by Aminta Zea (from Lo Eterno), Leo Gimenes, Madeline McClure, and James Patrick Jordan
The world is a difficult place right now, with so many anxieties and fears and threats and pandemics and coups and wars and missed opportunities as the planet plunges head strong towards eco-disaster…
The crazy thing about it is that 2022 may also have been one of the most fruitful, deep, and varied years for new music that this beleaguered planet has ever passed through. With a bumper crop coming in as the year wraps up, one can only look forward to 2023 being even better. With all these stirring sounds of protest and beauty, anger and tenderness, revolution and transformation, resistance and vision—one not only finds reason for hope. One hears exactly where it is that our hope comes from, where it has always come from: our own voices.
Truly, there were just too many great albums this year to get to all of them. Suffice it to say that this is neither a list of the year’s best nor, necessarily, even our favorites. Rather, it’s a somewhat random selection, but we give you our word, the music is good.
We should also mention that this is a companion piece to an article we published in August called New Music for Solidarity Activists that already has reviews of 14 albums from 2022.
Edgar – Ultravioleta (Reviewed by Leo)– Born and raised in the outskirts of São Paulo, in the city of Guarulhos, Edgar is one of the many young Black Brazilian talents that’s been shaking the music scene right now and has collaborated with big names such as BaianaSystem, BNegão, Elza Soares and Tulipa Ruiz. His most recent release is the four-track EP “Ultravioleta”, which consists of powerful politically charged lyrics followed by banging beats that infuse heavy traditional afro-brazilian instrumentation, dub reggae, hip hop, grime, techno and noise. First of all, there’s not a single verse in this EP that doesn’t relate directly to the most contemporary topics being discussed and realities taking place in brazilian society right now, especially with a fascist president that took part in massive corruption, destruction of the Amazon Forest and its native populations to give space for large soy crops and cow meat production, illegal mining and squatting, constantly lying and engaging in seriously dangerous racist, anti-social movements, anti-left discourse and dictatorship support and nostalgia.
In the opening track “A Hierarquia do Pecado” – which translates to “The Hierarchy of Sin” – Edgar talks about colonization and its unforgivable and undeniable impoverishment of non-white natives around the world, but especially Black folk:
Os nativos processam na justiça todo o mal
Que a religião fez em nome de Cristo
Todo ouro do Vaticano
Voltando pro solo africano
Tudo o que é nosso
Já basta deixar
Pra terra comer
Todos os meus sonhos e até os ossos
[The natives persecute all evil
That religion did in the name of Christ
All gold from the Vatican
Back do african soil
Europe give back
Everything that belongs to us
It is enough to let
for the earth to feed
from all of my dreams up until the bone]
Edgar puts an emphasis on the structures of power that were perpetuated by colonialist racist ideology, first when it comes to people, which is very visible in brazilian contemporary society:
O dono é machista
A dona é racista
A estrutura é sempre fascista
Sou só mais um preto que estampa revista
Virando uma máscara pseudo-ativista
[The owner is a misogynist
The miss is racista
The structure is entirely fascist
I’m just another nigga on the cover of a magazine
Turning into a pseudo-activist mask]
but also when we think about the destruction of natural environments and climate change as a inconsequential and selfish political decision by capitalists and governments while ignoring the presence of the native indigenous peoples in the country:
A Mata Atlântica
Carregando o final trágico
O calor tropical
Perdendo a semântica
E virando o frio do Ártico
[The Atlantic Rainforest
Carrying a tragic ending
The tropical heat
Losing its semantics
And becoming the Arctic cold]
In the second track called “Bíblia, Boi e Bala” – which translates to “Bible, Ox and Bullet” – uses a sample of a traditional instrument called berrante, which is often used by cowboys to communicate with the cows. Also, animal sounds are often sampled into the track
On the third track called “Fake News” Edgar discusses how our perceptions of reality are shaped by social media bubbles while bringing up the fact that during his government Bolsonaro and some of his close supporters created fake news bots which sended made up information through bolsonarist Whatsapp group chats.
