Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas - # 1

Song of the Year - # 1

After Hours - We Are Scientists

This should not come as a shock to any loyal Skog Blog reader. This was the very song that I boldly announced that I had listened to approximately 87 times in one week. I would put the final tally for the year at somewhere in the ballpark of 1374 total listens this year. Way to go We Are Scientists! Below is the music video (which was previously posted) and the second is an acoustic version of this song.

Album of the Year - # 1

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

This album is what I like to call a slow burner. I listened to it a few times and it didn't do that much for me. So I put it aside and didn't give it much play for a few months. Occasionally a song would find its way onto the shuffle rotation and I would look down and think, "Who is this?" The second attempt of getting into this album was much more successful. I quickly became obsessed with it. I 'got' it. Around this same time I got a text one late Sat night by my 'Half Poly Friend' who said, "I have found the greatest album in years..." and sent me info about Bon Iver. When I informed him that I had been trying to get into Bon Iver for a few months he nearly ended our friendship for holding out on him. That's the kind of passionate response this album creates. It is haunting, it is beautiful and it will burn right into your soul if you let it. I listened to For Emma, while driving through Yellowstone this year and it might have been the most spiritual experience I had in 2008.

Bon Iver is now a band but it is the brainchild of Justin Vernon. He was living in North Carolina and after breaking up with his girlfriend and his band of several years, he packed up and moved back to Wisconsin and spent the winter in his father's cabin alone. For Emma, Forever Ago is the result of his frosty winter in exile. He recorded and re-reocorded the vocals to create his own harmonies and played every instrument on the album. I have spent years trying to find a suitable replacement for Elliott Smith since he passed away and if Bon Iver can live up to the promise it showed on Emma then I may have finally found someone to carry on his legacy. And that is about the best praise I could give anyone.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas - # 2

Song of the Year - # 2

Viva La Vida - Coldplay

When I heard this song I was so excited for the new Coldplay album to be released. This song is a pop masterpiece and I have been a Coldplay fan since their debut. Alas, the album that bears the same name as this song was a bit of a letdown and quickly fell out of my musical rotation. However, this song stuck and received 'do not delete' status on my mp3 player.

Album of the Year # 2

Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend

Choosing between the Top 2 albums of the year was like picking a favorite between my 2 girls. Depends on the day, depends on the mood. I kid of course but that's how close it was on the final call. Vampire Weekend is awesome. Everyone of their songs is enjoyable. Whenever one of their songs came on while listening on shuffle I would end up listening to the entire album. I had the pleasure of seeing them live and I couldn't help but think to myself that someday I will look back and say, "I got to see Vampire Weekend in a tiny club before they became the biggest band in the world..." I would describe them as what The Police would sound like if they had met at an Ivy League school and had grown up listening to Paul Simon's Graceland or Peter Gabriel. If you like pop, reggae, rock, punk or you are just a wannabe hipster like myself pick this album up. This album never gets old and I can't say enough good about it. Just buy it. Don't ask questions. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas - # 3

Song of the Year - # 3

I Need A Life - The Born Ruffians

This video is kind of lame. I apologize. But this song is fanfriggintastic. This is from the debut album by the Born Ruffians called, Red, Yellow and Blue that is the kind of album the Violent Femmes would put out if they were just starting out in 2008. The album has Rock, Punk, Folk and a pinch of Country and this is my favorite song from the album.

Album of the Year - # 3

R.E.M. - Accelerate

Full Disclosure: R.E.M. is my second favorite band of all time just behind Ben Folds Five and in my book they have yet to put out a bad album. Sadly, I am one of the few that has this opinion. However, I am please to inform you all that the reported demise of R.E.M. and alternative rock in general has been greatly exagerated. After their classic album, Automatic For the People (the greatest album of all time...) many people jumped ship when R.E.M. changed directions and went with a more guitar driven sound on Monster. Since then I've heard many people, including several 'fans' talk about how badly R.E.M. now suck. Well guess what? Anybody who bailed on them and hasn't listened to Accelerate needs to put the album on repeat and become reconverted to the gospel of Stipe. This album is as good as anything the boys from Athens, GA have ever released. Catchy tunes, insightful lyrics, angry protest songs and reflective ballads can all be found on Accelerate. If you are a fan who has lost your religion or a music investigator looking for a band to take you to the great beyond give this album a listen.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas - # 4

Song of the Year - # 4

The Twist - Frightened Rabbit

My Creative Zen MP3 player loves this song. I swear that everytime I turned on 'shuffle' I would hear this song and I always liked it. During an extremely poignant scene in the season premiere of Chuck this season they played this song. I was reminded of its brilliance and proceeded to listen to it approximately 100 times these past few months.

