa.  We've been rocking Shouts to Durham most of the year.  According to his website, he's a National Poetry Slam champion, a Cultural Diplomat for the Department of State and a Kundiman Fellow.  Oh come on, you don't know what a Kundiman fellow is?  Based in New York City, Kundiman is a national organization dedicated to the creation and cultivation of Asian American creative writing  Duh.  Mr. Yamazawa recently toured the Midwest, stopping in Columbia 10/28 and before that Hays, KS 10/17.  Wait.....Hays, KS????  Did he stop for gas on a ski trip?  Who's doing his booking?  Looking more closely he played Raleigh, NC 10/15, Hays two days later, then way out to Pittsburgh 10/21.  Let's hope the traditional Birthday Bash bump gets him some better gigs.
Also check out: "1990 (Interlude)", "One Crown", "Whas Good", "Ego Trip"

20. Grizzly Bear - "Mourning Sound"
Album: Painted Ruins
I was thiiiiiiis close to giving you "Three Rings." Had to substitute "Mourning Sound" at the last minute because while my Spotify playlist had the Bash at 80 minutes, iTunes showed 81 minutes. As you may recall from you childhood, compact discs have enough space for a max of 80 minutes.  Either way it doesn't matter that much because I know most of you don't even have CD players anymore so this whole exercise is largely pointless. That being said, I am very proud we were able to pack 79 minutes and 58 seconds of music onto the Bash this year, although in hindsight I wish we had added a 2 second bonus track of the younger half of Team Sisson yelling Happy Holidays.  I mean Merry Christmas.  I almost forgot we have a leader who has single handedly made it possible for all of us to say Merry Christmas again!  The war is over!  Let's celebrate by rocking out to some muted dad rock!  Anyway, Grizzly Bear is awesome.  They did a cool Song Exploder episode where they explained how they made "Four Cypresses."
Also check out: "Four Cypresses", "Neighbors"

21. Benjamin Booker - "Off The Ground"
Album: Witness
Benjamin Booker made quite a bit of noise back in 2014 with Witness, which narrowly missed a spot on that year's Bash, specifically the track "Violent Shiver."  This year we gave Witness a listen, and "Off The Ground" hooked us right away.
Also check out: "Believe"

22. Japandroids - "Near to the Wild Heart of Life"
Album: Near to the Wild Heart of Life
So, as we close yet another awesome Birthday Bash, let's rock out to Team Sisson favorites Japandroids.  Featured on the 2009 Bash with Post-Nothing, and again in 2012 with Celebration Rock, which we said at the time and stand by, was our favorite record of the previous five years.  It still holds up folks.  Go back in time and take a listen if you want to feel really good.  Critics weren't enamored with Near to the Wild Heart of Life, but how could they be?  They were all comparing it to Celebration Rock.  But for our money, NttWHF is very Bashworthy.  Same sound, same energy, same frenetic playing.  What else do you want?
Also check out: "North East South West"

At this time I feel we must also recognize Capacity by Big Thief.  We've had it on our list since June, but it didn't really hook us until after the final Birthday Bash track list was locked in.  I listened to it in a severely sleep deprived state on the return leg of a bus trip to and from Aspen and have been obsessed with it ever since.  Something about that setting made it absolutely melt in my ears.  Had the timing worked out better I probably would have given you "Shark Smile", "Coma" or "Mythological Beauty" but the whole album is gorgeous.  You should really check it out if you haven't already.

Here are some other records we loved this year.

Protomartyr - Relatives In Descent
Strand of Oaks - Hard Love
Grandaddy - Last Place
Golden Pelicans - Disciples of Blood
(Sandy) Alex G - Rocket
Oso Oso - The Yunahon Mixtape
Pickwick - LoveJoys
Afghan Whigs - In Spades
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - The French Press
Benjamin Clementine - I Tell A Fly
The Big Moon - Love in the 4th Dimension
This is The Kit - Moonshine Freeze
Loyle Carner - Yesterday's Gone
Priests - Nothing Feels Natural
Queens of the Stone Age - Villains


What a ride it's been.  There's just one more thing........It's time for the THE 9TH ANNUAL BIRTHDAY BASH TRIVIA CONTEST!!!!!!!

As always the winner will receive a prize pack of Birthday Bash artist swag.  T-shirts, hats, belt buckles, whatever looks cool.  Last year our winner, Adam "Fiddy" Zentz took home an epic Modern Baseball t-shirt as well as a Shovels & Rope t-shirt that could only be described as "on fleek"


Jealous much?

Here's this year's question:

We have included links to several NPR Music Tiny Desk Concerts over the years.  How many artists featured on the 2017 Birthday Bash have performed a Tiny Desk Concert?

To be eligible to participate in the 9th 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 2018!

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 csisson11@hotmail.com. Good luck and have a great 2017!

*****Update*****

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!