Political music: 2015's politics explained in 67 albums

By Mat Ward

Here's this year's politics from Australia and beyond, explained in 67 albums, starting in January. What album, or albums, would you suggest? Comment on Twitter or Facebook


Western state terrorism was the elephant in the room as the corporate media hit back at the fatal attacks on French magazine Charlie Hedbo at the start of the year. The Guardian went so far as to call the attack, which left 12 dead, the "bloodiest single assault on western journalism in living memory". There was no mention of Nato's bombing of Serbian state media in 1999, which killed 16 people, or the US's repeated bombing of government radio stations in Afghanistan. So the release of David Rovics' Meanwhile In Afghanistan the same week as the Charlie Hedbo attacks could not have been more timely. The 2012 version of the album featured some stellar guests, including Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello. January's double album re-release included solo versions of all the songs, some sounding completely different. Losing none of its infectiousness is the title track, which asks: "I wanna know who? WHO?! Who? WHO?! Who? WHO?! Who is the terrorist?" MORE>>> 


As economists issued another warning in January of workers being wiped out by robots, it was good to see one band reminding the world that humans can still mimic robots more creatively than robots can mimic humans. Japanese group World Order are led by Genki Sudo, a former champion wrestler and mixed martial artist who made his name partly through outlandish ring entrances featuring robotic dance moves. With his band, Sudo has turned robotics into creatively choreographed high art, with mind-bending moves that have clocked up millions of YouTube hits. But his robotic techno pop has a human heart. World Order formed as a response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster and their latest album featured the George HW Bush-sampling "Imperialism". Sudo is also a prolific author, having published eight books, so far, based on his philosophy that "we are all one". MORE>>> 


As Australia's then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott continued to cack-handedly manhandle the country towards a fully privatised health care system in January, Enter Shikari blasted similar moves on the other side of the world. "Anaesthetist", the lead single from the politically progressive band's impressive new album, took a scalpel to the politicians who are dismembering Britain's National Health Service. Singer Rou Reynolds screamed: "You suck the blood of the afflicted! Illness is not an indulgence which you should pay for, nor is it a crime for which you should be punished!" The accompanying music clip ended with a quote from Aneurin Bevan, the former health minister who spearheaded the creation of the NHS: “No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.” The album was also remixed by respected drum and bass label Hospital at the end of the year. MORE>>>  


As soldiers from the Women's Protection Unit in Kobane were still celebrating their victory over ISIS at the start of February, War On Women released their debut album containing a lyric that could have been penned especially for the occasion. Over artillery-heavy guitars, singer Shawna Potter screamed: "If you take up arms to kill the men who want to kill you, we salute you! We are not weak, we are brave! It's you who should be afraid!" In fact the song, "Diana La Cazadora" was about the hundreds of women who have been killed since 1993 in the northern Mexican region of Ciudad Juárez - just one more front in the worldwide physical, psychological and economical war on women. The powerful album somehow managed to go one better their stonking, sexist-slapping debut EP, whose song "Effemimania" called for "the same kinds of united efforts across and beyond gender lines collectively represented by the two women and three men in War On Women". MORE>>>


As Greece's newly-elected SYRIZA government went into battle against the "troika" of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank in February, New York punks Leftover Crack offered up a soundtrack that was right on the money. On the 10th anniversary reissue of their 2005 album Fuck World Trade, "Super Tuesday" declared: "The World Bank and the IMF have created a system of modern-day colonialism to make the people in the developing world poorer and the multinational corporations richer - and take the power away from all of us. It's time to back control of our lives and tear apart these monuments to greed and build our new world from the broken pieces." PunkNews.org said whereas the original 53-minute album was merely "a perfect record", the 73-minute reissue was a "masterpiece". The band returned later in the year with the critically-acclaimed Constructs Of The State, their first new album in a decade.  MORE>>>


As Aboriginal Housing Company CEO Mick Mundine prepared to slap an eviction notice on the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy in February, Perry Keyes released an album all about the displacement of inner-Sydney's poor. In the 1960s and 1970s, Keyes' own extended family were among more than 150,000 people moved out to Green Valley near Liverpool and the satellite suburbs around Blacktown and Campbelltown – Shalvey, Bidwell, St Marys, Blackett, Minto, Claymore, Airds and Macquarie Fields. In the style of early Bruce Springsteen, this gritty, poetic album told bleak and poignant tales of the intergenerational poverty that followed. Song titles such as "Shitville", "The Abbatoir Sky" and "Home Is Where The Heart Disease Is" spoke for themselves. In a wry twist on contemporary events, Keyes has noted of his early childhood years: "We lived in Hugo Street, Redfern in what is now ‘the Block’ until [former PM Gough] Whitlam gave the streets to the Aboriginal Housing Company." MORE>>>


"Did you know that only 13% of songs registered with the Performing Right Society are by female songwriters?" So opened the blurb for this folk-themed album, which was released on International Women's Day at the start of March, to "smash these limiting statistics and inspire a generation of women". It came out just five days after Australia's then-Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, sent a further 300 soldiers to Iraq. Fitting, then, that one of the album's highlights was Marina Florance's "The Path He Chose", which asks: "Have we learned nothing, nothing at all? When will we stop sending young men to war?" However, if you'd like something a little more upbeat than folk music, you could try the Indigenous Hip-Hop Show's International Women's Day special. Or if you prefer guitars to turntables, download a Maximum Rock N Roll radio show special which featured female-fronted punk bands from all over the world. Arguably the year's most sonically original album was also made by a woman, the politically savvy Grimes, who used its release to speak out about the lack of women in music. MORE>>> 


At the start of March, activists hit back at Australian Attorney-General George Brandis's data retention plan by copying him in on all their emails, saving taxpayers the cost of the government spying on them. Just days after that spamming, which reportedly crashed Brandis's email account, hacker enthusiasts Atari Teenage Riot released a free live EP to promote their latest full-priced album, which was released a few weeks earlier. One song found on both the EP and album, "J1M1", hit out at data retention as Berlin-born frontman Alec Empire screamed: "Will history repeat itself when they're numbering you?!" The album was made on the same Atari computers they started with 23 years ago - now worth about $20 - and the clip for lead single "Modern Liars" was a similar thowback to the 1990s, aiming to "criticise sexism in video games". As their singer Nic Endo says: "If you want to be in control of your own life, you have to be a feminist." MORE>>> 


The encroaching evil of technology was also highlighted by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who warned towards the end of March that "the future is scary and very bad for people". He joined an unlikely bunch of tech boffins and billionaires - from scientist Steven Hawking and Microsoft founder Bill Gates to PayPal chief Elon Musk - who had been ringing alarm buzzers about the grave threat to humans from artificial intelligence. Just days before Wozniak's warning, British punk veterans UK Subs released Yellow Leader, the penultimate installment in their alphabetically-titled album series. The critically-acclaimed 18-track opus featured the track "Artificial", which spat: "Artificial intelligence, robotic dream. Artificial intelligence, future scheme. Artificial intelligence, she's magnificent. Artificial intelligence, omnipotent." As leftist author Terry Pratchett, who died in March, pithily put it: "Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time." MORE>>> 


