52 left-leaning albums from 2014

The album covers.

This year seemed to have more than the usual quota of politically potent albums. Here, in no particular order, are 52 from 2014 - one for every week of the year. What album, or albums, would you suggest? Comment below, on Twitter or Facebook.

* * *


Radical newspaper Brisbane Blacks kicked off the year in fine style with a free mixtape of radical Aboriginal hip-hop reminding the world that Australia Day is also known to First Nations people as Invasion Day. The national holiday, which commemorates the landing of the First Fleet on January 26, 1788, is celebrated by most non-Aboriginal Australians. Unsurprisingly, Indigenous people see the start of their genocide as nothing to celebrate. In launching the Invasion Day mixtape, Boe Spearim of Brisbane Blacks told Green Left Weekly: "It's just so we could get the word out about how we are treated here in our own country - what we feel, what we see - and to reach different peoples that don't know of our struggle." The Brisbane Blacks activists closed the year with the same publicity-grabbing savvy, hitting headlines worldwide as they set fire to the Australian flag at the meeting of G20 nations in Brisbane, an event that Aboriginal activists had dubbed the #Genocidal20. Sadly Brisbane Blacks printed its final edition towards the end of the year, but reassured readers with the words: "Watch this space." http://bit.ly/1worgrQ


Boe Spearim and the Brisbane Blacks activists also made an appearance in the video clip for Phil Monsour's "Let Them Eat Money - Song For The G20", miming along to his neoliberal-lashing lyrics. Over his trademark jangling guitar, the Brisbane-based Monsour sang: "The circus is coming to town, the rulers and their entourage of clowns. Preaching the neoliberal creed 20 kings and queens of greed. They meet on stolen land no treaty ever signed. A fire in Musgrave park a sovereign people light a spark. Resistance it continues they will never own our soul. So let them eat money." Fittingly, proceeds from the song went to the Brisbane Sovereign Embassy. The song followed a fine album from the protest singer, called 100 Days. It was something of a departure for Monsour. Although he has long been a vocal supporter of Palestine and struggles in the Middle East, it was the first time he'd brought in a Middle Eastern oud player, reflecting his own Lebanese roots. http://bit.ly/1z99Ce3


Revolution, the new book by British comedian-turned activist Russell Brand, covers a lot of ground that will be familiar to committed activists. What might be more surprising is his pushing of the power of meditation to bring about change, as he urges people worldwide to tune into the oneness that unites all humanity. A similar sentiment could be found on I See You, the new album by psychedelic rock veterans Gong. "This Revolution" opined: "This revolution will not sit on your hard drive, or be seen on CCTV, or viewed on MTV. This revolution cannot be identified, located, imprisoned or locked up. This revolution will replace all those greedy capitalists who so fucked up. This revolution is from the source of our own thinking, our stories, our dreams, our poetry. This revolution has already begun - inside us, invisibly, invincibly, irrevocably." The band's sole founding member, Australian Daevid Allen, took part in the Paris Uprising of 1968, the spirit of which resurfaced on the album in the song "Occupy". Sadly, Gong said the album might also be Allen's swansong, as he is battling illness. Let's hope he makes it to 2017, which would mark the band's half-century. http://bit.ly/13eVbcz


South Carolina hardcore band Hundredth also called for a "revolution of consciousness" on their album Revolt Resist, a compilation of their past two EPs. "Wage" sampled Vietnam vet S. Brian Willson's exhortation to "wage unconditional peace", saying: "Without a non-violent revolution of consciousness, we will not survive as a civilization or as a planet." Similarly, their song "Barren" asked: "How come this so-intellectual being is destroying its only home? Because we only have the one home." The title track "Resist" also called for: "All power eliminated. All wealth circulated. All thrones eradicated. All humanity rehabilitated." The lyrics were delivered in the usual larynx-shredding style of most hardcore bands, but Hundredth gave that hackneyed approach a fresh feel by stripping their backing music right back in places. The band also run their own non-profit organisation, Hope Into Humanity, and have already provided two villages in India with permanent clean water. http://bit.ly/1yMUSgY


If you're a fan of dreamy-sounding pop, but not so keen on the vacuous lyrics, The Samples may be the band you've been looking for. The Denver-based outfit's latest album was called America, but it kicked off on the other side of the world with "Fukushima", a lament for Japan's recent notorious nuclear disaster. The song asked: "Who's gonna call, when the lights go down? Who's going to fall, when the sea turns brown? What if they lose it again, and it's out of control? They're hitting the decks as the poison waves roll. So who will it be, to keep an eye on you? You head straight for the sea, the radiation does too. The river is long, and there's a long list of lies. That say everything's fine, but it's just a disguise." The video urged: "Don't dumb yourselves down for the comfort of others. If we're fighting each other we can't fight the enemy." Elsewhere on the album, lead singer Sean Kelly, who has travelled all over his country, fired barbs at the CIA. And on "Wall Street Blues", he sang: "Cast your poll in the voting stall, it's another spin around on the merry go-round. On yeah, it's a scam, baby." http://bit.ly/1snebLv


