2016's politics in 59 albums (or just 1 song, if you prefer)

By Mat Ward

Here's a look back at the insane politics of 2016, summed up in 59 revealing albums. If you want just this month's albums, skip to album 50. If you'd prefer the year's politics summed up in just one song, skip to album 59. What albums would you suggest? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook. Videos not playing? Try a bigger screen.


The year began with an attempted coup on British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. When shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn made a speech backing bombing in Syria, The Guardian was among the media cheerleaders calling for Benn to replace Corbyn. The newspaper, heavily criticised for its coverage of Corbyn, was at it again when the BBC was exposed for orchestrating January's on-air resignation of one of Corbyn's shadow ministers. "The BBC has launched a staunch defence of its journalism," Guardian readers were assured. If you're tiring of The Guardian, try anti-capitalist metal band Guardian, whose song "Propaganda" on their debut album fumed: "The newspapers spread their lies, though the mass-produced ink that's printed on the pages, plastered on the walls, manipulated thoughts, controlling them all. Pushed onto our screens and forced onto our streets, flooding the market with their prejudiced schemes." Days later, the BBC was promoting a mocking musical about Corbyn before it had even been written. MORE>>>


On January 2, Saudi Arabia beheaded and gibbeted 47 prisoners on security and terrorism-related charges, including prominent dissident Nimr al-Nimr. There was barely a whimper from the western media, who ran glowing eulogies for the country's departed dictator King Abdullah last year - but then again, Saudi Arabia isn't an official enemy, unlike ISIS. You also don't hear much in the Western media about Saudi black metal band Al-Namrood, who face death in their country for playing anti-religious music. The name of the band, who combine the Arabic scale with black metal and Arabic lyrics, translates as "non-believer". Guitarist and bassist Mephisto says: "Basically, individuals here have no rights to do anything. Our identity is hidden and our musical interests are kept top secret." So don't expect them to play live shows for their latest album. "It's impossible, because it's illegal," he says. "We can be sentenced to death if we do them." LISTEN >>>


On February 6, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation drew attention to the fact that at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of the brutal practice. The campaign focuses on 17 countries in Africa, including Mali, where one woman who has chalked up plenty of victories against patriarchy released her new album on February 12. Sixteen years ago, multi-instrumentalist Rokia Traore seized the controls from a male engineer who believed a young girl was incapable of handling the production of an album - and has never looked back since. Her new album reaches out to the west with global guests, in the same way that a festival in Mali days earlier had brought in western acts to revive music tourism in a country ripped apart by colonists and music-banning extremists. Rokia Traore has also played festivals with Tiken Jah Fakoly, who has his own anti-female genital mutilation song and a fine new album. MORE>>>


Australia's charming Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, was exposed at the start of the year when he called a journalist a "mad fucking witch" by text. That prompted Women from the Refugee Rights Action Network to organise a "Mad F**king Witches" action to highlight the intolerable levels of sexual assault in Australian immigration detention centres and call for his sacking. Also proudly calling herself a witch is the often-pilloried feminist icon Yoko Ono, whose new album of remixes by stars, Yes, I'm A Witch, Too was released a day after her 83rd birthday, February 19. One of those remixers, Ebony Bones, said: "I'm excited she continues to be a voice for gender equality and inspires us all not to accept the roles society invented." The album was described as "an open book" on Ono's career. That will resonate with acclaimed British protest singer Robb Johnson, who has written his own book on Ono and released a 92-track album shortly before hers that could be seen as an open book on his career. MORE>>>


February 17 marked the second anniversary of the death of Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati in Australian detention on Manus Island. Showing the kind of regime he was fleeing, a few days earlier a story had broken about Confess, a jailed Iranian thrash band who are facing the death sentence in Iran for "blasphemy, advertising against the system, running an illegal and underground band and record label in the satanic 'metal and rock' music style, writing anti-religion and atheistic, political and anarchistic lyrics and interviews with forbidden foreign radio stations". Iran's ban on such music is well documented, having inspired The Clash's hit "Rock The Casbah". It was also a subject of MTV's Rebel Music episode on Iran last year. As noted above, bands face a similar situation in Saudi Arabia. But since Iran is an official enemy of the west, the story of Confess even made it into the western corporate media. LISTEN>>>


When even Democratic US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders seemed wary of making any commitments to the Black Lives Matter movement, the power of white supremacy was laid bare. So all power to Beyonce for "breaking the internet" with her "Formation" video (below). The clip, featuring a young boy dancing in front of riot cops, a wall graffiti'd with "Stop Killing Us" and Beyonce atop a police car sinking into New Orleans floodwaters, was released a day before her February 8 Super Bowl appearance, which was an even more powerful homage to the Black Panthers. The backlash was inevitable. Arguably just as pleasing to the ear, though far more underground, was radical blues guitarist Tomas Doncker, whose new album segued from jungle to funk to R'n'B and back, spouting Black politics all the way. The issues were so pressing that even white artists spoke out, such as rapper Macklemore, whose new album featured the much-maligned "White Supremacy II", and folk-country activists The Indigo Girls, who sang about the new Jim Crow. MORE>>>


March 8 arrived with male world leaders "mansplaining" International Women's Day. Russian President Vladimir Putin called women "tender, unforgettable and full of charm". Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan assured the world that "a woman is above all a mother", in stark contrast with Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, who is still jailed by Turkey and deliberately views women as leaders of the revolution, not as sisters, mothers or lovers. Released the same day, the latest album from radical women's label Female:Pressure celebrated the Kurdish female fighters being targeted by Erdogan as they led the feminist revolution in Rojava. In Olivia Louvel's army drill-sampling track "Afraid Of Women", one such soldier says: "When they see women they go weak at the knees, because according to their belief, they must not be killed by a woman. When they see us, they prefer to run away, not to be killed by us." LISTEN>>>