The fourth track called “Prêmio Nobel – Djanguru Dubmix” is a dub reggae remix of “Prêmio Nobel”, previously released in 2021. This song discusses mostly the potential of the marginalized communities in Brazil, namely the favelas, a particularly national concept which relates not only to a place, but also mostly to black and indigenous people from the country and their cultural, social and political struggles and contributions.
Fernando Milagros – OBSYDIANA (Reviewed by Aminta)– Milagros’s new release OBSYDIANA kicks off with the syncopated, melancholic, yet very poetic and infused with pan flute melodies track called “Cenizas”.
A lot of the songs relate to spiritual sensations and experiences related to natural elements such as the water, the light, the darkness, the night, the sea and also topics like death, cleanse, purity, freedom
Milagros infuses elements of dub, hip hop, downtempo, acoustic guitars and traditional Andean music in a very interesting mix often executed by using lo-fi recordings, archive speeches, beatboxing, claps, backing vocals and other forms of sound experimentation, always filled with engaging syncopated beats.
I think the main feeling and vibe I get from this album is feelings embraced by a cold night in the mountains, when you see the most beautiful sky filled with stars while hearing to the sound of wood burning and the smoke going up and melting the snow nearby. It feels like a warm and calm breeze flowing through the ears.
Milagros has a very sweet, tender and kinda whispery voice which makes the tracks very intimate in a way, as if the eulyric would be telling us a very private story.
I would highlight the track “Un Nuevo Ritmo” featuring Pahua, making a great duo track that’s really inspiring and has lyrics filled with hope, but also really standing out from the other features which just kinda blend in or are just production or instrumental features.
The track that gives the album title called “Obsydiana” is love song once again bringing up associations between life and organic elements, in this case being stones and crystals.
Patti Smith – The Perfect Vision Reworkings (Reviewed by Aminta)– It’s almost needless to say that Patti Smith is probably one of the epitomes of punk rock in one voice and spirit. Even more than that, the Chicago born poet, singer, songwriter and composer was a forerunner of the genre before it was even a thing, alongside iconic names like The Stooges, The Modern Lovers and The New York Dolls, which are often labeled as proto-punk projects. This year she released a record entitled “The Perfect Vision Reworkings”, which basically consists of experimentations with ambient electronic music, spoken word and a lot of other interesting references that the artist decided to bring to the table. This sound might come off as very different from what Patti’s fans are used to, especially because it shifts from that aggressive, all over the place energy that she usually puts into her music. In each track she collaborated with different producers and electronic music artists, creating a mosaic of ethereal melodies mixed with some organic instrumentation, archive sounds and nature recordings of water flowing, birds singing and other elements that are a result of bringing together a lot of minds to create something. This is also one of the many collaborations she already did with Soundwalk Collective, a contemporary sonic arts platform founded by Stephan Crasneanscki and Simone Merli, which have been developing site-specific and context-specific sound projects and installations with a lot of different artists for a decade now. Some of the names involved in SC are Francisco López, Nan Goldin, Charlotte Gainsbourg and even an experimental project with iconic Berlin based techno club Berghain.
Highlights of the album are the track “Bad Blood – Lotic Remix”, which mixes elements of downtempo, break-beat and techno in a very sinister tune, alongside claps and some epic instrumentals that grow along the way; also “Indian Culture – Lucrecia Dalt Remix” has a beautiful poetic narration with the overly dramatic and beautifully raw and in your face voice and words of Patti Smith; “Song Of The Highest Tower – Atom TM Remix” has a strong downtempo influence, a lot of distortion in Patti’s voice and an interesting yet unrecognizable indigenous chant that gives rhythm to the track. The experimentation with weird and often uncomfortable sounds here is very interesting to say the least. The last track called “Eternity” kind of evokes the “Horses” LP era of Patti Smith’s work in an updated way, because it has very punk rock elements such as drum kicks and very distorted guitars, but also incorporates elements of experimental ambient electronic music and noise, and once again the vocals in an unrecognizable language.