As Ukraine hit the headlines this year, giving NATO a new excuse to keep on moving east, Ukrainian extreme metal band Dysphoria released their latest album, The Apogee. Their music is certainly extreme, making Tony Abbott's pledge to "shirtfront" Vladimir Putin for the downing of Flight MH17 over Ukraine look relatively sane by comparison. Over bizarre time signatures that leapt around like Abbott's political backflips, they roared and gargled out lyrics that could be seen as directly addressing both leaders. On "Creatures", they bellowed: "Superpowers’ methods with regard to stupefaction of their under-citizens are equal everywhere. Ideology of apprehension and denunciations to the neighbours keep the population under supervision more forcefully than dictatorial laws or barrage platoons with machine-guns." And on "Discretion Leak", they declared: "Small people, sitting in their cozy comfort zones, splutter violently while playing patriots and using paper orders to ship the armies straight to death." As they put it themselves, their music is "like listening to a war". http://bit.ly/1usciwW


Tireless troubadour David Rovics released no less than four albums this year. The singer-songwriter, who pops up at protests all over the world, began with July's All The News That's Fit To Sing, which included his song against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, "TPP 101". The song urged people to "do like we do in the WC And flush the TPP". It was a great line, even if he did admit he stole it. That same month, he released Falasteen Habibti, a compilation album of 21 songs supporting Palestine, which was under a renewed onslaught from Israel at the time. In November, he released When I'm Elected President, whose title track claimed: "When I'm elected President we will modernize the country: Solar panels on every rooftop, windmills in every county. Flat Earth Society members will have to see that the world is round. Coal, oil, uranium will all have to stay underground." Yes, that's only three albums. But if you buy When I'm Elected President, not only do you raise funds for his possible independent write-in campaign for the US presidency, you also get Wayfaring Stranger, a free bonus album of protest song covers. That's four. http://bit.ly/1zEABy7


In the world of radical punk-metal supergroup Iron Reagan, anything less than 20 tracks is an EP, anything over that is an album. So when they released the 13-track Spoiled Indentity in April, they called it an EP and didn't even charge for it. Admittedly, it was only five minutes long. But it covered a hell of a lot of political ground, from corrupt Christian evangelists to bent politicians and pro-lifers. Drummer Ryan Parrish told Green Left Weekly: "Damn you if your only goal is to slap legislation on women's bodies preventing them from making an already complicated, emotional, and life-changing decision which only affects them. That's as inhumane as it gets." In September, they released the 25-track album Tyranny Of Will. Its longest track, at four minutes two seconds, tackled one of the most pressing issues of our time: unaccountable democracy. "Four More Years" blasted: "I’m not going to apologize. You know that you all deserved it. I never promised to keep promises. There’s only some that are worth it." http://bit.ly/1ukgQcV


As the lead singer of Florida post-punks Against Me!, Tom Gabel had long spouted the brilliant, twisted outpourings of disaffected anarchism, activism and environmentalism. In 2012, Gabel revealed another tortured side, in going public with an emotionally-challenging gender transition. With Gabel reidentifying as Laura Jane Grace, Against Me! released the critically-acclaimed concept album Transgender Dysphoria Blues this year. The revealing intimacy of Grace's lyrics shone throughout the album. The title track intoned: "Your tells are so obvious, shoulders too broad for a girl. Keeps you reminded, helps you to remember where you come from. You want them to notice the ragged ends of your summer dress. You want them to see you like they see any other girl. They just see a faggot. They hold their breath not to catch the sick. You've got no cunt in your strut, you've got no hips to shake. And you know it's obvious, but we can't choose how we're made." Grace has also broadcast a documentary series titled “True Trans” and is putting the finishing touches to her memoir, out next year. http://bit.ly/1GiWPHM


The flawless music on Joelistics' second solo album, Blue Volume, was more than matched by the depth of his lyrics - an unflinching look at Australian reality. On "Not in my name", he rapped: "This fucking country has a rotten bitter hard soul, these are the laws of the country that the crown stole. It's not enough to turn back a bunch of leaky boats. It's not enough to kill their dreams, then we kill their hope... The journalists gather, the cameras click clack. And at the podium the speaker's putting on his act. He talks in doublespeak, Orwellian reports. Empty words, but his body language says it all." Joelistics told Green Left Weekly: "This lyric is a direct reference to watching [immigration minister] Scott Morrison give press conferences and answer questions after the death of [asylum seeker] Reza Berati. His total lack of humanity and compassion made me sick to my stomach." But the album was also a bittersweet ode to the nation from the Asian-Australian rapper, who has travelled and worked all over the country - which he clearly loves, despite all its faults. http://bit.ly/1BGgEsT


A recent documentary on veteran US rocker Bruce Springsteen asked fans to describe their hero in three words. The responses, compiled in the film Springsteen & I, were fairly predictable: "Hope, energy, power”; “Earnest, inspiring, intense” and so on. I would choose: "Open to interpretation." To some listeners, he may be singing about driving cars. To others he may be singing about the decline of the car industry. And to others still, he may be singing about the industry bosses and their cronies always being in the driving seat, driving down wages, running over workers' rights and throwing their hard-won conditions into reverse. So it was with his latest album, which featured a cover of Suicide's "Dream Baby Dream". Springsteen has included the word "dream" on every one of his albums and has said all his work measures the distance between the American Dream and American reality. On High Hopes, Suicide's dreamy ditty became nightmarish: "Dream, baby, dream, yeah, those dreams keep you free, keep holding on, I just want to see you smile, I just want to see you smile, I just want to see you smile..." http://bit.ly/1BtKldL


