With KZUM’s 40th year coming to a close, we asked our programmers to submit their year-end lists of albums, songs, live shows and more from 2018. Compiled here are their responses, which also include top music videos and some momentous occasions.
Thank you for supporting 40 years of community radio! We can’t wait to bring you more in 2019. Happy New Year!
Top 30 Most-played Artists on KZUM 2018
According to playlists logged by KZUM programmers
1. The Beatles
2. Aretha Franklin
3. They Might Be Giants
4. The Rolling Stones
5. Johnny Cash
6. David Bowie
7. Bob Dylan
8. Elvis Presley
10. Magic Slim
11. Bonnie Raitt
12. Samantha Fish
13. Etta James
14. The Cure
15. The Beach Boys
16. Brave Combo
17. Billie Holiday
18. John Prine
19. John Coltrane
21. Los Lobos
22. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
23. Mavis Staples
24. Ruthie Foster
25. Paul McCartney
26. Talking Heads
27. Neil Young
28. Richard Thompson
29. The Reverend Horton Heat
30. Pink Floyd
By Tom Ineck
Former host of NightTown
Top Jazz Performances of 2018 (Lincoln, Omaha and beyond)
GuitarElation, Green Lady Lounge, Kansas City, Jan. 13
Nebraska Jazz Orchestra with Scott Whitfield, Cornhusker Hotel, Lincoln, Jan. 19
Billy Childs, Holland Center, Omaha, Jan. 26
Chris Potter, Holland Center, Omaha, Feb. 23
Nebraska Jazz Orchestra with Ernie Watts, Cornhusker Hotel, Lincoln, March 9
Rene Marie, Holland Center, Omaha, March 15
Karrin Allyson, Jazz for Justice, Haymarket Theatre, Lincoln, March 24
SFJazz Collective, Holland Center, Omaha, April 26
Nebraska Jazz Orchestra with Broc Hempel, Cornhusker Hotel, Lincoln, May 17
Giacomo Gates, Boiler Grand Hall, Lincoln, June 1
Jamison Ross, Jazz in June, Lincoln, June 5
Jazzmeia Horn, Jazz in June, Lincoln, June 12
Dave Stryker Quartet, Jambo Cat, Omaha, June 15
Huntertones, Jazz in June, Lincoln, June 26
Julian Lage, Reverb Lounge, Omaha, Oct. 2
Bob Sheppard, Westbrook Recital Hall, Lincoln, Oct. 26
Nebraska Jazz Orchestra with Justin Kisor, Cornhusker Hotel, Nov. 15
Other Top Performances of 2016 (Lincoln, Omaha and beyond)
Ruthie Foster, Guy Davis, John Oates, Grant-Lee Phillips, Trout Steak Revival, Folk Alliance International, Kansas City, Feb. 15-17
Peter Case & Malcolm Holcomb, Reverb Lounge, Omaha, April 29
Los Lobos, Lil Ed & the Blues Imperials, Dale Watson, Nikki Hill, Zoofest, Lincoln, July 6-7
Kim Richey Band, Reverb Lounge, Omaha, Aug. 1
Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal, Blue Blood Brewery, Lincoln, Aug. 10
Earth, Wind & Fire, Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln, Aug. 14
John Walker, Rib Fest, Lincoln, Aug. 17
Peter Case, Nebraska Folk & Roots Festival, Aug. 24
Dave Alvin & Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Zoo Bar, Lincoln, Sept. 4
Earl & Them, Zoo Bar, Lincoln, Sept. 7
Dale Watson, Zoo Bar, Lincoln, Oct. 19
Jeff Tweedy, Madison Cunningham, Live From Here, Lied Center, Lincoln, Oct. 27
Nikki Hill Band, Zoo Bar, Lincoln, Oct. 31
Favorite Albums of 2018:
- Dirty Computer – Janelle Monae
- Megaplex – We Are Scientists
- Simulation Theory – Muse
- Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life – The Wombats
- Babezooka – Freakabout
- Fight The Good Fight – The Interrupters
- Love Is Dead – Chvrches
- Be More Kind – Frank Turner
- A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships – The 1975
- Knowing What You Know Now – The Marmozets
- LP3 – Rdgldgrn
- How To: Friend, Love, Freefall – Rainbow Kitten Surprise
- Superorganism – Superorganism
- In Your Own Sweet Time – The Fratellis
- Church Of Scars – Bishop Briggs
Father John Misty performs at MAHA 2018. See more on KZUM's Flickr.