PR.A.DO – Rea$ons (Reviewed by Leo)– The latest release from brazilian producer PR.A.DO shows the magnitude of house music as a genre that connects people all around the world with it’s groovy basses, soulful yet provoking vocals and insanely well put hi-hats that will just make any crowd shake their asses for hours non-stop like there’s no tomorrow. From a political perspective, house music is historically a Black genre and its incorporation in Brazilian culture was basically inevitable, given the fact that the country has the biggest Black population outside of the African continent and the second biggest one in the whole world. Because he’s based in São Paulo – the biggest city in Latin America and one of the major capitals of electronic music in the Global South – PR.A.DO really translated the pulsing energy of the city’s clubs and underground nightlife into four absolutely smashing tracks that make the Rea$ons EP one huge success of 2022. It’s important to remember that in São Paulo, much like other Global South cities, the electronic music scene is constantly associated with freedom of expression, a free space for queer and bipoc people to enjoy themselves until the sun rises and release some of the tensions of being part of marginalized communities in such a racist and police brutality filled space that is São Paulo. Highlights would be the amusing and funny vocals in “Any Man I Want”, the banging acid sounds and 80’s inspired synthesizers in “Night Vision”, the mesmerizing, dreamy instrumentals and flutes in the track “Quinta Noite”, which in portuguese translates to “Thursday Night” and last but not least, the title track “Reasons”, which could definitely be playing during any sunset around the globe and would almost guaranteed make everyone feel pure bliss on the dancefloor. If you’re a DJ and don’t have this EP on your playlists you’ll be missing out on some great crowd ovations and an amazing set vibe.
Russo Passapusso, Antonio Carlos & Jocafi – Alto da Maravilha (Reviewed by Leo)
Russo Passapusso is an artist from the city of Feira de Santana, in Bahia, Brazil, a state with the biggest Black population in the country, which implicates a profound presence of afro-atlantic-brazilian culture in everyday life, weather it’s in music, religion, visual arts, food, architecture, fashion and/or literature. That’s not the only reason why the almost hour-long LP “Alto da Maravilha” is a wonderful mosaic of afro-diasporic rhythms and genres such as samba, bossa nova, jazz, soul, forró, candomblé chaints, MPB, traditional bahian music and afro-beat though. Passapusso gathered himself with the legendary duo Antonio Carlos & Jocafi, very important composers for brazilian music history, as well as Curumin, Zé Nigro, Lucas Martins, Karina Buhr and counter-culture icon and former Lula’s administration Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil. This album might relate to the likes of Chico Science, Nação Zumbi, Marcos Valle, Cassiano, Clementina de Jesus, Dorival Caymmi and a bunch of other references Russo probably got influenced by throughout his musical development.
Highlight tracks are “Vapor de Cachoeira”, a soulful and disco influenced interpretation of the traditional forró track with the same title written by Trio Nordestino and also another interpretation of the track “Marinheiro Só” by Clementina de Jesus; “Forrobodó”, a contemporary forró track infused with funky guitars, syncopated beats and vocals influenced by “repente”, which could be defined in very simple terms as the grandfather of brazilian hip-hop because of the way singers would improvise and talk about social reality of the people through funny and politically infused rhymes; and last but not least “Mirê Mirê“, a beautiful upbeat ballad featuring Gilberto Gil, who’s basically an ambassador for brazilian music at this point, having even performed at UN conferences, and is a pillar of Latin American music. This song, as well as other tracks in this album, contain a lot of terms absorbed from the Yoruba ethnolinguistic culture from West Africa into Brazilian Portuguese, which is very present in candomblé, an afro-brazilian religion. There’s also the very interesting “Antonio Carlos & Jocafi” interlude, in which Antonio Carlos talks about the first and elected by himself the most beautiful song written by the duo. The song was never recorded though, and Carlos also doesn’t say its name.