Briggs is the biggest name in Aboriginal rap not only because of his rapping skills. His huge appeal comes from his humour, charisma and irrepressible catchiness. But he also has a confronting political message. His latest album, Sheplife, was a homage to his hometown of Shepparton that rolled like the grittiest film noir. It was also a tribute to his family, the Yorta Yorta people, who cared for their land for thousands of years before a stranger named Sherbourne Sheppard came and stamped his name on it. On "Bad Apples", Briggs rapped over a dust-dry, detuned guitar lick and tolling bell: "They say one bad apple can spoil a whole bunch. What if all you had was bad apples for lunch? What if all you had was all you could touch? And what if before you even had a dream you were crushed?" The clip featured his members of his family, who Briggs tries to take on tour with him wherever he goes. Look out for his cousin Brad, who was with Briggs when Green Left Weekly interviewed him. That's him behind the bar. http://bit.ly/1z3TPwT


This year, decades of anger against aggressive agribusiness giant Monsanto rose up like a bitter harvest as huge protests against the company sprouted up across the world. Towards the end of the year, free protest album Doc GMO was also released, which featured many artists calling out the company by name. Its rustic mix of country, folk and bluegrass was so rural, it almost felt as if you should be listening to it while wearing farm overalls and holding a stalk of organic corn between your teeth. The album was curated by septuagenarian lofi legend Michael Hurley. But the highlight was Alexa Wiley's "Plant A Seed", which broadcast: "Plant a seed, it's a radical deed, that our life should be our own. Oh that beast, hungrier than anything. Oh that beast , Monsanto." Wiley is well known for her environmental activism. An anti-liquefied natural gas song of hers was recently featured in Columbia Crossings: Oregon Faces America’s Energy Future, a documentary of the long fight in Oregon against proposed LNG terminals. http://bit.ly/12GhAhL


US rapper Marcel Cartier's lines usually ring out with the clarity of a clarion call and the messages on his latest album were as clear as ever. As he told Green Left Weekly, much of the material came from first-hand experience with struggles around the world. "Since the last album was released in 2012, I not only continued writing songs but immersed myself in the world of journalism," he said. "I worked with RT for 18 months - I didn't do any stand-up reporting, only video work - which meant the opportunity to travel to a number of places I could only previously have dreamt about. These included Venezuela, Turkey, Iraq, Ukraine, Egypt and seemingly countless other destinations." Over banging beats from producer and fellow activist Agent Of Change, the album tackled a worldwide array of subjects, from white privilege to homophobic bullying. And on "I'm A Socialist", Cartier checked himself wih the words: "Art is not the revolution, art can play a part, as in spreading ideology, but that is just a start." http://bit.ly/1Bv3tIf


Sydney-raised Sikh rapper L-FRESH The LION is as well known for his activism as he is for his music. But his debut album, One, highlighted a smooth flow and slick sound that has easily leapt confining barriers and landed him straight in the mainstream. On the album's title track, he rapped that he was "watching politicians speak but I ain't sure of what they tell us, they're talking the same shit, just remixed like acapellas". He told Green Left Weekly: "We're at a point in time where there's a lot of political rhetoric and games being played by Australia's two major parties, but both of them aren't really that different. Both of them are still not making any genuine attempt to engage in dialogue with Indigenous communities. Both of them are still taking a hardline on refugee/asylum seeker issues." The album also included a tribute to his people, from whom he draws his political strength. "My main source of inspiration is my Sikh background," he said. "My ancestors gave back to community in such amazing ways." http://bit.ly/1yJ3vcj


Russian electronic duo Cycloctimia's fascination for technology and sharemarkets has paid dividends – more than 10 satirical albums so far, including this year's The Invisible Hand Of Market. Max K, who describes his role as “keyboards, music, sampling and market rituals”, told Green Left Weekly a lot had changed in his country since the collapse of Soviet Russia. "The biggest change is that Russia became closer to so-called 'Third World' countries in many aspects, which were absent in the USSR," he said. "In brief, I'd name a terrible increase in corruption, crime, drug addiction, cultural degradation, xenophobia, nationalism, religious - Christian, Islamic, denominational - radical obscurantism and terrorism." Cyclotimia's latest album also included the Oil & Gas Colony EP. Asked if he saw Russia as a resources colony, Max K replied: "If the main part of the country's GDP comes from oil and gas exports while its science and industry have been destroyed, I think it’s on a path to becoming a colony." http://bit.ly/12GO1wH


