Monday, January 4, 2010

Best of 2009

Happy Holidays from Team Sisson and congratulations on receiving the 2009 version of the Birthday Bash for Jesus.  As always we've selected 18 tracks from our 18 favorite records of 2009.  We hope you like them as much as we do.  On with the show.

1. Phoenix “Lisztomania”
Album: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
How could we not start the Birthday Bash with "Lisztomania"? Zut alors! I wasn’t sure about this record because of all of the buzz and the Apple commercial and everything, but after one listen I was hooked. If you don’t know, Phoenix is a French band that has been around for awhile but finally got huge this year. You’ll see Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix on a lot of other Best of 2009 lists.
Also check out "1901"

2. Grizzly Bear “Two Weeks”
Album: Veckatimest
I’d been solidly in the Grizzly Bear is overrated corner for a long time until recently when I decided to give them a shot on a decent stereo rather than my crappy $20 computer speakers. Do yourselves a favor. Turn this one up when you play it. There was a serious “a-ha moment” when I did. "Southern Point" and "Two Weeks" are pretty bliss-worthy in my opinion and the whole record makes me happy. Now I did hear “Two Weeks” at Price Chopper last week and I can’t decide whether or not that’s a good thing. The point is you may have already heard this track somewhere and didn’t realize you were hearing a Birthday Bash worthy tune. Turn it up!
Also enjoy "While You Wait for the Others"

3. PJ Harvey & John Parish “Black Hearted Love”
Album: A Woman A Man Walked By
I am absolutely floored that I haven’t seen A Woman A Man Walked By on a single year end list. All I can figure is that it came out pretty early in 2009 and people may have just forgotten about it. I mean for 15 years people have fallen all over themselves to praise PJ Harvey and now nothing? I’m going to have to assume the rest of the world is crazy because I love it. “Black Hearted Love” is hands down, no question about it my favorite song of the year, and the rest of the record is so spooky and pretty and sparse and good and good…..and good.

4. Dirty Projectors “Stillness is the Move”
Album: Bitte Orca
Dirty Projectors have been on my radar for some time now, and until Bitte Orca I only really liked one of their songs (“Rise Above”). They make difficult music and Bitte Orca is really no different. Dave Longstreth’s abrasive (to my ears anyway) vocals are usually out front with the two girls in the band (Amber & Angel) providing beautiful background harmonies (although it’s just the girls on “Stillness”) all over minimal instrumentation. Depending on my mood I either love it or can’t stand it. More often than not though I dig it so you get “Stillness is the Move” which I think is what may be the single, if they even bother releasing singles. I also think I may have heard this on The Buzz here in KC, but I can’t believe they played it very much if at all. If you don’t hate “Stillness is the Move” definitely check out “Temecula Sunrise” .

5. Brother Ali “The Preacher”
Album: Us
Brother Ali would have to be among my top ten favorite albino Muslim rappers from Minnesota. Close followers of the Birthday Bash may be noticing a trend here. Yes, I am really digging the whole Rhymesayers crew. I love Brother Ali’s voice and the beats scratch me right where I itch. There is also some excellent storytelling on Us ( “House Keys” , “The Travelers” , “Babygirl” ). Actually “The Preacher” is probably weakest song on the record lyrically but as always, I’m a sucker for rhyming over horns so that’s what you get.

6. The Heavy “How You Like Me Now”
Album: The House That Dirt Built
I only recently discovered The Heavy and found The House That Dirt Built to be just about perfect leaf raking accompaniment. They’re a UK neo-soul, garage, funk, guitar band. They have a surprisingly unique sound…surprising in that more bands don’t sound like this. I’d expect to start hearing The Heavy on some car commercials before long.
Here's "Sixteen" & "Oh No Not You Again!"

