1. ADAM BLOTNER - STEP TO THE LEFT: COUNTRY FOR LIBERALS
At the start of the month, an investigation into US President Donald Trump's tax-dodging revealed that the "million-dollar loan" he's always claimed his father gave him to start his business was actually US$60.7 million, or US$140 million in today's dollars. Days later, country musician Will Hoge released his new album, which opens with the words: "I work two jobs and raise a family, while you're livin' on everything your daddy left behind." Hoge was joined by other country musicians speaking out against Trump this month, from Willie Nelson to Taylor Swift and comic songwriter Adam Blotner, whose new album Step To The Left promoted reproductive rights as Trump swore in anti-abortion US supreme Court judge Brett Kavanaugh. Some may balk at the fact it's a comedy album, but in rejecting any attempt to be arty or enigmatic, it hits all its targets dead-on, from homophobes and gun lobbyists to corrupt bankers, racists and climate change deniers. LISTEN>>>
2. XIUHTEZCATL - BREAK FREE
As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest devastating report on October 8, Australia's government went into full denial by trying to promote coal. Three days earlier, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez - who is one of a group of teenagers suing the US government for inaction on climate change - released his debut album. On its title track, Xiuhtezcatl - whose father is of Aztec heritage and raised his children in the tradition of the Mexica, one of the indigenous Aztec peoples of Mexico - raps: "Break free. Change the system now, set my people free. Break free. We're marching out of schools taking to the streets. Break free. Our generation's going down in history. We're carrying the legacy, we're breaking free, breaking free." The album came as indigenous Canadian opera singer Jeremy Dutcher won the 2018 Polaris Music Prize for an album sung in his people's language and Australian Aboriginal rapper Tasman Keith released his radical debut EP. MORE>>>
3. PERRY KEYES - JIM SALMON'S LAMENT
The Australia that Tasman Keith raps about rarely makes global headlines. But on October 9, the Australia the world knows made news when the World Heritage-listed Sydney Opera House was surrounded by torch-wielding protesters trying to stop gambling ads being projected onto its sails. State premier Gladys Berejiklian had approved the promotion during Responsible Gambling Awareness Week. She was backed by Prime Minister Scott "Scotty Doesn't Know" Morrison, who called the Opera House Sydney's "biggest billboard" and suggested the Harbour Bridge should be used the same way. The protest came four days after local musician Perry Keyes released his new album, which explores the areas of Sydney hidden far from the glamour of the Opera House - the parts of Sydney devastated by gambling. As one enthralled album reviewer put it: "Keyes is the Springsteen you've never heard of, the songwriter who shows us the inner-city Sydney you don't see in the tourism brochures." MORE>>>
4. TOM MORELLO - THE ATLAS UNDERGROUND
Showing the same political smarts she displayed during Responsible Gambling Awareness Week, Gladys Berejiklian concluded a review into last month's drug-related deaths at a Sydney rave by rejecting the only measure that would keep kids safe: pill-testing. While voting parents everywhere fumed, Sydney duo Twisted Melodiez sampled Berejiklian calling for the rave to be closed down, resulting in their hardstyle banger "Shut This Down". Also politicising dance music was techno DJ Marie Davidson with her new album Working Class Woman, released as a forum looked into the dire consequences of poverty on women. Tapping the same vein was Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello, who released a star-studded album of politicised electronic dance music on October 12, aimed at a younger audience who "probably haven’t heard much electric guitar". A week later he was back in traditional guitar mode on a 57-track album marking the 21st anniversary of protest music label Appleseed. MORE>>>
5. VARIOUS ARTISTS - RAISE YOUR VOICE!: THE SOUND OF STUDENT PROTEST
Just as Morello shot back at murderous police on his new album track "Lead Poisoning", pupils traumatised by school shootings took aim at the gun lobby with their October 5 album Raise Your Voice! The Sound Of Student Protest. The album, deliberately released before the US mid-term elections, is anchored by a powerful piece of spoken word poetry by Saida Dahir. She takes listeners right inside the classroom as she says: "Old people got shit to do, because one day your jobs will be ours and you'll be overpowered. And we'll send our kids to school with nothing to fear - and they'll come home and we'll hold them near and dear. And they'll just worry about their outfits - and they'll no longer have to deal with any of this shit." As arms control became a hot issue in the mid-terms, a bomber sent explosives to prominent liberals and a gunman killed 11 Jews in a synagogue, prompting Trump to call for worshippers to be armed, just as he'd called for teachers to carry guns. MORE>>>
6. JOHN DAVERSA BIG BAND - AMERICAN DREAMERS: VOICES OF HOPE, MUSIC OF FREEDOM
