10 new albums to fix a fucked-up world

March 2020 political albums artwork

Here's a look back at March's political news and the best new albums that related to it. What albums would you suggest? Comment on TwitterFacebook, or email

1. THINK WOMEN - SISTERHOOD SESSIONS, VOL. 2

As activists worldwide rallied for International Women's Day on March 8, Californian record label Future Youth Records collaborated with non-profits in the US and Britain to release an album of empowering songs written and performed by girls, including many living on the margins. Despite the dated-looking artwork, Sisterhood Sessions Vol. 2 is surprisingly cutting-edge, its polished pop, trap and indie a result of the big-name producers who lent their talents. The release came as the United Nations published research that found almost 90% of men and women are biased against women. Fighting the sexism was legendary London recording studio Abbey Road — of Beatles fame — which marked International Women's Day by announcing Equalise, a program to support women in music production and audio engineering. In doing so, it noted: "The world of sound recording has proved off-putting and inaccessible to women. Indeed, today just 5% of all audio engineers are female." MORE>>> 

2. THICK - 5 YEARS BEHIND 

Also throwing a spotlight on sexism in the music industry were New York "girlwave" punks Thick with their new album, released on March 6. On standout track "Mansplain", they tackle the patronising patriarchy experienced by women worldwide. "I don’t really appreciate being spoken down to in any context," said bassist Kate Black. "But I do find it frustrating when someone is talking to you in a professional setting where you’re setting up on stage or you’re in the middle of the set and they’re speaking over a loudspeaker saying things that show that they’re making the assumption that you don’t know what you’re doing and that you haven’t been in a band for however many years ... we’ve had some crazy stuff in other cities. Someone was making motions at Shari’s drums and stormed the stage." "I had to shove him off and no one noticed," said drummer Shari Page. "No one called security ... that’s part of the expectation of being a woman in music." LISTEN>>>

3. ARMAND AMAR - WOMAN (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)

On March 3, women rallied across India to lead a new mass movement against Indian fascism. On March 8, Turkish police fired tear gas to disperse an International Women's Day march in Istanbul. The next day, women deliberately disappeared from their workplaces across Mexico to protest against the thousands who go missing in the country each year from gender violence. Documenting the oppression and resistance of women worldwide was the new feature-length documentary Woman, soundtracked by French composer Armand Amar. "The project deals with topics such as motherhood, education, marriage or financial independence but also menstruation or sexuality," said the producers. "What Woman would like to underline most is the inner strength of women and their capacity to change the world despite all the difficulties they are facing ... the aim of the film is not only to call for rights or focus on problems, but to find solutions and try to reconcile the two genders." MORE>>>

4. JB DUNCKEL - CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)

Another powerful soundtrack came this month from JB Dunckel, one half of famed French dream pop duo Air. Capital In The Twenty-First Century is the film adaptation of radical French economist Thomas Piketty's acclaimed book of the same name. The film and its heavily synthesized soundtrack came as Piketty launched a new book arguing for socialism, just as the global economy fell into a tailspin sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. As billionaires called for people to stop quarantining themselves and get back to work, governments lined up to bail out firms that had "avoided taxes, safety regulations and spent billions boosting their stock". The inequality of the rescue package even caused the financial press to object. Activists, meanwhile, tried to stop taxpayers' money rescuing polluting companies that risked health further, saying: "This economic stimulus package should not exacerbate two other ongoing crises: climate change and environmental injustice.” LISTEN>>>

5. IAN WILLIAM CRAIG - RED SUN THROUGH SMOKE 

The consequences of propping up such polluting industries were revealed on March 23. A preliminary assessment published in the Medical Journal of Australia said last summer's bushfires exposed about three-quarters of the population to prolonged levels of smoke, "causing 417 excess deaths". Three days earlier, Vancouver-based experimental electronic musician Ian William Craig released his new album, Red Sun Through Smoke. He wrote it in his grandfather's house in Kelowna, British Columbia, while his grandfather lay dying after his lungs filled with fluid as a result of the smoke from forest fires encircling the city. Days earlier, British Columbia band Small Town Artillery had a gig in Kindersley, Saskatchewan, cancelled after local oil workers objected to the band's support for environmental indigenous movement Wet'suwet'en Strong. Raging against such injustices was Say Somethin', the impassioned new protest album from fellow Canadian David Clayton-Thomas. LISTEN>>>