Real stupidity came under attack, however, from country music star Troy Cassar-Daley in March, when he blasted coal seam gas miners on the ABC's political panel show Q&A. The farm-owning Aboriginal musician, who was on the show to promote his new album Freedom Ride, said if it came to protesting against CSG, "I'd chain myself to the bloody gate don't you worry." His new album marked the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Ride in which Aboriginal activists travelled by bus through NSW to highlight racism in rural Australia. But Cassar-Daley told Q&A that Tony Abbott's use of the phrase "lifestyle choices" in reference to remote Aboriginal communities had taken "race relations back 100 years". The muso had also been getting the original Freedom Riders up on stage and urging fans to watch John Pilger's 1986 documentary about Australia, The Secret Country, saying: "I think everyone who goes to school in Australia should see it, and I think it should be part of the curriculum." MORE>>> 


On April 4, Australian politics reached a fresh low as anti-Islamic "Reclaim Australia" rallies took place up and down the country. The next day, Super Best Friends posted a Facebook status update reading: "Like any other brand capitalising on idiots, we thought in light of the Reclaim Australia Rally Australia wide, it'd be a good time to promote our product: 'Dog Whistling'." The song declares: "I know a place where people came on boats, unauthorised and largely unopposed, they took it all from the people here first, but now they fail to see the irony." The rest of the album, which ranges from the spikiest indie to the grittiest grunge, is equally powerful. As for the album's title, the band's Johnny Barrington says: "Status Updates came about because each song could easily be a rant on social media. My friends on Facebook know I like a good rant, so already having a rep as a self-righteous wanker online, I thought it was a fitting name for a punk record." MORE>>>


On April 9, the city of Boston, Massachusetts, announced that it was declaring that day "Riot Grrrl Day" in honour of Kathleen Hanna, who was performing a lecture in the city that evening. As lead singer for Bikini Kill, Hanna pioneered the fiercely feminist Riot Grrrl scene in the early 1990s, and is still going strong with her band The Julie Ruin. "The fact that people still need feminist punk is kind of sad," she said recently. "But I was under no illusions that sexism was gonna end." Timely, then, that the day after "Riot Grrrl Day", April 10, Australian label Social Family Records released the compilation "She Who Rocks", "spanning four decades of women who rock their own damn way". For every album sold, $1 was being donated to the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation and a national tour in May featured The Superjesus and The Baby Animals. MORE>>>


Vancouver-based Scottish expats The Real McKenzies released Rats In The Burlap in April featuring "Yes", a song about last year's Scottish referendum. "It's painfully apparent the skulduggery and cheap tricks that once again played out," said Glasgow-born vocalist Paul McKenzie. "We as the Real McKenzies wish to let our fans and the world know how we stand on this. Scotland belongs to the Scottish... period.” The rollicking new album was released as Scotland was gearing up for Britain's national election, which was set to reveal how many Scottish voters New Labour alienated with its "No" recommendation in the referendum. As the Scottish National Party's Tommy Sheppard put it: "This election is not about independence, although the results may advance the conditions in which that question can be asked again... Our aim is not to set ourselves apart from the people of Britain, but to set them an example. Let England follow where Scotland leads." MORE>>>


Mount Isa in Queensland is set to close its infamous smelter by 2020, slashing about 1000 jobs. One solution might be to retrain those workers for jobs in the renewable energy industry. Instead, the city's business lobby group announced in April that Mt Isa was pushing for a transition to uranium mining. The Queensland government's Uranium Mining Implementation Committee is even spruiking opportunities for Indigenous Queenslanders. Enter local Indigenous rapper Lucky Luke, whose catchy, clear-voiced debut album was coincidentally titled "Whichway". On the sardonic track "1Day" he rapped: "Imagine if the world turned to us to take care of the land. Imagine if this country was run by a brotherman. Imagine living in a world without material possessions. Imagine schools giving kids cultural lessons. Imagine if we had no need for prison and didn't worry about pollution when we went fishing." The album cover's trick photography showed him holding the smelter like a didgeridoo. MORE>>>


On April 5, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation announced it was holding an international seminar in Chiapas titled "Critical Thinking in the Face of the Capitalist Hydra". Two days later, London-based critical thinker Emcee Killa released his latest anti-capitalist long player, titled Zapatista. He says he used the name of the indigenous revolutionary group in Mexico as "a form of empowerment, which is what the album aims to do throughout, empower". It's a strong successor to his 2009 album, Mind Of A Tehranist, which referenced his Iranian mother, who has an OBE for her humanitarian work in war-torn Iraq. His writing skills come partly from his father, the British investigative journalist Nick Fielding. "He’s had a huge influence on me as he taught me to always have substance to what I say," the rapper told Green Left Weekly. "I think I have my own creativity but he is very good at keeping me in line if my mind wanders." MORE>>>


Released specifically to mark International Workers' Day on May 1, United States Of Hypocrisy further solidified Marcel Cartier's status as one of the most radical rappers out there. It kicked off with a quote from Malcolm X: "You and I have never seen democracy - all we've seen is hypocrisy." Cartier then laid into his country by mocking contradiction after contradiction. "Borders For Us" blasted: "They want no borders for the money, but more borders for us!" And on "Corporate Welfare Checks", he seethed: "I'll be scrambling to get by, so according to the news I'm a bad guy. They victim blame cos they're trying to cover their tracks. They need to keep their whole way of life intact. Gimme them corporate welfare cheques!" Cartier is already working on a new album with producer Agent Of Change, who also released a new beat tape titled Fight To Win on May 19. Packed with more Vietnamese ingredients than a Banh Mi roll, it was released to mark the 125th anniversary of Ho Chi Minh's birth. >>MORE


On May 1, six police officers in Baltimore were charged over the death of African American Freddie Gray. The police slammed the charges as an attempt to quell riots sparked by Gray's death. The corporate media rounded like a pack of baying dogs on one rioter who was filmed apparently being marched home by his angry - and scared - mother. Hailing her as "mother of the year" they proved that, when it comes to defending the establishment, the media will even condone parental abuse rather than backing rioters, even if they are protesting racist killings. Just weeks earlier, Virgin Islands reggae star Niyorah had released his new album Rising Sun, whose song "Media Portray" brings to mind a timeless quote from Malcolm X: "If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing." Rappers Onyx also did a fine job of articulating the rioters' anger, releasing petrol bomb-hurling EP Against All Authorities on May 5. MORE>>>


On May 1 in Australia, rallies swept the country not only for International Workers' Day, but also in protest at plans to close down remote Aboriginal communities. Just as elsewhere, the corporate media responded by condemning the protesters, rather than reporting their protests. Biggest-selling paper the Sun Herald resurrected its "Selfish Rabble" headline - used just weeks earlier on the same protesters - with the words, "Still Selfish, Still A Rabble". It blasted the rallies for "shutting down" Melbourne - failing to see the protesters' point that "we want to give Melbourne a taste of what it's like to have your town shut down". On his new album, ever-topical Gamilaraay rapper Provocalz addressed the closures with the words: "They're cutting off the lights, cutting off the water, in that Australian tradition of Indigenous slaughter." As for why he called the album Fuck Rappers, Provocalz said he was sick of the kind of emcees who "go on MTV Cribs talking about their curtains". MORE>>>