MNZR – Purple Dream (Reviewed by Leo)– Originating from the precarious outskirts of Lima, MNZR’s Purple Dream is coated with opaque trap rhythms that circle around hype syncopated beats and hazy vocals; building from his earlier work which explored the inherent dangers and sacrifices that coat marginalized sectors of the city, his most recent EP is a representation of a limitless escapism, reflecting how emotional vulnerability mirrors the physical and psychological dependencies exhibited in the trap houses of the street.
The release is a more intimate contemplation of what happens behind closed doors. Drugs and sex are a means of constructing a fickle resilience in a hostile environment – they are vessels which contend with the intrinsic sentimental and even romantic challenges inherent in a turbulent place which demands both the need to hustle and a strong reputation in order to really make it.
It is a unique accompaniment to his single “Niños de la calle”, which touches upon the alienation imposed by a city that fails to tend to the needs of its youth. With a chorus echoing “Somos el problema niños de la calle
Nos faltaba todo no teníamos a nadie”, MNZR combines the weight of trap with a house-inspired piano, demonstrating both his metamorphosis as an artist and his ability to speak on the realities of marginalized young people. With the language of trap, the dynamics of the grind present themselves clearly, hustle culture presents limited options that nonetheless are the only ways to escape grueling poverty; contemporary and poetic, verses like the one below are adorned with the willingness to do whatever it takes to find comfort in a society bordered with maladaptive escapism and general indifference.
“Sabe de la ruina y de lo duro, también paso penas en lo oscuro
Bebé ahora si hay pa’ comer pero no lo olvido el ayer, no nos dejamos caer
Niño delincuente pandillero, buscando el chain refugiado en agujeros (En el ghеtto)
Bebé ya na’ de eso va a dolеr voy atrás de ese dinero ya en nadie voy a creer
No pueden mirarnos están mordidos, la mala vibra se te nota yo no confío
En la victoria y las derrotas tengo a los míos, así que sírveme otra copa que siento frío”
Vientos – Seeker of Love (Reviewed by Aminta)– Tucson based Vientos blends together elements of chill hop, alternative rock, r&b, and dream pop in order to have a genre-bending conversation surrounding love; with basslines nostalgic of 2000s golden era indie, soul twinged bilingual vocals, and, at times, casio-esque keyboard samples, Vientos explores the inner experiences of romantic connection in what is undeniably a loveless world. In the track Pride Down, spoken word adorned with saxophone explore what it means to communicate in the name of love, and most importantly, how love is what urges us to reject the remorseless consequences of racialized capitalism and imperialism; the track ends with the words of legendary Lenca water protector and activist Berta Cáceres
“Nosotras pensamos que esta lucha que nosotros vemos en la comunidad,
…es una lucha de pie, es un problema justial
es un problema en este continente
que no solo lo enfrentamos nosotras
si no todos los pueblos que luchan contra el colonialismo,
y que tiene sentido de la justicia y por la emancipación
y bueno, hay que compartir la alegría también
si hay algo que nosotros sabemos
después del golpe de estado
es que si nosotros no tenemos alegría en esto, entusiasmo, y esperanza
estamos, como decimos nosotras, muertas en vida.”
Cáceres words paired with verses of optimism, resistance and longing serve as a heartfelt reminder of the revolutionary component of love; it is love which propels us to organize for a better world, to connect, to express, and to reaffirm our humanity in the midst of structural violence which aims to strip us of what is corporeal and human.
Samora Pinderhughes: “Grief” (Reviewed by Madeline)– Samora Pinderhughes brings pensive piano, jazz-laden beats and choir sonics to explore the lived experiences of racist capitalism and mass incarceration. Pinderhughes is a composer, and it’s felt deeply throughout this album, which was born from Pinderhughes’ multimedia work The Healing Project and doesn’t stop there, continuing this month in live performances incorporating film, performance and conversation in New York’s gallery scene. The aural field of “Grief” is a gentle encounter with the U.S.’s deepest wounds, with lyrics such as Hope’s, “Can’t believe in all the words of the preacher/when your whole existence is illegal/while we wash up all the blood of the people/wash up all the blood/while we try to build a room for our freedom/we build what they destroy”. This album is an expression of our times.
