Fellow Pop Rock Nation blogger Brian has put forth a proposal for me to write a favorites of 2012 post. And I would be happy to do that, except I have a tendency to listen to older music that isn’t exactly cutting edge. I did buy some albums that came out in 2012, though; and in 2012, I did newly discover some folks who have been around awhile. So, in the interest of taking Brian up on his challenge, I’m going to write about my top five favorite musical discoveries in 2012, listed in no particular order.

Todd Snider

I first discovered alt-country singer songwriter Todd Snider  several years ago while watching YouTube.  I was living in Germany at the time and filled up some of my duller days by watching funny videos.  Someone had posted a hilarious stick figure cartoon set to Snider’s song, “Beer Run”.  As a beer lover with a warped sense of humor who remembers college all too well, this quirky song really hit home for me.

Todd Snider’s “Beer Run”

So when I found out that Snider had a new album coming out in 2012, I decided to purchase it. 2012’s Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables was actually just one of several albums I purchased by Todd Snider in 2012, who has a very unique storytelling style that I could best describe as an edgy mixture of Tom Petty and Tom Waits. Todd’s songs are mostly original and full of colorful characters. I love a good story related in a song, especially when it’s paired up with witty lyrics and compelling melodies.

While I liked Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables well enough, I actually played his 2003 live album Todd Snider Live: Near Truths and Hotel Rooms more often. Todd Snider is just one of those artists who is great live, even if it’s just on a live recording. Having purchased Todd Snider’s music early in 2012, I figure he definitely belongs on my list of top five musical discoveries of 2012.

Iris Dement

I should probably be ashamed of myself for not knowing about Iris Dement until 2012. It was a brisk October day and I was on an Amazon music buying spree. Amazon suggestive sold me Iris Dement’s 2012 album, Sing the Delta, which was released on October 2. It turns out Iris Dement has been around for ages and is even associated with some of my favorite artists, like Emmylou Harris and John Prine. Somehow, I still missed out on her beautiful vocals, which are so unusual and lovely, and her expressive piano playing. I was pretty proud to welcome her to my music collection in 2012.

Iris Dement sings “Mama Was Always Tellin’ Her Truth” live

Mark Knopfler

Okay, so I’ve been familiar with Mark Knopfler’s music for years now.  I grew up in the 1970s and 80s, so I am very well acquainted with his work as Dire Straits’ front man.  A few years ago, when my husband and I were living in Germany, we took a weekend trip to Barcelona, Spain, where we were introduced to one of his solo albums as it played over and over again at the outdoor cafe where we were enjoying gourmet pizza and wine.  After that trip to Barcelona, I started listening to Mark’s music a lot more often.

In 2012, Mark Knopfler released the double album Privateering.  At the time this album was released, in September of 2012, Knopfler was having a conflict with his US record label which prevented Privateering from being sold in the United States.  I ended up purchasing a Canadian version of the album.  Like most of Knopfler’s albums, Privateering is thematic, with songs about working class characters living a rough and tumble lifestyle.  On Privateering, Knopfler incorporates Celtic, blues, rockabilly, and rock and roll into a very appealing package of twenty mostly original songs. Privateering is another welcome addition to my music collection in 2012.

Mark Knopfler performing “Privateering” live.

Van Morrison

Van Morrison is another artist that I’ve been listening to for years.  In October 2012, he released his album Born to Sing: No Plan B, his first album since 2008’s Keep It Simple.  As Van Morrison often does, he’s chosen a theme for this album.  Most of the songs are about the evils of greed and materialism and each of them features a heaping helping of Van Morrison’s trademark style and spunk.  Of all the songs on Born to Sing: No Plan B, my favorite is “Close Enough To Jazz”, a bewitching track that reminds me of Van Morrison’s classic hit, “Moondance”.  This song has a nice long jazzy intro before Van Morrison joins in.  The rest of the album sails along with Van’s excellent six piece band and Van’s own work on the piano, alto saxophone, and guitar.

Van Morrison performs “Born To Sing” live in Belfast.

Kasey Chambers

Australian singer Kasey Chambers was the result of another suggestive selling effort by Amazon.com.  As I was purchasing a bunch of music, I ran across her 2012 album Storybook, a collection of fifteen country and rockabilly styled  cover songs that have inspired her.  Kasey Chambers has an unusual soprano voice, an excellent band, and a great collection of songs.  I’m still getting into this album in early 2013, but it’s quickly growing on me.  I’m happy to discover Kasey Chambers and welcome her into my top five musical discoveries from 2012.

Kasey Chambers covers “Luka”, a song made famous in the 1980s by Suzanne Vega.

So there you have it, five albums from 2012 that are among my favorite musical discoveries from last year!