My 2012 Top Tracks

According to, these were my top tracks of 2012. Most of these are from my Paxil playlist, and obviously I had some favorite albums that I listened to a lot.

(I thought I’d publish it before New Years to avoid contaminating the results with Sufjan Christmas tunes…)

  1. “Making Mirrors” Gotye
  2. “Easy Way Out” Gotye
  3. “Somebody That I Used To Know” Gotye · Kimbra
  4. “Pumped Up Kicks” Foster The People
  5. “Eyes Wide Open” Gotye
  6. “Shuffle” Bombay Bicycle Club (thanks Gabe!)
  7. “Smoke And Mirrors” Gotye
  8. “Crooked Teeth” Death Cab for Cutie
  9. “Highway 101” Social Distortion
  10. “You Me And The Bourgeoisie” Submarines
  11. “Shake It Out” Florence + The Machine
  12. “Better Than Wine” Derek Webb
  13. “One More” Jimmy Cliff
  14. “Children’s Bread” Jimmy Cliff
  15. “They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! etc.” Sufjan Stevens
  16. “Let’s hear that string part again, etc.” Sufjan Stevens
  17. “Cry No More” Jimmy Cliff
  18. “Dog Days Are Over” Florence + The Machine
  19. “Charlie Brown” Coldplay
  20. “What The Water Gave Me” Florence + The Machine
  21. “Bang” Jimmy Cliff
  22. “Swimming Pool” Submarines

Grammy Nominees on Spotify

The 2012 Grammy nominees were announced last week. It’s a great year for music, with great acts like Florence + the Machine, M83, Jimmy Cliff, Muse, and Mumford & Sons among those represented. I created a nine-hour playlist with my favorites.

Music, Technology

Spotify Top 20

Here’s something you might not know about me: I hate pop radio. I prefer the kind of music that just won’t pull in the ratings they need to sell the ads. So you might be surprised to see me publishing a Spotify top 20 chart.

But Spotify certainly has a different demographic from pop radio—like techno geeks with iOS devices and money to spare for subscriptions. Still, there were a lot of tunes on Spotify’s charts that ended up being kind of crappy. So I took the Top 40 and eliminated 20 of the less awesome tracks. It’s a good opportunity for discovery, with new releases by Jason Mraz, singles from Iceland’s Of Monsters and Men, as well as some tunes from Mumford and Sons and Florence + the Machine. You might still find yourself skipping some tracks, but it’s going to be a lot less offensive to your ears than the unedited top 40.


Greengrass, Volume 8 (a Spotify playlist)

Greengrass, Volume 8 on Spotify

Greengrass, Volume 8 on Spotify

There are a couple of new tunes on this playlist, but most of the tracks in this set are old favorites that have been in my collection a dozen years or more.


The Tossers – “221B/The Sneaky Priest (The Gloria Scott)”
The second tune on this track also goes by the name “Tamlin” or “The Glasgow Reel”. I have a recording of this tune by Gaelic Storm, but it’s not on Spotify. I was happy to find The Tossers version. It’s a good one.

Béla Fleck and the Flecktones – “Stomping Grounds”
With Sam Bush playing a mean mandolin. It’s basically a contest between Victor, Béla, and Sam, to see how long they can keep this tempo sustained. This is one of my favorite Flecktones tunes.

Nickel Creek – “Robin and Marian”
A nice instrumental from San Diego blugrass favorites Nickel Creek. This mandolin-centered jig makes a nice bridge between the Flecktones and our next tune.

Alasdair Fraser – “Calliope House/The Cowboy Jig Medley”
I think I’ve played this jig set at a wedding or two. I like it, though the production style kind of dates this version. I’d prefer a cleaner recording with less reverb.

Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill – “The Old Bush/The Reel With The Burl”
Just fiddle and guitar.

Patrick Street – “Music For A Found Harmonium”
This is a great arrangement of a great tune, and one appears on several compilations. You almost forget it’s Patrick Street because Kevin Burke isn’t featured.

The Tossers – “The Crutch”
Many may recognize this tune from Flogging Molly’s instrumental version which they entitled “Swagger.” But The Tossers predate Flogging Molly by several years. Whether Flogging Molly borrowed it from The Tossers or both garnered it from an ancient traditional source remains unknown. I don’t think I have the liner notes anymore. Speaking of Flogging Molly…

Flogging Molly – “Salty Dog”
This tune starts out with the Kesh Jig like you probably haven’t heard it before.

Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers – “Northern Island”
Bluegrass instrumental.

Séamus Egan – “Poultry in the Parlour”
Enough of Séamus’s banjo. Let’s hear some Bouzouki!

Celtic Fiddle Festival – “Teolena/Marche De Roskonval/Sandizan”
Soïg Sibéril on solo guitar.

Chris Thile – “Ready for Anything”
Winding down the set with a minor-key ballad with solo mandolin accompaniment.

Skyedance – “Bannockburn”
Alasdair Fraser & friends. He maybe have been jumping on the Braveheart bandwagon with this title, but I guess he’s allowed to, since he played on the soundtrack, after all.


Greengrass, Vol. 7


Here’s the seventh installment of my bluegrass/celtic Spotify playlist series. Sorry I don’t have time for track-by-track commentary this week! I’ve been busy researching other subjects. Hopefully the tunes will speak for themselves.

