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)!