Public Enemy frontman Chuck D was back with another hard-hitting solo album. The Black In Man blended his baritone tones with heavy metal riffage and super-heavy funk. There was no let-up in his cutting wordplay and pointed barbs at the state of modern rap, such as the line: "I'm no fan of how urban radio has made rap fit for animals, best exhibited in some of today's mixtape culture, which invites black men into USA jails. All that jail murder rhyming from these cats at themselves is a shame, but these corps ushering and dangling many into USA prisons, need smashing." Lead single "Give We The Pride" featuring Mavis Staples could well be looked back upon in years to come as a timeless classic. http://bit.ly/1w7dv2f


Enigmatic electronic act Vatican Shadow released the album Fireball plus a set of dark, brooding singles. Vatican Shadow is also known as Dominick Fernow, the boss of gothic electronic label Hospital Records - not to be confused with the soulful drum n bass label of the same name. He performs on stage dressed in army fatigues, in which he gyrates violently to his own brutal beats. His song titles are media headlines about US imperialist wars. He gives no interviews, so listeners can decide his intent for themselves. http://bit.ly/1uFvEie

UPDATE July 17, 2021: On July 10, 2021, journalist Jean-Hughes Kabuiku shared a blog post highlighting connections between Vatican Shadow, who has long been feted by the left-leaning music press, and a number of ideologically questionable musicians. This column will not feature the artist's music in future.


Manic Street Preachers' 12th studio album, Futurology, dripped with the usual intelligence and quotations. The shock was that - after their musically bleak previous offering and declaring that they were pretty much spent - the Welsh rockers had returned to form with big, catchy, pop hooks. Such was its strength, hyperbolic bassist Nicky Wire was declaring that they were aiming to pull back on their prolificness to concentrate on quality and release a "huge" album before they retired. They may have lost some of their fire since they played for Castro in Cuba - a move they now say they regret - but there's life in those dragons yet. http://bit.ly/13nMfBF


In mid-August, Google CEO Eric Schmidt released another book extolling the virtues of techno-capitalism, titled How Google Works. The same week, Julian Assange released his own scathing book on the same subject, called When Google Met WikiLeaks. But if you don't have time to read either book, you could always watch veteran indie rapper Sole's more succinct analysis, released the very same week as the two books. His three-minute demolition job, titled "Fuck Google", was laugh-out-loud funny and was hailed by the San Francisco Examiner as "reinventing political rap". It was the highlight of a "pay what the fuck you want" EP that accompanied this year's full-priced album, Death Drive. http://bit.ly/1uBDb4u


Evergreen English crusty rockers New Model Army returned to their signature sound after their more experimental previous album. Between Wine and Blood had the kind of driving basslines and searing choruses that would get their sweaty, dreadlocked audiences building human pyramids all over again. Standout song "Angry Planet" summed up the seething sentiments: "They say that we're all kings and queens in the New World - except for those that aren't. They say that we can follow our dreams to the very top of the tree - except for those that can't. They say that the meek shall inherit the earth - except for those that shan't." http://bit.ly/1uwddQC


Sydney musician Declan Kelly finally realised a long-held dream in producing Diesel N Dub, a dub-reggae rework of Midnight Oil classics, named after their 1987 album Diesel and Dust. Though the idea may have sounded a little off-key, the Oils' tracks about Indigenous injustice actually sounded more appropriate when sung by the First Nations artists Kelly had assembled - including Radical Son, Stiff Gins and Emma Donovan. The album's gems were Frank Yamma's rough-voiced version of "Beds Are Burning" and the eye-popping, exclusive artwork by Aboriginal artist-activist Adam Hill. Proceeds went to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. http://bit.ly/1qTD2Jz


When Johnny Cash fought with his record label to release his album Bitter Tears in 1964, it was a bold move. Cash was riding high with a couple of hits under his belt and a protest album about the struggles of Native American Indians had his bosses at Columbia Records shaking in their cowboy boots. It remained the proudest moment of his long career. To mark the album's 50th anniversary, the songs were resung by Cash's friends Kris Kristoffersen and Emmylou Harris - among others - in a remarkable reworking. The title track of the new album, Look Again To The Wind, didn't appear on the original album, and was sung by Grammy-winning Native musician Bill Miller. The album's producer, Joe Henry, said it also served as a reminder that "things are not better now than they were 50 years ago for Native Americans". http://bit.ly/1y0HNpr


Prolific Melbourne electronic artist David Thrussell is best known for experimental outfit Snog, named to symbolise "the Marxist concept of destroying barriers between people". By the time of their last album, Babes in Consumerland, Snog were calling themselves an all-female band, led by "Dee", the new identity of Thrussell, who was living as a transgender woman. Thrussell's latest album The Great Golden Goal, under the straight techno guise of Black Lung, ditched the lyrics and left the talking to the satirical song titles, which mocked the world of finance. http://bit.ly/1tSPGdY


At the start of September, one of Australia's biggest hip-hop acts, Bliss N Eso, hit the headlines. MC Eso had posted pictures of himself holding his fist in front of a waxwork of R'n'B singer Rihanna, an infamous victim of domestic abuse at the hands of her partner, Chris Brown. Other Australian rappers were quick to condemn his actions, and MC Eso issued a damage-controlling apology. Yet it wan't a one-off for the rapper. In 2010, MC Eso rapped that he was "hitting that bitch like Chris Brown". One rapper who has been calling out Bliss N Eso for years is Indigenous emcee Provocalz. The very week before the misogyny scandal broke, he released a diss track against them, "What?!" on his Heroin & Air Max mixtape. He was ahead of the curve - as he is on so many issues. Check it out. http://bit.ly/1y0JUK2