Album of the Year - # 4

Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid

The Seldom Seen Kid is not going to jump right out and blow you away upon first listen. This is an album that needs some nurturing and time to realize its genius. Everything about this album is well thought out, from the liner notes and cd jacket design (yes I actually purchased this album) to the lyrics. Each song conjures up an image and is extremely dramatic. Kid is the fourth album from Elbow and song for song their best work to date. Bones of You, One Day Like This, Weather to Fly, Mirrorball and Grounds for Divorce are unbelievable songs. Be patient. Give this album a few chances and you will be rewarded.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas - # 5

Song of the Year - # 5

I Will Possess Your Heart - Death Cab For Cutie

Apparently the Song of the Year list has just become a way for me to make amends for cutting albums from my Top 12 because Death Cab's Narrow Stairs was another 'honorable mention' type album for me this year. This song was the first single and is as good as anything Death Cab For Cutie has ever done. I'm usually not a big fan of the jam band/instrumental kind of music (In no way am I saying Death Cab is a jam band - just wanted to clarify that) but the album version of this song is much better than the radio edit. The beginning of this song goes on for more than 4 minutes and the bass groove just hypnotizes you. Any song that is ballsy enough to slowly build to a climax better deliver the goods. By the time Ben Gibbard breaks in with his vocals you will be in a trance and ready to be possessed in your heart or something like that. Great song.

Album of the Year - # 5

Ray LaMontagne - Gossip In the Grain

Savvy Skog Blog readers will recognize the name of Ray LaMontagne. He was also featured on a New Music Monday post before Big Al and myself had the opportunity of seeing him perform live for the first time in our lives. What an amazing concert which featured this album nearly in its entirety. Gossip In The Grain is Ray's third album and the man just keeps getting better and more confident with each release. There is nary a bad track on this album, in fact I'm not sure if LaMontagne has ever written a bad track. Pick up all 3 of his albums and you will not be disappointed.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas - # 6

Song of the Year - # 6

House of Cards - Radiohead

This song comes from the album In Rainbows that Radiohead released on their own with the 'pay whatever you want and download it' from their website in 2007. On January 1, 2008 the cd was available for purchase in stores and so I was torn as to when to claim this album was released - 2007 or 2008... My decision was to compromise and take the album off of the list but keep this song. And since this is my blog the ruling of the field stands.

The Album of the Year - # 6

Kings of Leon - Only By the Night

The Followill Brothers were featured on the Skog Blog in September on New Music Monday when this album was released. Only By the Night is the fourth album by the KOL and just like the others, did not disappoint in the least. In fact my only complaint with the KOL this year is that they didn't come to Salt Lake City on the first leg of their tour. Flanksteak and his sweet bride were able to make the trek down to Las Vegas and were greatly pleased with what they saw. Seeing the Kings of Leon live caused Mrs. Flanksteak to become so obsessed with the Brothers Followill that she spent the next several weeks on No sleeping, no eating, just KOL 24/7. This album should come with the parental advisory warning "this album will take over your child's life..." Listener beware.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas - # 7

Song of the Year - # 7

Pretty Amazing Grace - Neil Diamond

I just heard this song live, in person about 2 hours ago. It was quite a Skog Blog reunion. Wheels, Corbie, Flank Steak and VanWarmer were all in attendance. In case you are wondering, yes Neil has still got it. This song is from his most recent album Home Before Dark, which as spectacular as it was, didn't quite resonate with me as much as his previous album 12 Songs. This is Older Neil at his finest.