Favorite Concerts from 2018:
- 311 – Las Vegas, NV – Park Theater – 3/10 – 3/11/18
- Incubus – Sioux City, IA – Hard Rock Hotel and Casino – 7/14/18
- Beck – Lincoln, NE – Pinewood Bowl – 9/18/18
- Dropkick Murphys & Flogging Molly – Council Bluffs, IA – Stir Cove – 6/9/18
- Chvrches – Omaha, NE – Waiting Room Outdoors – 8/4/18
- Maha Music Festival – Omaha, NE – Aksarben Village – 8/17 – 8/18/18
- OK Go: The Live Video Tour – Omaha, NE – Holland Center – 10/19/18
- Twenty One Pilots – Lincoln, NE – Pinnacle Bank Arena – 11/20/18
- Colony House & The New Respects – Omaha, NE – Slowdown – 10/27/18
- Metallica – Lincoln, NE – Pinnacle Bank Arena – 9/6/18
- Jack White – Omaha, NE – Baxter Arena – 4/23/18
- Primus & Mastodon – Lincoln, NE – Pinnacle Bank Arena – 6/18/18
The Detour (Thursdays, 10 p.m.-midnight)
The Detour was once again a proud member of They Might Be Giants’ Dial-a-Song Radio Network. Each week the band provided a new track, and over 46 six brand new songs were played throughout 2018. Most of them will be compiled into a new album being released soon, “My Murdered Remains.” Two more albums are scheduled to come out soon as well: “Escape Team,” and “John Henry Demos.” They are a relentless touring band, out supporting 2018’s “I Like Fun;” currently back in the U.S., but off to Australia in February and March of 2019.
Members of XTC (one of AK’s favorite bands) have released some new stuff! Andy Partridge put out an EP of two covers: a Syd Barrett-penned early Pink Floyd single “Apples and Oranges” and the Bonzo Dog Band’s “Humanoid Boogie,” written by Neil Innes (of Monty Python fame). Andy also wrote a song for the new Monkees album, produced by Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne fame, “Christmas Party.” Andy’s contribution is the first on the album, “Unwrap You at Christmas.” Adam’s song (with the assistance of Michael Chabon) is a take on holiday divorce, “House of Broken Gingerbread,” (my favorite so far). Rivers Cuomo from Weezer wrote “What Would Santa Do,” and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey added the title track.
Colin Moulding and Terry Chambers of XTC also did some live shows in hometown Swindon, UK, and released an EP of new material called “TC&I-Great Aspirations.” So glad the boys from Swindon are still making music!
The amazingly prolific Richard Thompson released another fine collection of original folk-rock songs this year called “13 Rivers.” As always, a high-caliber guitar-driven album with insightful lyrics. My faves so far on this release are “The Storm Won’t Come,” “Rattle Within,” and
“Bones of Gilead.”
Janelle Monáe released a new album that is part sci-fi, part sexual-identity-outing, and part reaction to the current occupant of the White House, called “Dirty Computer.” Very provocative, but fun, and she has done several TV performances: two times on “Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” and a marvelous high-energy hour on “Austin City Limits.”
AK’s new favorite is Melbourne Australia’s Courtney Barnett, whose sophomore album came out this year, “Tell Me How You Really Feel.” More heartfelt and serious than her first, but still a good listen. She reminds me of Velvet Underground’s Nico, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, and Chrissie Hynde. Very engaging lyrics that are a relief from repetitive pop music. She speaks her mind in what some have called “stream of consciousness” lyrics, but I think there’s a lot more thought and craft going into her writing. Give her a try and see what you think.
