1. Mini Meltdowns - "I Wanna Die"
Album: Destined for Disaster
As per usual let's start things out with some gnarly guitar rock! Big thanks to Jim & Greg at Sound Opinions for turning us on to Mini Meltdowns. I believe they were featured on a late year Buried Treasures episode and we were immediately hooked. Destined for Disaster is really just a 4 song EP, but man does it snarl! According to their label page it's four songs "that deliver quick riff-tastic blasts that show off Phillip's growing comfort in performing front and center." Evidently the band's front man is a dude named Jon Phillip who is, according to Spotify, "a respected and prolific drummer." That's all well and good but let's get back to the description "Riff-tastic"! Who doesn't love a good riff every now and again? For more supporting documentation, according to their bandcamp page "We're a punk rock band." Yep. Thanks. According to Team Sisson "I Wanna Die" is the perfect opener to another killer Birthday Bash! Strap in baby!
Also Check Out: "Afraid of Everything", "You Bring Me Down"
2.. Sego - "Neon Me Out"
Album: Sego Sucks
Let's keep the adrenaline going with the opener from Sego's excellent, and misleadingly titled second LP, Sego Sucks. Most of the reviews focus quite a bit on the "USA" chant in "Give Me." For instance (from Paste), "If I told you that a band wrote a USA chant into one of their songs in 2019, which band would you guess? Kid Rock? Ted Nugent? Or maybe Lynyrd Skynyrd? But you probably wouldn’t guess a socially-conscious, self-aware, lyrically adroit young band from Los Angeles. That band is Sego, and their second album Sego Sucks has countless amusing lyrics that will whiz past if you’re solely engaged in their fun-loving, melodic alternative rock choruses." I'd be ok with just fun loving alt rock choruses! Sego Sucks has been a Team Sisson bath time favorite this year. Ok, that sounds weird. Our night time ritual still involves me sitting in the boys' bathroom as they take their bath while I generally rock out with a Bluetooth speaker. Do they need me in there? Probably not at this point, but this truly is the only time in the day I have carved out to "get some tunes going" as they (and I) say. In fact, most of this Bash is tunes I first heard over the splashing/giggling/fighting that takes place during the nightly bath. And that does include (again......from Paste) "one of the best rock choruses of the year." As I often say.........please enjoy.
Also Check Out: "Whatever Forever", "Give Me", "Heart Attack", "Sucker/Saint"
3. Spielbergs - "Five on It"
Album: This is Not the End
What? Is this thing only kick ass guitar rock? I'm ok with that! That's what you're probably saying at this point. Funny thing. I didn't realize until the moment I'm typing this is Spielbergs are NORWEGIAN! Team Sisson's run of bringing you at least one Scandinavian artist on The Bash lives on!!!! Sigur Ros, The Hives, Team Me, Of Monster and Men, Iceage, etc. etc. etc! So these guys are apparently from Oslo. As it happens, my sister and her family hosted a foreign exchange student from Oslo last year, whose father, among other things started and ran the "Over Oslo" music festival. Looks like a killer event. Long distance shout out to Hannah! If you're not sold on This is Not the End, there's a song called "McDonalds's (Please Don't Fuck up My Order)." Uh, yeah. Try to frown now loser.
Also check out: "We Are All Going To Die"
4. Kishi Bashi - "Summer of '42"
Ahhhh, that's nice. We like the strings too. Omoiyari (roghtly: thinking of others fosters compassion) deals with some dark subject matter (Japanese internment during WWII and how that relates to our country's increasing vilification of immigrants), but our two cents is this is just some beautiful music. Hopefully you get the message, but if not at least you're having a better time than when you weren't listening to it. Kishi Bashi became an NPR Music darling seven (seven!) years ago. In a related story, at Leanna's work (she works now) Christmas party at an ax throwing place....where I nearly won the whole enchilada....and had I won you'd be hearing a lot more about that part of it......but anyway, I digress.......one of the other husbands was from Alabama and said he claimed to like music so I asked him (quite foolishly as it turns out) if he knew anything about Alabama Shakes. When he asked what they sounded like I said, "you know sort or like NPR music." That pretty much ended the conversation. In fairness I don't think they have radios in Alabama, much less NPR so it was sort of a stumbling on an Amazonian tribe situation. So, in summation, as long as you're not throwing axes this album will wedge it's way into the bullseye of your ear. Wait....
