1. THE HIGHWOMEN - THE HIGHWOMEN
As US President Donald Trump whipped up anti-immigrant rhetoric last month, country music supergroup The Highwomen released their chart-topping album, whose title track is a pro-immigration remake of "Highwayman", the 1985 theme tune of country supergroup The Highwaymen.
"['The Highwayman''s characters] all died doing things that men do," said singer Brandi Carlile. "Willie [Nelson] was a bandit. Johnny Cash drove a fucking starship, nobody knows why. We rewrote it with fates that befell women: a doctor convicted of witchcraft; an immigrant who died trying to get over the border but got the kids over safe and sound; a preacher; and a freedom rider who gets shot." On self-described "gay country song" "If She Ever Leaves Me", Carlile sings of her love for another woman, and on hit song "Redesigning Women" the band sing of their love for all women: "Some of us are saints and some of us are surgeons. Made in God's image, just a better version." MORE>>>
2. BRITTANY HOWARD - JAIME
On September 14 in Sydney, pro-choice women and their supporters rallied for abortion to be made legal in New South Wales. Their protests came less than a week before Brittany Howard released her new album, whose track "Georgia" blasts the US state that recently passed one of the country’s most egregious anti-abortion laws. On the other side of the world, in the other Georgia, dance music artists talked about their new fundraising political compilation Place: Georgia this month. “Last year the police raided a lot of our clubs," said the album's co-creator, Sandro Mezurnishvili. "We had big protests on the streets. I was there. This compilation, for me and for the artists, is a response to this invasion. It’s a fuck you." Straight across the Black Sea from Georgia, Australian activist Jock Palfreeman was released from Bulgarian jail on September 19 after serving 11 years on trumped-up charges. During his time inside, he released a compilation album for fellow prisoners. MORE>>>
3. DAVID ROVICS - SONGS FOR TODAY
US activist David Rovics, who wrote the song "Jock" about Palfreeman, released his new album on September 6. As British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced protests and legal action for recalling Parliament, Rovics paid tribute to Johnson's nemesis, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. "The case before the nation is the one that we all face," he sings on the album's song "Jeremy Corbyn". "What direction now goes this human race? Do we give up on the missiles and tax the rich a lot? Or give up on society and just embrace the rot, among us who would tell us it's the foreigners to blame, not the Blairite, Tory billionaires and their rigged neoliberal game? Each day the numbers grow, as each day new people see, that they agree with Jeremy. I agree with Jeremy." On September 15, a solid gold toilet was stolen from the birthplace of Winston Churchill, just days after Boris Johnson sacked Churchill's great-grandson from the Tory Party in Britain's ever-growing Brexit chaos. LISTEN>>>
4. WALLIS BIRD - WOMAN
As the Brexit chaos brought renewed calls for secession in Wales and Northern Ireland, pop star Gruff Rhys released a political Welsh-language album and composer Donnacha Dennehy released a new opera about the Irish famine. And on September 27, award-winning Irish artist Wallis Bird released her radical new album, Woman. Describing it, she said: "As a race, we have to upend our ways, because currently, we are a virus that Mother Nature is fevering away, the environmental crisis is upon us. Since the #MeToo movement it's enabled women to expose out abuses as a means for progress for women's safety. This is a huge social turning point of our time, and we're living it. We're also coming from two generations of no world war, to dictators measuring the size of their nuclear weapons, dangling them at us, to white supremacy gaining dangerous political traction — there's a vast awakening, and reckoning of the human race. The time is now." MORE>>>
5. DAVE - PSYCHODRAMA
Riffing on that sentiment was Britain's Mercury Music Prize on September 19, whose shortlist was hailed as the most political yet.
Rapper Slowthai, who was odds-on favourite to win with his anti-Brexit album Nothing Great About Britain, stole the show when he produced the severed head of a Boris Johnson effigy from his backpack during his performance. “Fuck Boris Johnson, fuck everything, and there’s nothing great about Britain,” shouted the emcee. The BBC's delayed “live” broadcast showed him shouting “Fuck Boris” at the start, but cut off when he went to retrieve the head at the end. However, the overall prize was taken by rapper Dave, who dedicated the win to his older brother, who is serving jail time for his part in a murder. Dave's Mercury Music Prize-winning album, Psychodrama, touches on tensions between the police and the Black community in Streatham, south London. MORE>>>
6. THE SOULJAZZ ORCHESTRA - CHAOS THEORIES
Similar tensions between the police and Black community erupted in Geraldton, Western Australia, on September 17 when an officer shot a 29-year-old Aboriginal woman dead.
