Here are the best new albums that relate to this month’s political news, including the album of the year. If you read to the end, there’s also a bonus. What albums would you suggest? Comment on Twitter, Facebook, or email.
1. TO THE GRAVE – GLOBAL WARNING
On November 1, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced plans to take action against banks and insurers that were boycotting the coal industry over climate change concerns. Four days later, 11,000 scientists declared a link between human activity and climate change, yet as people began to die in “unprecedented” bushfires sweeping Australia, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack blasted anyone linking the fires to climate change as “raving inner-city lunatics”. In the midst of the madness, Sydney deathcore band To The Grave released their new climate-themed album, which opens with the apt song “Holocaustralia”. “In a genre oversaturated with violent lyrics simply for the sake of violence, I found that the most horrific things I could write about were right in front of us all, the things most of us choose not to look at,” said singer Dane Evans, whose vocals range from a roar to a Gollum-like rasp over music that’s as extreme as Australia’s politics. LISTEN>>>
2. ARCHIE ROACH – TELL ME WHY
Things got batshit crazier when McCormack’s fellow National Party member Barnaby Joyce claimed two people who died in the fires were probably Greens voters, implying they deserved to die because, Joyce claimed, the Greens had stopped the backburning of the bush. It was a complete fabrication, besides the fact that the Greens are strong supporters of Australia’s Aboriginal people, who have backburned the bush for millennia. Telling the stories of those people was activist and musician Archie Roach, who released his autobiography along with an accompanying album on November 5. Tell Me Why maps out his life, “from stolen child, teenage alcoholic, seeker, lover, father, musical and lyrical genius, to social advocate and First Nations leader”. It came as protests swept the country after a white policeman shot an Aboriginal man dead in the Northern Territory, adding to the never-ending tally of Black deaths in custody for which no one has ever been jailed. MORE>>>
3. SOLE & DJ PAIN 1 – NO GOD NOR COUNTRY
Raging against such racism is US rapper Sole, who opens his explosive new album with the song “FTL”, which seethes: “Slap on the wrist, that’s a white male. Slapped behind bars, that’s a black male. Don’t need me explaining white supremacy cos so many see it every day. But to my fellow settlers: check yourself, don’t forget everything you’ve got’s on the back of someone else. Fuck the law, cos it’s racist. Fuck the court it’s too expensive. Fuck the jails they don’t fix shit. Fuck the cops cos they ain’t shit.” And on “Extremist” the long-time podcaster and protester spits: “As we speak, millionaires are buying up streams and lakes in New Zealand, building doomsday bunkers. What about the rest of us who can’t afford to leave this mess that you made? If resisting this makes me an extremist, then that word is utterly meaningless.” Everything about this record, from Sole’s sharp raps to DJ Pain 1’s blunted beats, is flawless. It’s the album of the year for me. LISTEN>>>
4. MOOR MOTHER – ANALOG FLUIDS OF SONIC BLACK HOLES
Also raging against racist cops is Afrofuturist Moor Mother with her new experimental electronic album, released on November 8. On “LA92” she speak-raps: “Latasha got shot over orange juice. No cash, got shot. No justice body rock… LAPD on PCP, body bag body bag for you and me.” The lyrics refer to the 1992 murder of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins by Korean-born liquor store owner Soon Ja Du, who had accused her of shoplifting. The event, along with the videotaped police beating of African-American Rodney King two weeks earlier, became the impetus for the Los Angeles race riots. Describing the album, she said: “My whole work is to fight against the erasure of black people, the erasure of poor people, the erasure of black women, the erasure of women… If you have the knowledge of what’s happening in the world, and what has happened in the world to marginalised people, then what will you do with your energy?” LISTEN>>>
5. COLDPLAY – EVERYDAY LIFE
Even tame, white British pop rockers like Coldplay were raging about racist police brutality this month. The song “Trouble In Town” on their new album, released on November 22, samples racist harassment by police, while Chris Martin sings: “I get no peace, and I just get more police.” The band said they wouldn’t tour the album until they could find a way to do it without damaging the environment. Meanwhile, as Britain headed for the polls in a race-baiting election, political albums were released by Black British artists who have first-hand experience of racism. The new album by Kele, who once publicly called out Sex Pistol John Lydon for allegedly being racist towards him, was praised as his “most political work yet”. The latest LP by London Afrobeat Collective was hailed as “one of the best of 2019’s releases”. And the new long-player by Michael Kiwanuka was praised by seemingly everybody, even being called “one of the greatest albums of the decade”. MORE>>>
6. VARIOUS ARTISTS – AQUÍ NOS ESTÁN MATANDO – HERE THEY ARE KILLING US
As police cracked down on activists all over the world, from rioters in Hong Kong to anti-coup protesters in Bolivia, Chilean singer Mon Laferte took a stand against lethal repression in her home country. On the red carpet at the Latin Grammy Awards, Mon Laferte opened her jacket to reveal a message written across her bare chest: “En Chile torturan violan y matan”, which in English translates to, “in Chile they torture, rape and kill”. After her album, Norma, won Best Alternative Music Album, she posted a photo of her red carpet look on Instagram with the caption, “Mi cuerpo libre para una patria libre”, which translates to “My free body for a free homeland”. A week later, Chilean record label Imperecedero Discos released a 52-track compilation album to help raise money for the victims of repression at the hands of the Chilean state. The album, titled Aquí Nos Están Matando – Here They Are Killing Us, features punk bands from all over the world. LISTEN>>>
