Musing on Music: 2012 Year In Review


I love music. I’m not merely an appreciator, or a collector; I amass music. I explore music in every direction along the genetic lines, then branch out into the natural fractal iterations, and further still, strike at random to surprise even myself. Now, I am not going to apologize or worry about turning you off with my pedestrian tastes in listening, nor am I going to impress you or test my street cred in compiling a list of the most obscure, bleeding edge sonic garbage for the sake of cool, hipster-esque talking points. I like what I like from roots to rap, classical, punk, electro-clash, electronic, experimental, folk, soul, pop, rock, blues and all the way back.

But first, a little background on my musical pedigree.

I am from a very musical family. My mother played folk music for me on the guitar and we sang together as she did with her father and mother. I grew up listening to Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and Joni Mitchell. Folk music in my house always included the guitar and it meant, “music for folks.” It even implied the roots of Blue Grass and the lineage to her father, my grandfather, who I was named after and who played it constantly in his house in the Detroit suburbs when we went to visit every summer.

When I thought of Bluegrass, I thought of my grandfather playing “Orange Blossom Special” on the fiddle. I thought of high, blue mountain ridges and the state of Kentucky, both of which I had never seen. I thought of all the times I asked him to make the fiddle sound like the sawing, productive chug and whistle of an approaching train; like the whistle that hollered through the Pennsylvania coal mines he used to tell me about. He could play almost anything, burrowing into his tiny closet, behind shirts and shoes to retrieve a new instrument—Hohner harmonica, guitar, or banjo. I remember those rich hours sitting on his bed that was too high for me and my sister, Racheal; how he sometimes had to lift us if we couldn’t bound and scrabble our way up.

Once in a while my grandmother would come in and accompany him on the old organ, which had to be excavated from underneath songbooks and reel-to-reel tapes and backstocked toilet paper. We sat there quietly, listening to them play with the sun melting in through the yellowed curtains. The room would grow hot with summer light, but inside, I was brought back to the cream colored comforter on the bed, a little sun-soaked, sandy island when he played “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”  We ate endless bright colored popsicles from the little white fridge at the foot of the bed, just the right height for munchkin children. We saved the sticks so we could make jewelry boxes, crosses, soldiers, animals, fortresses and dreams.

Those days and those dreams were the beginning seeds of my love for music as well as  for my own music I would go on to sing and play on guitar later as a teenager into my early 30s. Music was my writing and poetry brought to movement and off the page. It was emotional, spiritual, and confessional. Next to nature, music was my inspiration, my religion, my very life.

If there was ever a year when the healing power of music was a necessary balm, 2012 was it. January was bereft of my usual staple of live shows at least twice a month, but I had just started at a new job and after a Strange Weekend by Porcelain Raft, I craved the necessary pause and New Year’s reflection, Gotye released Making Mirrors (and the unavoidable beastly breakup song, “Somebody That I Used to Know.” It had been four years since 2008’s Like Drawing Blood when I was struck after hearing “Hearts a Mess” at random on a 94.7 perfect playlist where the ladies from Sock Dreams (another obsession of mine) chose it as one of their songs.

Watch the video for  “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye feat. Kimbra

February was also still and brutal. I had just finalized a divorce and from the sonic quiver flew Arrow by Heartless Bastards. On heavy rotation were remainders from my strangely dark and foreboding wedding anniversary in September of 2011, Laura Marling’s A Creature I Don’t Know and from the month he left, October of 2011, Feist’s Metals.

March came in like a lion and out like a lamb with Daughter’s The Wild Youth EP as well as A Church That Fits Our Needs from Lost In The Trees. Most notably, my favorite, Andrew Bird’s Break It Yourself came and broke my heart open all over again. These winter month albums were about the illusory notions of love and loss and guilt, all of which I was wrestling with.