Trying to drown out all the racist hatred were the John Daversa Big Band, with their new album American Dreamers: Voices Of Hope, Music Of Freedom. When Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Early Arrivals policy last year, targeting the young undocumented people known as "Dreamers" who were brought to the country as children, Grammy-nominated jazz musician John Daversa scoured the US for examples. He found 53 who also happened to be musicians, then got them to play on the record and narrate their stories before each of the tracks. The powerful album was released as a migrant caravan from Honduras headed towards the US border and protests erupted across Australia against the continuing forced detention of refugee children on the island of Nauru. Among the protesters was rocker Jimmy Barnes, who said: "My friends in America, they’re all fighting their own demons with Trump, but they all look and say ‘man your human rights record is worse than ours’.” MORE>>>
7. NENEH CHERRY - BROKEN POLITICS
On October 19, shape-shifting Swedish soul star Neneh Cherry released her aptly titled new album, Broken Politics, which was recorded just after the inauguration of Trump. “I don’t even want to mention his name or see his bloody hand movements,” Cherry said. “I just lose it. But I feel like, OK, maybe I can get something from feeling this upset.” The album, which is far more raw than her 1989 hit debut album Raw Like Sushi, references refugees (“Kong”), abortion (“Black Monday”), guns (“Shotgun Shack”), disinformation (“Faster Than the Truth”) and women’s rights (“Soldier”). The same day, her fellow pop veteran Yoko Ono released an album critics called her "most political yet". Sounding more subversive than most teenagers, the 85-year-old sings: "We're living in a warzone. Men flashing their guns and balls. Women looking like barbie dolls." It came as arms makers sponsored Australia's Invictus Games and British peace campaigners blockaded a nuclear bomb factory. LISTEN>>>
8. SHE DREW THE GUN - REVOLUTION OF MIND
As xenophobia in Brexit Britain reached fever pitch and protesters rallied against the country's exit from the EU, electronic experimentalist Gazelle Twin released her Brexit-bashing horror-folk album, Pastoral. Striking the same chord were indie rockers Youth Killed It with their new album, What's So Great, Britain?, and She Drew The Gun with their evocative new long player, Revolution Of Mind. On "Resister Reprise", seething Scouse frontwoman Louisa Roach addresses "the environmental campaigners, the guardians, the ravers, to those less able, the life savers, the nurses and surgeons feeling burdened but refusing to pull the curtain on the national health service, souls using prose to pick holes in status quos, 'cos a real artist questions whatever she knows". Discussing it, she said: “I believe in questioning the rules and asking who they’re there to serve in the first place. I think some of that is down to being queer and not conforming to rules around gender.” MORE>>>
9. GRACE PETRIE - QUEER AS FOLK
Roach's fellow queer Brit, Grace Petrie, hit out at Britain's homophobic in vitro fertilisation policies on her new album, Queer As Folk, which smashed its £10,000 crowdfunding goal, raising £18,000 in a matter of days. "I was completely blown away,” said Petrie this month, as governments worldwide defied such public sentiment by bringing in homophobic laws. On "Pride" Petrie sings: "I know you don't want to face the fact that each and every day we're still being attacked. And sometimes it's by guns and sometimes it's by words and sometimes it's by the North Carolina Bathroom Act... Sometimes it's like an uphill climb, but I'm right by your side - and that's what we call Pride." In Australia, as Cash Savage launched her new album, she described her pain at having her sexuality scrutinised as the nation went through last year's referendum on gay marriage. Yet despite the win for marriage equality, Australia's PM doubled down on his "skin curling" homophobia this month. LISTEN>>>
10. REBEL DIAZ - AMÉRICA -VS- AMERIKKKA
At the start of the month, supporters of Brazil's homophobic presidential candidate Jair "privatise everything" Bolsonaro attacked a gay rights activist and carved a swastika into her back. By the end of the month, Bolsonaro - "the Trump of the tropics" - had won the presidency, while Brazil's most popular politician, the leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, remained in jail. Holding out hope for South America were Bronx-based Chilean activists Rebel Diaz, with their new Spanish-language album, released on October 12. Discussing the lead single, they said: "'Y Va Caer' is a remix to old-school protest chants throughout Latin America calling for the toppling of various dictatorships that had been set up with the support of United States’ foreign policy. They used to sing 'y va caer' in the streets to tell them they will fall." Backing them up were equally strong albums from punks Anti-Flag, bluesmen Eric Bibb and Dave Keller, and Satanic feminist rock'n'rollers Twin Temple. LISTEN>>>
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 just released a new album about Elon Musk. Follow him on Spotify here.
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