Ten new albums worth a listen

Diesel n'Dub's artwork, by Aboriginal art-activist Adam Hill.
Saturday, September 13, 2014

From indie rappers to stadium rockers, here are 10 politically-potent new releases worth a listen. What album, or albums, would you suggest? Comment below, on Twitter or Facebook.

1. In mid-August, Google executive chairman 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", is laugh-out-loud funny and was hailed by San Francisco's SFWeekly as "reinventing political rap". It's the highlight of a "pay what the fuck you want" EP that accompanied his recent full-priced album, Death Drive. http://bit.ly/1uBDb4u

2. Evergreen English crusty rockers New Model Army have returned to their signature sound after their more experimental previous album. Between Wine and Blood has the kind of driving basslines and searing choruses that will get their sweaty, dreadlocked audiences building human pyramids all over again. Standout song "Angry Planet" sums 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

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

4. 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 as a country star - and a protest album about the struggles of Native American Indians had his bosses at Columbia Records quaking in their cowboy boots. It remained the proudest moment of his long career. To mark the album's 50th anniversary, the songs have been 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 is sung here by Grammy-winning Native musician Bill Miller. The album's producer, Joe Henry, says it also serves as a reminder that "things are not better now than they were 50 years ago for Native Americans". http://bit.ly/1y0HNpr

5. Sounding remarkably homogeneous for an album spanning two decades, Anti-Flag's A Document of Dissent 1993-2013 does what it says on the tin. It's all pretty much one-speed and every song hits with equal force. The song titles shout for themselves, from "Fuck Police Brutality", "Angry, Young and Poor", and "Power to the Peaceful" to "You Can Kill the Protester, But You Can’t Kill the Protest", "The Press Corpse" and the hard-to-argue with "The Economy Is Suffering… Let It Die". It may be much of a muchness for some, but the consistency also applies to the quality control. http://bit.ly/1qTFIqK

6. Prolific Melbourne electronic artist David Thrussell is best known for his 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 his straight techno guise of Black Lung, ditches the lyrics and leaves the talking to the satirical song titles, which mock the world of finance. http://bit.ly/1tSPGdY

7. For some sharp skits on Tongan-Australian culture, you could try watching Chris Lilley's ABC-commisioned comedy series Jonah From Tonga. Mind you, critics did pan it for embarrassing Australia on the world stage - again - by making other countries think Australians find white men in blackface hilarious. Or you could try downloading Football, Feasts & Funerals, the new free mixtape from Hau who, when he's not rapping, hosts Triple J's Hip-Hop Show. The sometime member of Koolism says the title reflects "the three important things in a Tongan’s life; rugby union and league are near religions in the islands, food plays a big part in the culture, and attending funerals can happen almost bi-monthly". http://bit.ly/1BCXiSX

8. At the start of this month, 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 called "What!!" on his Heroin & Airmax mixtape. He was ahead of the curve, as he is on so many issues. Check it out. http://bit.ly/1y0JUK2

9. Mind-bogglingly multi-talented musician Munkimuk has returned, this time with a full band. Munkimuk, who has been tagged by others - but never himself - as "the grandfather of Aboriginal hip-hop" steps outside that box with what he calls his "live disco band", Renegades Of Munk. Munkimuk's chart-topping production skills can be heard in the crystal clear quality, and he somehow manages to blend some highly technical rapping with social commentary AND humour. There is 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

10. If you're a fan of stadium rock, you could do worse than give ex-Guns N' Roses drummer Matt Sorum's new solo album a spin. Matt Sorum's Fierce Joy is a far cry from the balls-to-the-wall hard rock histrionics of the latest solo album from ex-GNR lead guitarist Slash. Rather, it's more like the mellow Americana dished up by former GNR rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin on his sublime solo efforts. The only reason it gets a mention here is that Sorum has, somewhat surprisingly, included a climate protest song on the album. Sure, it may be dripping in fey poetry and Led Zeppelin-style fantasy imagery, but it should be celebrated - if only for the fact that there are so few climate songs out there. http://bit.ly/1wkmNWh

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