The 10 best new protest albums in the world right now

June 29, 2024
Protest albums from June 2024

Do you think there's no good protest music these days? So did I, until I started looking for it. Every month, I listen to it all, then select the best that relates to that month’s political news. Here’s the round-up for June 2024.


To celebrate June being Pride Month, country music website Countrytown listed its pick of the 20 best Australian queer country artists. They included Michael Waugh, who released his polished new album on June 21, which describes growing up queer in a rural town. Explaining its song "Fix Me", he said: "I wrote it after seeing a cardboard sign held up by a queer activist. 'You can’t fix me - I’m not broken,' the sign said. It struck a chord of hope within me, but it also reminded me of the strong message of shame and damage that I had been given as a gay child in country Victoria." Such feelings stay with him even far from home. The song "Out" describes how he and his fiancé feared displaying affection even near Gadi/Sydney's celebrated gay strip of Oxford Street. "We both had voices from our past telling us that we shouldn’t hold hands," he said. "This is a record about being proud to be gay." LISTEN>>>


Britain's Tory government seemed hell bent on beating any pride out of trans people as an election loomed. When Scottish "Doctor Who" actor David Tennant accepted a Celebrity Ally award at the British LGBT Awards on June 21, he slammed Minister for Women and Equalities Kemi Badenoch. The reason? Her pledge to make biological sex a protected characteristic under the Equality Act, saying “changing your clothes doesn’t change who you are”. Transphobic Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hit back at Tennant, along with the media. Summing up the row were British queercore punks Gender Warfare with their album New Wave Of British Transphobia, released the same day. A week earlier, Scottish queer band Walt Disco released their new album, saying the trans "political football" was a convenient distraction. "Politicians would rather talk about trans people than things affecting everyone," said their trans singer. LISTEN>>> 


Kemi Badenoch's intolerance also made headlines elsewhere on June 21, as riotous Belfast rappers Kneecap contested her decision as business secretary to withhold £15,000 ($28,400) in funding from them because of their political views. "This is an attack on artistic culture, an attack on the Good Friday agreement and an attack on us and our way of expressing ourselves," said band member DJ Próvaí. A week earlier, they had released their separatist Irish language debut album to widespread acclaim. Also criticising the Conservatives was former Pulp guitarist Richard Hawley, who released his new album days earlier. "I’ve seen some fucking arsehole politicians, but Sunak takes the fucking piss," he told his audience on June 8. Meanwhile, pop group D:Ream didn't see much difference in the opposition, banning the Labour Party from continuing to use their hit "Things Can Only Get Better" on June 1. LISTEN>>>   


Things weren't getting much better across the English Channel, as fascists surged in the European elections on June 9. In France, feminists protested against rising far-right leader Marine Le Pen on June 24 as the media reported that she was pulling in women voters. A fortnight earlier, Tanzanian feminists Zawose Queens, whose ancestors were colonised by Europeans, released their new album. "Women have always been sidelined," they said. "So we’re radical." Taking the same stance were their near-namesakes The Anti-Queens, who released their latest, stupendously strong, feminist punk album weeks earlier. "Smash the patriarchy," they scream on its explosive opener. Heeding that call were the many musicians on Noise For Now Vol. 2, released to raise funds for independent abortion providers on June 21, the same day the US Supreme Court heard arguments to restrict the abortion pill. LISTEN>>>      


The Supreme Court's oppression of women was prominent in the debate between US President Joe Biden and his Republican rival, Donald Trump, on June 27. The bumbling Biden, who devastated Democrats by repeatedly losing his train of thought during the debate, just about managed to say he supported the Roe v Wade women's rights legislation that had been rolled back by the court. Biden also landed a rare blow on a compulsively lying Trump for his reported sex with a porn star and conviction for rape, saying "you have the morals of an alley cat". Showing just how hard it had been to win legislation such as Roe v Wade was New York songwriter Shaina Taub, who released the soundtrack album to her hit suffragettes musical, Suffs, on June 6. Taking the opposite stance was Australian ex-pop star Holly Valance, who raised millions for Trump on June 12 as polls showed more Australians than ever supported him. LISTEN>>>