"We're a proper socialist band, like every town should have," say English punk provocateurs The Hurriers. So it's little surprise the Barnsley-based group chose International Workers' Day to release their much-anticipated debut album, whose catchiness had critics salivating. Naturally, it came out swinging against the ruling Conservative Party, who the band were hoping would lose Britain's general election a week after the album's release. On "Happy Families" they sang: "We're all in this together, or so the Tories say. But we all know that's bullshit, the capitalist way. They tell us that we're lucky, and others are worse off. The ninety-nine percenters, privileged Eton toffs. We're all in this together, they want us to believe. But look a little closer - they're just a bunch of thieves. They're happy when we take it, believing what they say. But ain't it time you woke up, there is a better way." Their poll hopes were dashed, but at least their music remained relevant - and they also put out one or two political compiliations themselves. MORE>>>


In a British "election special" of the Welsh Peppermint Iguana radio show, host Clint said: "There is one good thing about Tory governments - they do tend to inspire musicians to come up with some pretty decent protest songs." The show was packed, but inevitably it couldn't cover everything, including some stellar British albums in the year leading up to the election. Top of the pile was "Tory Scum" on the album Your Turn by Not Right, who describe themselves as "queer feminist rage, the politic of 'people' before 'profit'." Just as potent was This Band Is Sick by Steve Wight & The Protest Family, who reminded people that if they want change, they've "got to do something about it". Robb Johnson's Us & Them sustained his powerful high quality and Ste McCabe's Brains Of Britain dazzled with its techno-pop eclecticism from his "gay Scottish bedsit". Country techno stars Alabama 3 were equally eclectic, releasing their second Wobblies-themed album, titled The Wimmin From Womble. MORE>>>


At the start of May, more than 100 Australians filled Thirroul Community Centre for the launch of Women of Steel, a new book on the inspiring campaign in which women fought sexism to win jobs at BHP's steelworks. A fitting soundtrack for the forthcoming film about the campaign could be Dark Energy, a leftfield techno album by Indiana-based female steel mill worker JLin. A highlight of the album, which clatters and rolls like a steel factory floor, was "Guantanamo", which was as dark and claustrophobic as its title suggests. Also featured on the album is fellow female techno producer Holly Herndon, whose own album, Platform, was released the same month. Its heavenly vocal soundscapes are punctuated with politicised statements such as "Home", which was inspired by Edward Snowden's NSA spying revelations. Herndon calls it a “breakup” song – a lament for the devices she can no longer trust - saying: "If someone’s in my device, that’s my home, that’s where all my relationships live.” MORE>>>


At the start of June, house music producer Ten Walls destroyed all the progressive kudos he'd built with mega-hit "Walking With Elephants", by saying gays were a "different breed", comparable to paedophiles. Yet house music "was born from gay people of colour sweating their asses off at 5am in a Chicago warehouse", as one club founder recently put it. A reminder of house's roots came in the svelte shape of RuPaul's latest album, a throwback to the pounding pianos and strobing synth lines of early house. On "Step It Up", RuPaul - who slammed "no" voters in Ireland's gay marriage poll this year - sang: "All you biological females who used to have the upper hand - it ain't like that any more honey, it's got real tough up in here. You got your trisexual, you got your bisexual, you got your intersexual. Girl, you have to step your pussy up." It was tongue-in-cheek, but it also left Ten Walls looking as uncool as, say, Tony Abbott - especially after the US legalised same-sex marriage. MORE>>>


On June 19, Australian Of The Year Rosie Batty launched a new campaign to fight domestic violence, saying prevention services should not be left to "fight over scraps of funding" after Tony Abbott's cuts caused many women's shelters to close. The same week, female punks Bad Cop/Bad Cop released their debut album, featuring the timely lyric: "She went back to the guy that beat her, who publicly called her his whore. If he came within five feet of me, there'd be a price on his head for sure. I'd use a fucking hammer on his face, yes I would do that for her. I would bite, kick, stab and brawl, then he'd be out of her life forever." The stance had them labelled "confrontational", raising the question why male rappers aren't labelled as such when they rap about inflicting the violence in the first place. Similar table-turning could also be heard when rapper Peaches asserted her sexuality during "10 modern feminist tunes", part of Mariah Theobald's great political music series. MORE>>>


Some might ask why US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton isn't labelled "confrontational" when she comes out with a statement like "we came, we saw, he died" in reference to the slaying of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi. A man she holds in similar contempt is singer Harry Belafonte, who she snubbed at a 2006 awards ceremony a week after he visited Venezuela and praised then-president Hugo Chavez. Belafonte's new album, which featured an ode to that country simply titled "Venezuela", was released as Caracas faced ever-greater difficulties. Just days after his album was released, the 88-year-old "King Of Calypso" was awarded yet again for his tireless activism, taking The Greenwich International Film Festival's first Changemaker Honoree award on June 6. The woes of Venezuela, meanwhile, are unlikely to ease if Clinton becomes president. Asked about her in June, renowned intellectual Noam Chomsky said Clinton was "more militant" than Barack Obama. MORE>>>


Another US presidential hopeful was left looking even dorkier than Hillary Clinton when he launched his campaign on June 16. Orang utan-haired billionaire Donald Trump left some wondering whether he also has the mind of a monkey when he strode on stage to Neil Young's 1989 protest song "Rocking In The Free World". Young was able to capitalise on the move by banning Trump from using the song, gifting it instead to Trump's political nemesis Bernie Sanders, and hitting headlines worldwide just as he was about to launch his latest highly politicised album, The Monsanto Years. On the album, Young could have almost been addressing Trump directly when he blasted "fascist politicians" - and on "Big Box", he sang: "In the streets of the capital corporations are taking control, democracy crushed at their feet." As the album's title suggested, Young - who co-founded agricultural benefit concert Farm Aid in 1985 - also has plenty of poison for pesticide giant Monsanto. Highly recommended. MORE>>>


On June 11, an environmental lawyers' report said the Great Barrier Reef overwhelmingly met the criteria for an “in danger" listing by Unesco, challenging a draft UN ruling against such a listing, which came only after intense lobbying. A fitting lyric was: "Let's talk about acid in the ocean. Let's look at all the dying coral reefs. Let's talk about shorter growing seasons. Let's talk about what we're gonna eat." Were these the words of a political punk or radical rapper? No, they were on the new album by hoary old rocker Bob Seger. This shows just how screwed the world is. Seger represents the "romantic America" of open highways and "Hollywood Nights". He's like Bruce Springsteen without the politics or household name. If Springsteen is the Great Barrier Reef of rock, Seger is like the less popular version we're heading for. Yet Seger said he was now risking losing his audience with a strong political album, because his grandkids' future mattered more than his fans. We're doomed. MORE>>>


