The protest song is alive and well — and oh-so-necessary in an age when the musical sounds of nature are quickly vanishing.
Here are eight new projects, ranging from singles by environmentally conscious singers to massive benefit projects encompassing hundreds of artists — all celebrating the natural world and protesting its destruction.
South African vocalist Anneli Kamfer brings new life — and more than a little bit of pain — to this stunning update to the classic 1960s protest song. Originally written by P.F. Sloan, the lyrics have been updated for the modern era by Daily Maverick climate journalists Branko Brkic and Tiara Walters. Read the backstory of the new production here and crank up the volume to watch the video below:
by Reverend Billy & The Stop Shopping Choir
Perhaps best known for their track “Monsanto Is the Devil,” the Stop Shopping Choir is back with eight new songs prepared in time for their protests this past spring at the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow. Rev. Billy (a Revelator contributor) belts out preacher-style lyrics in many of these songs, while additional members of the environmental protest group take the lead on others. Produced by Savitri D, the album’s eight heavenly songs — like “Love With Extinction” and “The Great Outdoors” — will have you rising to your feet and ready to raise hell against ecosystem-destroying corporations.
Listen to the title track below:
by Cheryl E. Leonard
The first time you hear it, the soft music and gently running waters on this album’s eight tracks sound like something playing in the background while you get a massage or take a yoga class. That’s before you realize the water sounds have been recorded on melting glaciers and that some of the musical instruments have been assembled from ethically collected penguin bones. If that sounds macabre to you, you’re right — but it’s also hauntingly beautiful. Listening to a dying ecosystem has never been so moving.
Check out the track “Lullaby for E Seals” here:
by Midnight Oil
Frontman Peter Garrett knows his Earth-related issues. In addition to his decades of work with Midnight Oil, he served as Australia’s minister for the environment, heritage and the arts from 2007 to 2010 and logged many years of environmental activism on top of that. This new album, accompanied by the band’s farewell tour, carries the angry sense of urgency and rocking beats you might remember from songs like “Beds Are Burning” to new tracks like “Last Frontier,” “Reef” and “Rising Seas” — the video for which appears below:
by Brian Eno
Eno makes his first appearance on this list with an album dedicated to exploring feelings about the climate emergency. Unlike his ambient albums, Eno sings on this LP — and he does so with powerful, lyrical emotion.
Listen to a live recording of the song “There Were Bells” here:
EarthPercent x Earth Day Compilation Album
by 100 various artists
Sorry, you can’t listen to this one yet. EarthPercent — the Brian Eno-founded nonprofit dedicated to greening the music industry — has so far only made this 100-track album available during two separate 24-hour periods (one of which, you might guess from the title, was on Earth Day). If it becomes available for purchase again, you’ll find exclusive songs from Eno, Pater Gabriel, R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, and many others, from a wide range of genres. Many of the songs, though far from all, cover environmental themes.
Although you can’t buy this specific album or sample any of its tracks, dozens of artists — including Anna Calvi, Death Cab for Cutie, Violet Skies and Wayne Snow — have other songs or albums available through EarthPercent’s Bandcamp page (which you can also follow for notifications of new releases). Proceeds from each download support organizations addressing the climate emergency.
Listen to Death Cab for Cutie’s song “Foxglove Through the Clearcut,” from their EarthPercent-benefitting album Asphalt Meadows:
by Julian Lennon
This single — commissioned by a conservation marketing company called Everland — wraps up existential climate dread and positive inspiration in just under four minutes. It’s a welcome return from an artist who’s devoted much of his career to protecting the environment and supporting Indigenous peoples.
Watch the video here:
by 220+ artists
Produced by Grammy winner Randall Poster, this massive project of songs and spoken-word performances came out in 20 smaller collections over the past few months. The whole thing is now up on Spotify and other streaming platforms, and it will soon be available as a vinyl boxed set. Contributors include Esperanza Spalding, Elvis Costello, Jonathan Franzen, Jeff Goldblum, Mark Mothersbaugh, John Lithgow, Bette Midler and many others.
In addition to streaming, “Birdsong” tracks have migrated to YouTube. Here’s a great video of Yo-Yo Ma and Anna Clyne’s song “In the Gale,” which is accompanied by a flock of singing birds:
And for something completely different, check out Laurie Anderson’s fable/song “Before the World.”