Hamish Moore – "MacGregor’s Search"
Olivia Korkola – "Morning Dew/Tom Ward’s Downfall/Star of Munster"
Sara Watkins – "Jefferson"
Natalie MacMaster – "Butcher’s Jig Set"
Barra MacNeils & The Chieftains – "Rattlin’ Roarin’ Willie"
Hamish Moore – "Father John Macmillan Of Barra/The Sprig Of Ivy"
Jerry Holland – "Dave ‘Normaway’ MacDonald’s Wedding"
Aubrey Haynie – "Ducks on the Millpond"
Michael Doucet – "Reels de Mamou"
Alison Krauss & Union Station – "On The Outside Looking In"
The Pogues – "South Australia"
Nickel Creek – "In the House of Tom Bombadil"
Celtic Fiddle Festival – "Jig De Valcartier/An Italian Tune/Reel De Maisonneuve"

You may notice there is a significant Cape Breton theme to this week’s list. This is in part an effort to remedy the fact that the capers missed out on last week’s broader international sampling.

I’d like to hear from you. If you have some favorite tunes you’d like to see featured, drop them in my Spotify inbox and I’ll give them a listen.


Greengrass, Volume 6 (a Spotify playlist)

Greengrass, Vol. 6

Listen to this playlist on Spotify.

This week’s Spotify playlist is a mostly-fiddle-driven instrumental set. Although the orchestration is somewhat focused in this regard, the scope is quite diverse, both geographically—with tunes from America, Ireland, Scotland, and even Norway—and temporally, running the gamut from ancient traditional tunes to contemporary acoustic.

“N.M.I.” – We begin with an instrumental from Sean Watkins (of Nickel Creek fame). This jazzy tune starts with a theme on the violin that’s later picked up by the soprano sax. After that, Sean has a chance to jam, and then he lets everyone else have a turn.

Arcady “Paddy Ryan’s Dream, Fahy’s”, etc. – Nice mid-tempo set from an Irish group founded by De Dannan’s Bodhran player Johnny McDonagh.

“Trip to Sligo” set (Dervish) – A set of reels starting with with “Paddy Fahy’s” on fiddle and flute, then the other musicians join in for “Andrew Davies'”, and finally “Tomín O’Dea” adds accordion and bodhran. I’m impressed at how Dervish can use traditional instruments and traditional tunes and it still ends up sounding like rock and roll before the end.

“Flippen [The Flip]” (Punch Brothers) – Speaking of rocking out with traditional instruments! This is from P.B.’s new album. In general, the new album isn’t my favorite, as there are too many “songs” and not enough great instrumental tunes like this one. But there are a few, so I will take this opportunity to appreciate one of them. (They also do a great cover of Radiohead’s “Kid A”.) I nominate this tune for the Grammy for best bluegrass instrumental.*

“Wrong Foot Forward” (Flook) – Great piece from a great UK celtic band. Unfortunately, they’re no longer in business. This track comes from their last album, Haven, recorded in 2005

John Ole Morken, Norwegian fiddler, from his solo album. Norwegian fiddle technique is heavily influenced by the drones of the Hardanger fiddle, just as Scottish fiddle music is influenced by the drones of the Highland pipes. They came to a similar sound by drawing from two different sources of inspiration.

“Big Country” (Edgar Meyer, Mike Marshall, and Béla Fleck) – This is a Béla Fleck composition also recorded by The Flecktones, but this acoustic version comes from Meyer’s album Uncommon Ritual. Any time you get Meyer and Fleck involved in something, you know it’s going to be a masterpiece.

“The Star of Munster” (Martin Hayes) – This is a short solo fiddle version Hayes recorded on his self-titled solo album. I also have a recording of Kevin Burke playing this tune.

“The Banks of Spey/Brenda Stubbert’s Reel” (Alasdair Fraser & Paul Machlis) – To Scotland!

“Montgomery Ball” (Aubrey Haynie) – Haynie is a young Nashville session player who has won several awards. (By young I mean he’s around my age…)

“The Leaning Tower” (Béla Fleck & the Flecktones) Celtic-inspired fusion tune. Warning: requires math skills! This comes off their ambitious 2003 3-disc concept album. It’s a pity the rest of the album isn’t like this. Apparently people found the concept tiring.

“Seg” (Nils Økland) – Økland is a Norwegian Hardanger fiddle player who is a major influence in Norwegian ethnomusicology. His music is a fusion of traditional, classical, improvisation, and contemporary composition. He recorded this album in an empty medieval church on the coast of Norway just across the North Sea from the Orkney Islands.

“Niel Gow’s Lament for His Brother” (Richard Greene) – Greene is a Grammy-award-winning American fiddle player and newgrass pioneer. On this album he tries his hand at celtic music. (I think the album should be re-released with a less pretentious cover and title. I think people can record celtic tunes without pointing out how hard they’re trying.) Greene’s take on this tune reminds me of a classically-trained violinist pulling the piece out as an encore in the recital hall, Fritz Kreisler style. But if you don’t read my Greengrass liner notes you probably won’t notice…

I’d like to hear from you. If you have some favorite tunes you’d like to see featured, drop them in my Spotify inbox and I’ll give them a listen.

* I know this track is a repeat from volume 3, but it’s just so good!