Shilpa Ray: “Portrait of a Lady” (Reviewed by Madeline)– Shilpa Ray doesn’t come to play. She landed on the New York City punk scene in the early 2010s with seductive grunge that is ruthlessly, vulnerably political. No exception to her newest album, Portrait of a Lady, which is a tall drink of fourth wave feminist rage. Ray offers her songs with the soft lozenge of feminine sounds but with an acrid bludgeon, as with Heteronormative Horseshit Blues, which croons like a high school dance ballad. The song Bootlickers of the Patriarchy takes bat at internalized misogyny with lyrics, “You left us crushed/threw us under the bus/Bootlicker Bootlicker/with that life vest on/I see you kissing asses/social climbin through the masses/smashin a vision/you’re so petrified of/You think you can sell solidarity?” These songs are restive ballads of ire. When you listen, be sure you’ve left yourself some room to shake your hips and fists.
Mariel Mariel & Lido Pimienta: “De los Limites” (Reviewed by Madeline)–This is just a single, but we had to include it here because this song slaps and these afro-latina artists are well-deserved of as much stereo time as possible. Lido Pimienta, a Wayuu pop artist with roots in cumbia and bullerengue, comes off of her 2021 Grammy nomination for her album Miss Colombia to team with Chilean Mariel Mariel in a beat-laden, healing groove. This is a ballad that reaches toward a femme-infused future all-the-while deeply nodding toward the indigenous traditions which these artists spring from. Better believe when they assert, “Somos bandera de revolución/Somos almas viejas en resurrección”.
Michelle Rodriguez and Luís Taype, Album Matinal (Reviewed by James)– Album Matinal is a true labor of love by Michelle Rodriguez and Luis Taype, recorded for Peru’s Communist Party-Patria Roja. Besides bringing together historic songs forged in struggle, the music is also a departure from the kind of work the musicians usually undertake. Michelle is a singer, songwriter, and keyboardist with the new, up and coming Lima band, Rawa, and Luis Taype is a guitarist for the veteran new wave/post punk band Cardenales, a staple of Peru’s underground, having just celebrated 35 years of activity.
These songs reflect a fusion of passion, creativity, and love of humanity. They are internationalist, but they are also pure Peru, songs born of the conditions of that great country and its centuries in the fight for liberation and worker, campesino, and Indigenous power. The song Marcha Patria Roja clearly states their underlying anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism. If I had to choose a favorite,I believe it would be El Minero, which is beautifully interpreted here.
The playwright Bertolt Brecht famously said, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.” Clearly, Michelle Rodriguez and Luis Taype follow in that tradition.
Readers should also check out the songs of Rawa. Currently, they have only released a few songs, but perhaps by this time next year, one of the new albums we’ll review will be theirs!
Omega Tribe, The New Peace Movement (Reviewed by James)— From the opening drum roll, the album picks the listener up from whatever funk they may be in and propels them into a world that is full of hope and defiance. THIS is the album to end 2022 and to begin 2023.
The very first song declares: “This is the beginning of a new peace movement, right here, right now!” For those of us who are so often locked into and even immobilized by existential and political despair, it’s like a blast of cold air on a hot day in the desert. Omega Tribe originated in that British Anarcho-Punk scene associated with CRASS that dates back to the 1980s. The 1980s were, among other things, a time when the anti-nuclear movement was at its height, and “peace punks” were at the forefront. Now, it’s 2022 turning to 2023, and many of who have been fighting against war and militarism over the ensuing 40 years are often prone to wallow in doubt and exasperation asking ourselves again and again, “Where is the peace movement? There is no peace movement! How do we build a new peace movement?” Omega Tribe doesn’t look anywhere else but where they are, to themselves. Where is “the new peac emovement?” “Right here, right now!”
