Protest Music pt. 1

With recent events where Fascists are making their presence more known in the United States, I’ve decided to push forward part one of two about protest songs. This will not be a comprehensive history by any means, but will focus on some artists and songs that have made an impact on me. I’ve listened to protest music for my entire life. I grew up with a mother who was active in the civil rights and anti-poverty movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s so protest music was never “protest music” it was just “music”. As I got older and started to determine my own music preferences, I gravitated towards socially aware music (primarily from the UK). As an adult I spend a lot of time listening to this type of music, both new and old.

In the United States, protest music can easily be traced back to the time of the Revolutionary War. Later, it was prominent during the Civil War, in regards to both the military fight, but it also was present in the “spirituals” or songs sung by the African slaves. In the early 20th Century many protest songs were born from the labor movement (e.g. “The Preacher and the Slave” by Joe Hill)

In the 1930’s and 1940’s songs dealt with labor issues, but also addressed the dark past of the United States (“Strange Fruit” as performed by Billie Holiday)

and “Joe Hill” as sung by Paul Robeson (who was also persecuted for his left-leaning political beliefs)

Another prominent singer who addressed both racial injustice and economic inequality was Lead Belly. One of his more well-known songs is the very catchy “Bourgeois Blues”

While there were many protest singers in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s, there are two who are arguably the most prolific and still currently widely recognized. These two individuals, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, carried the folk protest flag from the 1930’s all the way until the 2000’s with the passing of Seeger. There songs, like those before them, often dealt with labor issues and economic inequality, but also were directly aimed at issues of their time. One such song, “All You Fascists Bound To Lose” was directed at the rise of Fascism in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

 

Guthrie is most well known for a song that is now (ironically enough) often sung as a very patriotic song, “This Land is Your Land”

Pete Seeger will figure more in the next edition, along with many of the singers from the 1960’s.

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“Of all the things you are about to lose, this will be the most painful”

It has been a few years since Typhoon has come out with new music. Front man Kyle Morton released a record last year, but the sound was not as rich as Typhoon (despite the very deep dark lyrics that he…and they…are known for). The wait is finally over. Last week the Portland based band released the first movement of their forthcoming record Offerings. I have repeatedly listened to these songs, and watched the accompanying lyric presentation. I love the mood set by these four tracks, and I cannot listen to them enough. I am eagerly awaiting the new record after the first of the year.

 

Edit (11/12/17):

I was listening to more Typhoon this weekend, and ran into this live performance from La Blogothèque. This live set features songs from White Lighter. I love the description on the video (see below). While I’ve not seen Typhoon in person, I do believe their music is so incredibly beautiful and personal. It is so full of raw emotion and incredible musicality.

 

My City, My Heart

 

I have lived in Las Vegas for more than a decade. I was not born here, but I fell in love with this place shortly after I moved here. This is my home. I choose to live here, and I am not sure I will ever leave. The last few days have been such a surreal experience that is tough to put into words. I want to have words for it, but I just cannot get there…yet. I know I’ve been sharing some sad songs, and while the sentiment I want to share now may seem sad, its more of a love for my home. When I say Home Means Nevada, I mean it. This post is an ode to my home.

“Home Means Nevada” as performed by The Killers

 

“Viva Las Vegas” as performed by The Killers

“Vegas Lights” by Panic! At The Disco

“A Shot at The Night” by The Killers

 

“Its Time” (and more) by Imagine Dragons

“I don’t ever want to let you down, I don’t ever want to leave this town, cuz after all the city never sleeps at night”

I Hear You Like Sad Songs…

Ok, maybe you do not, but I do. As mentioned in a recent post, I’ve been listening to a lot of melancholy or “sad” music lately. Its not quite dark or emo, but its not “happy”. The exceptions have been for those bands who I’ve seen over the last few weeks.

There has been some amazing sad music come out in the last few months. One of the albums I was most looking forward to is the first release from Phoebe Bridgers, a singer-songwriter based in LA. I first heard her through a Spotify list. The song that hooked me, “Georgia” is haunting, simple and beautiful. After the release of her first album Stranger in the Alps I was able to experience more of the emotion that filled her songs. The song that first struck me (and still continues to) is “Funeral”. I quite appreciate this very understated live performance.

I’ve listened to Seattle based singer-songwriter Noah Gundersen on and off for the last few years. I first heard him as a recommendation from Spotify based upon my listening to his friend and fellow emotional singer David Ramirez. While not from his most recent release, White Noise, “First Defeat” has been a constant the last few weeks. It is another raw and heartbreaking song.