On June 14, Rupert Murdoch's Sunday Times in London said British spies were being pulled out of Russia and China to prevent them being killed after the two countries "cracked the top-secret cache of files stolen by the fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden". The story, citing anonymous government sources, was widely ridiculed as false. Ex-British diplomat Craig Murray noted it was "timed precisely to coincide with the government's new Snooper's Charter act, enabling the security services to access all our internet activity". Yet it was republished in Australia not only by the Murdoch press, but also by Fairfax - hardly surprising, given Fairfax's extensive corporate interests. One Australian who isn't fooled by Fairfax's claims to be "independent, always" is Ciecmate, who raps on his new album: "You won't find fair facts in media from Fairfax Media, and all the news is limited at News Limited." Also guesting on the album is his partner-in-rhyme, the aptly-named Newsense. MORE>>>


Fairfax readers are reportedly "more highly educated than News Corp readers". So those who followed Fairfax's laughable front-page instructions to vote for Tony Abbott as "a man you can trust" must have been wondering what they'd brought upon their children as his government destroyed the free education model they enjoyed. One country that is moving in the opposite direction, having experienced the dysfunction of a privatised education model, is Chile. That's thanks in no small part to student leader Camila Vallejo, who had a song dedicated to her on the new album by US punks Desaparecidos. Payola, their first album in 13 years, proclaimed: "Oh Camila, now the future is on the way. The workers are resisting and the students chant your name. Oh Camila, you put a fire in my heart. I don't know what’s going to happen, but I want to do my part." When it comes to the next election, Fairfax readers should ignore their newspapers' instructions and give this educational album a spin instead. MORE>>>


Mining boom billionaire Gina Rinehart, who was until recently Fairfax's biggest shareholder, continued to show that money cannot buy happiness in June. As the world's richest woman squabbled with her children in court over her wealth, a rapper from her home state of Western Australia was promoting an impeccably produced new album that undermines everything she stands for. Green Left Weekly reader Graphic took a highly original approach by releasing Raw Intelligence as an interactive ebook containing the album's mp3s, lyrics and links to further reading. On "Boom State", he fumed: "Boom state, boom state - boom boom! When it all collapses, what happens to you?" In a similar bass-heavy hip-hop vein, Sydney scene stalwart Jacqui Lomas released a stonker of an EP the same month on which she described growing up bi-racial in Mauritius, while Melbourne's New Dub City put out an album of remixes on which the politics hit as hard as their trademark bass and breaks. MORE>>>


Few activists beyond those at the G7-praising clicktivist group Avaaz were getting up much hopes for December's climate talks in Paris. To change the political situation in France would require nothing less than a "Revolution Politique", which is exactly what Milky Wimpshake called for on their new album, in possibly the most English-sounding French ever recorded. But the melodic indie punks, who once sang about the merits of blending Noam Chomsky's politics with the Ramones' pop-punk frivolity, were more upbeat than most. On "Coming Soon", they sang: "It's coming soon and I can't wait. I'm praying for that glorious day. And what it means is the means of production will be spread out between you and me." Elsewhere in Europe, as Syriza continued to battle with the Troika over the future of Greece, Scotland's shmuFM radio looked to the past, with a history of Greece's political music, rembetiko. MORE>>>


At the start of July, a series of fires at Black churches across the US sparked burning questions. The fires came just days after a white supremacist carried out a mass shooting at a Black church in the hope of starting a race war. The shooting recalled 1963's bombing of a Black church in Alabama, which - along with the murder of a Black activist in Mississippi - inspired Nina Simone's 1964 protest song "Mississippi Goddamn". As this year's powerful documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? recounted, it was that song that changed Simone, from a woman who only ever wanted to be the greatest-ever Black female classical pianist, into a civil rights icon. Her subsequent activism damaged her career. But if you're wondering how she still achieved such fame, try listening to this tribute album - released on July 10 to coincide with the documentary - without looking at the tracklisting. It featured stellar performances by big stars, but the sole performance by Nina Simone stood out a mile. MORE>>>


Someone who knows all about the effects of austerity is Jason Williamson, who only recently quit his job as a benefits advisor due to the phenomenal success of his punk indie rap duo, Sleaford Mods. New album Key Markets stuck a shiv into grinding poverty and neoliberal ideology and gave it a good twist. It was released on July 24, just a fortnight after David Cameron's re-elected British Tory government brought in even harsher austerity measures in its 2015 budget. On "Face To Faces", Williamson smoldered: "This daylight robbery is now so fucking hateful, it’s accepted by the vast majority, in chains years from now. Who’s that tit? Don’t matter who that tit is. He’s still with us. In our arses, in our food, in our brains and in our death. In our failure to grab hold of what fucking little we have left. We have lost the sight and in the loss of sight, we have lost our fucking minds, all right." MORE>>>


Guantanamo was the unexpected subject of one of only two new songs on Pete Townshend's latest "best of" compilation. On "Guantanamo", the Who guitarist sang in a voice that sounded like it had been shredded with razor wire: "Down in Guantanamo we still got the ball and chain. That pretty piece of Cuba resolved to cause men pain. When you light up in Cuba you won't feel the same again. Down in Guantanamo still waiting for the big cigars. Been a preacher promise still guilty with your charge. There's a long road to travel for justice to make its crane. Let's bring down the gavel, let the prisoner say his name." The album was released during the month of Ramadan, which started on June 18 with President Barack Obama tweeting: "I wish Muslims across America & around the world a month blessed with the joys of family, peace & understanding. #Ramadan." To which leftist British comedian Frankie Boyle responded: "The ones you're force feeding in Guantanamo? Or the ones you're bombing?" MORE>>>


August began with the long-awaited resignation of Liberal parliamentary speaker Bronwyn Bishop, who stepped down in a flurry of mocking memes after her extensive abuse of politicians' entitlements was exposed. The revelations highlighted the hypocrisy of Treasurer Joe Hockey's slogan that "the age of entitlement" was over. The timing couldn't have been better for The Basics, who had long scheduled their album The Age Of Entitlement to be released on August 14. The timing was also coincidental, although those who have seen The Basics live will know the Melbourne three-piece are masters of timing - musical and comic. "Time Poor" may have struck a chord with anyone trying to somehow find the time to juggle family, work and activism. "Well what about basic human fucking rights then?" it asked, before the moaning rejoinder: "'I haven't got time for that!'" Elsewhere, in asking "Whatever Happened to the Working Class?" they mournfully weaved in a lament for the Chilean protest song, "The workers, united, will never be defeated". MORE>>>


Greenpeace's Requiem For Arctic Ice was released as free stream at the start of August. It marked a series of Titanic-themed orchestral performances to protest against Shell drilling for oil under the melting Arctic. Inspired by the string quartet that famously played as the Titanic went down, the month-long musical protest began with the Crystal Palace Quartet playing outside Shell’s offices in London. The music, which flowed with the gliding beauty of melting glaciers, was as moving as the cause. But Shell and US president Barack Obama appeared unmoved. Just days later, the US government approved a bid from the oil giant to drill even deeper in the Arctic. In response, Greenpeace wrote: "This isn’t over. The president knows what’s at stake: his climate legacy." As news broke a few days later of walruses having to beach themselves due to their Arctic ice sheets melting, Obama was preparing to travel to the Arctic - to lecture the world on climate change. MORE>>>