7. The Lonely Island “Sax Man”
Album: Incredibad
Yes, here are the boys (Andy, Jorma and Akiva) that brought you such classic SNL Digital Shorts as “Lazy Sunday” , “On a Boat”“Jizz In My Pants” , and my favorite, "Motherlover" . I have to assume you’re all YouTube savvy enough to have seen these videos a million times so you get “Sax Man”. Unlike everyone I’ve played it for, I think it’s hilarious! Is the sax man only 3 weeks old? Is he actually just really bad at playing the sax? Why, when he does get a few notes off, is he playing a keyboard and not a sax? H to the ilarious. Oh yeah, that is Jack Black on the vox, but he’s only guesting for this one song.
Mr. Pibb + Red Vines = Crazy Delicious

8. Heartless Bastards “Early In the Morning”
Album: The Mountain
Another one you won’t find on anybody else’s year end list. Here’s something I just found on Wikipedia (so you know it’s true) that is pretty funny about their name: “the name of the band comes from a question on a Mega Touch trivia quiz game at a bar. A question asked the name of Tom Petty's backing band, and one of the options was "Tom Petty and the Heartless Bastards." She thought it was funny, and used it when she later formed a band.” Heartless Bastards are basically the project of Erika Wennerstrom and whoever she happens to be playing with at the time of recording. Zentz and I saw them a few years ago opening for the Truckers and they were, if nothing else, loud as hell.
Also check out "The Mountain"

9. Wilco “Bull Black Nova”
Album: Wilco (the album)
I’ll give Birthday Bash listeners a moment to pick their jaws up off the floor. Yes I actually liked Wilco (the album). Ok, to newcomers that’s a little humor. I love the hell out of Wilco. There’s nothing groundbreaking on (the album), just a bunch of really good Wilco songs. “Wilco (the song)” would be the more obvious choice to, but I think “Bull Black Nova” is fantastic. It is actually a new type of song for the boys. Not the music itself, they’ve done long crescendoing songs built up around a repetitve note (“Spiders (Kidsmoke)”), but the subject matter is a little unWilcolike. I mean he’s killed somebody and “this can’t be undone”! I love it.

10. White Rabbits “Percussion Gun”
Album: It’s Frightening
Did you know White Rabbits started out in Columbia, MO before moving to Brooklyn? I’m embarrassed to admit that until recently I didn’t either, but this knowledge came way after I fell in love with It’s Frightening so there’s no former hometown favoritism going on here. Britt Daniel produced It’s Frightening and you can really tell. It sounds way more Spoon-like than their first record, which I thought was pretty plain. In a year when Spoon didn’t put out an album this one is a great substitute. I really really wanted to put “They Done Wrong/We Done Wrong” on the Bash, but “Percussion Gun” got the nod. Both are excellent as is the whole record.

11. Japandroids “Heart Sweats”
Album: Post-Nothing
You can credit Jim and Greg from Sound Opinions for Japandroids’ inclusion in the Bash this year. I wouldn’t have given it a second listen if they hadn’t both endorsed it. At first it sounds like every other guitar and drum duo (of which there are suddenly hundreds), and not even a good one, but there is something else there. Maybe under all that fuzz there are some pretty clean songs? I don’t know, but I really like it whatever it is.
I highly recommend watching their performance of "Wet Hair" on Fallon.

12. P.O.S. “Let It Rattle”
Album: Never Better
Here’s your second Rhymesayer of the 2009 Bash and third in the past three years. I do listen to The Current online out of Minneapolis sometimes, but I can honestly say I didn’t get P.O.S. or Brother Ali from that station. P.O.S. (I don’t know what is stands for) is more of a punk rapper (ugh that sounds like it would be awful) who got his start a few years back working merch tables at Warped Tour and taking stage time when it presented itself. Since I’d liked his previous stuff I bought Never Better pretty much on a whim and loved it. Not as much storytelling as the Brother Ali record, but some nice rhyming and beats with a little umph to them. There’s a pretty cool video on YouTube of him creating a beat for and then performing Pearl Jam’s “Why Go” on the spot.
Also check out: "Drumroll" , "Optimist"

13. Them Crooked Vultures “No One Loves Me & Neither Do I”
Album: Them Crooked Vultures
If you don’t know about Them Crooked Vultures, congratulations on finally waking up from that coma! TCV is a “supergroup” comprised of Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters), Josh Homme (Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age), and John Paul Jones (Led Zepplin). They haven’t gotten the universal acclaim I had expected, but they get Birthday Bash acclaim. I’ve read that it was a collaborative writing process, but most of the songs sound like QOTSA songs to me which is just fine in my book, and not so surprising since Grohl played drums on QOTSA’s instant classic Songs for the Deaf. I think they’ve been playing “New Fang” on the radio, but I prefer the opener “No One Loves Me….” so that’s what you get. Only the best for my Bash recipients.