Also Check Out: "A Song for You"
5. Leonard Cohen - "Happens to the Heart"
Album: Thanks for the Dance
You know, I never really got into Leonard Cohen while he was alive. I mean there's obviously "Hallelujah" which I along with 8 billion other people love, but beyond that he never really caught my attention. It wasn't until I heard his "Nevermind" which was the perfect theme song for the very underrated True Detective Season 2. Then came You Want It Darker, which was released a little less than three weeks before his death. If I had to do it over the title track would have been featured on the 2016 Bash. I am righting that wrong with "Happens to the Heart." I mean how good is this song? It's like when he spoke these words he knew he would have already left us.
Also Check Out: "The Night of Santiago"
6. L'Orange, Jeremiah Jae - "My Everything is Bulletproof"
Album: Complicate Your Life with Violence
This is L'Orange's second year in a row being featured on The Bash, having earned his spot last year with his work with Solemn Brigham on the Marlowe project. Truth be told I wasn't wowed by the single "Dead Battery", but once I gave the rest of the album a listen I fell in love. L'Orange is quickly becoming appointment listening in our house. This guy is interesting in that he doesn't produce tracks, he produces full albums. Looking at his back catalog he's done albums with Kool Keith (see below), Mr. Lif and Topeka's own Stik Figa. CYLwV is one where we really struggled to decide which track to include. We came very close to giving you "Cool Hand" which features a verse by Team Sisson favorite Chester Watson. The whole album is great though. Give it a spin!
Also Check Out: "Behavior Report", "After Alley Life"
7. Adia Victoria - "Clean"
Silences was produced by Aaron Dessner (of The National). In discussing her vision for this, her second album Adia said "I wonder what it would sound like if Billie Holiday got lost in a Radiohead song?" Great question! Here's the answer.
Also Check Out: Her Tiny Desk Concert, "Different Kind of Love", "Bring Her Back"
8. The Comet Is Coming - "Summon The Fire"
Album: Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery
Continuing our semi-recent proclivity for including saxophone led trios (Moon Hooch in 2014, Too Many Zooz in 2016), we bring you The Comet Is Coming! Drums, synths & sax. How could it possibly sound this good? From the Pitchfork review, "Lifeforce is an album in the truest sense, with each song blending into the next for continuous listening. Mostly low- to mid-tempo, the band skillfully integrates bleak and radiant tones, leading to an impressive nine-track suite of ambient, spoken-word and grime-infused compositions."
Also Check Out: Their Tiny Desk Concert, "Blood of the Past"
9. Fontaines D.C. - "Too Real"
As far as I can tell, the good Irish boys Fontaines D.C. took over the critical darling position Idles held in 2016 & 2017. Dogrel was nominated for the Mercury Prize and won the BBC Radio 6 Music Album of the Year. The former is something. I have no idea if the latter is anything, but it's on their Wikipedia. But it's not just everyone's favorite, BBC Radio 6, these guys have been all over Best of 2019 lists. Overall Dogrel came in at #20 on Metacritic's list with a few other #1's in there (Crash Records, Hot Press, Live4ever, Rough Trade). But hey, music isn't a contest. Most of the music we liked this year didn't show up on any list aside from the one you're reading. And by that measure all you need to know is we really liked Dogrel. Do you like it (of course you do)?