Saw two shows in Omaha this year, as we’re saving up for a big vacation: Willie Nelson at Baxter Arena with Brandy Clark and Dwight Yoakam opening, and the hardest-working Americana duo in show business, Shovels and Rope, performing at the Waiting Room. They put out a lot of high-energy music for two people.
Looking forward to attending The Avett Brothers at Pinewood Bowl next year!
By Vic Valverde
MesoTerra (Saturdays, noon-1:30 p.m.)
A Delicious Dozen from 2018
12. One Summer Night – Johnny & Jaalene (from “Johnny & Jaalene”)
11. Bad Luck – Neko Case (from “Hell-On”)
10. Superstatic – Turkuaz (from “Life in the City)
9. Bout de Toi – Anemone (from “Baby Only You & I” EP)
8. No Mercy in this Land – Charlie Musselwhite/Ben Harper (from “No Mercy in this Land)
7. Samia – the Turbans (from “The Turbans’)
6. Sovay – Low Lily (from “10,000 Days like These)
5. Kokoro – Fatoumata Diawara (from “Fenfo [something to say]”)
4. I-89 – I’m with Her (from “See You Around”)
3. Bandito – Twenty One Pilots (from “Trench”)
2. Kala Mukhra (feturing Ali Sethi) – Red Baraat (from “Sound the People”)
1. The Dancing Bodhran – Baile an Salsa (from “Eriu”)
Disclaimer: This is not and should not be seen as a list of the most culturally relevant music of these times. It seems nowadays, the most lauded and forward thinking music tends to be in the fields of rap/hip-hop, neo-soul, and some strange indie/noise/lo-fi hybrid. The charms of rap have at this point eluded me (working on it), the slickness and showboating of neo-soul make my kidneys bleed, and while indie/noise/lo-fi is sonically interesting, the sturm and drang of millennial angst that the lyrics often consist of wears thin after awhile. If my statements are incorrect, please prove me wrong. Regardless, here is a list of my five favorite albums released this year, from my small, very, very individualized musical world, not in any particular order.
Bob Drake– L’Isola Dei Lupi
This album is the sound of a man at work in his own, isolated world, which just so happens to be the case (Bob played and engineered the whole album essentially on his own). Creating a name for himself in the American Avant-rock scene in the 80’s and 90’s, Bob has since created an idiosyncratic solo career that has slowly crept from experimental beginnings towards the wild art pop of his past couple albums. Shreds of transcendent melody are interrupted by detuned banjos, cheap keyboards, wild key changes, terrifying noise breakdowns, and power pop choruses. The lyrics on this album are essentially devoid of any emotional impact, largely consisting of descriptions of architectural features containing anthropomorphic animals, but you’ve got to be heartless to not feel anything through his passionate delivery. Like Eno’s early pop albums, this is the sound of a man with a boundless imagination throwing ideas at a wall, and making sure they stick. Does it always work? No. But this album is always interesting and has so much individuality and personality to it, I can’t help but call it one of my favorite things I’ve heard all year.
Toby Driver– They Are the Shield
The prolific Toby Driver of Kayo Dot and Maudlin of the Well “fame” delivered another solo album this year in the sci-fi singer-songwriter genre that he’s been obsessed with for the past several years, and it’s probably his best solo album yet. The atmosphere on this album remains largely the same throughout, consisting of warm synth pads, chamber strings, wiry guitar lines, jittery, minimalist drumming, and the spectral voice of Driver himself. It’s the perfect soundtrack to a Blade Runner sequel that doesn’t exist. There appears to be a concept in this album, with lyrics referring to missing girls, bombs, and futuristic cities, but for how obfuscated and obscure these lyrics are, I could not tell you if that’s actually the case. Not that it matters, if there is a story, my enjoyment of the album is completely independent of it. This album is all about the musical atmosphere. Do you want an album to work out to or to get you pumped for a long day ahead? This isn’t it. This is peaceful, reflective, and perfect for a long night drive or a late night listening session with a good nightcap in hand. If you are unaware of the works of Toby Driver, this is a great place to hop in.
