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)!

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