Of course, few artists can afford to give away their work for free - and the same goes for everyday workers. That was a lesson burger chain Grill'd was learning the hard way at the start of August, after employee and unionist Kahlani Pyrah took it to court for allegedly sacking her after she complained about being underpaid. Her action, resulting in a payout on August 27, brought to mind US punk band Downtown Boys, whose tubaist Joey DeFrancesco and vocalist Victoria Ruiz once both took action against a hotel they worked in, with the footage of DeFrancesco's resignation going viral. Their new album, Full Communism, was a wild ride featuring a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing In The Dark". It went one better, bringing an angst that was lacking in Springsteen's saccharine original. However, on a strong album lashing "the prison-industrial complex, racism, queerphobia, capitalism, fascism, boredom, and all things people use to try to close our minds", the cover was really an unnecessary distraction. MORE>>>


Also hitting back at employers in August were Woolworths warehouse staff - who feared their jobs were about to be taken by robots - and Hutchison Ports stevedores, who were also fighting a bitter battle against automation. Their strike action came as ANZ announced it would be replacing "boring jobs" with robots, causing the financial media to trumpet that automation was going to hit jobs harder than offshoring. Up to 40% of jobs by 2030, said one report. All of which had some billionaires scratching their heads at something that might seem obvious to a five-year-old: if your workers are replaced by robots, who will have any money to buy your products? This is old hat to industrial metallers Fear Factory, who have been warning of a futuristic dystopia for decades. "I write stories based on reality, a projection of what I see with the advancements of technology," said singer Burton C Bell. Their new artificial intelligence-themed concept album, released on August 7, was a disturbing and timely listen. MORE>>>


At the start of September, a photo of drowned Kurdish toddler Alan Kurdi went viral, unleashing empathy for asylum seekers worldwide. Among those to react were musicians including Crowded House, who re-released "Help Is Coming" to raise funds. Welsh artists also banded together to put out the 30-track compilation Welsh Rock For Refugees. It included Gwenno, whose politically-charged Welsh language album had just come out. But one artist speaking out for refugees before Kurdi's death was Nerina Pallot, whose video clip for "The Road" featured refugees trying to cross from France into Britain. With a half-French father and an Indian mother, Pallot is the beautiful result of multicultural immigration herself. She has a son not much older than Kurdi, but on the song "If I Had A Girl", she imagined she had a daughter instead, singing: "If I wear my skirt short, don't mean I don't have a brain. And if cover myself from head to toe, don't mean that I'm in chains." MORE>>>


The family of drowned toddler Alan Kurdi were fleeing their hometown of Kobane, whose women soldiers have hit headlines worldwide for resisting ISIS attacks. Just days before Kurdi's death, US singer-songwriter David Rovics released a new album featuring a song dedicated to the city. On "Kobane" he sang: "A city full of Kurdish people divided from the rest. Cut off to the east, forsaken by the West. The only sensible thing to do was run away. But instead thousands stood and fought. Kobane." Kurdish pop star Helly Luv took things a step further, firing a missile straight at ISIS as she filmed the video for her new song "Revolution" near Mosul in Kurdistan. As for those caught in the crossfire worldwide, US rapper Sole spat on his album released in September: "We plead for water they feed us sand. We demand land but there is none. Except over there where no one is allowed to roam. Borders enforced by gunpoint. For every citizen a guard. For every non-citizen, two guards." MORE>>>


After socialist Jeremy Corbyn became the new leader of Britain's Labour Party in a shock landslide win on September 12, the first thing he did was attend a rally for refugees. Two days later he refused to sing "God Save The Queen" at a Battle Of Britain memorial and was pilloried by the press, who seemed as unable as ever to join the dots between the Royals' promotion of the British arms industry, imperialistic wars and refugees. It could have been worse, Corbyn could have been singing the words to "Queenie" from this year's album by British rappers Regime: "She's an arms dealer, she's got a lot of funds. And a gun shotter, she's shot a lot of guns. And a bomb seller, big player on the scene, saying God save us all from that mean old Queen." John Lydon, who gave the words "God Save The Queen" a whole new twist with the Sex Pistols four decades ago, also showed he'd lost none of his subversive sense of a good tune with his new Public Image Limited album, released on September 4. MORE>>>


The first full-length album in nearly a decade by British Asian soundclash specialists Fun 'Da' Mental, released just a fortnight after Alan Kurdi's drowning, proved disturbingly timely in referencing drowning refugees. The lyrics to "Colour Of Rain" said: "This is for the mothers that scream and cry. This is for the child that never sees the light. This is for the broken man lying across the sea. And this is for me and you. Never to fall and die." In a revealing radio interview to promote the album, provocative Pakistani band leader Aki Nawaz talked right through his career, from his punk days drumming with Southern Death Cult to forming Fun 'Da' Mental in just seven days, becoming a globe-trotting documentary maker and being visited by MI5. He insists he's "a crap musician with great ideas", but Fun 'Da' Mental also have huge tunes, from the incendiary "Wrath Of The Black Man" two decades ago, to the infectious and prophetic "War Again" on the new album. MORE>>>


Fun 'Da' Mental are often referred to as "the Asian Public Enemy", but the real Public Enemy also released a new album on September 4, which was equally scathing about border control. It captured the rap legends playing a one-off intimate gig to just 125 people in the London studios where Amy Winehouse recorded Back To Black. Introducing the track "Shut 'Em Down", Chuck D said: "I'm an Earthizen... I'm not a citizen of any damn government... One world, one people, one earth. And if anyone denies that shit, we're gonna shut 'em down." Multi-instrumentalist Flavor Flav excelled on his emergency number parody track "911 Is A Joke", which has taken on a whole new meaning since the attacks of September 11, 2001 - or 9/11. Just a week after the album's release, as most of the Western media were rolling out the usual 9/11 memorials, investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed pointed out that in terms of deaths, the US has meted out "a thousand 9/11s" since 9/11. MORE>>>


Canadian author Naomi Klein kicked off her Festival Of Dangerous Ideas talk in Sydney on September 5 by noting how Indigenous people in Canada, Australia and elsewhere are on the frontlines of the fight for global climate action. The family of drowned toddler Alan Kurdi had been called climate refugees by those pointing to the worsened drought in the area they were fleeing. Kurdi's father had hit out at Stephen Harper's Canadian government for allegedly rejecting his family's asylum application. As Canada's election loomed, one media outlet compiled a semi-serious list of Canadian musicians who could do better than Harper, including D.O.A's Joey Shithead, a Green candidate. "Pipeline Fever" from D.O.A.'s new album showed he was probably too worthy for the job. Not making the list, but just as worthy, was Canadian folk singer Rachelle Van Zanten, who had recently praised Indigenous people leading the fight against a pipeline that threatens her farm. MORE>>>


