Things to Hear

Photo: “Thalhimers, phonograph” from Adolph B. Rice Studio (June 13, 1957) / Flickr

Music critic Ted Gioia has put together his list of the 100 best albums of 2012. Though Gioia is known mainly as a jazz critic, the list contains a wide variety of different styles and genres. As he explains:

I have no axe to grind. My list is filled with music I enjoy, and suspect others will too—especially if they have a reasonably good ear, and an open mind. I like recordings that show some flair and creativity, a sense of style, solid musicianship, and an emotional commitment to the moment of performance. I appreciate it when an artist possesses a sense of musical tradition; on the other hand, I don’t want to see slavish imitation of the past. When music strikes me as too formulaic or contrived or cold, I start to lose interest. Like any critic, I want my readers to think that I am cool and hip and oh-so-up-to-date, but I learned some time ago that many of the best recordings are decidedly uncool and unhip. So if you want to laugh at me for including an American Idol contestant in my top 100, or making some other dorky move, feel free to do so.

The 100 Best Albums of 2012 by Ted Gioia

Gioia suggests clicking on the albums in his list to buy them… but luckily, I was able to find a lot of these albums on Spotify, where they can be streamed for free. I put together a Spotify playlist of all of them that I could find. Not everything on Gioia’s list is here, but if you’re looking for some new and interesting music, this 807-track, 48-hour-long playlist is probably not a bad place to start.

Ted Gioia’s 100 Best Albums of 2012 Spotify Playlist

Photo: AP Photo/Narciso Contreras (from Atlantic In Focus)

Photo: AP Photo/Narciso Contreras (from Atlantic In Focus feature “Syria’s Long, Destructive Civil War”; click photo to see more)

Kelly McEvers has an arresting story on today’s Morning Edition about a displaced family squatting in a school in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo. The heartbreaking details cut through the death tolls, news clips and political statements to show the real cost this civil war has on Syrian families:

Em Ali laughs even when she’s telling the sad stories. But before she says good night, her voice gets quiet. She says that from time to time, she hopes that she will be killed with her kids, “just to stop all this, all of it.”

This kind of journalism, which shows the human side of this distant war, is so important. It seems that the devastation of this conflict don’t become real and impossible to ignore until we can hear the real voices and listen to the real experiences of those involved.

Listen to “For Those Still in Syria, A Daily Struggle” on

White Horse Ledge above Echo Lake in Conway, NH

White Horse Ledge above Echo Lake in Conway, NH.

My girlfriend and I went to the White Mountains today for a quick hike and a chance to enjoy all the scenery bathed in fresh snow. Conway, North Conway and the Kancamagus Highway are all just a little more than an hour from Portland, and I find myself returning there more and more. The White Mountains were a staple of summer vacations in my childhood, but I was always more interested in helping Kirby save the world from King Dedede on my Game Boy than I was in being awestruck by the region’s natural beauty. Now there is little I enjoy more in life than getting outside and unplugging for a few days, hours, or even just my lunch break.

On the way back to Portland I queued up the latest episode of PRI’s Living on Earth on my iPod. Living on Earth held a regular place in my earbuds when I was working in a warehouse years ago, a reliable source for an hour of entertaining and informative listening while I moved Box A from Point B to Point C. LoE was absent from MPBN for the last few years, but it’s just recently returned to the lineup, which inspired me to download an episode.

Coming back to reality from my quick mountain getaway, this story in particular piqued my interest. In “The Changing of the Environmental Guard,” host Steve Curwood speaks with Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters, about what could happen to the country’s environmental policies this year with a new Congress and a re-elected President Barack Obama. After an election where environmental issues got barely any mention at all, and the House still looks largely the same, things still look king of grim. After a day like today outdoors in the White Mountains, I hope they get a lot better.