Israel has exported its police tactics in the Palestinian occupation worldwide, from the US to Sri Lanka. In March, shortly after riot police violently repressed an anti-TPP demonstration in Peru, the US city of Cleveland said it was buying an extra 2000 sets of riot gear in preparation for US presidential hopeful Donald Trump hitting town. A few days later, subwoofer-shaking dubstep artist Fatima Al Qadiri released her new album, Brute, whose music and sleeve artwork focuses on the militarisation of police. On the track "Blows", the Kuwait-raised artist samples a broadcaster reading the words: "This weekend a few troublemakers turned a peaceful protest against Wall Street greed into a violent burst of chaos. The troublemakers carried pepper spray and guns - and were wearing badges." Also out in March was a reissued EP from veteran British crusties The Levellers, whose track "Barrel Of The Gun" shoots back: "No matter what country under the sun, you can't mete out justice from the barrel of a gun." MORE>>>


The only Black candidate in the US presidential race, Ben Carson, dropped out in March to support the race-baiting Donald Trump. The kiss of death perhaps came when Rupert Murdoch - who likes Black people with white politics - hailed Carson as a future "real black president". Or maybe it came when Baltimore rapper JPEGMAFIA - who served years in the army to avoid jail after attacking a racist - released his piss-taking new album, Black Ben Carson. The album doesn't spare Carson's political nemesis either. On "I Smell Crack", JPEGMAFIA mocks: "You niggas delusional trying to vote for Bernie Sanders. That nigga ain't get shit done, he fuckin' crazy." Also out in March was the new album from country artist Grant-Lee Phillips, a member of the Creek Native American tribe. He is a direct descendant of those who walked the Trail of Tears and told their story on the track "Cry Cry". It was a reminder that First Nations people had hardly got a mention in the race-obsessed US presidential race. LISTEN>>>


US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton inevitably used International Women's Day to promote her hip feminist credentials. But in many ways she was far less politically progressive than even the openly chauvinist Donald Trump, as author William Blum and journalist John Pilger pointed out in March. Her dubious record includes supporting the 2009 coup in Honduras, whose murder rate has since rocketed, including the killing of award-winning environmentalist Beta Caceras on March 3. A week later, Rodrigo Starz of rap duo Rebel Diaz, the son of Chilean activists, used the release of his solo record to draw attention to Clinton's record. "The Democrats and Republicans are two wings of the same capitalist bird," he said. "Donald Trump is a white supremacist and Hillary Clinton has blood on her hands for her involvement in Honduras." At the end of March, another environmental activist was killed, this time in South Africa, after he protested against an Australian mining company. LISTEN>>>

Beyonce "Formation"


While much of the Western media were looking at the size of Donald Trump's hands, US president Barack Obama quietly drone-bombed 150 people in Somalia on March 5. Glenn Greenwald was a rare critic of the bombing among journalists. Meanwhile, London hardcore punks Knuckledust released their radical new album, whose opener "Humanity's Nightmare" roars: "How can you justify your killing in the name of peace? How can you justify your killing in the name of me? No, you can't justify humanity's nightmare." On March 16, a drone-promoting arms fair in Cardiff came under fire from Welsh record label Afiach, who protested by releasing 43-track album Prosecute The Arms Dealers. Label star Efa Supertramp kicked it off with all guns blazing like a female Axl Rose as she hollered: "All my friends are freedom fighters!" At the end of March, Western media outrage at the 31 deaths in the Brussels terror attacks far outweighed the 150 deaths in Somalia, laying bare their bias once again. MORE>>>


April began with Rupert Murdoch's Daily Telegraph whipping white Australia into a frenzy with its years-old front page "news" that the University of NSW was suggesting students say Australia was "invaded", not "settled". West Australian Indigenous rapper Beni Bjah had already dropped a mixtape calling out the "Madness" of Murdoch. But just days later, he released his debut album Survivor, whose title track couldn't have been more timely, declaring: "They must have thought they seen aliens when them convict ships came sailing in. Crooks galore, criminal minds hit the shore. Guns go bang and them bodies hit the floor. Invaded, taken, raped, killed, enslaved, chained, oppressed, still, we're survivors." Like so many Aboriginal people responding to stolen land, the rapper chose to take the moral high ground instead, calling for reconciliation rather than revenge. It no doubt helped him become the first Indigenous artist to win WAM's Song Of The Year, on April 10. LISTEN>>>


Over in Sydney a week later, Aboriginal rappers Provocalz and Felon opened the debut album launch for Indigenous death metal band Dispossessed, whose motto is "Invaded, not discovered." The rappers, who turn down many gigs and aren't given to compliments, told the audience of mostly anarchist activists that they were happy to be the support act for such a strong band. And Dispossessed are strong. Over dark slabs of guitar, they hollered, "assimilation, taught to speak their words, no foundation, corrupted to the bone", then underlined the point by singing in language. The album was released days after the biggest coral bleaching event yet on the Great Barrier Reef, adding poignancy to Dispossessed's words on "Black Panther": "Toxic water, salted earth, mountains are reduced to dirt. Conquest buried us alive, torture for the colonised." LISTEN>>>


Any notion that the Australian Labor Party really gives a toss about Aboriginal rights or the environment sank without trace on April 3. In the middle of the Great Barrier Reef's biggest bleaching event on record, Queensland's Labor government approved the biggest threat to the Reef - Australia's largest coal mine, citing "jobs". That'd be the mine's several thousand jobs, as opposed to the Reef's tens of thousands. Compounding the tragedy, Queensland musician Felicity Burdett, who has released many sun-kissed songs, failed to reach her crowdfunding goal for a tribute album to the Reef and her recently deceased young children. Step up eco-emcee Sole, who rapped on his latest flawless album, "Extinction event! Extinction event! I just wanna represent! Extinction event!" He also rhymed about the merits of staying self-funded and in artistic control - which would have resonated with activist and legendary musician Prince, who died just hours before the album's release. LISTEN>>>


In May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration revealed a new threshold - the first time temperature records had been broken for 12 months in a row. A fitting time, then, for Anohni to release her new album, which featured the sublimely sarcastic "4 Degrees". "I wanna burn the sky, I wanna burn the breeze," she sang. "I wanna see the animals die in the trees. Oh let's go, let's go, it's only 4 degrees." Anohni said she wrote the album, which features the similarly nihilistic "Drone Bomb Me" and surveillance-citing "Daddy", to support activists. Yet the best thing about it was that it was such high quality that the corporate media couldn't ignore it. The Guardian even called it "the most profound protest record in decades". Yet The Guardian's promotion of Tony Blair and smearing of Jeremy Corbyn supports the very status quo Anohni so eloquently rails against: a global establishment that's pushing Australia's temperature rise to more like 5 degrees. MORE>>>