Pipeline-supporting Liberal candidate Justin Trudeau was voted in as Canada's new Prime Minister on October 14. Despite his anti-environmentalism, his victory was no surprise to fans of political music. His predecessor Stephen Harper had more than 50 protest songs released about him, including one by a punk grandma calling herself the Grindmother. Trudeau had swept to power with a deceptively progressive image, which included a promise to end air strikes in Syria and Iraq. However, no timeline was given for the withdrawal and Trudeau had indicated that Canadian special forces would remain in Iraq. A week before Trudeau's victory, Canadian country star Corb Lund had released a robust album including the timely song "Sadr City" about a soldier traumatised by fighting Moqtada Al Sadr's forces in Iraq and desperate not to be sent back for another tour. It was based on talking to an Iraq vet after one of his shows. Sadr City cinema verite film The Blood Of My Brother documents the kind of nerve-jangling horrors Trudeau remains committed to. MORE>>> 


October began with yet another Aboriginal death in custody. To make matters even worse, the victim, Shaun Coolwell, was still mourning the death of his brother, who also died in custody four years previously. On October 16, Gamilaaray rapper Provocalz hit back with a 30-track cop-taunting album featuring no fewer than 22 Indigenous emcees. They included Lady Lash and Tera, who both released albums of their own the same month. Provocalz's album also paid tribute to Aboriginal warrior Pemulwuy, who "burned down that police station at Parramatta". Also paying tribute to Pemulwuy was the new album from Russell Morris, which came out a week later. Red Dirt - Red Heart, released five decades after Morris first topped the Australian charts, completed his triptych of Australiana albums with a focus on the Australian interior. "Any history of Australia albeit, very brief, has to include the people who have inhabited this wonderful country for at least 40,000 years," Morris said. MORE>>>


In a similar Herculean community effort to Provocalz, English protest singer Joe Solo managed to pull off "the biggest festival of music and politics the world has ever seen" at the start of October. We Shall Overcome, promoted with a free 47-track album, encompassed 250 gigs in 123 towns and cities across eight countries on three continents, raising "£125,000 [$269,500] worth of cash, food, clothing and blankets for those at the sharp end of austerity". Rob Bywater summed up that austerity on the album with his track "Break": "Remortgage your house for a small bowl of coffee, in a shopping centre cafe. All over England our hearts give out sighs, as our England slips slowly away. If it isn't broke we'll still fix it, then we'll fix it some more till it breaks. And we'll usually find it won't go back together again." The festival, however, is getting back together again. "Next year we come back bigger, bolder and better," said Solo. MORE>>>


As if pulling off "the biggest festival of music and politics the world has ever seen" wasn't enough for Joe Solo in October, he also released his own concept album about Britain's 1984-85 miners' strike. In the song "Standing By My Man", Solo and singer Rebekah Findlay railed against Margaret Thatcher: "She'll rip the heart from this country. There's nothing more to this town, than bricks in the middle of nowhere and a pit that she's closing down. There's nothing much in that bank book, but I'll stretch it as far as I can. I'll show her who's the 'Iron Lady': I'm standing by my man." A fortnight later, dumped Australian PM Tony Abbott was speaking at a London dinner for the late Thatcher, where he was being hailed as an "iconic conservative leader" and the food was being touted as from the same caterers used at her funeral. Dead old lady's sandwiches? Ewwwww! Let's hope Abbott took along some lovely fresh onions to crunch on after he trotted out his wince-inducing drivel. MORE>>>


Thatcher's dinner could have been worse, the caterers could have been London's Cereal Killer cafe, whose hipster owners were still smarting at the start of October after their cereal-only eatery sparked a riot. The protesters, led by Class War anarchists, were railing against gentrification - and a cafe charging £4.40 ($9.44) for a bowl of cereal seemed like an ideal target. US rapper Jared Paul, who has a lengthy arrest sheet for protesting, would relate to that. On his new album, the activist railed against the similar gentrification of his neighbourhood. On "$8 Smoothie" he spat: "I need somethin' fresh, I want something fruity. I need somethin' healthy, I want something juicy. But I'll kiss a riot cop's boot live on Fox News, before I ever let you punk me for an $8 smoothie! They just raise up the price, it's what's polite in the scheme, to completely and discreetly gentrify the East Side. Welcome mat swinging like a trap door: Invisible border, ever present class war." MORE>>>


The class war also raged on the latest album by US hardcore band Boysetsfire. The live promo, given away with October's edition of German magazine Visions, opened with "Eviction article", which fumed: "If you love this country, take it back from those who will destroy it. Protest is patriotism." And on "Management vs Labor", they barked: "Struggle by to feed your kids, while theirs grow fat, privileged and disdained. They've bled you dry until all that's left of you is sold to build their paradise." Guitarist Josh Latshaw knows all about being bled dry, having broken his neck, two vertebrae and collapsed his lung in his construction job, leaving him vomiting blood. The release was timely in Australia. Here, membership of unions - one of the few safeguards against construction accidents - hit a record low in October, followed by a record low in wage growth, as industrial battles raged on at Bluescope Steel and Hutchison Ports. MORE>>>


The usual Islamophobia was invoked at the start of October when schoolboy Farhad Khalil Mohammad Jabar shot dead police accountant Curtis Cheng in Sydney. In contrast with the restraint shown over a white sword attack at the end of October, the media went berserk. The result was anti-Muslim protests nationwide (and counter-memes asserting that some Reclaim Australia members needed to reclaim their teeth). A few days later, Muslim artist Safdar Ahmed was named as a Walkley Awards finalist for his work, giving him a platform to promote his death metal band Hazeen, which parodies Islamophobia. The same month, revolutionary rapper Blak Rapp M.A.D.U.S.A. also showed not all radical Muslims are violent, with her latest release, Steel Waters Run Deep. The acronym in her name stands for Making A Difference Using Skills and Activism. MORE>>>


On October 13, Australia cited the threat of Islamic terrorism to start doing officially what it had been doing unofficially for years - collecting people's metadata. The move brought a warning from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, who was celebrated in the song "Whistleblower" on the latest album by rockabilly maestro Tav Falco. "They're collecting your numbers and your personal data, and if you speak out, they'll paint you into a corner, brand you a terrorist - communist informer," he sang. A few days later, Australian protest singer Andy Paine put in a fine performance on 3CR radio's Global Intifada show. As his song "ASIO" pointed out: "Oh, ASIO, what you'll never know is when your conscience is clear, you've got nothing to hide and no need to spy." A fortnight later, British post-punks Killing Joke - whose singer Jaz Coleman has moved to NZ to escape British surveillance - released their new album, featuring songs like "War On Freedom" and "Panopticon". MORE>>>


