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)"
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"
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"
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"
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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!