7. LIFE AQUATIC – NEON CORTEX
On the other side of South America, Brazil’s most popular politician, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was freed from jail on November 8 after his detention prevented him from running in last year’s Brazilian elections that made Jair Bolsonaro president. Among Lula’s many supporters is US academic Noam Chomsky, who is also the subject of the song “Chomsky’s Ford Galaxie” found on the debut album by Brazilian experimental hip-hop outfit Life Aquatic. “Life Aquatic is born in ABC Paulista, the urban centre of greater São Paulo, trying to represent the submergence and lack of oxygen of life in a society that makes the simple become complex,” they said. “Breathing becomes a difficult task, generating suffocation and discomfort, as when you are alone and submerged in complete mismatch with your system. Our mission? Try to gain breath again so as not to lose another scuba brother to this average life that tries to swallow us every millisecond.” LISTEN>>>
8. RAISED FIST – ANTHEMS
As the US tried to reassert its power over South America with a coup in Bolivia and continuous pressure on Venezuela, Sweden dropped its rape charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is facing extradition to the US for revealing its state secrets. On November 15, Swedish punks Raised Fist released their new album on the same day that Assange’s lawyer called his extradition case “a threat to free speech worldwide”. The album’s title, Anthems, is no empty boast – the band capture the catchiness, heaviness and rasping vocals of AC/DC and inject that with a heady dose of leftist politics. The release followed a similarly heavy political album from fellow long-time punks, Agnostic Front. Talking about their 12th album Get Loud!, which covers everything from inequality and corruption to political manipulation, the “godfathers of hardcore” said: “We’ve always had a voice; had a lot to say. We’re always screaming for a change.” LISTEN>>>
9. DAWN RAY’D – BEHOLD SEDITION PLAINSONG
Also screaming for change are Agnostic Front’s fellow punks Subhumans, with their aptly-titled new album, Crisis Point. On “Poison”, they yell: “When the earth dries up and the food runs out, all the money in the world won’t help you out. Cancer, dementia, poverty prevention, clean up your act avoid extinction.” Riffing on the same doom are folk-metallers Dawn Ray’d, with their new album, Behold Sedition Plainsong. On “Soon Will Be The Age Of Lessons Learnt”, they warn: “As the ice melts and the ocean swells, all our masters are building is hell. The anticipation, the unsatisfiable hunger, the knowing but not ever knowing. As the last trees are murdered, and the insects are dying in droves, death crawls up the chain.” On November 26, the United Nations declared in its annual assessment on greenhouse gases that the world will miss its chance to avert climate disaster without an immediate and all-but-impossible fall in fossil fuel emissions. LISTEN>>>
10. CATTLE DECAPITATION – DEATH ATLAS
At the end of the month, Australia’s climate politics sank even lower as Energy Minister Angus Taylor faced jail for allegedly doctoring a document to claim that Sydney’s Lord Mayor, who supports action against climate change, had spent millions on air travel. Instead of standing him aside, the Prime Minister rang the police. Summing up such dire politics were grindcore band Cattle Decapitation, with their new album, released on November 29. Describing the LP, whose artwork features the Grim Reaper carrying the burnt-out husk of the Earth on his back, vocalist Travis Ryan said: “I want people to be shocked into thinking more about their futures, their loved ones, the pain they’re potentially subjecting their future generations to. Everyone just seems to live in the now with no care for tomorrow, and that’s incorrect thinking, as far as today goes. Don’t make tomorrow a cancelled cheque.” MORE>>>
This column is taking a break until the end of January, so here are 10 extra albums to see you through till then.
1. TOMMY SANDS – FAIR PLAY TO YOU ALL
The latest strong and long-player from a well-loved Irish folk musician who’s collaborated with Pete Seeger in the past. MORE>>>
2. BRASS AGAINST – BRASS AGAINST II
Radical covers brass band return with another collection. LISTEN>>>
3. CHADWICK STOKES – CHADWICK STOKES & THE PINTOS
Boston singer-songwriter comes out swinging for the rights of women, immigrants and indigenous people. MORE>>>
4. ANGEL BAT DAWID – THE ORACLE
Avant garde jazz musician takes a trip through Black politics with songs made on her phone. LISTEN>>>
5. DJ SHADOW – OUR PATHETIC AGE
Legendary sampling pioneer returns with a double album that includes the biting “Drone Warfare”. MORE>>>
6. TRIBE – HOMETOWN: DETROIT SESSIONS 1990-2014
Historical anthology from a sprawling political jazz and poetry collective. LISTEN>>>
7. MAKING MOVIES – AMERI’KANA
Quartet of Panamanian and Mexican immigrants tell tales of persecution under Trump. LISTEN>>>
8. STRAY FROM THE PATH – INTERNAL ATOMICS
Metalcore masters blend emotion and introspection into scathing takes on contemporary politics. LISTEN>>>
9. FIT FOR AN AUTOPSY – THE SEA OF TRAGIC BEASTS
Post-deathcore band channel “aggression, anger, frustration, and sadness” at the state of the world. LISTEN>>>
10. JUDY COLLINS – WINTER STORIES
This octogenarian folk musician and veteran activist serves up the closest thing you’ll get to a protest Christmas album. MORE>>>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mat Ward has been writing for Green Left Weekly since 2009. He also wrote the book Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country and makes political music. This year, he released a new album about surveillance and an EP with Aboriginal rapper Provocalz. Follow his artist page on Spotify here.
Stream our political albums playlist on Spotify, here.
Read about more political albums here.
Stream Green Left TV’s political music playlist here.
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