Also Check Out: "Big", "Sha Sha Sha"
10.. Lana Del Rey - "Mariners Apartment Complex"
Album: Norman Fucking Rockwell
We've become pretty big LDR fans here at Team Sisson HQ, but we're not alone as NFR has been featured prominently on end of the year lists. In fact, according to Metacritic, NFR is mentioned more than any other album on 2019 top 10 album lists (thirteen 1st place votes & eight 2nd place votes). The last paragraph of the Pitchfork top 50 album list is one of the best things I've read all year (although aside from this I pretty much only read prescribing info and meeting requests so it isn't a high bar), "Norman Fucking Rockwell! is an album that arrived feeling like a greatest hits collection. Future generations will marvel that one album contained “Venice Bitch” and “Mariners Apartment Complex” and “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have - but i have it.” And they will scoff in disbelief that Lana Del Rey was once treated as anything but the poet laureate of a world on fire." Amen. Plus there's a Sublime cover. What else do you want?
Also check out: "Venice Bitch", "Doin' Time", "Fuck it I love you/The greatest"
11. Copeland - "Pope"
I'll always have a soft spot for the long shuttered Johnson County Cajun restaurant Copeland's. This of course was the scene of my famous interaction with former Chiefs defensive end and six time pro-bowler Neil Smith (who was an owner) who offered to bring me some hot sauce, which I wanted, but refused because Neil Smith shouldn't be bringing me anything. That guy is a legend! Did the memory of that evening's crawfish etouffee in any way cloud my judgement in selecting a band of the same name for the 2019 Birthday Bash? I'd like to say no, but I'm not a robot either. On the other hand, we have been digging Blushing from these Florida based dream rock purveyors since we first heard it back in February. From the glowing Entropy review: "As with most things worth investing in, it’s all about the quality of the components and Copeland is made with such high caliber pieces that they are hard pressed to make a misstep. To begin, you have to recognize that Aaron Marsh is shockingly talented. Marsh’s angelic voice and innovative piano work since Beneath Medicine Tree has always pushed Copeland above and beyond the pack of early 2000s emo. Pair Marsh with the atmospheric and mood-setting guitar work of the Laurenson brothers and you’ve got a team whose discography is damn-near perfect. Enter 2019’s Blushing, the crown jewel of Copeland’s post-Eat, Sleep, Repeat period (and perhaps their best album of all time)." These guys have been floating around as a band since 2001 and we're just now hearing them. THIS is why I do this dumb project every year. It makes me look for what's new, or at least new to me. Growing up in a classic rock/oldies household and listening to the same songs over and over again year after year is what motivates me. There is so much good stuff out there I've never heard and probably never will....but I'm going to make an attempt to find it. If you get one of these things I really hope you appreciate it, but even if you don't I'm going to keep making them and sending them out because I LOVE doing it. I also love Blushing so give it a
Also Check Out: "Lay Here"
12 The French Tips - "Buzzkill"
Album: It's the Tips
Guys seriously, click on the band name above and check out their website. Scroll down and the first thing you see is the news feed which just says "You guys sound like Buffy meets L7 - Some Dude." Man that cracks me up. Scroll even further and find the artist bio that says "Dark magic dance trio The French Tips (Angela Heileson of Dirt Russell, Rachel Couch of Marquina, Ivy Merrell of Dark Swallows) have been chilling Boise to its bones with witchy punk rock riffs since 2017." We like a lot of those things. Dark magic? Boise? Witchy punk rock riffs? Now you're on board! Looks like they're playing the Treefort Festival in Boise in March. Sounds like a good time! Like a lot of these bands I don't exactly remember how I got clued in, but I think I'm the only person outside of the Gem State who has. Their video for "Buzzkill" only has 794 views (well now 795)! Let's show them some love Birthday Bash Nation. Also, do you mind if I start referring to all of you as Birthday Bash Nation? Cool.
Also check out: "Dancelite"
13. Mike Krol - "Left for Dead"
Album: Power Chords
From the Pitchfork review, "Pledging allegiance to fuzz, this power-pop barrage squares off against heartache, disappointment, and sleepless nights—and survives." This is Mike Krol's fourth album, but the first that has drifted into our ears, doing so way back in January. We've been rocking out to these fuzzy riffs all year long, and now we hope you do a little of the same.