Mind-bogglingly multi-talented musician Munkimuk returned, this time with a full band. Munkimuk, who has been tagged by others - but never himself - as "the grandfather of Aboriginal hip-hop", stepped outside that box with what he called his "live disco band". Munkimuk's chart-topping production skills could be heard in the crystal clear quality, and he somehow managed to blend some highly technical rapping with social commentary AND humour. There was also a strong Green Left Weekly link - the band's keyboardist is veteran GLW writer John Gauci and their latest video was produced by Art Resistance, the team behind Green Left TV. http://bit.ly/1y0K9ot

27. BLACK 47 - RISE UP

In a month when Bob Geldof urged the Scottish to vote against independence and U2 held a desperate-looking free album launch with fellow tax dodgers Apple, it was a relief to see a new album from dissenting Irish rockers Black 47 in October. Their new compilation, Rise Up, was a welcome reminder that there are plenty of Irish musicians that don't suck up to the establishment. The New York City-based band are named after a traditional term for the summer of 1847, the worst year of the Great Irish Famine. Rise Up blasted through the previous 25 years of their best political songs, from "Downtown Baghdad Blues" to the irrepressibly infectious "San Patricio Brigade" and new song "US of A 2014". Sadly it also marked the end of their quarter-century long existence. But it's amazing they lasted that long, considering their history of tragedies, near-manslaughters and British record labels who refused to promote them. http://bit.ly/1tytAZ7


Western Liberals have long held up Christine Lagarde as some sort of paragon of glass ceiling feminism. So they may have choked on their cornflakes on seeing the news this year that French authorities had formally opened a negligence investigation into Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund. The news would have come as less of a surprise in the global south, where the harsh realities of the IMF are a far cry from the benign image projected by the Western corporate media. Seun Kuti's song "IMF", which asserted that the acronym actually stood for "International Mother Fucker", might not be to everyone's taste. But there was little doubt it accurately summed up the anger felt by those who are at the sharp end of the fund's policies. It was found on his latest album, A Long Way To The Beginning, which reconfirmed that he is well shod to follow in the footsteps of his father, the legendary political afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. http://bit.ly/1vMx3pE


Another musician more than qualified to follow in his father's footsteps is Frank Yamma, who released his new album, Uncle, this year. Frank's father, Isaac Yamma, pioneered singing in language with the Pitjantjatjara Country Band. Frank, who speaks five languages, continued that tradition on Uncle, a far more upbeat affair than his previous album, the harrowing Countryman. Frank has had his fair share of troubles, from homelessness to alcoholism, but has also had a prolific and successful career. With Uncle, it sounded like he was really starting to enjoy himself again. Although he still touched on painful subject material, such as the family feuding on "One Lonely Night" and feelings of loss on "A Black Man's Crying", he also included celebrations of life, like the unbridled love song "You And Me". http://bit.ly/1D48KYC


Released on the same day and the same record label as Frank Yamma's Uncle was Radical Son's new album, Cause 'N Affect. But the similarities did not end there. The album also featured language prominently, kicking off in strong voice with well-known Dharug language teacher - and sometime Redfern Now actor - Richard Green. Radical Son is well-known for his cameo appearances with hip-hop artists and is something of a chameleon, turning from smooth soulster to explosive emcee at the drop of a hat. The father-of-eight spent much of his early life in solitary confinement in some of Australia's toughest jails for beating up prison guards. But the Kamilaroi-Tongan's power was all restrained like a well-coiled spring on this album, much of it sounding like butter wouldn't melt. http://bit.ly/11dzrfL


Dutch-based multi-instrumentalists Omnia returned with another album of environmentally-conscious songs. Earth Warrior, they said, was "all about the Living Earth and the fight against her destruction by humanity". The self-described "Crazy-Pagan Nature-Shamans" have built a huge following in Europe through festival-friendly live shows which make use of indigenous instruments from all over the world. On the album, drummer Rob worked up some jaw-dropping rhythms with Daphyd on the didgeribone, an instrument he learnt through its creator, Charlie McMahon of Midnight Oil fame. "Mutant Monkey" also returned to band leader Steve's recurring theme that, "humans are just spoiled naked space-monkeys with delusions of grandeur who are going to destroy the world they live in due to their in-built stupidity and the fact that they are obviously not natural to this world". http://bit.ly/1te6IUz


Surely one of the fastest ska acts in the world, Bruce Lee Band pack more of a punch than a kung fu kick to the cojones. Everything Will be Alright, My Friend was the first album in 10 years by the punk supergroup headed by California-based Asian Man Records boss Mike Park. Over the truly impressive, breakneck-speed reggae jams, Park ruminated on racism, capitalism and the state of the world's political and eco systems. The singalong “Generations”, featuring Jesse Michaels on guest vocals, asked: "What will we say to the generations that want to know why the world has gone? We saw the problem, so who can blame them? No-one told them they were wrong. What are we gonna say - except that we did nothing?" Park also records children's albums - approved by his own kids - so if you're seeking something worthier than the Wiggles, look no further. http://bit.ly/1vOdheq


