By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
Radiohead, In Rainbows: "This record feels so much more real and organic than anything they've done before, as well as having very solid songs. In my opinion, they are still the most important band of the last two decades."
Blonde Redhead, 23: "Very different to anything they'd done previously. I know, I know, it's very Radiohead-ish, but they do it well."
Nine Inch Nails, Year Zero: "I really had no intention of liking this record, but...I do."
Arcade Fire, Neon Bible: "I think I like it even more than Funeral. They definitely avoided the sophomore slump."
The Shins, Wincing the Night Away: "I didn't like the rest of the record nearly as much as Oh, Inverted World, and not quite as much as Chutes Too Narrow, but 'Phantom Limb' is stellar."
Many St. Louis musicians hightail it out of the city as soon as they can, in hopes that the sunnier pastures of Los Angeles or chillier climes of Chicago will be more welcoming than our fair city. But save for a short stint in New Orleans, Son Volt founder Jay Farrar has lived in south St. Louis for the last fifteen years. And he's not going anywhere.
"Saint Louis is still very much a city of immigrants and that — coupled with distinctive, historic neighborhoods — makes for a good quality of life in my estimation," he says. "I'd rather be where the action is percolating as opposed to where the action is hyped and purported to be."
That low-key attitude informs Son Volt latest album, The Search. Released earlier this year, the solid release finds jaunty horns and burbling organ adding soulful color to the band's trademark dusty alt-country and gentle twang. Farrar and a four-piece band toured heavily around that record in 2007; Son Volt also released a limited-edition, extended vinyl version of The Search (called On Chant and Strum), and recorded a version of the Beatles' "Hello, Goodbye" for an ESPN commercial touting David Beckham's arrival in LA.
Farrar's 2008 calendar looks fairly busy already: a few NYC solo shows early in the year, a spring Son Volt tour and the release of another Gob Iron record. (As a matter of fact, that band's Anders Parker reminded Farrar of a 2007 album fave: PJ Harvey's White Chalk.)
Still, his packed schedule perhaps explains why Farrar goes out of his way to apologize that many of his 2007 favorites weren't released this year: "It usually takes six months for a new record to get to me and then another six months of really letting it sink in, and by then it's often a different year."
Beck, "Strange Apparition": "It seems Beck is always good to keep things interesting. I like it when he channels songs or artists, and this time it's the Rolling Stones song 'Torn and Frayed' spit back out as an idiosyncratic cautionary tale as seen through the windshield of a Mercedes Benz."
Lee Hazlewood: "Plenty of incongruous instrumentation and lyrical non-sequiturs to ponder. [Son Volt guitar tech] Jason Hutto and I spent the better part of a five-hour drive from Chicago soaking up a Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra compilation. We found out the next morning that he had died the same day we were listening."
Richard Buckner, "Town": "Richard makes good with this lyrical equilibrium-buster, fueled with a looking-back-20-years audio landscape."
Richard and Linda Thompson, Pour Down Like Silver: "This was an 'album' when it was released in 1975, and to me it represents the idea of the 'perfect' album. I always listen straight through, and often listen to the whole thing twice in a row. The level of musicianship on this record is a marvel. And there is an element of mystery to it, down to the Sufi garb on the front and back covers."
Cleveland: Electric Avenue.
Cleveland doesn't have celebrities. That's why our contribution to this year-end roundup is star-free. The biggest thing we've got (next to LeBron James, who was too busy playing basketball or something to talk to us) is the stripper-lovin' host of The Price Is Right, Drew Carey. But we're pretty sure he couldn't be pried away from his medical-marijuana crusade to chat music.
Besides, Cleveland's real stars are the people who make the city what it is: Clevelanders — the working-class, beer-drinking, music-lovin' guys and gals who don't need People magazine to make them famous. A couple shots of Jameson and Bruce on the jukebox work just as well, thank you.
Artie the Electrician (Local Union 38) is a bandanna-sporting 43-year-old Lakewood native and father of four who's played in a number of area bands over the years (including the Cheese Farmers, Ass Crack Holiday and Buddy Holly's Nipple — all excellently named, by the way). He also was Michael Stipe in the longtime R.E.M. cover band Radio Free Europe "before they came out with their commercial, sellout bullshit," he says.