Also Check Out: "What's the Rhythm", "An Ambulance"
14. Yugen Blakrok - "Mars Attacks" feat. Kool Keith
Album: Anima Mysterium
South Africa's Yugen Blakrok got her foot in the door last year with a spot on Kendrick's Black Panther sound track, then kicked the freakin' door in this year with Anima Mysterium. When the recommended if you like examples are Dr. Octagon & Deltron 4040, well sir you have my attention! I can't say enough about this album, so I wont even try. Just turn it up to 11 and let it wash over you. You'll thank me.
Also Check Out: "Gorgon Madonna", "Picture Box", "Carbon Form", "Land of Gray"
15. Hannah Williams & The Affirmations - "50 Foot Woman"
Album: 50 Foot Woman
Along with our newfound love of sax trios, we've found ourselves gravitating to more funk and soul acts over the past few years. The Memphis soul group Southern Avenue and New Orleans funk mainstays Galactic were some of the final cuts from this year's Birthday Bash. The UK outfit Hannah Williams & The Affirmations made the final list on the strength of the infectious title track, but the album has grooves for days and vocals for weeks. Here's what Albumism had to say, "On every single track, three things strike you. Firstly, that the band is tight when necessary as well as loose-limbed and funky. Secondly that the vocal prowess of Hannah Williams is something special to behold. And thirdly, that the songwriting (courtesy of James Graham) is equal in power to both the band and Williams’ vocals. In short, the dynamics between all of these ingredients result in a terrific album that deserves the praise inevitably coming its way, and that may just be all the affirmation Williams and her cohorts need."
Also Check Out: "I Feel It", "Sinner", "I Can't Let This Slip Away"
16. Andrew Bird - "Sisyphus"
Album: My Finest Work Yet"
We've been fans of Andrew Bird (who aside from writing super catchy songs is a world class whistler) since we heard The Mysterious Production of Eggs way back in 2005 (can that be right?). And we gotta be honest on this one, we miiiight not consider this album to be his Finest Work Yet. However the song "Sisyphus" might be our favorite song of his yet (it's neck and neck with "Roma Fade"). We've been whistling this masterpiece since the first time we heard it back in February. Only at home though. One of my technicians is from Belarus and one day a few years ago she became very upset (to the point of crying) when she heard me whistling in my office because when she was a child her mother told her that when someone whistles, something bad is about to happen. Like it's bad luck to whistle. Which would be a terrible way to live, but I'm not trying to upset anyone at work so I no longer whistle on the clock. So anyway, I usually don't make this distinction but I don't recommend anyone from eastern Europe listen to Andrew Bird, but as for the rest of you....
Also Check Out: "Manifest", "Olympians"
17. Big Thief - "Cattails"
If you scroll down I believe at some point you will see me making a case that Big Thief's Capacity was my favorite album of 2017, but it didn't get to my ears until after the Birthday Bash was already locked down on wax. I didn't hear it until a magical and super uncomfortable KC Ski Club bus ride back from the annual flatlanders trip at Steamboat Springs. On that trip I must have listened to Capacity five times, becoming more and more tired and sore yet unable to sleep with each trip down the tracklist. Isn't it funny how the memories of the most miserable moments in our lives become something we look back upon fondly? Now, to say that was a "most miserable moment" in my life is a bit of an exaggeration, but I did find something beautiful during a not so beautiful 18 hour bus ride. Now it's 2019 and Big Thief is back, this time having released not one but two of the best and most critically acclaimed albums of the year with U.F.O.F. and Two Hands. To be completely honest I have been saving Two Hands for the next situation where it's beauty (so I read) will lift me up during another uncomfortable situation. Yeah, that's what I'm like. Do you want to go throw up or keep reading? The good part is I have heard U.F.O.F. and obviously it's excellent. You should check out the Song Exploder episode on "Cattails." If you haven't taken the hint over the past couple of years, Song Exploder is a killer podcast. You're welcome.
