1. Hot Snakes - "Six Wave Hold-Down"
Album: Jericho Sirens
Yeah baby! We're not f'ing around this year. Get your ass out there or hand it back in! I would love to write something interesting about this band, but their label, Sub-Pop have completely mastered writing about this band (this will be a great reference if you keep reading). Here are some of my favorite lines from their artist bio/album announcement:
- "The band ceased activity in 2005 but reunited for a triumphant world tour in 2011, planting the seeds for what has cum [sic]."
- "After a 14-year hiatus from the studio, Hot Snakes have kicked down the door back into our lives with their new album, Jericho Sirens, due out March 16 from Sub Pop. Fresh, warm piss, bottled and sold as lube."
- “I considered stopping playing guitar on a social media poll after I completely mastered the instrument,” (Swami John) Reis says. “But so many people kept sending me letters and voicemail messages, asking me at the dry cleaners, or the butcher shop to bring back Hot Snakes. They were missing rock and roll music. I’ve always considered Hot Snakes to be more in the vein of the proto-Vog movement of the early ‘70s. But to these people, this is their rock ‘n’ roll. I understand that. I totally understand people’s desire to be controlled and humiliated by my guitar. Anyone can play the stupid guitar. What they want is for me to use it as a branding iron.”
- "The new album blasts out of the speakers with the furious “I Need a Doctor,” inspired by Froberg’s experience needing a doctor’s note in order to miss an important work function. “Yeah, I had to be quick on my feet,” says Rick. “Luckily a friend had a stack of stationary from Planned Parenthood and I used that to forge a note relieving me of my obligation to go to a really lame Christmas party at a karaoke joint.”
- "Hot Snakes will return to the road in 2018 to incinerate the villages, and they’re already looking ahead to more music."
2. Madison Ward and the Mama Bear - "Childhood Goodbye"
Album: The Radio Winners
You may remember from the 2015 Birthday Bash, KC's own Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear are comprised of Madisen Ward, and his mother, Ruth Ward. The mother/son duo is itself an interesting angle, but this band is much more than a heartwarming story. The music they make is absolutely superb. In fact, the Chicago Sun-Times said almost the exact same thing. "The idea of a mother-and-son musical duo is adorable enough. What’s even better with Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear’s “The Radio Winners” (Glassnote) is that the music is good. Really good. As in a contender for album of the year." Album of the Year? I'll try to update when they actually release their list. Did you catch Joseph Gordon Levitt in the "Childhood Goodbye" video? Did you see in the "Everybody's Got Problems" video they played at the Levitt Shell in Memphis? Did this remind you of Murray's band shell tour on Flight of the Conchords? If so then you probably already know Flight of the Conchords had a pretty excellent concert recording on HBO this year. If not you should check it out. Back to MW & MB, here's their Full Session' on 909 The Bridge.
Also Check Out: "Everybody's Got Problems"
3. Murder By Death - "True Dark"
Album: The Other Shore
The Other Shore, which for our money is MBD's finest work since Red of Tooth and Claw, was released in late August. In September I somehow convinced my main man Cory to go with me all the way to Lawrence, KS to see them live. Despite the dilapidated venue (which is considered one of finest buildings in Kansas...perhaps because it has running water?) it was an incredible show. The Other Shore is, according to front man Adam Turla, "basically a space western." We start with a couple on a dying planet parting ways, one is staying on Earth, the other going to some other planet. The one who left wakes up from cryosleep three years too early and goes mad on his spaceship. The other follows and in the end they're re-united. I think. If that saga doesn't convince you, the band has their own pizza restaurant! Yeah, didn't think I was going to say that did you? If you're ever in Louisville, KY you should check it out. I wonder if they're going to be on Top Chef this season? One half of Team Sisson plan on seeing MBD New Year's Eve at Record Bar (and 1/4 of Team Sisson is super excited about it!). Y'aughta go!
Also Check Out:"Alas", "Stone", "Chasing Ghosts"
4. grandson - "Stick Up"
Album: a modern tragedy vol. 1
You may have heard "Blood//Water" at some point this year. Wait...I mean you SHOULD have heard it. grandson has been releasing singles over the past couple of years and this year released the five song EP a modern tragedy vol. 1 which we wore out at Team Sisson HQ.