Anohni, a trans woman formerly known as Antony Hegarty of award-winning band Antony and The Johnsons, had said she approved of Bruce Springsteen's concert cancellation in protest against North Carolina's "bathroom bill". But she equally approved of bands who instead chose to play and educate concert-goers about the bill, which demanded trans people use the public toilet of their assigned sex at birth. One of those artists was Thao Nguyen of Thao and The Get Down Stay Down, who dedicated a performance of the most political song on her new album to those fighting the bill. Springsteen's gig cancellation also featured in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's new political music exhibition, launched on May 20. Promoting it, guitarist Tom Morello declared: "All music is political, even Justin Bieber. It either supports or challenges the status quo." Tin Can Diamonds might relate to that, since they said they "accidentally" made a political album with their radical debut. MORE>>>


Tom Morello may say all music is political, but even an explicitly political song can be deemed non-political when it gives Europe a chance to bash Russia. That's what happened at the Eurovision Song Contest on May 15, when the judges relaxed their ban on political songs to allow Ukraine's anti-Russian song "1944" to not only enter, but win. The Guardian approved, calling it "European solidarity" against "Russian aggression". There was no mention of NATO's aggressive expansion eastwards, which was ratcheted up in May. Among those NATO members is Bulgaria, where former Green Left Weekly activist Jock Palfreeman remains jailed, yet still active. On May 1, his Bulgarian Prisoners Rights Association released its fundraising album Punk To The Max, featuring an impressive line-up. It joined other strong political compilations out that month, including those for the anti-fascist 0161 and Alerta Alerta festivals, released days before the Sydney Morning Herald smeared anti-fascists in Australia. LISTEN>>>


At the start of June, it emerged that all references to Australia had been removed from a UN report on climate change after the Australian government intervened, saying the information could harm tourism. The report, World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate, originally had a chapter on the Great Barrier Reef and sections on forests in Kakadu and Tasmania. Australia was the only inhabited continent not to appear in the report and no other country was removed. At the end of June, activists on the other side of the world were taking a more sustainable approach to tourism with the eighth annual Wild Roots Feral Futures eco-defence camp-out in the forests of Colorado in the US. It was accompanied by a 17-track fundraising album featuring apt contributions such as The Rosy Oaks' "Peaceful Demonstration", Heron's "Remember the Wild" and Evergreen Refuge's "Of Earthen Blood". LISTEN>>>


Not everyone in the US is an environmentalist, of course. Clear contempt for the country's first environmental defenders could be seen at a political rally on June 10, when presidential hopeful Donald Trump referred to his rival Hillary Clinton's potential running mate, Elizabeth Warren, as "Pocahontas" due to her claims of Cherokee heritage. The slur prompted his audience to break out into Indian war cries. That morning, Apache eco-warrior Nahko had released his latest album, featuring the track "San Quentin" about meeting the jailed murderer who had orphaned him as a child. The song expresses the kind of remarkable forgiving so often displayed by Aboriginal people. At the end of the month, Neil Young released his environmentally-themed live album, Earth, featuring overdubbed animals in the audience. He drummed up publicity for it by saying Trump could now use his music, just a year after he grabbed headlines for his previous eco-album by banning Trump from doing so. MORE>>>


Trump's Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, makes much of her popularity among Black voters. But when boxing legend Muhammad Ali died on June 3, some expressed surprise that her husband, former president Bill Clinton, was chosen to speak at the funeral. Ali was seen by many as "the first rapper" for his Black pride politics and poetry, so the move outraged hip-hop writers such Solomon Comissiong and Sebastien Elkouby, who pointed out that Clinton's policies led to the mass jailing of Blacks. Veteran rapper David Banner, promoting his new album and mixtape, said: "Hillary knew what those laws encompassed. So even though she smiles today, and her family has a good rapport with Black people, I'm not fooled by that." On June 2, rapper Vic Mensa released his new EP for free to anyone who registered to vote. Among other things, it addressed the poisoning of Black communities in Flint, where Clinton's supporter-in-chief, Barack Obama, refused to drink the water unfiltered a month before. LISTEN>>>

Beni Bjah "Survivors"


Corrupt politicians are usually tolerated by the establishment - except when they are left-wing and not even, it seems, all that corrupt. On June 1, Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, blasted the previous month's coup against Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff for supposed corruption, saying "the right wing want revenge" for the election of left-wing governments across South America. In a June 14 poll, 63% of respondents strongly disagreed with the replacement of Rousseff with an all-white and all-male cabinet. US rapper Marcel Cartier had already addressed that sentiment in his song "Beat Back The Coup", which spat: "The coup government's full of old white men, they eliminated ministries of culture and women." The new album by Brazilian thrash metallers Nervosa, who proudly call themselves "all female", could easily be the coup's dissonant soundtrack, with songs such as "Arrogance", "Deception", "Theory Of Conspiracy", "Failed System" and "Surrounded By Serpents". MORE>>>


Another proud woman, Calypso music pioneer Calypso Rose, released her new album in June. Far From Home, released more than 60 years after she burst onto the scene with her gender inequality anthem "Glass Thief", continued her strong feminism with the song "Woman Smarter". It could almost have been written for Australian Football League boss Eddie McGuire, who made himself look more stupid than ever just days later by publicly calling for the drowning of a woman journalist because he couldn't handle her reporting, prompting Melbourne band The Pretty Littles to mock him in song. The scale of such sexism was underlined by the release of The Red Hot Chili Peppers' new album on June 17, prompting more women to come forward with their stories about how they had been mistreated by the band. Hitting out at such treatment was Erin Saoirse Adair, whose scathing new EP simmered with seething songs such as "The Manarchist", "Burn It All Down" and "I Didn't Report Because Fuck You". MORE>>>