Magma– Marquee 1974
It’s Magma, it’s going to be on this list. This is an archival recording from the legendary London concert back in 1974 by the lineup that many fans consider to be the greatest in the long history of the band. Unlike the proper engineering and mixing of the other live releases from this lineup, this recording seems to be a room recording, allowing many (including myself) to hear the absolute power of this lineup for the first time. Without having to tone down their instruments for a studio setting so as not to destroy the microphones, the players are allowed to let loose, and the resulting sound is MASSIVE. The bass tone on this album is absolutely terrifying, it sounds like a jet engine T-Rex that learned how to sing. Music wise, it’s a classic setlist from a classic period, 3 25-35 minute spiritual jazz-space-rock-opera epics interspersed with smaller pieces and showcases, and as a fan, you can’t ask for more. Two caveats though: for one, it is a room recording from 1974. For how old it is, the sound is surprisingly clear, but when things really get kicking, the quality can get a bit muddy. Secondly, if you don’t know anything about the band, this is not an entry point, this is one for the already established fan, if you’re not a fan, I suggest listening to the Retrospektiw i-ii album (I want you to be a fan). Regardless, this is some trance inducing, eye opening stuff.
I can’t remember a single detail from this album. Much like the Bob Drake album, there are so many ideas being thrown around, it’s hard to grasp exactly what’s happening at most points in time. However, unlike Mr. Drake’s album, the ideas thrown around here are more often than not quite otherworldly and to put it simply, strange. This is not a detriment in any way, but only a testament to the sheer amount of detail work that was put into this album. The band’s previous album came out in 2005, but this album shows no loss of spark or creativity, if anything this album is another stepping stone in the band’s career. Starting out in the early 90’s, Konejihyakkei was a part of the Japanese brutal prog/zeuhl scene (Google it) and as time’s gone on, their music has become more intricate and varied, and this album is easily their most wide reaching. I could not tell you which songs these sections appear on, but I remember hearing pseudo-lounge jazz guitars at one point, and a straight up rock riff at another part, which was quite surprising to hear coupled with the manic banshee screaming, fuzz bass, and stabbing clustered piano chords that saturate the album elsewhere. It’s probably going to take me another year or so to fully absorb this one, but repeat listenings have been the definition of “rewarding.” Essential for wild dance parties and alienating those you care about.
The Beach Boys– 1968 Archival Sets for “Friends” and “20/20”
That’s it. I hope some more good music comes out next year. That would be nice. Did you read this? Thanks if you did.Two albums, but whatever, they came out at the same time, accomplish the same thing, and I can’t pick one I like more. First of all, for those of you who think there’s no reason to listen to The Beach Boys post-Pet Sounds, don’t talk to me. If you don’t understand what that last sentence means, please don’t talk to me. After the studio magic of Pet Sounds and SMiLE, the boys retreated to Brian’s home studio and began several years of producing an obscene amount of intimate and incredibly intricate pop songs, most of which were left on the cutting room floor only to surface on countless low quality bootlegs. This changed however with these two releases, both of which being an absolute treasure trove of these unreleased songs and demos in immaculate condition. A vast majority of these songs are unfortunately lacking vocals, but the boys are not only master vocalists, but master arrangers as well, boring is the last word I would use to describe these songs. Not to say there aren’t any vocals, there are plenty, and when they appear, they are revelatory. Songs like “Ol’ Man River,” “Been Way Too Long,” “Sail Plane Song,” and the several readings of Bacharach-David songs should have been released in the 60’s, they are absolutely incredible. The “Friends” set also manages to have a backing track to one of the lost SMiLE songs (Child is the Father of Man) tacked on at the end. It’s vocal-less, but this is the first full structure of this song that has been released, and for those who want a glimpse at Brian Wilson’s incredible arranging skills, this track is essential. If you are a casual fan, I would suggest listening to all of their albums from 1965 to 1973, and then listen to the songs mentioned above. I would not suggest listening to these whole sets unless you are a die hard fan and are slavishly devoted to anything touched by Brian Wilson (at least from the 60’s through the 70’s). Guess who is. These sets are beautiful.