Displaying Trump's divisiveness was Texas woman Elizabeth Wolf, who was accused on June 24 of trying to drown a three-year-old Palestinian-American Muslim girl in the pool of an apartment complex. Such anti-Palestinian racism was hardly surprising, since just days earlier, the media had reported the slaughtering of hundreds of Palestinian refugees as "a rare day of joy" for Israel, since it had led to the release of four hostages. "If the identities were reversed, the idea that a day on which 274 Israelis had been killed might be declared ‘a rare day of joy’ would be deemed unthinkable, obscene," said media analysts Media Lens. It took an eyewitness to describe "the cries of parents carrying dead children in their arms, the cries of children looking at the gutted bodies of their parents". Such realities are highlighted by Brazilian punks Detesto on their new album, Horrendous Reality Of War. LISTEN>>>    


Many Israelis, however, continued to join Jews worldwide in speaking up for the Palestinians. When Flood magazine asked Mary Ocher to compile a history of protest music to promote her new album, Your Guide to Revolution, on June 26, the Berlin-based artist replied: "I grew up in Israel, where I certainly did not feel I belonged and felt tremendous remorse and anger over the way our government has been treating Palestinians for decades, creating different classes of citizens. I’ve been writing about it since I was a kid and eventually left the country at age 20." Across the Israeli border in Lebanon, the self-described "first and only all-woman thrash metal band in the Middle East", Slave To Sirens, released their new album on June 14, containing songs such as "Full Grown Terror". A fortnight later, their sentiments were echoed by many like-minded musicians on fundraising album Free Palestine. LISTEN>>>        


As Australia continued to arm Israel, Australia's former prime minister Scott Morrison said on June 5 that Trump, if elected, would support his AUKUS defence pact to spend $368 billion of Australian taxpayers' money on nuclear submarines. Morrison's announcement came as he was lined up to serve as the Australian Labor government's "Trump envoy", and just months after he revealed his new job at an AUKUS-related company. In that move, he was joining "a growing list of politicians profiting from AUKUS". Such naked corruption is shredded on the cutting new album by Naarm/Melbourne punks Cutters, released days earlier. On "Jobs For The Boys", they rant: "Failed politicians don't get spots on the board. Failed politicians should be nailed to the floor." Morrison's successor, Liberal Party leader Peter Dutton, clearly wasn't listening, as he revealed a nuclear power plan that sent nuclear investment surging. LISTEN>>>   


Despite sending nuclear investment surging, Dutton's power plan was ridiculed by scientists as chronologically unfeasible. It was even mocked by a fellow prominent Liberal, former New South Wales treasurer Matt Kean, as financial lunacy that would have sent his state bankrupt. Indigenous elders weighed in on June 21, slamming its radioactive waste problem as a "death sentence". A week earlier, Aboriginal rapper Dobby - whose family have fought against nuclear waste on their land - released his impeccable debut album. The English and Murrawarri language record calls for urgent action to save Australia's rivers from over-irrigation and water theft. "They kill a million fish and our rivers are barely running," he raps. "You ain't thinking of my community, you are swimming up in your money." Dobby said that as a political artist, his reach is restricted on social media. "I need you to support us," he urged. LISTEN>>>


Also clamping down on political dissent was the Hong Kong government, which got protest anthem "Glory to Hong Kong" banned from streaming platforms on June 6. Joining the outrage were bouncing Beijing punks Xiaowang with their new album, released a week later. They said its song "The Other Side Of The Bridge" was written "after the Hong Kong social movement faltered - we saw people be divided and felt we could do nothing about it". But they also slam their own country. "'Stasii' talks about how we feel living in the panopticon and under the watch of 'big brother'. 'Cesuo' is a dark song about self-loathing. The Chinese song title means 'toilet'. It is about being surrounded by the ubiquitous sludge and dust." Yet it seemed China was setting one example. "Solar power is officially bigger than oil for the first time," reported US media on June 18. "China’s huge investment in panels is fueling the growth." LISTEN>>>  

[Mat Ward has been writing for Green Left since 2009. He also wrote the book Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country and makes political music. Mat Ward's latest single is Bruce Is Snorting A Line.]

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Read about more political albums.

Stream our new “Best protest songs of 2024” playlist on Spotify. This replaces the previous “Political albums” playlist, that was getting too big at more than 700 albums.

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