Also Check Out:"Blood//Water", "6:00", "Overdose"
5. Shame - "Tasteless"
Album: Songs of Praise
We finally arrive at a 2018 Birthday Bash record that has earned some measure of critical acclaim. One thing we love about December is all the Best of 20__ lists, and more specifically is learning about all the previously unknown music sites.. I mean we feel like we keep up with music fairly well, but it is always shocking to find out what else is out there. I mean NBHAPS? What the hell is that? This year we're trying to keep track of where our favorites (favourites in the case of Shame) land on these other lists so we've added the very exciting "Placement on Inferior Best of 2018 Lists" feature (see below). As for Shame, these guys kick some serious ass. Here's a full set filmed by La Blogotheque. Any questions?
Placement on Inferior Best of 2018 Lists: The Loud and Quiet - #25, NBHAPS - #4, treblezine - #49, The Skinny - #47, Noisey - #47, The Line of Best Fit - #11, Paste - #12
Also Check Out:"One Rizla", "The Lick"
6. boygenius - "Stay Down"
Boygenius is a girl, girl, girl trio comprised of Lucy Dacus, Pheobe Bridgers and (most of all) Julien Baker (I mean she does most of the singing), all of whom have found some level of success as solo artists (if you consider having a Tiny Desk Concert proof of success....come on y'all....you have to click on these links!). In fact, Lucy Dacus' Historian came in # freaking 1 on Paste Magazine's Best of 2018 list. Apparently they met while touring and decided to create this beautiful, self-titled EP. We've been seeing "Me & My Dog" all over the Best of 2018 Songs lists...and as I'm listening to it as I type this I'm kind of regretting not putting it on the Bash. I wanna be emaciated!!!!!!! Boygenius was fairly universally critically acclaimed this year, but now that they've been Team Sisson acclaimed....they can be officially emaciated! Or whatever.
Placement on Inferior Best of 2018 Lists: Sonic Magazine - #20, treblezine - #34, NPR - #12, Uproxx - #23, Consequence of Sound - #7, Pitchfork - #29
Also Check Out: Their Tiny Desk Concert, "
7. Marlowe - "Lost Arts"
Mmmmmmm.....god I love this. There's no hook. The whole thing is a hook! Solemn takes a deep breath at 0:27 and flows for almost 2 straight minutes! Marlowe is a collaboration between North Carolina rapper Solemn Brigham and Seattle producer L'Orange. Big thanks to KEXP for introducing us As we always say, support your local public radio station!. Pitchfork actually reviewed Marlowe and prior to giving it a paltry 6.7/10 said, "On their first collaborative album, Seattle producer L’Orange and North Carolina rapper Solemn Brigham craft spirited, old-school rap that owes a hefty debt to Madvillain. L'Orange is a rare specimen of one of hip-hop’s most endangered species: the loop digger. Over the last five years, the Seattle producer’s dusty, sample-based beats have caught the ears of classically minded MCs from all over the country, but he tends to avoid selling them piecemeal, preferring to engage in album-length collaborations with rappers like Kool Keith, Mr. Lif, and Jeremiah Jae. For his latest such release, L’Orange has teamed up with the largely unknown North Carolina rapper Solemn Brigham under the name Marlowe. True to the producer’s form, it’s an album of austere rap that evokes the turn-of-the-millennium underground: There are no synths, no hooks, just bars, bars, bars over a collage of vinyl chops." Hey! That's like exactly what I just said. No hooks! Don't be coy. You love it too.
Also Check Out: "The Basement", "Things We Summon"
8. U.S. Girls - "Pearly Gates"
Album: In a Poem Unlimited
U.S. Girls is the project of Meghan Remy. She's made six albums over the course of 10 years, but has just now caught our attention. In a Poem Unlimited, shortlisted for the Polaris Prize, is a grab bag of styles and grooves. This is definitely not one of those records where every song sounds pretty much the same. There's something here for everyone, so if that's a group that includes you then you'll probably like it as much as we do.
Placement on Inferior Best of 2018 Lists: FlavorWire - #3, Vinyl Factory - #49, treblezine - #42, The Skinny - #45, Noisey - #30, Consequence of Sound - #47, Paste - #13, Pitchfork - #22
Also Check Out: "Velvet 4 Sale", "Mad As Hell", "Rosebud"
9. The War and Treaty - "Healing Tide"
Album: Healing Tide
Big thanks to 90.9 the Bridge (support your public radio folks) for exposing us to The War and Treaty. A couple of months ago I heard them play "Hi-Ho" and was immediately hi-hooked!
Of all the Birthday Bash artists this year, excluding MBD of course, I'm most excited about seeing The War and Treaty live. I can only imagine they put on the type of show that turns me into a puddle of joy and sweat.