Death Of An Era are not your average metal band, sonically or politically. Sonically, they blend sweeping cinematic orchestration over the top of evil snatches of heavy guitar and drums that sound more like bursts of rapid machinegun fire. Politically, they ditch metal's fixation with sex and satan for the horrors of politics. When vocalist Daniel Simpson ditches the effects, his throaty roar becomes a melodic cadence departing nuggets of wisdom, from state terror to media propaganda and environmental destruction. As they put it on "Big Brother": "We're overcome by a blinding darkness. Our leadership's a ghost. Insidiously it takes our freedoms, one by one. Hot off the printing presses, your propaganda. Swallow it down with your morning coffee. Digest the news in the American way. God bless the motherfucking USA." Not bad for a band whose average age is 20. http://on.fb.me/1ndDYso


Found-sound soundclash specialist Filastine had a new mini-album out, Aphasia. Released as a free download at the same time was a "sound swarm" he made for an exhibition on street protests, held by London's V&A Museum. The sound swarm was played from loudspeakers on a "Bike Bloc" - a construction made from discarded bicycles welded into a "machine of creative resistance", the likes of which first appeared at the 2009 climate protests in Copenhagen. An accompanying booklet found on the museum's website showed how to build your own. Filastine is used to such constructions, performing from a shopping trolley on stage for his live act, which he is bringing back Down Under early in the new year. Commenting on the upcoming gigs, he said: "Good news - we'll be heading to Australia in January. Bad news - by the time we get there it might be one giant militarized coal mine." http://bit.ly/1yioFmZ


Byron Bay's metalcore maestros In Hearts Wake returned with more heavy and heartfelt eco anthems. The standout track on Earthwalker was the pleading "Sacred", which lamented: "When the brightest city has fallen and the last animal is diseased, starving children will inherit a wasteland. What then has money achieved? We cannot have infinite economic growth on a finite planet." Likewise, "Mother" scalded: "When the Earth in your bones returns to the ground, perhaps then you will remember that this land does not belong to you, it is you who belong to this land." The landscape around Byron Bay almost serves as another member of the band, as seen in their lush and earthy videos. http://bit.ly/1rcfu3F


New York hardcore veterans Sick Of It All were back after a four-year hiatus with a powerful new album. Packing in elements of metal, punk and the Oi! movement, Last Act Of Defiance was hailed by critics as some of the best work in their three-decade career. It bristled with the kind of song titles and lyrics that showed how far the rest of the genre has veered off track in recent years. The 14 tracks referenced everything from the dehumanising aspects of technology and media to the delayed release of classified government information and freedoms being taken away by the police state. Towering anthem "DNC" declared: "I'll always be a threat, to an unjust government. We should always be a threat to the highest power. We are born free, yearning for peace, which isn't the way we're headed. It's all about total control." http://bit.ly/1oEjIKl


Missy Higgins' politics have always been far more radical than her music. So it's perhaps not surprising that the book of essays she wrote to accompany her latest album, Oz, was praised as far more credible than the music - a collection of covers of Australian classics that some critics said she had flattened. The choices were commendable enough, from Slim Dusty's "Biggest Disappointment" and Warumpi Band's "Blackfella/Whitefella" to her duet with Amanda Palmer on Paul Kelly's "Before Too Long". Even if her sound is a little tame for some tastes, it's great that someone so mainstream is fighting in the left's corner, considering that she champions everything from LGBTQ awareness and Indigenous rights to environmental battles in the Kimberley. http://bit.ly/1vHzEC5


Neil Young's latest album, Storytone, continued his five decade-long campaign for the environment and quest for musical reinvention. His new protest song about the planet's future, "Who's Gonna Stand Up?" sounded particularly fitting in the version sung by children. But Young said the orchestral take broke new ground: "With over sixty of the music industry's finest musicians and a thirty-voice choir, this epic version resonates with a sound that has never been heard on a protest song before." Young's frail falsetto sounded as fragile as the earth itself as he asked: "Who's gonna stand up and save the earth? Who's gonna take on the big machine?" The corporate media noted Young "wryly" followed that song with one titled "I Want To Drive My Car". But his car is LincVolt, his own electric-biofuel invention. Imperfect though it may be, it's another example of his innovation, which ranges from patents on toy trains to his new high-definition music format, Pono. http://bit.ly/1ts9ija


Australian Hip-Hop reared its ignorant head again in October as one of its biggest stars, Pez, took to Facebook to complain he'd been a victim of racism because he was called "skip" at school. When they'd stopped laughing, non-whites piled onto his status to point out the difference between being called a name and suffering a life of institutionalised racism. Thankfully, a couple of weeks later, the new album from black and white US duo Run The Jewels came out and reminded the world there were white rappers out there who understood what "white privilege" meant. Their track "Lie Cheat And Steal", on new album Run The Jewels 2, took a swipe at a "prisoner of privilege", billionaire Clippers chief Donald Sterling, who was ousted following a racist outburst and went on to blubber on TV. The black half of the duo, Killer Mike, also publicly called for an end to police violence after the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson. Being shot dead and being called "skip". See the difference, Pez? http://bit.ly/1uPvcOC