Album of the Year - # 7

Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords

I have owned comedy, novelty type albums in the past. They are usually funny for about 1 month and then they gather dust on your shelf for the rest of their existence. Not only are these songs hilarious they hold up on their own as quality songs. If you didn't listen to the lyrics you would just assume they were Top 40 songs from whatever genre the Conchords happen to be parodying during any given song. The only reason this album isn't higher on my list is that there are 2 stupid songs on this album and the Conchords have many other songs in their catalog that could have been released and made this album even more of a masterpiece. Skog Blog readers should have already seen enough of these videos so rather than repeat them I will link to the Season 2 Premiere of their television series.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas - # 8

Song of the Year # 8

You Don't Know Me - Ben Folds

The last thing we need here on the Skog Blog is another post full of Ben Folds gushing and blowhardery so I will just get right to the tune. The following is from the Jimmy Kimmel Live show.

Album of the Year # 8

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

How might one describe Fleet Foxes? Folk? Pop? Harmonic Rock? Fleet Foxes is an unbelievable debut. Again this album, like others on the Top 12 list, sounds old school (you might be sensing a pattern perhaps) but this kind of retro is more like CSNY or other folk rock bands from the 60's. The two creators of the band, Robin Pecknold and Skyler Skjelset, met in a Seattle High School and became friends based upon their mutual love of Bob Dylan and Neil Young. After a few demos and EPs they finally released their debut to much critical acclaim yet minimal commercial success in June of 2008. This album will hopefully continue to gain popularity and Fleet Foxes will see the success they deserve for many years to come. Someone was kind of enough to upload their entire album onto youtube so here it is in its entirety. Definitely listen if you are a fan of My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses and bands of their ilk.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas - # 9

Song of the Year - # 9

27 Jennifers - Mike Doughty

Mike Doughty is the former frontman of the band Soul Coughing that was popular back in the mid 90's. After they disbanded he has gone on to have a solid solo career, releasing several live albums and EP's. 27 Jennifers comes from the album Golden Delicious that is an overlooked gem of an album from this past year. The official video for this song was a tad bit freaky so enjoy this audio only version.

Album of the Year - # 9

Jamie Lidell - Jim

Jamie Lidell is one funky white boy. The first time I heard him I did not picture him as a geeky British guy. I mean look at the cover of his album - he looks like he should be the leader of a band like Weezer and not the producer of one of the best soul albums of the year. Jim is Jamie's second album and greatly improves upon the formula that he created with his debut album Multiply. Perhaps the reason I enjoy this album so much is that I wish I had the singing chops of Lidell. One thing I do know for certain is that Jim will put a smile on your face, a hop in your step and make even the least coordinated of us tap his toe to the beat. And yes I said 'his' toe and no I wasn't being sexist. Watching my friends and I dance would not be fun unless this upbeat album were in some way involved.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas - # 10

Song of the Year - # 10

Salute Your Solution - The Raconteurs

You take Jack White from the White Stripes, a little of the criminally underrated Brendan Benson and add a couple of dudes from the Greenhornes and you have the rock super group The Raconteurs. They released their sophomore album in March this year (another that just barely missed the Top 12) and this tasty number was the first single from the album. Prepare to have your socks rocked off. Also, I apologize if this video causes any Skog Blog reader to have a seizure.

Album of the Year - # 10

Amos Lee - Last Days at the Lodge

Amos Lee is like the male equivalent of Tracy Chapman. The man has a voice that is distinct yet extremely pleasant to the ears. I purchased his self-titled debut album in 2005 on a whim just because I thought he looked like a cool dude on the cover. I had not even ever heard his stuff, his look just intrigued me. Well I will be forever grateful that I did. Amos just keeps putting out solid albums. Last Days at the Lodge is his third album and probably my least favorite of the three but that still means it is better than 98% of all albums ever released in the history of time. Pick it up and you won't be disappointed. The one problem is that you might listen to Mr. Lee and only Mr. Lee until sometime in the spring. Frankly that won't be anything of which to be ashamed my friends.

Sadly there aren't a lot of videos of the songs from this album. Go to his website here and please listen to Ease Back. Fantastic song.