The idea of making the political personal, and the personal political, is reflected throughout this collection. Songs like Better Man explore how one reacts to repression and backwards attitudes in everyday life. Likewise, this is a theme for Betrayal. Sorry explores the difficulties of being in a long term relationship.
The album goes out in the same way it comes in: direct and to the point. The song Revolution tells us: “The ideas that we need are revolutionary… and the people that we need are revolutionaries…. ‘cause we are the source of the world…. We are the salt of the world…. It’s in our tears, it’s in our sweat, it’s in our blood…. Keep on walking, keep on talking.”
Okay—you have your marching orders. Let’s do it! THIS is the beginning of a new peace movement! Right here! Right now!
Uyuni Martinez, Cuba Ayo (Reviewed by James)—Cuba Ayo, the first solo álbum by Uyuni Martinez is a celebration of the island’s rich musical traditions, and a showcase for the trumpeter’s flair and virtuosity. The word “Ayo” is Yoruba and means happiness . The title is a recognition of the African contributions to all that is Cuba. The album drips with good feelings and vibes designed to please.
Cuba Ayo was produced by Alexander Abreu, who, in fact, proposed the idea to record the album. That a trumpeter of Abreu’s caliber of Abreu would produce this project is an indication of how good an instrumentalist Martinez is. Certainly, he is no stranger to Cuba’s musical landscape. Martinez has played in Abreu’s Orquesta Havana D’Primera since 2009. Before that he was with the Orquesta La Charanga Latina de Enrique Álvarez, the Orquesta Adalberto Álvarez y su Son, the Orquesta Pupi, and Los Que Son Son. With this solo álbum, Uyuni Martinez serves notice that he is ready to take his place among the superstars of Cuban music.
Mostly, the songs are not very political. However, when one listens to the words of Sembrando Mentiras (Sowing Lies), one has to wonder if the song is about a person, or perhaps, is he talking about a behemoth Empire to the North that is sowing lies against Martinez’ country. Whether or not this is his intention, hearing these words, I don’t think it’s much of a jump to interpret this as a denunciation of the lies of the US about Cuba, and all it is doing to try to bring Cuba down:
“When he begins, he has no limits.
He wants to swallow up the entire world….
With your fake good people, you will deceive someone.
With elaborate, pretty words, you will want to lie.
With elaborate, pretty words, you will not deceive.”
In the music of Uyuni Martinez, there is no deception, just great sounds and good times to be had to all who take a moment to listen.
Mama’s Broke, The Narrow Line (Reviewed by James)—There are locations in this world that are like the barrels that age the best bourbon, giving it its own special character, a flavor, a coloring, that cannot be achieved with a simple recipe. The drink that is produced becomes a distillation not only of corn, yeast, and water, but of place, of time, of a setting and an ambience that can’t be measured. The best spirits are produced with patience, eager expectation, tradition, and, always, something special, something idiosyncratic, something “new” that is ineffable—it’s what puts the spirit in the spirits.
Here in North America, in its eastern edge, there are mountains and islands that stretch from the hills of Alabama to the hills of Maine, and into Nova Scotia, Newfoundland in Canada , that have acted as a kind of filter and prism for the songs and sounds of the poor, the hungry, the rural, the workers of old England, Scotland, and Ireland that landed with the displaced and misplaced who came to this new world. While it is all too true that Europe sent legions of invaders and colonizers, it is also true that many of those who came on those wooden ships were themselves young men impressed into military ranks, the poor and the convicted bound in indentured servitude, or just those many displaced from Ireland by the cruel starvation that occurred in the mid-1800s. Those songs, those voices, encountered other voices, especially the voices of the Indigenous and the African. The marriage of the corn and its attendant jug, the banjo, and the fiddle was itself a marriage of traditions. The new; the folk music of Appalachia, of islands like Nova Scotia, was never a music of the ruling class. It was a music of pain, of loss, of tragedy, of cruelty, of kindness, of the natural world, of resilience, of resistance, of people thrown together by the cruelest of circumstances, who, together, distilled it into something new, yet ancient. It gave us music that transformed into beauty without losing the sorrow.