On June 12, gunman Omar Mateen killed 49 people at a queer night club in Orlando. Five days later, a bunch of punks released a 49-track compilation for the victims. But if you prefer the house music pioneered by gay clubs worldwide, try Alex Anwandter, who pulls Chilean protest music from its famed folk roots and plants it firmly in the club. Anwandter released a new film in June based on one of his gay fans who was killed in a hate crime, prompting an anti-discrimination law to be named after him. Across the border in Peru, where a trans teen was killed in a hate crime this year, no such law exists, adding fuel to the fire of Peruvian LGBGT singer Merian Eyzaguirre. Just weeks before the Orlando attack, there was also a massacre at a Mexican gay bar. But before you go mourning any slain queers, spare a thought for Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison, who on June 22 said he faced similar oppression for being anti-gay, prompting a song from Melbourne's Les Thomas. LISTEN>>>


The Orlando killer's wife said the FBI told her not to tell the media he was gay. They needn't have worried, since the media quickly hyped him as a record-breaking terrorist on learning he was Muslim. Even "world's leading liberal voice" The Guardian called it "the worst mass shooting in US history", conveniently forgetting the massacre at Wounded Knee. Yet no terrorist branding came for the far-right-wing killer of British pro-immigration MP Jo Cox just days later, even when he gave his name as "death to traitors, freedom for Britain". It was all so predictable that, days earlier, US techno artist Vatican Shadow had released a new album titled Media In The Service Of Terror. His song titles are all taken from newspaper headlines and the album came with a 100-page newspaper. "When you read the news and see these headlines sometimes you just think you're reading poetry," he said. "They're so absurd." It's a point long proven by award-winning media analysts Media Lens. MORE>>>


Also ridiculing the media were ska funsters The Interrupters, whose album out on June 24 featured the song "Media Sensation". Over the kind of fast-paced hooks that drove the whole album, they sang: "They keep you suspended in fear, until your freedoms disappear... That's fine, the sheep are blind, shepherds indoctrinate the minds of the masses, poor and middle classes operating like a bunch of fascists." Also raising the bar for female-fronted ska were Sonic Boom Six, from the austerity-hit city of Manchester. On their new album, they sang about watching one of their young fans turn against Muslims in all the lying anti-immigrant hysteria before Britain's EU referendum, while not realising the band's singer was from a Muslim background. The band were firmly in the "Remain" camp that lost the vote, which looked set to be disastrous for working-class musicians. It sent the markets crashing, presciently soundtracked by "Market Collapse" on James Ferraro's new album. MORE>>>


The late satirical musician Frank Zappa once said: "Politics is the entertainment division of the military industrial complex." No artist today has grasped that concept better than piss-taking rapper JPEGMAFIA. On July 4, he released an album named after the right to bear arms that aimed to be "the soundtrack for the presidential election". In the video for lead single "I Might Vote For Donald Trump", he and fellow Baltimore rapper Freaky cruised through a Trump-voting neighbourhood as rich white men watched from behind lace curtains with guns drawn. "The whole point of the song is like 'We might just vote for Donald Trump because it shouldn't be legal to vote for him in the first place'," said JPEGMAFIA. "For somebody like me that talks about politics all the time, it would be too easy to just say 'Fuck Donald Trump'." Amid all Trump's race-baiting, cops were filmed killing Black men Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in the two days after the album's release. LISTEN>>>


At a July 12 Black Lives Matter rally against the deaths of Sterling and Castile, some protesters were practising their right to bear arms by openly carrying assault rifles. That added to the fear and confusion when a lone sniper began picking off police officers at the protest. Days later, cops were also killed in Baton Rouge in response to Sterling's death there. Cops, media and politicians went into overdrive highlighting the dangers of police work. Yet as rapper David Banner pointed out before the shootings, it's far more dangerous to be a farmer than a cop - which is perhaps why some were relaxed enough to play Pokemon Go on the job. The statistics backed Banner up, and the same is true in Australia. Amid all the US terror, supergroup Nice As Fuck - touted as "objectively the best all female band in the last 25 years" - released their surprise debut album, which urged: "I don't wanna be afraid, put your guns away. Crisis is not ISIS. We're spilling our own blood." MORE>>>


ISIS was a crisis, however, for the Kurdish feminists fighting the terrorist group in Rojava. The Kurds faced further hell in July after Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan used a suspicious-looking failed coup to elicit an ever-more brutal crackdown. They were celebrated on a new fundraising compilation that featured female-fronted post-punk bands because, as its compiler said, "all the greatest ones are female-fronted". ISIS kills far more Muslims than Westerners, but a far bigger killer worldwide is men's war on women. Articulating what it's like to live in the shadow of domestic violence was Riot Grrrl icon Kathleen Hanna, whose new album with The Julie Ruin opened with a song about her father. "Deer hooves hanging on the wall," she sang. "Shell casings in the closet hall. Drunk from a mug shaped like a breast... Slept with the lights on, on the floor, behind a chair that blocked the door. Walk of shame from bedroom to plate, stability just words of hate." LISTEN>>>


At the start of August, Australia showed off its dislike of dirty foreigners as its athletes slammed the conditions at Brazil's Olympics. If you'd prefer to hear a Brazilian criticise Brazil, try the new album by samba legend Elza Soares, which got a worldwide release a few weeks earlier. At 79, she sounded more lithe than most Olympians as she blended elements of punk and noise into her Black perspective on the country's corruption and poverty. The Olympics were rife with protests against the country's recent coup and the fact the event had plunged its host into debt, as it does everywhere. None of which stopped former Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone showcasing Australian ignorance yet again, by using her Fairfax column to call for Greece to host the Olympics permanently - to solve its debt problems. Such a move would also, she said, bring the Greeks something of the German work ethic - despite the fact Greeks already work the longest hours in Europe. LISTEN>>>