Placement on Inferior Best of 2018 Lists: American Songwriter - #12
Also Check Out: "Jeep Cherokee Laredo", "Are You Ready to Love Me"
10. Donovan Woods - "Truck Full of Money"
Album: Both Ways
I actually found out about Both Ways this summer while browsing the Amoeba Music "Music We Like" section. Both Ways is the fifth album for the Samia, Ontario native, whose previously released music has been nominated for Polaris Music Prize and JUNO awards. I will say, I usually don't vibe with this sort of music. At times it feels like that overproduced cowboy hat country music without the twang, but something about it really appealed to me. I initially thought you would be getting the lovely "Good Lover", but there were several songs in contention. I don't think you'll find Both Ways on a lot of other Best of 2018 lists so count yourself lucky to be our friend, and let it melt in your ears.
Also Check Out:"Burn That Bridge", "I Ain't Ever Loved No One", "Next Year"
11. The Greeting Committee - "17"
Album: This Is It
When you strap in for the Birthday Bash, most years you can count on hearing one killer local artist, but this year we're treating you to a double dip of KC music! In fact we thought very hard about tripling down by also including Tech N9ne's "Don't Nobody Want None." I mean how great is that song??? I first heard The Greeting Committee one stormy summer Sunday night a few years ago on the local Buzz while on a clandestine trip back to town for a Monday morning job interview. I believe the song was "Hands Down." That's a lot of unnecessary specific information isn't' it? Anyway, they've been kicking around KC since they were all in high school (I believe their first live performance was at a Blue Valley High talent show) and this year really caught our ears with This Is It. We had a hard time deciding which track to include. We love "17", but we're in love with "More." To all my STL friends, don't despair. Sure your music scene is lackluster at best (although I've been seeing Foxing on a lot of end of the year lists), but at least you can go see The Greeting Committee March 7 at Delmar Hall. Cheer up.
Also Check Out:"More (Mas)"
12. JR Thomas & The Volcanos - "Rockstone"
We never thought we'd put a reggae artist on the Bash, but something about Rockstone, and particularly the title track scratched us where we itched. Actually, I can tell you exactly what we liked about it. Some background, I usually do bath time with the boys, and while they splash around they typically ask if we can "get some tunes going'' (a phrase they picked up from me), to which I am usually more than happy to oblige. On one October evening, after a particularly stressful day of work, I came home to a tense house, suffered through one of those dinners where no one is happy, then at bath time I put on Rockstone and immediately the stress started to melt away. For that I will always love this record. I hope you love it too.
Also Check Out:"Mr. Harriott", "Brian Wilson"
13. Dessa - "Fire Drills"
If you're playing the Birthday Bash drinking game, go ahead and raise one (wait wait wait.....don't put it down just yet.....the Scandinavian band is coming up very soon). Our love affair with Minnesota rappers continues. Dessa last appeared on the Bash as a solo artist in 2010 with "Mineshaft II" from A Badly Broken Code, then with the Doomtree collective on "Cabin Killer" from All Hands in 2015. As an aside, I just scrolled down to confirm this and god almighty was that 2010 Birthday Bash phenomenal! If you're new to the Birthday Bash and interested in what you missed, we have them archived all the way back to 2007. Just scroll and enjoy. Anyway, we've been rocking the Me Too classic "Fire Drills" all year, which is built around a sample Dessa recorded on her phone in Istanbul. Here's her full performance on KEXP.
Also Check Out: "5 out of 6", "Good Grief"
14. Rayland Baxter - "Casanova"
Album: Wide Awake
If "Casanova" isn't the song of the year I don't know what is. From the popmatters review; "Baxter has never made a bad record, but he's also never made such a sublime one. Buoyant piano-forward arrangements give a sense of un-seriousness, levity, even as the lyrics can sneak up on you with social commentary or endless humanity. It's actually the antithesis of Father John Misty: something that could be explored endlessly for depth and nuance but could also just play happily in the background to please multiple generations on a long family road trip." Here's some trivia; Rayland's dad, Bucky, played pedal steel on a bunch of records you've probably heard, including Ryan Adams' Gold. Hey Zentz, remember the night Ryan Adams did three encores at the Blue Note?
Also Check Out:"Amelia Baker"
15. Parquet Courts - "Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience"
Album: Wide Awake!
