Friday, January 1, 2016

My Year In Music: 2015 Edition

It was a very busy year musically for me.  The first half was full of crazy Kickstarter/ album release madness. But madness in a good way. I mean, the result was a new album! Reactor.

I'm very proud of this album. I knew what I wanted to make going into it and we accomplished that. There were a lot of new elements - from me playing the electric guitar more often than usual to the addition of backing vocalists Colleen and Laura Borgendale, who just brought so much pretty to the album. It's a rock album. Deep down I've always wanted to make a rock album. 

And, more importantly, it's a band album. This album is only here because of my band. They take all the sounds I have in my head and make them real. Then they take all the amazing sounds in their heads that I never even thought of and make the songs something really cool. So grateful for every single one of them.

One of the best parts about making this album, though, was the Kickstarter campaign. I was constantly overwhelmed in the best way by all of the generosity that came in along the way. We made  our goal with a day to spare and even went a little over. 

We had a fun release show at the Eagle's Club and were joined by two of my favorite bands in town, Catbath and Strange Relations

We even had our first t-shirts made!

The album received some nice press from City Pages (including an interview you can read HERE), Star Tribune and It even made Rift Magazine's Top Local Albums of the Year List...

City Pages: "Becker's music is a reaction to the reality of life, a kick back: cool, ordered, measured, gloomy, and introspective. As humans, we often project one thing and feel another. This album manages to be endearingly close despite all these things."

Star Tribune: "There’s a lot of romantic push and pull on Twin Cities rocker Niki Becker’s new album, “Reactor,” ranging from the get-out-of-my-face anger of the title track to the love chased down in the frazzled gem “Running.” With a Chrissie Hyde-like drollness (she) now has a hard-wired band to push and pull from musically." "Everything about this new album feels disarmingly authentic, and in her unpretentious voice, life lessons at times are hard won....Becker’s vocals completely capture your attention, suggestive of Chrissie Hynde, though less contrived...Becker and the band, seamlessly create moods that entreat you to invest emotionally...Becker clearly has that “something”, that something that can’t be created, or bought. An intuitive artist, and an uncontrived performer, she has made Reactor of her essence. A work that is neither simple, nor elaborate, but just right."

89.3 The Current: "Niki Becker is back with her Reactor release. It’s a twangy, folky, and broodingly eclectic mix of stories, with catchy guitar parts and Becker’s distinctive voice. Her vocals on “The Reminder” are like dew on the grass. The words seem to hang on her lips for a moment before the next lyric arrives."

It was also a big hit in St. Cloud, MN!

I made two videos for the album. The firs one for "Running" was a bit by accident. Bored at home one day I just started filming random things with my phone and then decided to make a music video on a whim...

About the video from City Pages: "Niki Becker is back with "Running," the smoldering second single drawn from her forthcoming new album, Reactor. The track fluidly blends a rustic Americana sound with a stylish touch of soul, as Becker's smoky vocals rise above the ominous guitar churn that pushes the track forward. Becker filmed and edited the new video herself, providing an intimate, fractured glimpse into her creative heart that complements the song perfectly."

As for the video for "The Reminder", that was a bit more planned out as I went into it knowing it would be a video for that song...

We played a lot of really fun shows this year. Our first show of 2015 was a 2+ hour set at the Minneapolis Photo Center's Rock N' Roll Exhibition Opening Night Reception. It was a beautiful room with amazing photographs everywhere. It was jam packed. We had to learn some covers. We chose to do Blondie "One Way or Another", Prince "When You Were Mine", the Cowboy Junkie's version of "Sweet Jane", The Beatles "Don't Let Me Down" and Rolling Stones "Satisfaction".

In March we took part in a Sofar Sounds session. Sofar Sounds is an international music community that puts on living room shows around the world. They film them. It's great. I've always wanted to do one and was thrilled to be asked. Shawn and I played in a gorgeous home along with Warehouse Eyes and Jessica Manning to a room full of very attentive music appreciators. I look forward to some day hopefully seeing the video from this night.

The rest of the spring was spent gearing up for the Reactor release show and fulfilling Kickstarter promises.

Post-release show we got ready for a very busy August (Shawn, Colleen, Laura and I also made a pit stop at The Nomad in July). In August we had a Tuesday night residency at my favorite place to play, 331 Club. Residencies are always fun. You get to play every week with bands you enjoy.

Oh, and I also got a new guitar the first week of August! Finally. My own electric. It is has changed everything. I love it so much.

And Colleen and Laura and I got to swing by KFAI for an in studio session on the Womenfolk Radio Show. Always a pleasure to chat with Ellen and I am so grateful for her support.

We also squeezed in a show at the new Como Dockside. It was an outdoor show luckily out on a covered patio as the weather is very unfriendly. But we made it through. I broke a string at the end of the set and probably could have handled it better/been more prepared. But we muddled through it. Lesson learned.

We closed out our summer of shows with a set at the Lake Harriet Bandshell. This was amazing. It was a gorgeous evening. It was a full house full of people there to enjoy live music. Oddly that can be a rarity where you're out playing live music. ; )

After the Lake Harriet show, I settled in and prepared myself for my hysterectomy. I've written about how all that went down already. I'm very happy to say that I am basically back to normal and back to life.

My first show back post-surgery was at The Dubliner. I played a solo set. Debuted some new songs. It was a good way to get warmed back up after such a long hiatus. I also got to debut my new-to-me amp I was given after a friend of mine moved to London and couldn't take it with him. I love it. It makes such a huge difference.

I made a little EP all by myself. I had been kind of working on it over the year. It's just 3 songs that I thought went well together. I put it up on Bandcamp for free as a thank you to everyone for their support this year. It's called Suzy, Leonora, and James and this is it:

The band and I returned just a couple weeks ago at the 331 Club for Battlerat's EP release show. It felt so good to play with everyone again. And we debuted a new song called "Blink".

And then I closed out the year with Colleen and Laura at The Aster Cafe. It was a short set (we played for a little over 20 minutes). But it was a sweet one and a very cool way to end this year.

Looking ahead to 2016, not sure where it will take me. The band and I are heading into January spending it working on new songs. I have no shows booked at the moment (yikes!) but I hope to rectify that soon. I would LOVE to put out more music by the end of the year, but we'll see.

No matter what, though, music will be played. Have a great 2016!

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