On October 15, whistleblower website The Intercept released The Drone Papers, detailing the inner workings of the US assassination programme in the Middle East. The cache dump sparked some media hand-wringing over whether such a programme increased terrorism. It also added extra weight - as if any were needed - to the latest album by acclaimed poet Samuel Claiborne. On "21st Century War", he sang: "Our soldiers piss on dead Taliban and that offends us. It's the 21st century and war is supposed to be sanitary. We know this because we watch our smart bombs and drone strikes on our TVs from 40,000 feet. Our media avert our eyes and we are secretly relieved." But despite all the advances in technology, little has changed in warfare, as a new album by protest singer John Prine illustrated. Recorded in 1971 when he appeared on the radio show of legendary liberal broadcaster Studs Terkel, it included the song "Sam Stone" about a US Vietnam War veteran who dies of a heroin overdose. MORE>>>


Australia's black deaths in custody are a national disgrace, but sadly not an isolated problem, as the many songs protesting police killings worldwide show. Highlighting the omnipotence was the album NYHK: A United Front Against Police Brutality on which New York artist Jon Shina teamed up with Hong Kong electronic duo Snoblind. In October, R'n'B star Usher also teamed up with rapper Nas with a groundbreaking music video that detected when the viewer averted their gaze from the victims of police brutality on the screen. In a similar vein, the new album from British ska veterans The Selecter listed deceased victims of British police brutality. On October 9, jazz musician Christian Scott performed the song "Ku Klux Police Department" on NPR radio to promote his innovative new album. And at the end of the month, US R'n'B super-producer Blood Orange released the song "Sandra's Smile" about Sandra Bland, who died in custody this year. Even director Quentin Tarantino joined the protests in October, sparking calls from police to boycott his films. MORE>>>


In the world of music, dodgy statement of the year went to Spotify executive Matthew Ogle. On October 27, he tweeted that the streaming service's new music-suggesting feature "may have disrupted boyfriends". That reinforced views held by dickheads worldwide - including at Apple - that women need men to explain things for them. Women everywhere - though perhaps not men - know the phenomenon has its own term, "Mansplaining" - which also happened to be the title of the lead single from The Wimmins' Intitute's new album out on November 27. The track pokes fun with lyrics like: "You know so much about my car! Perhaps you'll drive and I'll drink my beer?" But is it on Spotify, notorious for paying artists peanuts? No. The band know the income-destroying nature of digital and streaming services and made it available only as a hard copy. The band's Cassie and Melissa are also in hugely popular socialist R'n'B group Thee Faction, who also released their new album this year only as a hard copy. Wimmins' Institute also recently played with Grace Petrie, who released another strong album this year. MORE>>>


On November 2, an Aboriginal man died five days after attempting suicide at Casaurina prison in Western Australia, just two months after another Aboriginal man killed himself at the same jail. His was the fourth Aboriginal death provisionally put down to be suicide by hanging at the prison since 2013. There was no media outrage. Yet reducing the risk of hanging was one of the key recommendations of the 1991 report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. On November 20, Sydney-based rapper The Tongue released his new album, which summed up the apathy neatly on "The Rule": "Another black boy found hanging from a rope. The politician knows it won't cost him a vote." A few weeks earlier, West Australian emcee Mathas released his new album. On "Nourishment" the eccentric and food-centric rapper noted the lack of interest in Indigenous food "primarily due to how little contact we have or respect we demonstrate to the Indigenous peoples of our country". MORE>>> 


On November 5, hacker-activist collective Anonymous - known for their Guy Fawkes masks - held a "Million Mask March" in 650 cities worldwide to mark the date Fawkes was caught trying to blow up Britain's House of Lords in 1605. Tens of thousands of masked demonstrators descended on central London to protest against capitalism and digital privacy incursions by state security services. Three British cops were hospitalised, a police car was torched and 50 people were arrested. Grindcore veterans Extreme Noise Terror linked to the story from their Facebook page. The band, who are known for their subversive lyrics, had released their new album the same day. The artwork for the self-tiled album - which featured ear-damaging tracks such as "Dogma, Intolerance, Control", "Chained & Crazed" and "Cruel And Unusual Punishment" - resembled the march itself, depicting a sea of masked protesters facing riot cops. MORE>>> 


On November 8, Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won a crushing victory in Burma's "first relatively credible election since 1960". The feted politician, who had suffered years of house arrest under the country's military junta, was not without her critics. Human rights groups noted that she had not offered a word of support for the disenfranchised Rohingya population and had been notably vague on her party's policies. Just four days before the election, Burmese youth collective Turning Tables released a compilation of new political music including the song "Myanmar Politics", which was almost banned. Punk singer Skum, who featured in the Burma episode of MTV's political music series Rebel Music this year, didn't have high hopes for Suu Kyi. "If Daw Aung San Suu Kyi wouldn't dare to talk about the Rohingya issue then why is she an icon for freedom and democracy," he said. "She is just like all the other politicians around the world." MORE>>> 


On November 13, Islamic State terrorists carried out co-ordinated attacks in Paris, the most lethal of which was at a concert by US band Eagles Of Death Metal. The venue they were playing, the Bataclan, has a history of fundraising for the Israeli border police and Pink Floyd's Roger Waters had recently asked Eagles Of Death Metal not to play a concert in Israel. They said they had replied to him with "two words". The media incorrectly reported the attacks as "the worst in Paris since World War II", giving Western leaders carte blanche to ramp up their warmongering - and fuelling widely-held Muslim conspiracy theories that such terrorists are stooges for the West. Four days after the attacks, French anti-capitalist dub reggae band KillaSoundYard responded by releasing the song "No War", saying: "We say bullshit to our leaders who have closed the borders, sent their missiles and banned all demonstrations in order to establish a militaristic and nationalist climate." The song came with the same impeccable production as their album, also released this year. MORE>>> 


Barack Obama's response to the Paris attacks was typically ironic. The US president called them an "attack on all humanity" - a label that presumably doesn't apply to his endless drone attacks on civilians. Just a month previously, Obama - who has reportedly told aides that he's "really good at killing people" - had made history by becoming the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to bomb another Nobel Peace Price winner, the French medical collective Medecins Sans Frontieres. Just days before the Paris attacks, Czech rapcore band Overhype released their dynamic new album, Collateral Damage. Its song "War For Peace" opened with a sample of Obama saying: "The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. Peace requires responsibility. Peace entails sacrifice. That's why we honour those who return home from peacekeeping and training abroad, not as makers of war, but as wagers of peace." Their singer responded: "I don't buy this shit!!!" MORE>>> 


French President Francois Hollande used the Paris attacks to justify a ban on protests - but not memorial services - at the long-awaited international climate summit held in his country's capital from November 30. The protest music at first seemed as muzzled as the banned protests. A passable exception was Hong Kong artist Khalil Fong, who sings about environmental issues in songs like "Gotta Make A Change". But then along came child star-turned outspoken "prosecco socialist" Charlotte Church with a climate protest song, followed by Anohni with the stonkingly acerbic "4 degrees". More poetic still were Built For The Sea, the "least political" of the bands signed to Firebrand Records, the radical label founded by Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello. On their gliding, hauntingly beautiful song "Sinking Ship", they muse: "You and I both know, we've got to turn this ship fast. Before we run full speed into the end. Something's gotta give, something's got to give." MORE>>>