At the start of December, Pittsburgh punk protest band Anti-Flag put their money where their mouth was by cancelling a show in their hometown after the concert's promoter, Brian Drusky, ridiculed local protests against police brutality. Just days before, Anti-Flag had announced that all proceeds from their record label's compliation album This Concerns Everyone were going to the Ferguson Legal Defense Fund. In cancelling the show, Anti-Flag said: "Confronting bigotry and blind allegiance to power with education is something Anti-Flag believe in. We hope that Brian Drusky will have that education process happen in his future." It seemed it worked. Drusky apologised and announed he was holding a benefit concert for a victim of police brutality. Incidentally, Anti-Flag released a high-quality compilation of their own work this year, A Document Of Dissent 1993-2013, which is exactly what it says on the tin. http://bit.ly/1zPY53c


Also calling for an end to racist police violence was Los Angeles rapper Vince Staples on his latest record, the Def Jam-released Hell Can Wait. His song "Hands Up" appeared to take its name directly from the protests over Mike Brown's killing in Ferguson, when young African-Americans flooded the streets with their hands raised, chanting Brown's reported last words, "Hands Up! Don't Shoot!" Staples took to Twitter to make the brief statement: "Hands Up is not about Ferguson." But the song's message, railing against "paying taxes for some fucking clowns to ride around whooping niggas’ asses", was universal. On the track, Staples rapped: "Nigga freeze, put your hands in the air. They expect respect and non-violence. I refuse the right to be silent." And there were plenty of powerful songs released specifically about Ferguson, from Sole's "Fire The Police" and Tef Poe's "War Cry", to J Cole's "Be Free", Common's "Fight Or Flight" and even The Game's "Don't Shoot". http://bit.ly/1qBPsCf


Also hailing from working-class California, punk old-hands Rancid continued to defy their name by sounding as fresh as ever on their eighth album. Honor Is All We Know touched on the usual themes of brotherhood and solidarity over a rollicking soundtrack that shuffled from punk to ska all the way back to punk again. For their more political fans, the standout tracks would have been "Power Inside" - complete with its homage to the "power in union" - and "Raise Your Fist", which urged: "A pathetic revolution, people gone put to sleep. If the people'll wake up, there'll be riots in the streets. Raise your fist - raise your fist! - against the power - raise your fist! - the oppressive power that exists." The lyrics might have been a little uncomplicated for some, but the album came with the kind of standalone basslines and killer hooks that have reeled them in millions of record sales. http://bit.ly/1uhAiqT


If you like your punk a little more underground and complex, you could have done worse than British duo Sleaford Mods. Their latest album, Divide And Exit, was hailed by style bible Pitchfork as "about as punk as punk gets in 2014". Sleaford Mods do call themselves punks, but are more like a head-on collision between Brummie chart-topping rapper The Streets and indie raving Mancunian loons The Happy Mondays. Divide And Exit contended that, "Chumbawamba weren't political, they were just crap." But you'll have to delve further back into Sleaford Mods' back catalogue to mine their most radical gems. Last year's Austerity Dogs album took bitter bites out of Britain and this year's long-player, Chubbed Up, contained the instructive "Jobseeker", which featured the immortal lines: "So Mr Williamson, what have you done in order to find gainful employment since your last signing-on date?" "FUCK ALL. I sat around the house wanking, and I want to know why you don't serve coffee here." http://bit.ly/10TM4Mk


Similarly work-shy was "Fuck Work", the highlight of the latest - and last, it seemed - album from the Asylum Street Spankers. The Texan troubadours called it a day in 2011 after nearly two decades of working audiences with their energetic early 20th century folk, roots and ragtime music, which they often performed live with no amplification. The Last Laugh, a collection of their live performances, came out only this year. Sadly, it didn't contain their biggest hit, the anti-war satirical song "Stick Magnetic Ribbons on Your SUV", which clocked up more than 1 million YouTube views shortly after its release in 2006. But the aforementioned "Fuck Work" more than made up for that, telling the audience: "Wake to an alarm clock? You've got to be joking. I don't even think about getting up until it's right about time to start toking. I sit behind a desk all day I might develop some really weird quirks. What was I saying about work again?" The audience responded: "FUCK WORK!!!" http://bit.ly/1xopFT3


KMFDM continued their relentless industrial onslaught with their 19th album, Our Time Will Come. The band, whose name translates very loosely from the German "Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid" as "no pity for the majority", have been supporting the 99% for the past 30 years. Our Time Will Come featured the usual artwork from Aidan "Brute!" Hughes, whose Russian Constructivist-style sleeves have become as iconic as the band's music. New tracks such as "Brainwashed", "Shake The Cage" and "Blood Vs Money" harked back to the power of their best political work, which howled from albums such as 1995's Nihil and 2003's Bush-whacking WWIII. The most fun track, however, was lead single "Genau", which ran through all the German words that have become an everyday part of the English language. http://bit.ly/1qygTwP