Top 10 Albums (in no particular order):
Mark Hummel, Harpbreaker
Lurrie Bell & The Bell Dynasty, What My Daddy Told Me: A Tribute To Carey Bell
Shemekia Copeland, America’s Child
Victor Wainwright, Victor Wainwright & The Train
Joe Louis Walker – Bruce Katz – Giles Robson, Journey To The Heart of The Blues
Boz Scaggs, Out of the Blue
Anthony Garaci, Why Did You Have To Go
Dennis Jones Band, WE 3 LIVE
Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite, No Mercy In This Land
Danielle Nicole, Cry No More
Top 10 Live Shows (In no particular order):
Dave Alvin & Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Zoo Bar
Victor Wainwright & The Train, Zoo Bar
Charlie Musselwhite, Blues Cruise
Selwyn Birchwood, Zoo Bar
Curtis Salgado, Zoo Bar
Vanessa Collier, Zoo Bar
Albert Castiglia, Zoo Bar
Dennis Jones, Zoo Bar
Joe Bonamassa, PBA
Fleetwood Mac, PBA
Time, Space, and The Beatles: The White Album at 50
Note: 2018 marked the 50th anniversary of the legendary album, which brought the release of a super deluxe edition as well as lots of press about the album’s influence a half-century later.
There are those in this world whose first names become iconic, and “John,” “Paul,” “George,” and “Ringo” are four names whose cultural currency endures some 50 years after their heyday, especially with the reissues of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band last year and The Beatles this year to mark the 50th anniversary of each album. As a volunteer DJ who reviews albums and concerts for KZUM, I have not felt the need to weigh in on anniversary editions previously, yet some of the press surrounding the reissue of The Beatles is revisionist in nature, contrary to received wisdom, and deserves scrutiny. If the Sgt. Pepper sessions found the Beatles continuing to flower as songwriters, then the sessions for The Beatles found John, Paul, and George coming into their own as songwriters, yet doing so in a contentious climate where each sought more time and space on the album.
Much of the common knowledge about the album (which listeners of a certain age know as the “White Album” because of its plain white cover) can be traced to the Beatles themselves, who have remarked upon the troubled recording sessions for the album in various interviews over the years (much of which can be read in The Beatles Anthology, or gleaned from The Beatles: Recording Sessions, most notably) while the current reconsideration owes much to producer Giles Martin (son of original Beatles’ producer George Martin) who states that the tapes to which he listened as he remixed album tracks and compiled rehearsals, rhythm tracks, and other takes for the super deluxe anniversary edition reveal a band in genial spirits (most of his recent commentary in interviews and news articles can be searched easily online).
In considering these competing narratives, one finds that there is evidence for both positions, especially with the Beatles’ decision back then to record their rehearsals, which has yielded a trove of studio chat as well as aural evidence of the evolution of their songs during the sessions. But if we press closer, we find that all could not have been right during the recording of the album, which was reinforced for me once again by listening to the rhythm track of “Back in the USSR,” one of several tracks made available for streaming prior to the album’s reissue that I played on my show, Sound + Vision.
The studio chat that leads off take 5 of the song finds George jazzed enough by the session to sing the opening lines himself briefly then joke “Well, I’ve been wonderful on the last two takes,” to which Paul responds “Yes” immediately, before the band resumes playing, with George on guitar, Paul on drums, John on bass, and George Martin on piano. Notice a name missing here? As exhilarating as the rhythm track is—I prefer it to the final version, in fact, which they chose to speed up—Ringo’s absence cannot be reconciled very neatly with the narrative that Giles Martin has parleyed, dovetailing as it does with the disconnection or discord discussed by various Beatles in accounts that I have read over the years.
