10 new albums every activist should be listening to
By Mat Ward
1. SAM VANCE-LAW - HOMOTOPIA
On March 3, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull took a selfie of himself with pop star Cher, who was headlining Sydney's increasingly corporatised annual gay pride event, Mardi Gras. But Turnbull's kudos was short-lived. When activists tweeted at her about his politics, Cher - whose daughter came out as lesbian in 1995 - tweeted back: "Am so sorry. Guess that's why I have so few friends who are politicians. He seemed very open and excited about Mardi Gras and LGBTI community." Cher's gay anthems are timeless, but if you fancy something a little more quirky and contemporary, check out the new album from classically-trained Canadian musician Sam Vance-Law, released the day before Mardi Gras. The intense indie album tells such intimate, heartfelt tales of coming out that it could well save lives, given the high rate of suicide among LGBTI youths. MORE>>>
2. THE VENUS PROJECT - VOL. 1
On March 7 in Sydney, Anna Hush gave a speech about the widespread violence against women on Australian university campuses. The next day women around the world - from Kurdistan and Palestine to Spain and the US - marched in huge protests for International Women's Day. Deliberately released the same day was The Venus Project's Vol. 1, the new all-female collaborative album from Georgia Nott, of Kiwi duo Broods. Describing one of its highlights, she said: "'Need a Man' is inspired by all the times I have been told 'it’s not safe for you as a woman'... Being told that I need a man 'to protect me from other men'. I am frustrated because I don’t feel that I should have to take preventative measures to feel safe around men and to expect the worst in men. And nothing will change until these acts of intimidation, exploitation, harassment and assault are called out and not tolerated. Nothing will change until the attackers are held accountable, instead of their victims." MORE>>>
3. CAMP COPE - HOW TO SOCIALISE & MAKE FRIENDS
Also sick of men's bollocks are Melbourne trio Camp Cope, whose new album came out on March 2. The band recently blasted Falls Festival for its lack of support for non-male acts and they lay straight into patronising men within the music scene on their album. Opening track "The Opener" includes real-life barbs that have been levelled at the band, with Georgia Maq snarling: "Yeah, just get a female opener, that'll fill the quota." On "The Face Of God" – a song about her own experience of sexual assault in the music industry - she sings: “Couldn’t be true, you don’t seem like that kind of guy. Not you, you’ve got that one song that I like.” Talking about the song, Maq said: “I’d tell people who are mutual friends about what happened, and it just fell on deaf ears, and you’d still see them at their shows." But she thinks things are changing with the #MeToo movement, saying there's now a good chance such men's victims will "publicly call them out and fucking end their fucking careers”. MORE>>>
4. JOAN BAEZ - WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND
Camp Cope are only just getting started, but one feminist icon who released her latest album on the same day as Camp Cope did says this one will be her last. Folk singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez, who has been performing for 60 years and released more than 30 albums, is bowing out with a collection of songs written by the likes of Tom Waits, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Josh Ritter, whose included song "Silver Blade" has been described as "a fable for the #MeToo era". Sharing what Baez calls her "pretty fucking gloomy" outlook on the world is fellow folkie Matt McGinn. The Irishman's new album, released three days later, laid into "populist leaders, corporate greed and an increasing groundswell of warfare across the globe", as Irish political prisoner Tony Taylor marked two years in jail without charge. Calling for action worldwide is US jazz saxophonist and rapper Lakecia Benjamin, whose March 23 album, Rise Up, opens with her sample-clashing rabble rouser, "March On". MORE>>>
5. DRONES - EXILED
On March 9, London hardcore punks Drones released their new refugee-themed album as detainees in Britain's Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre staged a month-long hunger strike. Promoting it, frontwoman Lois McDougall said: "Exiled is a collection of songs that we began writing after being struck by the misery of the European refugee crisis. Some of the songs are written from the perspectives of fictional characters of those impacted by the crisis, and others of those who prefer to distance themselves from it. Millions of people are suffering every day and it’s a subject that should be kept at the forefront of all of our minds. Music is a great platform for personal connection... Exiled is dedicated to those fleeing any war-torn country." Also pumping up the political punk were new albums from The Run Up and The Shell Corporation, while long players from Iron Reagan, Lonely Kamel and The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing took things a few notches heavier. LISTEN>>>
6. JEREMY LOOPS - CRITICAL AS WATER