"This death needs to be investigated by a non-biased independent group that has nothing to gain from the outcome," wrote Yamatji woman and writer Deborah Green. "When is this going to start happening? When are the police going to be investigated like the murderers that they are? Rest in peace sister. I really hope the outcome of the investigation comes out in favour of you, but until I see it happen, I do not believe it will." The killing came just four days after the new album from Canada's Souljazz Orchestra, which addresses police brutality. Describing "Police The Police", songwriter Chrétien said: “I wrote this after my neighbour was beaten to death by Ottawa police during an arrest. The authorities downplayed the incident and the officers were working the next day like nothing had happened.” LISTEN>>>
7. VARIOUS ARTISTS - WAIATA / ANTHEMS
Resisting such oppression was the Maori Ngati Kahu iwi, or tribe, in New Zealand’s Northland region, which rejected a visit by a replica of Captain Cook's ship Endeavour on September 18. “Wherever he went, like most people of the time of imperial expansion, there were murders, there were abductions, there were rapes, and just a lot of bad outcomes for the indigenous people,” said Anahera Herbert-Graves, the head of the Ngati Kahu iwi. “He didn’t discover anything down here." The move came just days after the album Waiata / Anthems was released to celebrate Maori Language Week.
The Te Reo Maori language compilation celebrates 20 years since songwriter Hinewehi Mohi stood in front of 70,000 people at a sold-out Rugby World Cup quarter final in Twickenham, England, and sang New Zealand's national anthem in Te Reo Maori instead of English, sparking a backlash back home. It proved a turning point, sparking a national conversation and reviving the language. MORE>>>
8. LOWER DENS - THE COMPETITION
In Australia, Aboriginal people led huge protests as part of the worldwide School Strike 4 Climate on September 20. The rallies, which called for a change to the whole capitalist system, came amid a deluge of climate anthems from the mainstream pop world.
Slightly more leftfield were the new albums from Scottish vegan metallers Godeater and Baltimore dreampoppers Lower Dens, both out this month. Lower Dens' album is called The Competition because, according to frontperson Jana Hunter, the album considers the “socio-psychological” impact generated by the aggressions of capitalism. Three days later, the 16-year-old climate activist who had instigated the worldwide strike, Greta Thunberg, slammed world leaders at the United Nations, telling them: "We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is the money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!" Her speech followed her recording new music with alt-rockers The 1975. MORE>>>
9. SAM FENDER - HYPERSONIC MISSILES
The 1975's saxophonist, John Waugh, features on the radical new album from English pop rocker Sam Fender, released on September 13. It drew inevitable stylistic comparisons to US rock legend Bruce Springsteen, who turned 70 on September 23. Whereas Springsteen sings for the Baby Boomers who fought hard for their rights, Fender sings for the Millennials devastated by the corporate backlash. On the album's title track, he sings: "I eat myself to death, feed the corporate machine. I watch the movies, recite every line and scene. God bless America and all of its allies. I'm not the first to live with wool over my eyes. I am so blissfully unaware of everything. Kids in Gaza are bombed and I'm just out of it. The tensions of the world are rising higher. We're probably due another war with all this ire... All the silver tongued suits and cartoons that rule my world, are saying it's a high time for hypersonic missiles." MORE>>>
10. SMOKEY THE GHOST - THE HUMAN FORM
As the ever-growing threat of hypersonic missiles loomed over the India-Pakistan border this month, Indian rapper Smokey The Ghost released his new album, blasting the jingoistic Hindu chauvinism of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Bengaluru emcee says the lyrics were partly inspired by The Colours of Violence by Sudhir Kakkar. "The book really moved me," he said, "especially with how political figures use religion, fear and propaganda to cause misery ... I don't feel like I belong to the Brahmin community or Hindus or Muslims or even Atheists. I belong to the human community. I believe that this is the key ‘identity’ we forgot to place above all others, ‘cause irrespective of being Muslim or Hindu or Christian or atheist, we are the human form." And his main inspiration, his mother, would resonate with The Highwomen on the other side of the world. "She has been the greatest inspiration and experience that shaped the core values I put into the album," he said. 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 album about surveillance and an EP with Aboriginal rapper Provocalz. Follow his artist page on Spotify here.
Read about more political albums here.
Stream Green Left TV's political music playlist here.
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