Also Check Out: "UFOF"
18 Black Pumas - "Colors"
Album: Black Pumas
Have you guys already heard this? I'm usually good at picking songs that will eventually end up on commercials, but never this fast. At my parents' house during Thanksgiving I noticed "Colors" was playing in the background of a Bank of America ad. We very nearly gave you the track "Fire" which as I'm typing this realize sounds an awful lot like it could be a The Heavy song.....which was a Birthday Bash artist I predicted correctly would be a fixture on TV commercials (I believe one of their songs was part of a Super Bowl ad the month after the Bash was sent out). I guess Madison Avenue is as fond of nostalgic soul music as I am. So be it. Selling records doesn't make you a sellout. And no one sells records anymore so what does any of it mean? It's getting too late in this list for these kinds of questions.
Also check out: This "Eleanor Rigby" cover!
19. black midi - "953"
You may (you almost certainly will) disagree, but I think we've saved the best for last here. We have been absolutely smitten (gobsmacked?) by UK's black midi this year, and we're not the only ones. They've been deservedly peppering Best of 2019 lists. Our plan was to bring you the closing track, "Ducter", but at the last minute we ran into yet another problem with the itunes CD burning functionality. The first problem, which we ran into last year but hoped would resolve is that itunes will completely f____ up the "CD text" on a burned CD. Meaning when you insert the disc into your automobile's CD Player the text that displays for each track displays either is the wrong song title, wrong artist, or displays nothing at all. Seeing no better alternative most of these CDs were burned with the CD text turned off. Now this year we find out the maximum length of a burned CD is now 113 minutes, not the 120 minutes it has always been (sorry Matt Pinfield)!?!?!? This meant we had to further trim and re-sequence our list which we had spent hours painstakingly trimming to just under 120 minutes. Sadly "Uh-Huh" by Jade Bird, "Hungry" by Run Child Run (which was released in 2018 but we loved so much were ready to grant a waiver), and "Nothing Is Safe" by clipping. had to be excised and we had to change our black midi selection to Schlagenheim's opener, "953". This was simultaneously the easiest and hardest change as any song on Schlagenheim would have been an excellent representation, but we really had our heart set on "Ducter". No matter, you get the equally awesome "953" and you're loving this krautrock/noise rock/math rock.....whatever, just rock. Here's hoping your 2020 rocks as hard as black midi.
Here are some other albums that were in contention and deserving of recognition this year.
Malibu Ken - Acid King
Jade Bird - Jade Bird
The Twilight Sad - It Won't Be Like This All the Time
Steve Gunn - The Unseen In Between
Buke & Gase - Scholars
Ghost King - Dunbar Swamp
Czarface, Ghostface Killah - Czarface Meets Ghostface
Galactic - Already Ready Already
Swervedriver - Future Ruins
Freddie Gibbs - Bandana
Black Taffy - Elder Mantis
Ryan Bingham - American Love Song
Yak - Pursuit of Momentary Happiness
Quelle Chris - Guns
Tyler Ramsey - For the Morning
Run Child Run - Vanishing Point
Pile - Green and Gray
Baroness - Gold & Grey
Palehound - Black Friday
Mansionair - Shadowboxer
Shredders - Great Hits
The Black Keys - Let's Rock
Calva Louise - Rhinoceros
clipping. - There Existed an Addiction to Blood
Bon Iver - i,i
Sturgill Simpson - Sound & Fury
Gary Clark Jr. - This Land
Southern Avenue - Keep On
Have a Nice Life - Sea of Worry
Wilco - Ode To Joy
So that's it huh? I feel so unsatisfied. Well actually, if I may be so bold, there is one more little thing we like to call THE 11TH ANNUAL BIRTHDAY BASH TRIVIA CONTEST!!!!!!!
Sadly we did not have a winner last year, but in fairness it was a pretty tough 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?
The answer is of course my niece and nephews' favorite 2018 Birthday Bash artist Grandson, who at some point attended McGill University in Montreal.
Let's make things a bit easier this year, but first the fine print. To be eligible to participate in the 11th 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.
Here's the question (and this is an open book test): How many artists featured on the 2019 Birthday Bash for Jesus appear on previous versions of the Birthday Bash, and who are they?
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 2020!