favorite music of 2012

I appreciate a lot of music, but my favorite artists are the ones I find most authentic; those that write and play their own music, with smart and soulful lyrics. Here are a few I think are worth mentioning.

memorabilia from recent shows

Trampled by Turtles

By far, these guys are my favorite musical discovery of the past year. I am late to the Trampled by Turtles party. They’ve released six albums already. Natasha and I got to see them in Portland about a month ago and they put on a fantastic, high energy performance. Passionate fans. They’re a contemporary bluegrass band out of Minnesota that formed as a side project of the members’ main rock bands. The lead singer/guitarist writes almost all of the songs, though they’re known to cover the Pixies, My Morning Jacket, and others. These guys are the real deal. Since I couldn’t find a good quality video of the song I wanted to share, I will just post some lyrics. I started listening to this song when we were in the thick of the hardest time with Bubba. I remember clearly sitting at the kitchen table listening to it one night. Bubba, as usual, had his head pushed under the baby gate, brown eyes looking up at me. This is a song of resignation.

All my partial poems come as painless fillers
I may never be as strong as you like
But the way you look at me
Is such a silent killer
Hold me a close and tell me I’m alright

Up all night just thinking of the ways to remain here
Mourn the silences that one time held
The keys to paradise

I come running down from heights that I remember
Those were times that I treasured like a child
Pick this body up because I know I’m better
And I fell upon the ground with a sigh

Little bandages add up to a coffin baby
But I get hopeful every time I see you crack your little smile
-Keys to Paradise

Another favorite, the first track off their 2010 release, Palomino.

Amy Ray

One half of the Indigo Girls, I have been listening to Amy Ray since I was fifteen years old, and have seen her in concert as a solo performer, with her own band, and with the Indigo Girls countless times. Her solo work is a punk/rock departure from standard Indigo fare, which she releases on her own independant label, Daemon Records (home to several other great acts). Love her deep raspy voice, heart wrenching lyrics, gender and genre exploration, and questionable choice in pants. The quality of this video isn’t the best, but this is my favorite track off her 2012 release, Lung of Love, and it was recorded at the show we attended back in April.

I prayed to God to let me keep it
I prayed to God to take it away
I prayed to God to let me hide it
Save it for a rainy day

Do you have to be the rolling train (that rolls through my sleep)
Do you have to be the wounded bird (that won’t let me be)
Do you have to be the only voice I hear crying in the wilderness
-Crying in the Wilderness

Jeffrey Foucault and Kris Delmhorst

Two more all-time favorites. I’ll include them here even though neither one released an album this year. Jeff and Kris are solo singer/songwriters who also happen to be husband and wife. They are releasing their first album of duets sometime next year, though they occasionally share the stage in concert as a duo and as part of Redbird which also includes Peter Mulvey and David “Goody” Goodrich. Kris Delmhorst is a staple of the Boston/New England music scene and one of the first contemporary “folk” artists I started listening to, sometime in 1999. She has astounding vocal and instrumental talent, and is a master collaborator. Jeffrey has a voice I could listen to day in and day out, and his lyrics are earnest and raw. Both have released cover albums, including a Cars cover album by Kris and a collection of John Prine songs from Jeff. I really look forward to their upcoming duets. We saw them perform a great show recently in Natick. This song is one of Kris’ more subtle ones, but one of my very favorites.

Red red blood in a red red heart
It beat so strong from the very start
Sometimes it’s hard just to tell the two apart

It’s a long long road, it’s a long long haul
There’s no one who knows, there’s no one you can call
Sometimes the path is faint, the rest of the time it’s not there at all

Angels pass you on the street
Faces cast down at their feet

Blue blue bird in a blue blue sky
And you feel so brave and you don’t know why
But you fill your lungs up for one last try

Strangers pass your on your way
Faces open and awake

It’s a quiet song for a quiet boy
You came in here just to escape the noise
Now all this silence flows like joy

Honorable Mention

WUMB– A big shout out to WUMB, a local Boston station that plays the best music on the radio (also online streaming free from their website). This station is a member-supported NPR music station. I put my money where my ears are and became a member for the first time this year. They have introduced me to tons of new acts and are the only place on the dial where you can hear Patty Griffin, Muddy Waters, Townes Van Zandt, Big Mama Thornton, Mumford and Sons, Mary Gauthier, and Bob Dylan back to back.

Brown Bird– Banjo, guitar, percussion, vocals, and lyrics like these:
When everyday is like a war between the will to go on
And a wish that the world would spiral into the sun
Turn your head toward the storm that’s surely coming along

If the sun was always shining and our load always light
We’d be shaking like a leaf with every God given night
And we’d break under the weight
Of any pain that ever came in this life

The Head and the Heart– Raucous and fun band out of Seattle. I listened to a lot of these guys this year.