12 Days of Christmas BONUS!

So I don't feel like Amos is getting a fair shake. So here is a tune from his first album that will show A) how friggin awesome he is and B) how friggin awesome he is live.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas - # 11

Song of the Year - # 11

5 Years Time - Noah and the Whale

Noah and the Whale is a British folk-rock band that loves the films of Wes Anderson. In fact, their album Peaceful the World Lays Me Down could pass for the soundtrack to Rushmore or The Royal Tenenbaums. The entire album is fantastic and just barely missed the Skog Blog Top 12. The video is a little tribute to Wes Anderson as well. Enjoy.

Album of the Year - # 11

Raphael Saadiq - The Way I See It

Raphael Saadiq was the lead singer of the old band Tony! Toni! Tone! - a band that I loved enough as a kid that my sister, Kim, threw their cassette out of the window while driving one day because she had heard It Never Rains In Southern California one too many times. The Way I See It is a throwback to the old glory days of Motown. If you weren't familiar with Raphael you would think you had discovered some long lost classic from the 1960's. However, Saadiq is also smart enough to pair himself with contemporary artists like Jay-Z to remind us all that this album is indeed fresh and new.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas

I'm not the best at lists. I love to read them but I hate to create them. However, since 'tis the season for giving I give you the Skog Blog 12 Days of Christmas. Rather than patridges, golden rings or leapin' lords I will present you with my choices for the top 12 albums and songs of 2008.

Song of the Year - # 12

That's Not My Name - The Ting Tings

When you listen to this song (if you haven't heard it) you might think, really? KG likes this song? Really? Well guess what. This song was P's favorite song of the year and therefore it was one of my favorites. One of my greatest joys this year was watching P sing and car seat dance while rockin out to this little number. Consider it the 'Hey Mickey' of this generation.

Album of the Year - # 12

My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges

My Morning Jacket is one of my all time favorite bands. Seeing them live is a mind blowing experience that everyone should experience at least once. Evil Urges was a bit of a departure from their usual sound. I am all for bands trying to grow and expand their music, however, a few of these songs just didn't work. Were they going for some kind of homage to Prince? I'm not quite sure. Luckily for MMJ there are many songs on this album that are right up there with their finest work which allows for repeated listening of the album. Here are the two best singles from Evil Urges - and the only ones for which I can find some videos.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cover Song Saturday Night

Christmas week on the Skog Blog continues today with a Christmas Cover song blowout. I tried to only post songs that you most likely won't be hearing on the radio this year. Below are some more of my favorite Christmas performances:

First up is a tune that was submitted by a mysterious Skog Blog reader who goes by the secret handle of 'Gina.' Seeing that I am a sucker for some good Acapella stuff and the fact that any group that can break into a rendition of 'Africa' by Toto on a whim, this one was a no brainer.

Next up is Jason Mraz and Toca Rivera doing a rendition of 'Walking In a Winter Wonderland.' This has been on my tivo for approximately 5 years.

Here is AB's favorite Holiday song - 'Donde Esta Santa Claus' by the Skog Blog Fave Guster.

Also from Guster - who needs barking dogs doing 'Jingle Bells' when you can have a treat like 'Carol of the Meows.' Somewhere Mr. Broomhead just shed a tear.

Well if the Meows didn't frighten you away - this one just might. Grandaddy is one of the greatest bands of all time. They will soon be featured on a new music Monday night. However, for now I will blow your mind with 'Alan Parsons in a Winter Wonderland.' Fantastic stuff.

Getting back on track with more popular tunes, Jack Johnson doing his best folkie Stevie Wonder.

Pedro the Lion was the second concert I ever went to all by myself. His voice was so hypnotic that I threw caution to the wind and ventured out to Kilby Court without a wing man. Here he is doing 'I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day.'

'O Holy Night' is a Christmas Classic for sure and Tracy Chapman does it as good as anyone.

Not sure if this is technically a Christmas song but it is Wheels' favorite religious song so this is as good of a time as any to post it. Sufjan Steven performing 'Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.' If you aren't familiar with Sufjan Stevens do yourself a favor and look up his stuff.

It just isn't Cover Song Sat Night without Jim James of My Morning Jacket.

Travis doing a cover of the Joni Mitchell classic, 'River.'