On August 3, it was reported that US presidential hopeful Donald Trump had asked a security briefing three times why he couldn't use nuclear weapons. Yet it was Trump, not his rival Hillary Clinton, who was calling for peace with Russia and China. The dire decision faced by US voters was parodied on the new album by American Pioneer Singers, who record in the style of political songs from 100 years ago. On the title track, they sang: "Donald punches Hillary, she hits back even worse. Whoever ends up president will probably be our curse." On August 26, political supergroup Prophets Of Rage released their first EP, The Party's Over, whose title track slammed voters' false choice. As their guitarist Tom Morello said, Clinton and Trump were playing good cop-bad cop, but they were still "both cops". DJ Shadow captured the mood, hyping his new album with a video featuring a political punch-up, and on August 22, indie band Miike Snow pierced the nuclear tension with a Cold War-themed clip. MORE>>>

JPEGMAFIA & Freaky "I Might Vote For Donald Trump"


On August 19, Native Americans were banned from protesting against an oil pipeline on their own land. A fortnight earlier, southern rockers Blackfoot, founded by Native American Music Hall of Fame inductee Rickey Medlocke of the Blackfoot Tribe, had released their new album, which plead: "Politician money man, leave alone our sacred land." Weeks earlier, protesters marked the 10th anniversary of LA's South Central community farm with a protest album featuring strong indigenous themes. Similar battles against gentrification raged on in Australia, where Aboriginal anti-development protesters rallied in Brisbane on August 21. On the same day down in Sydney, the Aboriginal Waterloo Tent Embassy was taken down after a two-month fight against gentrification, days after Aboriginal south-west Sydney rappers Dbl Vision released their new mixtape. It featured the anti-Captain Cook track "Dear Captain", which asked, "When will you understand that it's more than just land?" MORE>>>


Like the British, France's colonists were also complaining this year about being colonised. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls defended a ban on burkinis on August 25, saying the full-body Muslim swimsuit represented a "battle of cultures". The next day, French former model Imany - whose family come from Comoros, one of the many Muslim nations colonised by France - released her new album. On "There Were Tears", the chart-topping soulster sang: "Freedom fighters, here I am, you can knock on my door. Don't stop till some hearts are beating. Don't stop fighting while they keep on lying. The truth never lies, they will fall apart. If there's no justice, there will be no peace." Imany, whose name means "faith" in Arabic, promoted the album with pictures of her standing in front of a billboard for the Black Panthers. Her family's home country now holds the depressing title of suffering the worst inequality in the world. MORE>>>


Another country in the clutches of colonisation, Palestine, suffered its "worst attack since the 2014 war" as Israel carried out 30 air strikes on August 21. A week later, Melbourne garage rockers The Shabbab - who hail from Israel, Lebanon and Australia - released their debut album. It seems the band are more aware of colonial ironies than the British and French. They dedicated the album to the people of the Kulin Nation on whose stolen land the album was made and opened it with the track "Running Away From An Apartheid State I Found Myself In That Colony". On "We Keep Coming", they sang: "Everybody's talking about a problem. Sounds like they talking about you and me. I hear the fear in their voices as we farewell white hegemony. They call me an immigration flood. I am a terrorist attack. I'm why your father lost his job and I got pockets full of drugs. And we keep coming, but don't worry mate, we won't do to you, what you did to the Indigenous of this land." LISTEN>>>

34. MIA - AIM

In September, more than 60 people rallied in Melbourne to support a protester found guilty after she refused to take her seat on a Qantas plane in which a Tamil asylum seeker was being deported. The rally came just days after another Tamil refugee was deported, adding to scores in the previous few months. A few days later, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull - returned to power after the Sydney Morning Herald urged its readers to vote for his "progressive" politics - promoted Australia's $9.6 billion boat-stopping policies at a world summit for refugees. All of which was the backdrop for the release of the latest - and supposedly last - album by rapping Tamil refugee MIA, whose lead single "Borders" tackled anti-asylum seeker hysteria. "It blows my mind that these people trying to claim asylum in Australia can be sent back to their country," she said. Also bringing the Indian vibes was prolific Delhi producer Ravana, with his latest album of political electronica. MORE>>>


Speaking up for the colonised was the dying frontman of beloved Canadian band The Tragically Hip, who implored tragically hip Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to do more for First Nations people as he watched the band's farewell concert. Weeks later, groundbreaking First Nations electronica outfit A Tribe Called Red released their latest dancefloor-rocking mashup of tribal wails and stuttering bass-heavy beats, which painted a bleak picture in its moments of reflection. "How I Feel" lamented: "I feel the tears and aggression, fears and depression woven in society from years of oppression." The album was released as Indigenous activists were attacked while protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline south of Canada. At the end of September, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip used an anti-Royal protest to point out how little the pipeline-loving Trudeau had done for First Nations people - hardly surprising, since doing so would reverse the policies of the Prime Minister's father. MORE>>>


Crossing a few more states than the Dakota Access Pipeline was the new album from veteran British protest singer Billy Bragg and US singer-songwriter Joe Henry. The pair boarded a train in Chicago and spent the next four days riding the rails for 4400km while recording songs about an industry in decline. They made the album "also to look at the idea of the railroad – particularly in the United States of America – as a viable form of transport for the future", said Bragg. "It's a lot less environmentally destructive than road or air." Its release came days after British railworkers took industrial action on September 7 as £20 million ($34 million) of taxpayers' money was handed to a failing private rail company. Days later, Jeremy Corbyn, who wants to renationalise the railways, was re-elected Labour Party leader in a landslide. That delighted Corbyn supporters like Bragg, but prompted a columnist for the Corbyn-hating Guardian to call for Corbyn's crowdfunded assassination. LISTEN>>>


On October 12, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hailed a new deal with the world's highest-paid political leader, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, to let Singapore's soldiers train in Australia, all while the pair pushed the hated Trans-Pacific Partnership to the world. The deal came days after feted Singaporean grindcore band Wormrot - whose members met after they did their national army service - released a new album of short, sharp blasts with titles like "The 1st World Syndrome", "Compassion Is Dead" and "Fake Moral Machine". Days later, South-east Asian inequality rose its head again as the "world's longest-serving monarch", Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej - died. His death threw a spotlight on that country's long history of resistance and protest music, including rising star Rasmee Waynara, who is reviving Isaan, the folk music of the the working-class north. Meanwhile, Australian band The Patient called for a truly pacific partnership with their anti-war album Unite As One. LISTEN>>>