Mama’s Broke are Lisa Maria and Amy Lou Keeler. They met on a 17 hour road trip when Lisa needed a ride, and Amy gave her one, and before the trip was done, a band was born. Mama’s Broke’s website bio notes, “Both coming out of travelling communities that are focused on music and protest, the two owe the way in which they move through the world to the integrated and self-sustaining nature of DIY culture and activism.”
As for the title song of the album, they write that it is “…all about boundaries. From the boundaries we impose on ourselves, to the ones that are forced upon us. The ‘Narrow Line”, is, in a sense, the line we walk in order to keep from falling over the edge and losing sanity through such chaotic and fearful times. The verses touch on violence against immigrants, wealth disparity, rape culture throughout history, climate destruction, and trauma.”
This is a powerful album to get lost inside of. And if you never find your way out, it’s okay. You’re in rich territory.
Camila Moreno, Rey and Rey Secreto (Reviewed by James)—It isn’t possible to review Camila Moreno’s new album, Rey Secreto, without talking about Rey, the album that preceded it. Most of the songs on the new album are a re-imagining of songs from the previous album. Indeed, it’s hard to talk about anything Moreno does outside of the context of everything that has come before. Her music has changed a lot through the years. Her earlier albums were much more energetic and even celebratory. But ever since 2012’s Panal, her music has grown more introspective.
Despite the increasingly inward direction, it is no less politically relevant than her first two albums. Outside the studio, Camila Moreno has remained someone actively involved in the popular struggles of her native Chile. She was leading musicians’ blocks marching during the national strike of 2019. Moreno declares that, “Art is from the people, it must be in the streets.”
Talking about her experiences, Moreno has said that “There was this double sensation of a lot of hope, fight, energy and fear and when you are consumed by fear you are finished. If the neoliberal capitalist system exists, it is because they have put fear everywhere in us.”
One song that stands out is Hombre. The song is a repudiation of Chile’s right wing and its history of forced disappearances and killings that defined the dictatorship of Agosto Pinochet, whose shadow still casts its darkness in the land. Hombre tells us,
“They come through the yard,
They are going to enter your house and eat your brain.
Leave for the streets
And we are going to start a fire and to recover
In the nest of the soul the eternal hope
That ends the inquisition….
You robbed me.
Return to me now everything that was good.
I am going to burn
Everything you built because it is shit.”
Camila Moreno, a person who looks within and without, fighting for freedom, justice, peace, integrity, and, above all else, beauty.
Lakou Mizik and Joseph Ray, Leave the Bones and Leave the Bones (Remixed) (Reviewed by James)— Like Camila Moreno, Lakou Mizik has released an album this year that revisits music they released last year. The name of the album is not almost the same as last year’s—it is exactly the same, plus the word “Remixed” in parentheses. Both albums are collaborations with electronic musician, Joseph Ray.
The good news is that, also like Moreno—the concept works. With Leave the Bones I, there is so much going on with all the rhythms, harmonies, musical textures and elements of almost Eno-esque ambience. This music is meant to be opened up and explored.
Leave the Bones II has a completely different feel than Leave the Bones I. It is a collection made for the club, for the dance hall, a remix, with new emphases and added sounds. Leave the Bones II is for people who want to lose themselves in the rhythm’s engrossing trance whereas Leave the Bones I is for those who want to lay back on their rafts float away on the music..
Lakou Mizik are ambassadors, emissaries of Haitian culture both at home and abroad, contradicting the perception of Haiti as victim or, worse, failed state. That is a lie. Haiti has shown again and again how it is able to lift itself out of crisis after crisis and self-govern. The problem is that every time Haiti tries to stand up, the US, France, and Canada gather up whatever and whoever else will back them to slap Haiti down yet again. By promoting a view of Haiti as the vibrant, rich, and inspiring country that it is, they implicitly undermine hundreds of years of justifications for genocide and invasions and occupations.