Australia's multi-millionaire Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull came out swinging for fossil fuels at the climate summit, refusing to sign a deal to end multibillion-dollar subsidies for mining companies. Hardly surprising, since he has investments in climate change-denying oil giant ExxonMobil. A couple of weeks later, Mt Isa rapper Lucky Luke put out his second powerful album of the year. On "Plays On My Mind" he fumed: "I'm surrounded by self-centred people, self-centred government that's supposed to be our bloody fucking equal - and they're living on the big pay, If you ask me bruz, they should work for minimum wage." On "Sunburnt Country", the Indigenous emcee also hit out at the environmental destruction of the likes of Turnbull, rapping: "Give us back our land, the place of my birth, and watch the original custodians take care of this earth, a sunburnt country, the place of the red dirt - and witness the nation's first people excel and put their children first." MORE>>>   


During the Paris summit, the UN declared Australia the world's third-worst emitter, yet Malcolm Turnbull remained committed to coal, despite it recently becoming cheaper than water. Just weeks before the summit, he argued that Australia's coal was cleaner than that from other countries, declaring: "If Australia were to stop all of its coal exports it would not reduce global emissions one iota." His statement brought to mind the recent album by London-based anti-folk artist Bonesetter. On "Coal Dust Blues", the humorous lyricist sang: "There ain't no profit in the pit, Gryff, there ain't no profit in the pit. There ain't no heart in the seat of government, there ain't no heart in the seat." And on the quirky "Windmills" he sang: "See those misguided greedy souls lance-tilting at windmills, mounted on their chargers, these monsters spoil their view! Satisfied in skyscrapers, sapping strength from out the earth. Spitting light into the darkness, spewing silent death." MORE>>>  


Also wanting to get money out of politics were Americana artists Donna The Buffalo, who were on their US "Stampede" tour at the start of December, encouraging fans to stamp dollar bills with messages like "Corporations Are Not People" and “Not 2 B Used 4 Bribing Politicians”. The effects of such politics were addressed on the new album by leftfield electronica musician KRTS, which throbbed with stabs of sub-bass and rattling shards of jungle. On "Serve And Protect" his rapper friend Mad Flows asked a question of police that could just as easily be directed at their corporate and political overlords: "How'd y'all serve and protect, when you serve at the behest, of corporations full of cowards and put the noose around our necks?" Asked on December 7 about the album's title, Close Eyes To Exit, KRTS said it alluded to: "Topics people close their eyes to, to put themselves in a dream world of ignorance so they don't see what's really going on." MORE>>>  


On December 2, British shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn made a speech for bombing Syria. Media analysts Media Lens documented how even the "liberal" media went into overdrive, lavishing praise on the speech and suggesting Benn should lead the Labour Party, rather than the anti-war Jeremy Corbyn. The result? Britain bombed Syria. It was all so predictable that protest singer Cosmo had spelt out what would happen on his new album two months earlier. On "Hear The Trumpets Sound" he sang: "Now hear the trumpets sound, they're calling you and me. That media glower has more firepower then the Queen and her whole army. Suddenly, the word comes through, war is declared. Screaming in their headlines, the subjects all are scared. Keep us to your bosom, we'll feed you all the facts. Putty for our policies. This won't hurt, now relax." As political music show Peppermint Inguana pointed out, Benn's father - the famed Labour MP Tony Benn - would have rolled in his grave. MORE>>> 


On December 6, Sydney Morning Herald reporter Rachel Olding decided to mark the 10th anniversary of the infamous race riots at Cronulla beach by humanising the rioters with their side of the story. Just the white ones mind you. Olding specialises in stories about Muslims and terrorism. She once led her paper's front page with a false story saying the Aboriginal town of Bourke was the most dangerous place on earth. And this is the country's best-read "quality" paper. A few days later, Quandamoooka rapper Djarmbi Supreme put out a new mixtape with some apt words. On "Backwater" emcee Force raps: "Another Asian family in town, spread the word around, southern cross ute flags sitting half-down. Fuck off we're full? Yeah we're fucking full - of dickhead redneck bogans who are fucking fooled by fresh air that's rancid. Catch 22: Yeah I love this fucking country but it's full of fucking tools." Djarmbi adds: "Backwater. Smile for the tourists. Off-season, act violent to Kooris." MORE>>>  


But Djarmbi wasn't done yet. Just a week later, he was releasing the kind of album that's never been done in Indigenous, Australian or even worldwide hip-hop. Goes To Hell is a reimagining of Alice Cooper's album of the same name released by the glam rock legend four decades ago. Djarmbi's album follows the same tracklisting, samples the original tunes, apes the artwork and even follows the same narrative of an intoxicated journey to hell and back. But there are some sharp points of difference. Producer Paradox chops it into a contemporary-sounding cool and Djarmbi injects a skillful skinful of Black humour and politics. On "Wake Me Gently" he scalds: "It's like Steve Vizard has written the current state of this country. Wake me gently from this societal nightmare, put your hand on my shoulder and tell me I was dreaming." Anyone who thinks Malcolm Turnbull is more progressive on these matters should check his voting record against Aboriginal rights. MORE>>>


Perhaps the year's most perspective-altering statistic for Westerners was a Credit Suisse report saying that, to be in the world's wealthiest 1%, you needed $US759,900 ($1.05 million). The average price of a home in Sydney hit $1 million this year, putting much of Australia's middle class in that 1%. The statistic reinforced something Noam Chomsky has been saying since the start of the Occupy movement - that the elite are not really the 1%, but more like the 0.1%. On December 6, news broke that the 20 richest people in the US now owned as much wealth as the rest of the country combined, suggesting the shape of inequality was less like a pyramid and more like Seattle's Space Needle. Highlighting that stark inequality in even the richest country in the world was noise-drone-electronica poet James Ferraro, whose new album, Skid Row, served up a collage of Los Angeles' contrasts, from high-class latte-sipping fashionistas to the desperate low-down homeless and rioting race-profiled Blacks. MORE>>>



Bet you thought we'd forgotten Tony Abbott's's dumping, eh? But who could forget that  "Australia's worst-ever Prime Minister" was replaced in a coup on September 15? A few days later, the new government, led by Malcolm "Tony Abbott with social skills" Turnbull, released a "Radicalisation Awareness Kit", which made the farcical claim that young people who listen to "alternative music" could be in danger of turning into dangerous radicals. Perhaps the report's authors had listened to the new album by Melbourne grindcore band The Kill, which seethes: "What a fucking goose. Absolute turkey. Such a bird brain. A fucking galah. A parasite. A germ. A virus. An Abbott." Cheer up Tony, at least you haven't had a song made about you fucking a dead pig's head. Yet. But the last word goes to Until Abbott Gets Gone, a band who formed to get rid of Abbott and said they'd split up when he went. Releasing their final song on his exit, they said: "We may have to start a protest folk band called 'Turnback Turnbull' or something!" Amen to that. MORE>>>

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