From Wide Awake to Wide Awake!. Parquet Courts have gone from what I considered kind of a novelty act back in 2013 to a member of the Birthday Bash "Three Timer's Club." Wide Awake! was produced by our old friend Danger Mouse. Good to have him back. Parquet Courts recently played a gig with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. How cool is that? Mizzou themed podcast listeners might recognize "Wide Awake" as the theme music from Rock M Nation's podcast Dive Cuts. Did you hear we got Kelly Bryant?
Placement on Inferior Best of 2018 Lists: FlavorWire - #5, treblezine - #17, The Skinny - #2, Paste - #2
Also Check Out: "Freebird II", "Mardi Gras Beads"
16. Iceage - "Pain Killer"
How could we possibly leave Iceage off the Bash this year? I mean first you have the horns. You will find my love of horns in rock music is well established as you scroll down this page. Plus for whatever reason nary a Birthday Bash goes by without at least one Scandinavian band cracking the lineup. The tagline from the Noisey review of this record states, and I quote, "The Danish group's new album Beyondless is wonderful. Fuck the facts, Iceage are the greatest rock and roll band in the world." Seems like they'd place Beyondless higher in their Best of 2018 rankings with that kind of statement (see below). Anyway, Team Sisson will not go out on that limb, but this is a damn fine listen. "Pain Killer" actually features Sky Ferreira, whose Night Time, My Time was all over the Best of 2013 lists. In fact, it came it at #51 on Pitchfork's 100 Best Albums of the Decade So Far List (2010-2014), coming in ahead of Team Sisson favorites like Acid Rap, Whokill, There Is Love in You, R.A.P. Music, Old, and Attack On Memory. Wait, what?
Placement on Inferior Best of 2018 Lists: FlavorWire - #8, NBHAPS - #27, treblezine - #11, The Skinny - #37, Noisey - #21, Paste - #24, Pitchfork - #40
Also Check Out: "The Day the Music Dies", "Take It All", "Catch It"
17. Editors - "No Sound but the Wind"
"No Sound but the Wind" has a pretty interesting history. Apparently Editors started performing it way back in 2008. They released it as a single in 2010, and it topped the charts in Belgium. Seriously. A different version of the song was included on the Twilight: New Moon Saga soundtrack. It has since apparently evolved into the beautiful version featured on Violence that I've been going back to over and over again this year. Here's what the band had to say about why they keep tinkering with the song: "It's quite well known in some countries, and it may seem slightly strange that it appears here, but we never though we presented it quite as well as it should have been. As with 'Magazine', it had some unfinished business to attend too. Leo was really keen on bringing us all into the song but to keep it really somber and sparse as it's really the only moment of quiet reflection on the record."
Placement on Inferior Best of 2018 Lists: NBHAPS - #26
Also Check Out: "Cold", "Magazine", "Hallelujah (So Low)", "Darkness at the Door"
18. Low - "Always Trying to Work It Out"
Album: Double Negative
We've been big fans of Duluth, MN slowcore mainstays Low for quite some time. "No Comprende" was one of the last cuts from the 2015 Birthday Bash. But Low has NEVER sounded like this! From the Pitchfork review: "This record would knock listeners on their asses coming from any band at any time, but it is extraordinary that Low is doing such challenging, relevant work 25 years into their career. Long gone are the days when the group could dumbfound with just a handful of sounds: the splat of a snare; guitar, and bass that sounded suspended in codeine; Sparhawk’s perma-mourn; the heavenly Mimi Parker on halo. The prevailing slowcore sound of their first half-dozen albums cast Low’s musical identity in metal, to borrow an image from 2001’s landmark Things We Lost in the Fire, so much so that one could have easily overlooked the slow expansion of their sound over the last decade and a half.
The work on Double Negative, while often sounding completely radical in its own right, isn’t uncharacteristic, per se. It taps into the band’s wanderlust, its generous melodic sensibility, its considerable aptitude in creating atmosphere, not just in the abstract but in the realm of drone. The album is like a discovery of a new mutation of still-recognizable DNA. And finally this new strain of sound isn’t just bold for Low; it’s just plain bold.
If you listen to the Birthday Bash all the way through (and let's be serious, why wouldn't you?), I predict the line you will be humming to yourself for the next two days is Aaaaaalwaaaaays trying to work it out.