At the start of October in Australia, two Aboriginal men were shot by police within the space of a week. On October 17, the president of the largest police management organisation in the US issued a formal apology for the mistreatment of minorities, which was criticised for promising no action. The same day, it was reported that Native Americans are more likely to be killed by police than any other group, by percentage of population, including African Americans. A rare acknowledgement of their plight came 10 days earlier with the release of the new album by US country act Shovels & Rope. Its song "BWYR" said: "Too many dying, too many dead. Black lives, white lives, yellow lives, red. Let's all come together and bow our heads." Shovels & Rope were among several leftist bands bucking the stereotype of the US south, including the Dexateens and Civilian, whose new political album You Wouldn't Believe What Privilege Costs came out on October 21. MORE>>>


A man immersed in costly privilege, US presidential hopeful Donald Trump, started paying the price when a recording of him was released on October 7. On it, he boasted how, as a "star" he could "do anything" to women, even "grab 'em by the pussy". The recording was instantly sampled by hip-hop producer Mike Dean, who turned it into anti-Trump ghetto house track "GRAB EM BY DA PUSSY". One publication complained that female musicians were staying silent about Trump. But just days later, Russian performance art-punks Pussy Riot released "an answer to Trump" with the track "Straight Outta Vagina". Weeks earlier, Oslo's Jenny Hval had released her new album, Blood Bitch, whose title referred to "the purest and most powerful, yet most trivial, and most terrifying blood: menstruation". Trump, whose apparent aversion to menstruating women is well documented and inspired one artist to paint his portrait in her menstrual blood, probably wouldn't be a fan. LISTEN>>>


Hillary Clinton, with her hawkish history, was a safe bet for the military industrial complex. Not so much Trump, who was thought to want to scale back US warmongering. The big business of war was shot down in "War Inc" on the new album by revered Bristol experimentalists The Pop Group, released on October 28. Blending a vocal refrain of "this is a warning" from 1994 Bristol jungle record "Warning" into the words "War Inc", it hollered: "See the arms dealers, laughing like hyaenas, all the way to the next merchant bank." Honeymoon On Mars was packed with the pensive politics of towering frontman Mark Stewart, this time with Public Enemy producer Hank Shocklee on board. Described as "a hypersonic journey into a dystopian future full of alien encounters", the album was released days after Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk outlined his plans to colonise Mars as an "escape hatch" for Earth-destroying humans. MORE>>>

MIA "Borders"


Also addressing earth-destroying humans was British poet Kate Tempest, whose new book and album was a call to "mend the broken home of our own planet while we still have time". As revered in literary circles as she is in the music world, Tempest was more qualified than most musicians to comment on Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize for Literature awarded on October 13. Whereas some used it as an opportunity to blast the Nobel's history as an arms manufacturer and Dylan's history of supporting Israel, Tempest was full of praise. The poet, who hit headlines when she called out Australian racism at a literary festival this year, also referenced Indigenous genocide on the album, which delved even deeper, lyrically and musically, than her previous efforts. It would be ideal to reprint all the lyrics here, but "Europe Is Lost" offered a tantalising snippet: "The water level's rising! The water level's rising! The animals, the elephants, the polar bears are dying! Stop crying, start buying." MORE>>>


Tempest's album artwork depicted an exploding oil refinery and it was such life-threatening concerns that sparked a victorious strike action by the Australian Workers Union at a Geelong refinery in October. Just days later, four customers were killed at Dreamworld amusement park on the Gold Coast after the same union said it had been warning for months about safety concerns there. Two days later, Dreamworld's CEO was awarded an $860,000 bonus, which she refused to discuss with media as it was "not really the time" to do so. Meanwhile, Turnbull pressed on with his government's union-destroying policies. He had, after all, been returned to power after the Sydney Morning Herald told readers to vote for him as an antidote to "reform-resistant" unions. The rage felt by many was articulated by Melbourne's political punk stalwarts The Nation Blue, whose new double album opened with the screaming, unvarnished acapella "I Have No Representatives". Its title said it all. LISTEN>>>


At the end of October, French authorities moved in with sledgehammers to destroy the Jungle refugee camp at Calais. The move came after British pop star Lily Allen took a hammering online at the start of the month for filming an apology to refugees on behalf of her country while visiting the camp. It also came days after the release of the new, exceptionally strong album by British punk diehards Anti-Pasti, which opened with the words: "Welcome to more government lies, there's women working for a minimum wage and humans in Calais living in a cage. Rise up! Rise up!" Across the pond, wannabe deporter-in-chief Trump began blaming his possible election loss on the polls being rigged. Barack Obama said there was "no evidence" of US election rigging and the media echoed him, yet on October 18, investigative reporter Greg Palast released his new film based on documentary evidence of election rigging. The problem was, he said, it was Trump's party doing the rigging. MORE>>>


On November 5, activists in Melbourne rallied to welcome recently released refugees into the community. But they were met by protesters from Reclaim Australia, who want to "reclaim" the country from Muslims - despite the fact that Muslims were here, trading peacefully with the Aboriginal people, way before whites arrived with their land-stealing genocide. Enter Aboriginal rappers Briggs and Trials with their supergroup A.B. Original, whose debut album, Reclaim Australia, reclaimed the title for the only people that could legitimately use it. Somehow managing to blend righteous anger with super-slick production and laugh-out loud humour, the album was widely acclaimed. Yet even when Australians were praising it, some still didn't seem to get it, saying it was about "past atrocities", when the atrocities are still going on. If you really want to gauge how strong it is, just compare its lyrics with those of the white Australian hip-hop albums that topped the charts the same month. MORE>>>


Standing in solidarity with the aboriginal people of South Dakota in November was US musician Neil Young, who marked his 71st birthday by touring the Native American protest site against the Dakota Access Pipeline and releasing the song "Indian Givers". The move came as Australia was dubbed "fossil of the day" for trying to promote coal at international climate summit COP22, then spent a full hour in parliament debating whether climate change actually existed as temperatures in the Arctic hit 20C above average. Long-time conservationist Young was mocked this year by his old bandmate David Crosby, after Young agreed to let his music be used in the US presidential campaign of Donald Trump, who has investments in the Dakota pipeline. Weeks later, Crosby released his new, mostly acoustic album, featuring "Look In Their Eyes" about Syrian refugees coming ashore in Greece, and "Somebody Other Than You”, an indictment of warmongering politicians. MORE>>>


