As the year draws to a close and as the vast Minnesota wastes slowly slip into a long period of frozen stasis, we thought it was a good time to look back at what this year has delivered. From the 12 hour long The Hermit Seeks the Stillness from Dirty Knobs to the dreamy, gloomy electro-pop We See the Shapes from The Electric Witch, it’s been a strange year, to say the least. So while we go put the kettle on and light some fires, here’s the Top 9 Xero Music Albums of 2014 in a totally subjective order. (And yes, that is in fact all of the Xero Music albums of 2014.)
Recorded direct from the stage during the DRONE NOT DRONES 28 hour live show at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota on February 8th, 2014. This was right in the middle of one of the must brutal Minnesota winters on record. I remember it being around -20F outside at the time. My hands were so dry, cracked and bleeding that after I got back from the show it looked like I had gotten in a fist fight. Keep that in mind while you listen. And you can get the entire 28 hour long show here, with all the proceeds going to a good cause.
This is a collection of early Dirty Knobs recordings, taken from various albums. Some of these tracks are already over 14 years old, but much of the spirit will be recognizable in all of this year’s recordings.
This was recorded live in Duluth, MN at the annual Homegrown Music festival (as well as live in-studio). 2014 was a very busy year for DK live. I’ve played a dozen Homegrowns, but this was the first proper DK show in my hometown. As you will see, it would not be the last.
Let’s just get the last collection of live albums out of the way. The Zeitgeist Experiments was a series of live shows I put together over a four month period at Teatro Zuccone. It was a very fun time and we met some amazing fans of whatever it is you want to call what it is we do. I hope to be bringing it back again sometime next year, so keep an eye out.
This one marks a bit of a change, at least in my mind, to the direction of Dirty Knobs. Taking a bit of the techniques used on last year’s more traditionally song-like BEDLAM album, it was a larval stage for what would become the next proper DK album The Hermit Seeks the Stillness. It was also made while developing the live show and also has a bit of that tossed in.
This was the first release of 2014, during the aforementioned Most Terrible Winter Of All Times. Life can be a struggle when then environment is more hostile than the surface of Mars. But we find a way…
And this is the last release of 2014. It seems as though winter brings out either the most hopeless or the most aggressive tendencies. This is the latter. And also where things will be going to for foreseeable future, again with the hopes of bringing this new, distorted and thrumming aggression to the stage.
Somehow this was the only thing The Electric Witch managed to release this year. But then we did focus entirely on our live show and had to say goodbye to singer Marcus Matthews when he departed to a new life in California. (Turns out that decades of miserable weather isn’t for everyone.) But we did say hello to our new singer Mary Bue, and our time with her has already been fantastic. New music is being worked on, but for now our live show continues to be the priority. We hope to see you soon.
Of course the 12 hour long album had to be number one. This was truly a grueling project. At first I didn’t even know what it was. It was just a Thing That Had To Be Done. About mid-way into these explorations I read the story of the North Pond Hermit and there it was. This was all about finding that place away from everything. Those perfect moments of stillness. These songs were meant to be a space for those moments to live and expand.
Thanks to everyone who has supported Dirty Knobs, The Electric Witch and all that is Xero Music this past year. Getting this music onto the stage has become a high priority, so the studio work may slow a bit. But rest assured that much more is on the way. Watch this space.