Placement on Inferior Best of 2018 Lists: Drowned in Sound - #1, The Loud and Quiet - #3, NBHAPS - #42, Vinyl Factory - #11, treblezine - #6, The Skinny - #43, The Quietus - #8, NPR - #17, The Wire - #10, Vulture - #2, The Line of Best Fit - #18, Paste - #9, Pitchfork - #8
Also Check Out:
19. Allan Rayman - "Amy"
Album: Harry Hard-On
Pretty much the only praise of Allan Rayman I can find online is below on this very site when we featured "All At Once" on the 2016 Bash. Jesus Christ! What is everyone listening to that isn't this? As I said back then, about all you can learn online about Allan Rayman is that there isn't much known about Allan Rayman. Here's one thing we know, Allan Rayman makes some kick ass music we can't get enough of.
Also Check Out:"Crush"
20. Runaway Brother - "Conscience in Tumult"
Album: New Pocket
I don't recall how I came across Runaway Brother, and there isn't a lot of info out there on them (seeing a trend here). It looks like they're from Cleveland and according to bandcamp they're "a spunky Midwest emo band revitalizing the triumphant sounds of early 2000's pop punk/rock. They write catchy, ambitious tunes with smart pop hooks and relentless, theatrical stage energy. Come for the earworm melodies and stick around for Runaway Brother's incessant audacity." Relentless stage energy? Incessant audacity? I Gotta see these guys live! Looks like here in KC they played Records with Merritt back on March 21st. I'll try to catch them next time they come around. I suggest you do the same.
Also Check Out:"Apply Care Directly"
21. Weakened Friends - "Hate Mail"
Album: Common Blah
Weakened Friends are a trio from, you guessed it, Portland. Wait, it says here Portland, Maine! How do you like that? I have been loving their brand of throwback, late 90's/early 00's, guitar rock (say early Weezer?) ever since happening upon the Pitchfork review of Common Blah. I nearly gave you the opener, "Peel", but had to include "Hate Mail" which features the a nice crunchy bed of the guitar stylings of rock legend J Mascis. How did he hook up with this band? Here's what the band said: "As we started work on ‘Hate Mail’, it was clear that the sentiment of the track needed to be confident, aggressive, and loud. We employed the obvious: fuzzy guitars, distorted vocals and some aptly placed yelling. This sentiment was taken even further with a guest appearance from the king of loud-as-fuck guitars himself, J Mascis!” Amen.
Also Check Out: "Blue Again"
22. Mimicking Birds - "Great Wave"
Album: Layers of Us
Portland's (Oregon, didn't think I'd ever have to specify) Mimicking Birds were signed to Isaac Brock's (he of Modest Mouse) label, Glacial Pace way back in 2010 and have since released three albums although sadly I'm just now hearing them. Here's hoping these guys experience the traditional "Birthday Bash Bump" because they're super talented and write really pretty songs. They also seem to have an affinity for Christmas songs. You can find pretty killer Mimicking Birds versions of "Whose Child is This", "We Three Kings" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas" out there.
Also Check Out: "Sunlight Daze"
Here are some other records that were in contention this year.
Typhoon - Offerings
Calexico - The Thread That Keeps Us
Chris Dave and The Drumhedz - Chris Dave and The Drumhedz
Sunwatchers - II
Loma - Loma
Suuns - Felt
Gengahr - Where Wildness Grows
Jeff Rosenstock - POST-
Hop Along - Bark Your Head Off, Dog
The Breeders - All Nerve
Czarface, MF Doom - Czarface Meets Metal Face
Del the Funky Homosapien + Amp Live - Gate 13
The Record Company - All Of This Life
Ben Caplan - Old Stock
Goat Girl - Goat Girl
The Royal They - Foreign Being
Retirement Party - Somewhat Literate
Big Red Machine - Big Red Machine
Oneohtrix Point Never - Age Of
Jeff Tweedy - WARM
So that's it right? No, no, no you beautiful baby bird. Of course there's one more thing........It's time for the THE 10TH ANNUAL BIRTHDAY BASH TRIVIA CONTEST!!!!!!!
As always the winner will receive a prize pack of Birthday Bash artist swag. T-shirts, hats, belt buckles, prayer candles, whatever looks cool.
Here's this year's question:
One of the artists featured on the 2018 Birthday Bash at one time attended the same university from which Kansas City Chiefs left guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (currently in IR) earned his medical degree in 2018. Who is it?
To be eligible to participate in the 10th Annual Birthday Bash Trivia Contest:
-You must have yourself received or have had an immediate family member receive the Birthday Bash.
-You may not have any past or present affiliation with the "University" of Kansas. Exceptions may be made on a case by case basis.
Please e-mail your responses with "Birthday Bash Trivia Contest" in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck and have a great 2019!