Many thanks to any of you who have kept reading this far. Last but not least we have another cover by Travis doing the greatest Christmas song of all time. Merry Christmas everyone.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New Member of the Skog Blog List

I would like to welcome 'Anyhoodle...' to the Skog Blog list. It is the comedic thoughts and tales from the life of my cousin and her family. Anyhoodle was actually one of the first blogs I ever started reading and frankly should have been an original member of my Blog List. She is a funny, funny gal. Read and enjoy.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Classics???

Last night we discussed the Skog Blog Christmas classics. Tonight I wanted to discuss the great "What Were They Thinking?" Christmas albums of all time. I'm not talking about some that are so bad that they are good (I'm looking at you Wham! and Paul McCartney) I mean the ones where you see the album on the rack at the music store, pick it up, shake your head and think, 'Really?' about a dozen times.

My first selection is going to anger our friend DogFace who hasn't been around for awhile anyway so who cares... Perhaps if I were 9 years old this album would be my all time fave. Instead it just makes me think, 'What in the name of all that is good and christmasy?'

A few years ago DogFace found some papers that his mother had saved from the 2nd grade. Every page had the Twisted Sister symbol drawn on them and his answer to the question What would you do if you had $1 million dollars was 'Go to a Twisted Sister concert.' Sorry DogFace but We're Not Gonna Take this album.

Bravo to anyone who made it all the way through 'Heavy Metal Christmas.' Wow. Anyway, up next we have a record that even Star Wars geeks Wheels and VanWarmer would have to say, 'Happy Friggin Holidays that is bad...' I give you Christmas In the Stars.

Strangely enough this album had nothing to do with the legendarily (is that even a word?) bad Star Wars Holiday Special. Christmas in the Stars came out two years after the TV special and was the first of several planned holiday records. Sadly, in a shocking turn of events, the record label went out of business after the first printing of the LP. Who says Star Wars geeks will buy anything?

Here is R2-D2: We Wish You A Merry Christmas which funny enough was the first 'professional recording' (I use the term very loosely) by Jon Bongiovi. Apparently his cousin ran the studio where the album was recorded. Try to not get too excited about this ladies (and JFNShaw.)

I don't even think I need to comment on the next one. Let me just say this - aren't there enough sad children in the world, especially at Christmas? If I had just one Christmas wish it would be that no kid would have to suffer through this.

Interesting sidenote: In the original version of the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol the ghost of Jacob Marley came and beat down Tiny Tim for listening to this album and that is how he ended up a cripple. It was a bit too edgy for its time so Charles was forced to edit that subplot out of his final draft. However, the scene was filmed for the 1970 film version of Scrooge and is featured as a deleted scene on the 25 anniversary DVD. It should be required viewing for all Kidz.

So there you have it, some of the worst Christmas abominations of all time. Feel free to add your 'anti-classics' to this list. God bless us every one.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monday Night The Music You Should Be Listening To Right Now: Christmas Edition

It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the time for giving - so prepare yourself loyal Skog Blog readers, I plan on giving you plenty of good tunes over the next few weeks. Let's start with some of my favorite Christmas albums of all time that should be in everyone's rotation during the holidays.

The Carpenters: Christmas Portrait

I don't care if FM100 or KOZY or any other stupid radio station starts playing Christmas tunes on November 1st (ok I do care - it bugs the crap out of me) - the season does not begin until you decorate your tree while listening to the sweet sounds of Karen and Richard Carpenter singing carols. Try not to shed a tear while you watch these little clips.

Next up is Andy Williams. I have many memories of listening to this on vinyl at my Grandpa Strat's house, on 8-Track in my old man's Buick and over the loud speakers at the Winegars Grocery Store while singing with my buddy Jeremy as we stocked the shelves. "It's the Holiday season... so whoop dee doo..." Good times.

And now here is a song that many have tried but only one has truly mastered. Nat King Cole singing The Christmas Song.

Nothing screams "Merry Christmas" more than our Jewish friend Big Neil singing praises to the newborn king.

A relatively new entry into my Christmas album rotation is Stevie's Christmas Collection. Fantastic stuff.

Last but not least is my favorite Christmas album of all time. Mr. Connick, Jr's first album of holiday classics and some originals. If you don't own this album you are either related to the Grinch or Ebeneezer Scrooge. Go out and buy it today or I'll send the Spirits of Christmas to come a knocking on your door.