As the UN slammed Australia for detaining refugees indefinitely without charge, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton hit headlines worldwide on March 14 by vowing to fast-track white South African farmers into the country. Two days later, South African environmental activist Jeremy Loops released his new album, Critical As Water. The musician, whose organisation Greenpop has planted more than 85,000 trees in his country, calls for more sustainable management of South Africa's water resources and tackles his nation's politics in songs such as "Flash Floods" and "Vultures". Another long-time environmental activist, Brandon Boyd, released his eighth album with his band, California rockers Incubus, a week earlier. Boyd sees the tour for the album, which is the band's most overtly political yet, as a "fundraising stage", saying: "Over the last few years, the money has been going to a lot of disaster relief situations, because there's been a lot of natural disasters happening." MORE>>>
7. SEUN KUTI & egypt 80 - BLACK TIMES
Back in Africa on March 2, Seun Kuti released his new album, which continues the radical resistance of his legendary musician father, Fela Kuti. Promoting it, Seun hit out at Nigeria's president Muhammadu Buhari, saying: "These Black leaders, they don't represent Black people's interest." Also upholding Fela's legacy was his former band member Kiala. Promoting his new anti-corruption Afrobeat album, Money, Kiala insisted that songs should be political, saying: "Being an African, like it or not, you have to have it politically, ideologically inside." Displaying similar irreverence was Sierra Leonean protest music star Emmerson, who vowed not to back down as his country's elections loomed. Days later, Canadian musician Mélissa Laveaux released her new album, which is themed around the US occupation of her homeland, Haiti. "This meme keeps going around online, 'I am my ancestors' wildest dreams'," she said. "And I'm like, I hope I am!" LISTEN>>>
8. LEONARD SUMNER - STANDING IN THE LIGHT
Also hitting back at their occupiers were Aboriginal activists in Australia, who rallied outside the studios of TV show Sunrise on March 16, after it broadcast a call for another "stolen generation" of Indigenous children to be taken from their parents. Days later, Anishinaabe country-blues-rap fusionist Leonard Sumner hit out at the same practice in his country, Canada, with his new album. On "My Observation", the Manitoba musician raps: "Separation from the fam, segregation on the land, it was all part of the plan and the blood is on their hands. It's all divide and conquer, colonise and slaughter, stabbing at the heart through the backs of our grandfathers... governments were scooping babies way before the sixties, when you legalise abduction, you legalise the misery." He calls for solidarity with First Nations oil-pipe protesters in the US at Standing Rock, as does Texan anthropology professor and country musician George St Clair on his new album, out March 2. MORE>>>
9. 47 SOUL - BALFRON promise
The consequences for resisting such colonisation could be seen in the jailing of Palestinian girl Ahed Tamimi on March 22, who was sentenced to eight months for slapping an Israeli soldier. A fortnight earlier, London-based Palestinian band 47 Soul released their debut album, Balfron Promise. The title refers in part to the block of flats they were living in, Balfron Tower, whose residents were evicted to make way for luxury property developers. "The experience of watching our neighbours being removed from somewhere they thought of as home by bigger, more powerful, wealthier forces was only too familiar to us as Palestinian artists," said vocalist Tareq Abu Kwaik, also known as MC El Far3i. "The album was written during this time." Its release came days after the new album from Iranian hip-hop artist Mahdyar, who had to flee to Paris after criticising his government. Lead track "Money, Money" is a condemnation of the materialism and violence that permeates commercial hip-hop. MORE>>>
10. MINISTRY - AMERIKKKANT
As US president Donald Trump ramped up his rhetoric against Iran, one long-time provoker of presidents - Al Jourgensen - released his latest album on March 9. Working with a full band under his Ministry moniker, the industrial rock diehard samples Trump heavily, slowing and slurring his words to almost comical effect. "I'm really not doing that much different than I’ve done before," said Jourgensen. "But the times have caught up or I’ve caught up, or something, where it’s cyclically in tune, now... It’s not an anti-Trump record, it’s more like, 'Dudes, we have to get our shit together because this is what’s going on, and maybe you should start paying attention instead of caring about how many likes you get for sharing a rat taking a shower or a cat playing piano.'" He joined other veteran resistors of the status quo with albums out this month, including former Talking Head David Byrne with American Utopia and punk-dance hitmaker Moby, with Everything Was Beautiful, And Nothing Hurt. MORE>>>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mat Ward has been writing for Green Left Weekly since 2009 and authored the book Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country. He also makes political music and is about to release a future bass album about Elon Musk. Follow him on Spotify here.
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