A Year in Music – 2017 – Robert Baker (The Crayon Set) – Questions by Killian Laher
What music stood out for you in 2017?
Lots of good stuff but nothing really reinvented the wheel for me in 2017. Spent a lot more time listening to playlists as opposed to albums. A lot of my favourite indie bands of the 00s released new music in 2017, most of it pretty decent. Broken Social Scene, Spoon, The National, Phoenix, Arcade Fire, Juana Molina, Grandaddy & LCD Soundsystem – which was probably the best of them – and their gig in the Olympia was something special. So I ended up spending a lot of time revisiting those bands that I used to be pretty obsessed with.
There’s an Irish band called Ro Gang who I know absolutely nothing about but I love their videos up on youtube. Check out ‘Boys Club’.
I also liked the new albums by Nadine Shah, Cigarettes After Sex, Paul Weller, Bonobo, Tennis and the King Gizzard album with Mild High Club.
Any discoveries that had passed you by previously that made sense this year?
Disco! And then after disco, more disco. And then after that what I think they refer to as ‘post-disco’ – that electronic stuff that helped start house music and even hip hop. Maybe because the news in 2017 was so soul-destroying feel-good disco was just an antidote to all that.
Mostly compilations as opposed to albums. Lots of Larry Levan mixes – ‘Genius of Time’ is a good place to start.
Also Paul Weller’s last couple of albums especially 22 Dreams – what an album. I’d unfairly dismissed his output since the 90s. This album is really something – strong songs, clever arrangements, really vital and fresh sounding.
Are you still buying music? Any recommendations as to where?
To be honest I’m mostly a streamer these days. I try to justify it by going to gigs. But if I see some nice old vinyl looking forlorn in a charity shop I still find it hard to leave it behind. Will often depend on the album cover more than anything.
Also been listening to more music and music-related podcasts. Song Exploder and Sodajerker are great re. songwriting and production, with great guests. Metropolis is good for electronic music and there’s All Songs Considered which is always worth a listen.
Sometimes it seems there are as many rereleases as new albums. Are you interested in reissued albums?
Sometimes it seems like a bit of a money-making scam, what with the €100 for box sets of demos and unreleased stuff – there’s usually a reason it wasn’t released in the first place. But there can be some good stuff too – a lot of the Dylan ‘Bootleg’ reissues have great alternative versions. The latest one is ‘Trouble No More’ which covers his under-rated “christian period” – a lot of the live versions of those songs are amazing. He’s got a top notch band and some gospel singer to back him up. Similarly the Van Morrison live boxsets are pretty essential.
I also enjoyed Sgt Peppers remixed by Giles Martin. It’s not majorily different to the original but it makes you listen to it with fresh ears.
Also Dion, who history has kind of forgotten about. A previously unreleased, ‘lost’ album of his from 1965 called Kickin’ Child was finally released. A real tragedy that it was shelved at the time. There’s a song on there called ‘Now’ which is really beautiful – it should have been a huge hit.
How are things going yourself? Any plans for 2018?
Things are going well. Hoping to put a little Irish tour together early in the new year to support the new album. We’re really happy with the live sound so hoping to do a lot more gigs and maybe get some kind of recording of our live set. Have about 6 new songs ready to go so we will hopefully get into a studio at some point too. Unsurprisingly there’s a bit of a disco influence starting to seep into the newer songs.