Donald Trump was the inspiration for author Dave Eggers to call for 30 songs against the Republican Party presidential candidate to be released daily in the 30 days up to the US election. The response was so overwhelming that the project swelled to 50 songs of a quality that suggested yet more tunes may have have been culled. In the few days before the election, Trump's rival, Hillary Clinton, was officially endorsed in a desperate-looking scramble by musicians including Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce and supposed future presidential hopeful Jay-Z, whose "bad language" was slammed by Donald "Grab Em By The Pussy" Trump. Almost all the mainstream media backed the war-loving grandma - and most voters. But it was all to no avail, as the reportedly rigged Electoral College states made the racist grandad president anyway, despite only 25.7% of registered voters voting for him. The result led some to question whether political albums have any effect at all. MORE>>>


Donald Trump's victory was followed by days of protests outside Trump Tower, where activists were joined by musicians including Cher and Lady Gaga. Clinton supporter Katy Perry cancelled concerts in China, sparking speculation she was depressed. Punk label Fat Wreck Chords relaunched its "Not My President" T-shirt to raise funds for anti-Trump activists. Alicia Keys abruptly swapped a performance of her new single on The Voice for "Holy War", one of several political songs on her new album, "due to the current climate". Trump voters were hoping they'd hurled a wildcat among the political pigeons. Instead, they were left looking at something more like the neutered ginger tomcat on Trump's head. It continued to sit obediently as the waters of the political swamp he'd vowed to drain rose ever higher while he grovelled to former foes. None of which put off rapper Kanye West, who declared his love for Trump, before being hospitalised with a suspected nervous breakdown. MORE>>>


Facing an orange-skinned white supremacist in the White House, the Black Lives Matter movement grimly said its work would "be harder, but the same". Taking inspiration from Black Lives Matter, hip-hop soul star Common released his most political album in years, to wide acclaim. The cast of Black musical Hamilton took vice-president elect Mike Pence to task when he attended their show, leading Trump to tweet angry demands for an apology and others to note that for the president, firing a nuclear weapon will be about as hard as firing off a tweet. But not everyone was depressed. Black rapper Azaelia Banks, who recently suffered a breakdown, said she was "proud as fuck" of Trump and "truly inspired". And investors recovered from their post-election panic to start getting excited about soaring shares in coal, oil and an Israeli wall-building company, just as Australian Zionists eulogised the recently deceased, mostly leftist musician Leonard Cohen for supporting Israeli troops. MORE>>>


Holding it down for aboriginal people on the other side of the world was US-raised Bolivian artist Elysia Crampton, whose new album was based on Bolivian indigenous revolutionary Bartolina Sisa. She wrote the album - a unique collage of electronica featuring what sounded like Jim Henson puppets and Star Wars villains laughing maniacally in the background - while caring for her grandmother in Pacajes, Bolivia. Across the border in Brazil, thrash metal band Lacerated And Carbonised released their latest political album about Rio De Janeiro, Narcohell, as protests against Brazil's coup-installed government intensified. Equally heavy political albums also blasted forth in November from Warrior Soul, Cerebral Fix, Warhead and Napalm Death. Che Guevara was killed in Bolivia in 1967, but his comrade Fidel Castro outlived him until the end of this month. Silvio Rodriguez - one of many musicians to have recorded tributes to Castro - blogged, simply: "ETERNAL GLORY FOR FIDEL." MORE>>>


You can't get more Australian than abusing the natives. At least that's what the world was being told at the start of December, when a viral video of a bloke punching a kangaroo in the face was dubbed "the most Australian thing ever". There was some outrage when the man was revealed to be an off-duty zookeeper. But animal rights activists pointed out the fact that he happened to be on a vicious pig-dogging hunt when he punched the 'roo was far worse. Such ambivalence to animal rights is snarled at by Greek anarchist punk compilation Liberate, which aims to raise funds for a dog shelter. Other musicians raising their voices for the voiceless include Courtney Barnett, who held a fundraising gig for the protection of bees on December 3. A "land without bees" is also addressed by Singaporean political science lecturer Lam Peng Er on his new albumOceans Without Fishes, whose title track is "a forlorn love song set against the backdrop of an impending ecological breakdown". LISTEN>>>

A.B. Original "January 26"


Over in the US, the abuse of natives at the Standing Rock oil pipeline protest continued until December 4, when the US Army Corps of Engineers announced it had denied the Dakota Access Pipeline Company a permit to build the final segment of the $3.8 billion project. Five days later, rock icon Neil Young released his new album featuring Standing Rock tributes not only in "Indian Givers", whose video was filmed at the protest site, but also the album's title track, "Peace Trail". Bruce Springsteen also raised his voice for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe at a Rainforest Fund benefit concert on December 14, following several albums supporting Native Americans from prolific new age producer David Thomas. Likewise, jazz activist Wadada leo Smith's new album, America's National Parks, is inspired by "the political controversies of the country's public landscape". Such parks were rarely in the interests of the indigenous peoples who inhabited them. MORE>>> 


Across the border from the Standing Rock protesters' victory, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his government’s approval to expand the climate-destroying Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, days after US country star Dolly Parton pledged a US$1000 monthly "hand up" to families devastated by forest fires in her childhood home of the Smoky Mountains. Trudeau's move sparked calls from Aboriginal protesters in Canada to repeat Standing Rock's win. Musicians standing up for the indigenous there include Alysha Brilla, who produced, directed and scored the soundtrack for the short documentary Supporting Indigenous Students, out next month. The Indian-Tanzanian Canadian, who has been compared to late jazz blues legend Amy Winehouse, led protests in Canada last year after her wrongful arrest for cycling topless. Her new album delves deep into her roots, "blending Indian & East African sounds with a contemporary aesthetic". MORE>>> 