14. Dinosaur Jr. “Over It”
Album: Farm
OK, everybody gather around. I have an announcement to make. Here goes. I love Dinosaur Jr.!!!!! I don’t know why it took me so long to realize it, but one hot summer night I was drinking a Boulevard and clicked on the video for “Over It” and it hit me like a ton of bricks. This band I kind of liked in high school, and then sort of forgot about was actually one of my all-time favorites. It helps that their new stuff is just as good as what they were doing before they split up. Actually I don’t know if it’s good or not, but it sounds the same and theirs is a sound that I love. If you dig “Over It” then you dig Dinosaur Jr. because almost all of their songs sound the same. Farm is their second record since they reunited. Beyond (here's "Been There All the Time" ) came out in 2007 and was just as great. Did I mention that I love Dinosaur Jr.?

15. The Builders and the Butchers “Vampire Lake”
Album: Salvation Is a Deep Dark Well
I discovered The Builders and the Butchers in CMJ, a magazine that I have subscribed to for over a decade, but one that is just about at the end of its run I think. They went over a year without producing an issue. Now they’re back to actually making magazines and mailing them to subscribers, but unfortunately there are only about 10 pages of content in each issue. Fortunately for you, there was a write-up of The Builders and the Butchers in one of them. I guess you’d say they’re in that whole mountain/americana revivalist movement that I got into last year with bands like O’Death. Salvation has gotten more spins than any other CD in my car this year because I like the old-timey upbeat sloppy banjo and tambourine songs. You get “Vampire Lake” because nothing’s hotter than vampires right now (just kidding), but almost any song on Salvation could have made the cut.
Why don't you try "Devil Town" , "Short Way Home" , or "Down In This Hole" ?

16. Bon Iver “Blood Bank”
Album: Blood Bank EP
In the spirit of honesty I feel I must tell you that I had originally had not even considered including Blood Bank on the 2009 Bash as it was just a 4 song EP. However it turned out I had room for one or two more songs so I looked at some other folks’ year end lists and was surprised to see it listed a few places. Considering the fact that all four songs are so freaking pretty (especially “Blood Bank”) I think it holds its own on the list.

17. Mos Def “Auditorium” featuring The Ruler
Album: The Ecstatic
#69 on the Stuff White People Like list? That would be Mos Def. As a card carrying member of the white race I can attest to the accuracy of this assertion. Despite all the love from us white people Mos’ musical output has been pretty light. The former member of Black Star (along with Talib Kweli) has put out three proper albums in 10 years: Black on Both Sides, The New Danger, and now The Ecstatic. I obsessed over which song to include this year. The whole album is solid top to bottom but there is no “Ms. Fat Booty” or “Umi Says” so it was a struggle. I actually just switched out the quick banger “Priority” for the slower “Auditorium.” Please enjoy.

18. The Model Congress “Fareweller”
Album: I
Last one in! This brand new KC band just had its CD release party three weeks ago and they’re already getting some good buzz around town. They’re former members of Cheating Kay with a new drummer and a new sound. I’ve been playing I nonstop in my car. I love the vocals. I love the tasteful use of electronic elements. I am very very impressed. Look them up on iTunes. Now.

We here at Team Sisson hope you enjoyed our rundown of the top albums of 2009. Now, to see if anyone is paying attention we’ve come up with a surprise contest. Within one of the songs featured on Chris Schuck’s 8th Annual Surprise Birthday Bash for Jesus is a reference to the 1998 Cohen brothers cult hit The Big Lebowski. The first person to identify the song and the exact reference will win a super secret, as yet undetermined bonus prize. Here are the rules:

1. You must have either received the Birthday Bash, or be an immediate family member of a recipient.

2. Current students or alumni of the University of Kansas are of course ineligible to participate. Exceptions may be made on a case by case basis.

3. E-mail your guesses with “Birthday Bash Contest” in the subject field to us at

We will leave a comment on the blog once we have a winner.

Good luck and have a great 2010!

Update: Congratulations to our first ever Birthday Bash Contest Winner.  At 6:47pm on January 12, Adam "Fiddy" Zentz responded correctly to the above question.  For those of you still searching, here's the answer.

Song: P.O.S. - "Let It Rattle"
Line: ( at 3:05) You're out of your element Donny shut up, double doulbe eat up, ride, the Dude abides.

We'll provide a picture of his winnings in the next few days.  Thanks for playing.

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