2012 is a rare year for music lovers who stick with favorite artists through their entire careers. It’s starting to seem as if a large number of my favorite voices are raining from the sky. Unfortunately, this much music rain comes with sticker shock, though both MP3 downloads and physical CDs are less expensive now overall than I can ever remember them being.

I’ve already covered Smashing Pumpkins, Regina Spektor, and Fiona Apple. The current wave came all on top of each other as well. To continue the rain thing…it’s pouring talent and beauty and nostalgic rediscovery this fall.

Aimee Mann never disappoints me. Sometimes I like one album less than another, but I love them all. From her early seriously, gloriously alternative singer songwriter gem I’m With Stupid to the more genteel Bachelor No. 2 or The Last Remains of the Dodo to her new album Charmer, she uses her unique vocal talent as another instrument, accompanied by guitar, piano, and a variety of other instruments to create songs that want to be set on repeat. Living a Lie is my can’t stop listening track on Charmer.

Beth Orton is another unique voice. It seems like forever since she released a new album, but Sugaring Season is worth the wait.  I first heard her on her hit Central Reservation. Acoustic guitar backed Devil Song was one of my favorite tracks there, haunting and intense. She later did some duets with Terry Callier that were a perfect blending of voices. Now she has Sugaring Season, with an often softer, meditative, and poetic sound. In fact one track, Poison Tree, is actually a William Blake poem she arranged and added words to. It’s one of my favorites, along with the dreamy, waltzy See Through Blue.

Ben Folds Five was a favorite band for a long time, until they disbanded and left me wishing for more. I guess wishes really are sometimes horses, because once again this beggar might ride the swoops and soaring sound waves generated by BFF’s standout blend of rollicking piano driven rock music and storytelling lyrics. Frontman Ben Folds (I knew nothing about the band when they first exploded into my music loving conciousness with Brick, and thought the name had something to do with poker!) is in fine form, and the emphasis on sonically beautiful harmonizing is a new and welcome addition to an already ridiculously catchy style. Blue Sky, Thank You For Breaking My Heart, and Away When You Were Here are my favorite tracks on The Sound of the Life of the Mind. Here’s hoping this is merely the beginning of the second life of Ben Folds Five.

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