A Year in Music – 2019 – Robert Baker (The Crayon Set)
by Killian Laher
Let’s begin with 2019. What music / albums have you enjoyed most this year?
In terms of new music, I probably haven’t listened to as much new stuff as I usually do. Not sure why that is. And probably less albums and more playlists & compilations. And the radio – mostly BBC Radio 6. I’ve also developed an unhealthy habit whereby when I’m listening to an album or artist on Spotify I’ll save songs I like to a playlist I’ll make of that artist as I’m going along – so I often don’t go back to tunes I didn’t like on a first listen.
I thought The National, Vampire Weekend & Bill Callahan albums were all interesting and had strong tunes. I’m surprised the Solange album wasn’t bigger – it was probably the album of the year for me. Runner up award to Weyes Blood which is a real grower – it took me a few listens to really get it.
Other bands I’ve listened to include Stealing Sheep, Robert Forster, the Karen O and Danger Mouse album, Sharon Van Etten, Lana Del Rey, Jenny Lewis – lots of female artists now that I stop and think about it.
In terms of Irish stuff it’s been a stellar year – Fontaines D.C., Mount Alaska, Moving Still, Join Me in the Pines, and A Lazarus Soul – and lots more.
Do you think this decade has been good for music? What are your highlights?
Yes for sure. The more important artists would probably be in the hip-hop and R&B worlds which I appreciate more than I actually listen to – Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Beyonce, Drake, Anderson .Paak etc.
In terms of highlights, as is often the case, it’s when different genres come together to form something new. Indie and electronic did that: Tame Impala, Phoenix, LCD Soundsystem, Caribou, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Toro y Moi etc. I guess a lot of that sound has become more widespread and so it doesn’t seem as fresh as it did 5-10 years ago. If I had to pick a Top 5 albums it might look like:
Destroyer – Kaputt
Blood Orange – Negro Swan
Spoon – They Want My Soul
David Bowie – Blackstar
Tame Impala – Currents
Is streaming taking over from owning music completely?
I wouldn’t say it’s completely taking over but certainly there’s no going back now as far as I can see. I do still buy vinyl but it’s usually when I see something forlorn in a charity shop which I think deserves a better home. Obviously, streaming is pretty good for consumers and pretty shit for artists.
Anything really big for you musically that ten years ago, you had no interest in?
Disco, which is strange because I usually like anything that has a good pop hook. Also in general just more feel-good, well-produced seventies and eighties stuff – Madonna, Hall and Oates, Steely Dan, Janet Jackson, INXS. Also a lot more Prince – hadn’t previously looked past the greatest hits.
Is music as important for you as it was ten years ago?
Yes, I think so but I probably get a fatigued by the amount of choice and with Twitter shouting about every new band that “you need to check out” etc. It is harder to get excited by new music purely because you’ve heard so much already and so the bar is high. If no new music was ever released again you’d still only have time to listen to a fraction of the amazing music already made.
How are things yourself, have you any interesting projects going on?
With The Crayon Set we are releasing a new album called ‘Downer Disco’ in April which we are excited about. Hopefully, we’ve taken a few interesting directions with it. We released a single from it back in the summer which will give you an idea.