We are going to go way back with this last song. As a teenager I loved Radiohead. I loved all things BritRock. Other than electronic music and gangster rap, I was not a fan of the American drivel (my how the times have changed). Radiohead had a lot of sad songs early on and one of my favorites was “Fake Plastic Trees” from The Bends which in my opinion is the 2nd best Radiohead album. Second only to Ok Computer which defined much of my late teen years. Here is “Fake Plastic Trees”:

“I can’t promise you anything”

September is always a busy month with both LouFest & Life Is Beautiful taking place. This year there were a few bands who were at both of these festivals (as typical). One of the bands who has stuck with me since I started listening to them before LouFest is LA based Mondo Cozmo. The band is the brainchild of Josh Ostrander who is not new to the music life having been in two previously signed bands. While touring, Mondo Cozmo includes a live band including former Imagine Dragons drummer Andrew Tolman. Prior to LouFest as I was listening to the bands who would be playing, I was struck by the honest lyrics and powerful songs. Hearing and seeing the songs performed at both Life Is Beautiful and LouFest exceeded expectations. After having watched a couple of the music videos that accompany the songs, I am even more enamored with Mondo Cozmo. I am excited to see them again in November for the Emerge Music + Impact conference.

My favorite song prior to LouFest is “Hold on To Me”. It can be found on the recently released Plastic Soul. This video is beautiful, and it hits close to home for me. I needed this song and this video.

“Shine” is raw and Josh Ostrander has an almost Bob Dylan quality in his voice during this song. I believe I heard the term “hippie jesus” used in reference to this song at Life Is Beautiful.

My favorite lyric from “Shine” is “My friends are so alone, it breaks my heart. My friends don’t understand we all are lost”. Pure poetry.

“Plastic Soul” is a song I will find myself humming and thinking about all day long. When I first heard it, I had swore I had heard it before. Maybe I had, but one thing is clear, the song sticks with me.

Mondo Cozmo is currently touring, and it seems like they will not be stopping any time soon. If you get the chance, check them out!

“You Can Count on Me to F*ck Up Everything”

If you have ever read a post by me on this fine blog, you will know I like folk music and I like sad music. What happens when you combine the best of both worlds? You get bands like England’s Bear’s Den. A dear friend of mine first told me about this trio due to our shared love of all things melancholy.

There have been 3 songs that I cannot get out of my head, so I keep them playing frequently.

The first song, “Auld Wives” is off their most recent release Red Earth & Pouring Rain. 

 

The first song I listened to from Bear’s Den was “Agape” from their first full length release Islands. This one is a little bit more folky, which is definitely what got me hooked. The word “agape” is a Greek/Christian word for love. The song may be about a person, but I like to think it is about the concept of love, especially with lyrics like this:

“So tell me how long, love, before you go, And leave me here on my own, I know that I don’t wanna know, Who I am without you”.

Finally, the third song from Bear’s Den that keeps sticking my head is “Elysium” which is also from Islands. The video has also taken on a life slightly independent of the band. You can read about the creation of the video here.

I quite like how this band uses their videos to make their songs something different. And we all know how I feel about music videos.

Glorious July of New Music

So, I was listening to the new releases a couple of weeks ago, the Friday when Vance Joy’s “Lay It On Me” came out, and I kept Ooooh-ing and Aaaah-ing and OMG-ing at all the great songs. It’s pretty late, so I’m just going to list them.

Foster The People just released their album Sacred Hearts Club, which is full of sweet, sweet songs. Here’s “Static Space Lover”

Good Old War – “Part of Me”

The Lone Bellow – “Walk Into A Storm”
OMG, this song… THIS SONG.

The Jungle Giants – “Used To Be In Love”
Changing it up a little bit, there’s this ear-worm. The lyrics sound straight up out of the movie about my life. Guys, stop it, you’re making me laugh at my own love life.

Cold War Kids – “Love On The Brain”
OK, I know this one was released earlier this year, but it just captured my heart about a week ago, AND HAVE YOU HEARD THIS VERSION?! You also want to listen to the Los Feliz Blvd version of “Can We Hang On?” I am ready to see Cold War Kids with Young The Giant in August. My heart is already melting. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IB9zxVwPr-E
Vevo, you heartless jerks, why don’t you let me embed the video here?!

And, to the surprise of none of the readers of this blog, I leave you with
Vance Joy – “Lay It On Me”