As touted in this week's Backbeat, music editors from across the country asked luminaries from our respective towns to tell us what music they loved this year. Their picks appear below and on the subsequent pages.
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. Save a short stint in New Orleans, Son Volt founder Jay Farrar has lived in south St. Louis for the last 15 years, and he's not going anywhere.
"St. 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's latest album, The Search. Issued 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 Search this year; Son Volt also released a limited-edition, extended-vinyl version of the album, On Chant and Strum, and recorded a version of the Beatles' "Hello, Goodbye" for an ESPN commercial touting David Beckham's arrival in L.A.
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 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."
"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."
Jimmie Rivers, Brisbane Bop
"This CD was recorded live by the drummer. Is it Western swing or hillbilly jazz? I don't know, but to me it always sounds fresh and intriguing."
Richard Buckner, "Town"
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"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."
-- Annie Zaleski