Also holding it down for European political electronic music were French cyberpunks Chrysalide. Their name, derived from the term for butterfly pupae, "expresses a metaphor on the human race – how behind every worm, who we are, there is a butterfly". Their pounding beats demolish topics such as, in their words, "globalisation, the European economy, and the effect of a vicious financial market onto the yet helpless individual". If the promise of ultra-heavy, dark stomping electro and caustic vocals doesn't sound your thing, try the opening line from the first track off their new album, Personal Revolution. The song, titled “Welcome To The 21st Century” declared the era: “The century of all crisis: political, economical, ecological, moral and individual. To sum up: This world is totally fucked up!” http://bit.ly/1tv5opT


Acclaimed English protest singer Grace Petrie got the fuller sound she deserves on Love Is My Rebellion, her first album with a band. Adding The Benefits Culture - otherwise known as bassist Caitlin Field and drummer Jess Greengrass - greatly benefited her clean, catchy, sardonic folk. "All In It Together" took a government slogan and picked off the equally elitist opposition and government one by one, including Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and PM David Cameron. "Why listen to our health care staff's opinions, when we've got those of Mr Hunt? When every doctor and every nurse that I've spoken to seem to think that he's a cuuuuuuuuompletley inappropriate choice for the job. If we can just squeeze you all a little tighter, every penny we must save. But old boys, do relax, we wouldn't dream of a mansion tax. Yes, we're all in it together, us and Dave." http://bit.ly/1oEXI8T


Not too many power metal bands reference George Orwell, but Steel Prophet did on their latest album, Omniscient. In a flurry of steroid-chomping riffs, "1984 (George Orwell Is Rolling In His Grave)" shrieked: "George! George Or-well! Must be rolling in his grave in a rising police staaaate!" It was a return to political form for Steel Prophet, who as far back as 1996 included an anti-corporate ecological protest song, "Environmental Revolt", on their Continuum EP. In 1999, they put out Dark Hallucinations, a concept album based on Ray Bradbury's dystopian book-burning novel Fahrenheit 451. And "Political Greed" on their 2004 album, Beware, seethed: "See the children in this fucking war. They've got the money, political deeds. Giving life for a barrel of gas. Becoming victims of corporate greed." http://on.fb.me/1EnPS5v


Australia is one of the most multicultural countries on Earth, yet language and immigration maps show how its ethnicities tend to keep themselves separate. Not so with Australian roots veterans Blue King Brown. "Someone once said we're like the United Nations," says magnetic frontwoman Natalie Pa'apa'a, whose own background includes Samoan, Native American, Basque and Mexican heritage. The polished production on the Melbourne-based artists' latest album, Born Free, served as a solid base for the many topics they tackle, from education and media manipulation to activism and inequality. The first single, "Rize Up", declared: "It really makes me wonder, however did we let this go on for so long, exploit the Earth until the very end, that's how it happens when control stays with dem greedy men." http://bit.ly/10TMUZx


Another poster child for Melbourne multiculturalism could be folk-protest outfit Little Foot, who ooze cultural tolerance. Frontwoman Celine Yap spent a harrowing childhood in the Philippines separated from her family in a convent - and the experience has heightened her sensitivity to the pain of refugees. Asylum seekers were just one of the many topics Little Foot covered on their new album, Be Brave. They are a regular fixture at rallies in Melbourne, reaching out to audiences with songs that range from worker's rights and the anti-war movement to the mining and deforestation of countries worldwide. "Folk music, though sometimes sad, gives the listeners a feeling of hope, and a feeling of empowerment to make a change," said Yap. http://bit.ly/1xoUSq8


When he's not writing record-breaking solo hits like "Somebody I Used To Know", Belgian-born Melbourne musician Gotye plays his part in politically reinvigorated indie trio The Basics. Like fellow Melbourne-based musician Tex Perkins, The Basics ran in Victoria's elections on November 29. Though they may both have been a little light on policies, The Basics at least had a pretty solid protest single in the shape of the Midnight Oil-esque "The Lucky Country", found on the EP of the same name. But the best thing about the song was that The Basics asked the general public to suggest their favourite protest music on launching the single via campaign group GetUp! The comments showed ordinary Australians are well aware of a wealth of protest music out there, even if most gets neglected by the publicists-feed-music-press machine. http://bit.ly/1xoqnj7


Many Australian musicians have reached out to asylum seekers this year, most notably Blue Mountains-based muso Andy Busuttil with his multi-artist compilation Reclaim Your Voice, rapper Urthboy with free download "Don't Let It Go" and a gaggle of celebrities on the single "We're Better Than This". But the year closes with Christmas Benefit 2014, a compilation of 25 previously unreleased tracks by Australian artists to raise funds for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. The album is available as a download until 11.59pm on Christmas Day - Melbourne time - for a minimum donation of $5. Particularly poignant is Hugh McGinlay And The Recessive Genes' "This Falling Man", which features the lyrics: "Although my lips will never feel the air of sweet Australia, my hands not rake its dirt, my tongue not taste its fruit, I am as free as fire that will burn all of my papers, that will swallow all my ashes, I am my own tribute." http://bit.ly/1yM2m91

Like the article? Subscribe to Green Left now! You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.