6. PEARL JAM - GIGATON 

Also trying to halt oil-fuelled destruction was respected experimental electronic musician Tom Middleton. His new album was made to be played in Nissan's all-electric Leaf car by the 60% of new parents who try to get their babies to sleep by driving them around at least once a week, resulting in 70kg of CO2 emissions a year per car. The album blends lullaby music with engine sounds, which is what makes babies sleep rather than the movement of the car. The need for musicians to take such credibility-sapping corporate work was underlined as the coronavirus wiped out their precarious livelihoods. Also raging against climate change was the new album from grunge music legends Pearl Jam, released on March 27. Gigaton’s album cover is a photograph of a glacier in Svalbard, Norway, that scientists say is warming faster than any other place on Earth. Throughout the album, they address both the fragile nature of Earth and its climate wrecker-in-chief, US President Donald Trump. MORE>>>

7. BODY COUNT - CARNIVORE 

As Trump labelled the coronavirus "The Chinese virus" — a move that was unsurprisingly followed by racist bashings and stabbings of Chinese people — anti-racist rap pioneer Ice T released his new album with his heavy metal band Body Count. The band shot to fame with their controversial 1992 anthem "Cop Killer". But in discussing their new album, Ice T stressed that song was about racist police, saying: "I don't hate cops, I hate racists." Nowadays, Ice T is often asked if he plans to enter politics, to which the former street criminal replies: “I got out of crime, man.” Fittingly, as the Democrats hoping to defeat Trump dropped out of the race to become the Democratic nominee for president, they all swung their weight behind former no-hoper Joe Biden to try to crush his leftist rival Bernie Sanders. But is Biden any less racist than Trump? Well, he once described Barack Obama as "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy". MORE>>>    

   

8. CORNERSHOP - ENGLAND IS A GARDEN 

On March 4, London's Metropolitan Police released images of four men who allegedly assaulted a Singaporean student, as similar coronavirus-related attacks against Asians swept Britain. Two days later, pioneering anti-racist British-Asian band Cornershop released their new indie pop album, England Is A Garden. Discussing it, singer Tjinder Singh said: "My father said to me once: 'They’ll not always want you here in this country.' That’s always stuck with me. And that’s why our songs have always reflected that right from the start." Singh also reflected upon the way the band publicly called out pop star Morrissey for his provocative statements years before the former Smiths singer became a media pariah for his far-right outbursts. As if on cue, on March 20, Morrissey released his latest politically provocative album I Am Not A Dog On A Chain, whose title alludes to his right not to be silenced. One review summed it up as: "Old man yells at cloud." MORE>>>  

9. RIZ AHMED - THE LONG GOODBYE

Also rejecting the racism of Brexit Britain was actor-turned-rapper Riz Ahmed, whose new album, released on March 6, makes the political powerfully personal. Over bass-heavy, Indian-flavoured beats, The Long Goodbye depicts the breakdown of his relationship with Britain as a break-up with an abusive lover called Britney. On the opening track he wails: "New kids born in our house, a new movement. A future of mixed cultures, but I was so fucking stupid. Didn't stop to think how badly it would just confuse them. Like, 'Daddy why does Mum hate me? She looks at me and says 'Who's this?'" Discussing the album, Ahmed said: "I wanted to open up these heartbreak feels of thinking, 'OK! Wow. My country is breaking up with me after we’ve built this home together.' If you look at the comments that even our Prime Minister's made, it makes you feel you’re getting dashed out of your own house! They’re trying it, or at least making us feel unwelcome in our homes." MORE>>>

10. WHEN OUR TURN COMES - WHEN OUR TURN COMES

So as the world reels from racism, climate change and a deadly pandemic that's revealed jobs and state services to be totally screwed by neoliberal politics, what's the answer? Look no further than the debut EP from radical Melbourne five-piece When Our Turn Comes, fronted by long-time Green Left contributor Zane Alcorn. "This no-holds-barred release explores issues like systemic racism and tackling neo-Nazi groups, everyday economic struggles and union politics, and the climate crisis," say the band. "The group's diverse members bring together the best of conscious hip-hop, a punk ethos, huge metal guitars, experimental jazz, and a funky rhythm section. These wild and divergent forces come together with creative intensity to form a final product that is radical yet cohesive." The lyrics, rapping and music are actually all world class, coming across like a more organic, dynamic, loose and innovative version of Rage Against The Machine. Truly great. LISTEN>>>


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mat Ward has been writing for Green Left Weekly since 2009. He also wrote the book Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country and makes political music. This year, he released a new concept album about the media. You can download the deluxe version free for a limited time here.

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