The best music of 2012: Americana


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The Independent Culture

“There is,” wrote Cyril Connolly as long ago as 1938, “no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.” And that was in the days before CBeebies. So what music found its way into my ears and heart this year in spite of the intrusion of the Rastamouse theme song?

Well, the Alabama Shakes debut Boys & Girls showcased a spectacular singer, even when it couldn't find the material to match. Jack White's Blunderbuss worked best in those rare moments when it was possible to crank the volume up. Father John Misty's Fear Fun was a brilliant blend of po-mo-faced humour and 1970s vibes, and David Byrne & St Vincent's Love This Giant reminded me why I loved Talking Heads. But, in keeping with my new status, it was albums I might once have thought of as “cheesy” that meant most to me as the year progressed: The Avett Brothers' The Carpenter, Brandi Carlile's Bear Creek and The Civil Wars' Barton Hollow.

Three albums, though, stood head and shoulders above the rest this year. Anaïs Mitchell's astonishing Young Man in America, First Aid Kit's The Lion's Roar – simply a joy to listen to from start to finish – and the reissue of an unheard of album from 1973, Bill Wilson's Ever Changing Minstrel, a word-of-mouth classic your friends will thank you for.