Alysha Brilla's motherland of India sentenced five operatives of a Muslim terror outfit to death on December 19 for fatal attacks against Hindus. The move highlighted the double standards of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who once compared the killing of Muslims in pro-Hindu riots - for which one of his ministers was jailed - to puppies being run over by a car. On December 22, Delhi producer Ravana released his latest album of rattling, bass-heavy protest music featuring the self-explanatory track "All Politicians Are Criminals". It came as demand in India grows for wedding songs that laud Modi's policies and border fights, fuelling a hyper-nationalism that resulted in the arrest of 19 moviegoers on December 12 for failing to stand when national anthem played before the film. The arrests came days after India’s Supreme Court ordered that movie theatres play the national anthem before every screening and that everyone in the theatre must “stand up to show respect”. LISTEN>>> 


Like Alysha Brilla, Los Angeles-based rapper Seti-X has also been delving into his Indian roots, running hip-hop workshops in his motherland, where such classes have been taking off. His slick new album, however, has more to say about the worrying state of the States. On "Fiyeh Pon Babylon" he raps: "Concrete is only built to last 100 years. America is the new Rome, watch the fall from here." Other musicians seem equally sceptical about the looming presidency of Donald Trump, who was memorably described by one Australian historian on December 13 as the first "punk rocker of global politics". Seti-X's fellow Los Angeles residents Guns N' Roses invited Mexican fans on stage to beat the crap out of a Trump piñata, followed by fellow LA metal overlords Metallica suddenly becoming politically outspoken by slamming the president-elect. Electronic musicians also banded together to put out a protest compilation against the bouffant buffoon, who was struggling to find A-list musicians to play at his inauguration. LISTEN>>> 


One A-list musician happy to suck up to Trump, however, was Kanye West. Fresh from a tribute song to the late Fidel Castro ("Kickin' bitches like I'm Castro, whoa, Cuban cigar nigga") and a stay in hospital for a nervous breakdown, West met and posed for photos with Trump, who described them as old friends. On December 9, fellow multi-platinum-selling rapper J Cole released a new album featuring the lyric "I don't want no picture with the president". It opens the song "Neighbors", which recounts the true story of what happens when upwardly mobile Black people move into a rich, white neighbourhood: twitching curtains followed by police raids. Meanwhile, Black blues musician Daryl Dale has found a novel way to fight racism in Trump's America - he befriends Ku Klux Klan members and has made more than 200 leave the hate group. MORE>>> 


After Trump's election win, several Republicans began campaigning for the pardoning of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, citing his leaks of damaging information on the Democrats. In Australia, racist One Nation leader Pauline Hanson even joined in, dubbing Assange "an Australian hero". But Assange wasn't playing along, insisting he'd be just as likely to leak damaging information on Trump in future. Inspired by Assange's fellow asylum-seeking leaker Edward Snowden, US band Poor Lily put out a 30-minute non-stop “punk rock opera” concept album criticising global mass surveillance. “Some of the early songs on the record are straight-up protest songs about privacy rights and how awful the media was in propagandising the government’s picture of Snowden as a traitor," says bassist Adam Wisnieski. He notes that Barack Obama expanded surveillance, but expects the Trump Administration to be even worse. “That scares the crap out of me," he says. "We need to fight for privacy rights now more than ever." LISTEN>>> 


Trump scared the crap out of everyone on December 22, when he tweeted that the US should increase its already world-beating nuclear arsenal, adding: "Let it be an arms race." Two days later, rapper Killer Mike - a high-profile supporter of the man who was likely to beat Trump, Bernie Sanders - dropped a new album with his rap duo Run The Jewelz. On "2100" he riffs on the nuclear nuttiness, rapping: "How long before the hate that we hold lead us to another Holocaust? Are we so deep in it that we can't end it? Stop, hold, ever call it off. It's too clear, nuclear's too near and the holders of the molotov say that 'revolution's right here, right now' and they ain't callin' off." Trump's nuclear bombshell came after he ramped up his rhetoric against China, inspiring journalist John Pilger to hold a special London screening of his widely-acclaimed new documentary The Coming War On China on December 21, where "urgent issues raised by President-elect Trump's statements on China" would be discussed. LISTEN>>> 


One of the most disturbing images of the year - rivalled only by the assassination of a Russian ambassador on December 19 - was of a victorious Trump in his gold-plated doorway with racist UKIP leader Nigel Farage. Enter British band Hollowtechnic, who take on Farage's alt-right with alt-metal, painting an absurd picture of the build-up to Brexit on their new album's highlight "Nigel Farage". Hours after a terrorist truck attack on Berlin on December 20, Farage tweeted: "Events like these will be the Merkel legacy." The widower of MP Jo Cox, who was killed this year by a racist screaming "Death to traitors, freedom for Britain" responded: “Blaming politicians for the actions of extremists? That’s a slippery slope Nigel.” The exchange came the same week the band MP4, made up of British MPs from across the "political divide", released a tribute to Cox in a cover of "You Can't Always Get What You Want" for which the Rolling Stones waived royalties. It was competing for Christmas No.1 with several other leftist protest singles. MORE>>> 


Among those political Christmas singles was "I Still Believe in An Alternative" by Calum Baird, whose LP No Right Turn was nominated for Scottish Album of 2016. “Irrespective of who won the vote on November 8, there’d still be the constant political and economic crises thrown up by this system," said Baird. “But there is an alternative to the barbarity capitalism has created." A slightly better-known activist and musician with a Christmas hit or two under his belt, George Michael, sadly passed away on Christmas Day. His death came too late to be included on "2016", the new album opener about the year's insane politics, by Britain's self-described "drunk folk singer" Beans On Toast. But it does honour other world-changers who died, such as Prince and Muhammad Ali. "Count yourself lucky for the minutes, the hours and the days," it opens. "They were singing in the street when David Bowie passed away, and he left behind a message without a shadow of a doubt: Stand up for what is right. Stand up for it now." MORE>>>

Beans On Toast "2016"

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mat Ward is an Australian-based journalist who has been writing for Green Left Weekly since 2009. He also wrote the book Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country. Read it online here.

Read about many other political albums released in 2016 here.

Stream Green Left TV's political music playlist here.

3CR radio's Global Intifada show is a knowledgeable and diverse source of topical political music. Listen to it online here.

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