The older I get the less time I devote to music, both the playing of it and the listening to it. This list, therefore, is not so much about the music of 2012 as it is the music I came across during 2012, usually in films. There has been a slight shift in my taste, so if this list makes me seem more cultured and sophisticated than you, it's because I am.
The Staves - Mexico
My sister put me on to this trio. Love the video, love the harmonies, love the chorus, love the simple guitar picking. I have no idea what the rest of their stuff sounds like -- pretty similar, I imagine -- but The Staves could be getting a more thorough listen off me in the new year and even a live viewing should they return to Belfast (they played in Limelight the weekend before I heard this song). They must be excited about that.
Matteo Zingales - Martin David
Is this a cover of Moby's 'God Moving Over the Face of the Waters'? It sure sounds like it, which is no bad thing. This song plays at the end of The Hunter, and it is perfect.
Arvo Part - Spiegel im Spiegel
Part is one of two on this list who can be categorised under the genre "holy minimalism" (like I said, cultured and sophisticated.) I think I heard this song on an Auschwitz documentary and did an instant Google search to see who was responsible. Part is from the Estonian Orthodox flavour of holy minimalism (there's a niche market if ever there was one), with a lot of his songs based around these beautiful and haunting chants. This one, however, simply consists of piano and violin. It is minimal, but it is no less holy.
Yo La Tengo - Driving Home
This is probably the last band I've gotten into. This particular song is taken from the cleverly titled album You Shoot, We Score, which is an album of Yo La Tengo tracks written for various films. I first heard this at 3am in a tent full of guys in Wicklow. It was a moment of bliss in troubled times.
Henryk Gorecki - Symphony No. 3
There could be any number of songs featured in The Tree of Life on this list. Indeed there is one more to come. This one, however, is the crème de la crème. R.L. asks his mother to tell them a story form before they can remember. She mentions a plane ride she and their father once took after graduation. In fact, the whole scene is on YouTube. It still gives me goosebumps:
The song goes on, and manages to get even more beautiful. You can listen to the whole thing below.
Andrew Peterson - Hosea
My mp3 player broke during the summer, so the only portable source of music that I had for those long journeys up and down from Belfast was the phone my sister gave me, which came complete with one album: Resurrection Letters by Andrew Peterson. I have listened to that album to death. There are a number of sons on it that I like, but this is probably my favourite.
Hanan Townshend - Welcome Happy Morning
Finally, that other one from The Tree of Life. This one plays in the background as we see Jack develop his first crush, and also during the end credits. It is another simple piano piece, but as music critic Johnny Giles would say, there is beauty in simplicity.