Even now, as Haiti balances between revolution and a new invasion and occupation, Lakou Mizik and other Haitian musicians are having a difficult time making ends meet. They are asking those who like their music to consider sending them a contribution to make it through these hard times. In these days of multiple streaming services, you can hear the music for free. Maybe slip them a dollar or two and show the love?
The Burning Hell, Garbage Island (Reviewed by James)—I mean, the name of the band and the album kinda says it all, right? Definitely a band that sings about political and social issues! But if you are expecting music that sounds loud and angry, that’s not what this is. The tunes and the delivery are pretty low key and even pop, with a DIY approach.
But, this stuff can be hardcore. Just check out these lyrics from the opening song, No Peace:
“Now is neither the time nor the place for peace
So put away the puppy dogs and rainbows
You can’t put a dent in the 1% with hugs,
Can’t smash the fascists with sappiness, no.
Nor the nazis, whether old-school or neo
So I’ll leave you with a line I stole from Leo:
“There can be no peace for us, only misery
And the greatest happiness.”
But no peace. No peace. No peace. No peace. No peace!”
Songs like Last Normal Day and Empty World are celebrations of what we have, as well as heart-wrenching laments for what we are losing.
And be sure and listen to The Bird Queen of Garbage Island, a song that could easily have been done by The Tom Tom Club. Many of the songs refer to birds. One song titled Birdwatching seems to suggest that everybody should just slow down and be alive; and fight back against everyone who wants you to speed things up and join the race to destruction.
As they advise in Birdwatching:
“I’m suspicious of ambitious folks, but I’ll race you to the bottom
Where the clocks don’t tick or tock
And you can smoke ’em if you got ’em
Carpe-ing every Diem’s no achievement, it’s exhausting
If you need me I’ll be sitting over here, birdwatching”
And they follow up, in End of the End of the World, saying,
“The end of the world
And we have to try changing the world
Looking at the sky and dream of paradise
Because it’s arriving the end
The end of the world
And we have to try changing the world.”
Roger Waters, The Lockdown Sessions (Reviewed by James)—Roger Waters has shown himself to be a real comrade to movements and organizations that are working for peace and liberation. He regularly lends his name and his fame to advancing the people’s struggle, and he speaks the truth boldly, even when many don’t want to hear.
This new album, The Lockdown Sessions is a collection of home recordings made during the covid quarantine. It revisits old songs, strips them down and breathes an immediacy and intimacy into them that literally brings the songs home in a way that no studio or concert hall could ever do.
The album is in many ways a reflection of the waking dream that the lockdown felt like for so many of us, in all the meanings of that word. How often did we wake up in the night, realizing in an almost panic that the nightmare we were living through was all real; and how often did we remember and hold to and commit ourselves to the dream of a better world, of a better future, refusing to give into panic and despair. The song “The Gunner’s Dream” is perfect for this album, the story of a airman gunner falling to his death, but before he meets the ground, he fantasizes about a world that may never be for him…but that still could be. ‘
“Somewhere, old heroes shuffle safely down the street
Where you can speak out loud
About your doubts and fears
And what’s more, no-one ever disappears
You never hear their standard issue kicking in your door
You can relax on both sides of the tracks
And maniacs don’t blow holes in bandsmen by remote control
And everyone has recourse to the law
And no one kills the children anymore
No one kills the children anymore…
We cannot just write off his final scene
Take heed of the dream
We really hope you enjoyed our reviews, and that you will accept this article as a gift and a “thank you” to you, our supporters, our friends, our comrades. And, yes, of course, we are always, always looking for contributions to keep our work going, whether your gifts are financial or of your time. May 2023 bring us all closer to the world we hope for and dream of.
And… here’s a BONUS SONG from the AFGJ ALL-STARS!