In April, the rains came to fill in the Shallow Bed by Dry The River and Great Lake Swimmers gave us New Wild Everywhere. Then it was almost into May when Santigold blossomed again with her latest afrobeat, funk-punk, raplicious, blistering and boldly creative, Master of My Make-Believe. She asks on “God The Machine”:

You can see through the smoke
And though you know
That something’s broke
You’re holding on for now
Aiming for the mark
How is it that your scars light up
Like flashlights in the dark

Watch “The Keepers” by Santigold

By May, flowers were in full-bloom, and while I felt like I was still saying “Good Morning” and mending with Little Broken Hearts by Norah Jones, I had met a very special man, also a musician, and my desire for music and writing was rekindled. This lead to the chance meeting of a new friend in the music promotion industry while standing in line for Gotye. Her schedule was full and she couldn’t cover a story, so I covered it for her and got my first in a series of freelance writing pieces for Oregon Music News. Finally, a viable way to support my music habit—free music and shows to do what I love, ingest music and write all about it! I embarked on A Different Ship with Here We Go Magic and had Adventures in Your Own Backyard from Patrick Watson. It was all full Bloom with Beach House and young-hearted, full-throated Vows from Kimbra.

June marched in with Generals fromThe Mynabirds and right on my birthday, the 19th, Fiona Apple gave us another hideously long title but an amazing and fierce album, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do.

Watch “Every Single Night” by Fiona Apple off The Idler Wheel . . .

July brought a lively hot hum of summer listening from Dirty ProjectorsSwing Lo Magellan and August had Lianne La Havas asking if it was just a summer romance or Is Your Love Big Enough?

September delivered a mastermind series of collaboration and greatness with David Byrne and St. Vincent on Love This Giant, Grizzly Bear bringing up the Shields  and The xx helping us to Coexist.

In October, the cool crept in with some classic jazz standards, Donald Fagen with Sunken Condos and Diana Krall with Glad Rag Doll. Andrew Bird came back with a live, brilliant, old-timey companion piece toBreak It Yourself, with Hands of Glory and Bat For Lashes gave us a proper Halloween treat with The Haunted Man.

Watch “Who” by David Byrne & St. Vincent

November died down and as the nights chilled, we lamented the approaching winter and a “Summertime Sadness” with Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die: Paradise Edition.

And here we are in the slim music month of December, rife with recycled Christmas Music as we collectively go through the chillwave of Memory Tapes with Grace/Confusion. A perfect summary of the Holiday season, really.

But don’t believe me. Wander through this compiled list of 2012’s Best Music from various critical sources and feel free to peruse the concerts I attended and covered:

2012’s BEST MUSIC:


25th — Lost In The Trees w/ Poor Moon @ Doug Fir Lounge

9th — Gotye w/ Kimbra @ Crystal Ballroom
11th — Andrew Bird w/ Laura Marling @ Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall

24th — Active Child / Tycho / Lord Huron @ Doug Fir

23rd — Lisa Hannigan w/  Joe Henry @ Wonder Ballroom
25th — Laura Marling w/ Willy Mason @ Aladdin Theater CONCERT REVIEW

24thPhantogram w/ Porcelain Raft @ Wonder Ballroom INTERVIEW with Mauro Remiddi of Porcelain Raft

8thSharon Van Etten w/ Tennis @ Aladdin Theater INTERVIEW with Alaina Moore of Tennis
16th — Jesca Hoop w/ Jesse Harris @ Alberta Rose Theatre INTERVIEW with Jesca Hoop
21st — Three Mile Pilot w/ Dramady @ Doug Fir Lounge

28th — Laura Marling @ Backspace INTERVIEW with LAURA MARLING

3rd  — Dirty Three w/ Centers@ Mission Theatre CONCERT REVIEW
30th — Dark Dark Dark w/ Emily Wells INTERVIEW with Nona Marie Invie of Dark Dark Dark

11th — Yenta /  The Mynabirds / Rebecca Gates @Doug Fir Lounge CONCERT PREVIEW


3rd — Metric @ Roseland Theater CONCERT REVIEW
6th — Sufjan Stevens: “The Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant On Ice” w/ Sheila Saputo CONCERT REVIEW from PACIFICLECTIC

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