These sessions must have been edgier at times than they had been for previous albums, if John invites Yoko Ono to the sessions for inspiration and collaboration, reconfiguring the recording space and atmosphere from day one as he reasserts himself in the band; John led off the first day of the sessions for the album with “Revolution 1,” which climaxed in a 10-minute version complete with a chaotic, discordant second half that set an altogether new tone for the proceedings. (This second half, as you may surmise, was used later to form the basis of “Revolution 9”). John’s opening gambit trips up Paul’s previous dominance of their sessions, yet does not temper his perfectionism any, if the recording and rerecording of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” is any indication. George meanwhile asserts himself more with a little help from his friend Eric Clapton, in order to give songs like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” the attention they deserved. Ringo splits for a spell amid this climate of contention for time and space on the album.
But from such disconnection or discord between the Beatles sprung rhythms and riffs and melodies and wordplay that remain beguiling to this day, with no need for a revisionist narrative to hype them. Paradoxical as it may sound, I think in trying to play together as a band again following their heavy use of the studio as an instrument on Sgt. Pepper they rediscovered their synergy, which generated its fair share of exuberance among them, as can be heard on the takes, rehearsals, and alternate versions that comprise discs 4 and 5 of the super deluxe edition, yet in that heady atmosphere they experimented freely, and in doing so John, Paul, and George, in particular, came into their own as individual songwriters.
The sense of experimentation that Paul encouraged for the Sgt. Pepper sessions, which turned upon the idea of the band pretending to be another band, became in my view the touchstone for further experimentation on the sessions for what would become The Beatles, as each of the primary songwriters followed their individual muses. They embraced a wide range of genres in the process, and sometimes several styles associated with a genre, in the 30 songs that make up the album: the album leads off with the Chuck Berry cum Beach Boys rock ’n’ roll of “Back in the USSR,” followed by the psychedelic folk of “Dear Prudence” and “Wild Honey Pie” and the psychedelic rock of “Glass Onion,” the reggae lilt of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” the folk rock of “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill,” the melancholy blues-rock of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and the postmodernist rock of “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” complete with pastiches of folk rock, hard rock, and doo-wop. (And that’s just the first side, for those of us who first heard the album on an LP.)
Such eclecticism must have inspired Rolling Stone founding editor Jann Wenner to dub the album “the history and synthesis of Western music” in his review of it, which impressed my teenage self considerably when I read his review in my high school library in the late 70s, and has stayed with me ever since. Later, when I was enrolled in a first-year composition course in college, I fancied myself a music journalist and wrote an essay about the break-up of the Beatles, incorporating the concept of an “oscillating universe” that I had learned recently in an astronomy class (it’s a theoretical model which posits that our universe is constantly expanding and contracting until its end, when it will contract back to what it was originally, a primordial fireball). I used the concept as a metaphor to describe the break-up, which looking back remains relevant today.
The Beatles can be understood as an oscillating universe, expanding the boundaries of pop music as they did for a time together, before contracting to what they were originally, four individuals with strong and very different personalities who could not remain together indefinitely, as I wrote all those years ago. And The Beatles marks the beginning of that contraction, I would add now, despite the charisma they generated between themselves. The contraction continued through the even more discordant Get Back/Let it Be sessions before moderating briefly during the Abbey Road sessions, allowing the band to revel in the dream one more time.
The Beatles remains the band’s most compelling album because of the singular voices and visions that emerged from those recording sessions, which in their fecundity, including as they did such songs as “Hey Jude,” “The Inner Light,” and “Across the Universe” as well as the album tracks, remain the decade’s most compelling recording sessions.
Top Releases of 2018:
- Necrophobic “Mark Of The Necrogram”
- Pestilence “Hadeon”
- The Crown “Cobra Speed Venom”
- Iron Angel “Hellbound”
- Skinless “Savagery”
- Ribspreader “The Van Murders Part 2”
- Exmortus “The Sound Of Steel”
- Down Among The Dead Men “…And You Will Obey Me”
- Immortal “Northern Chaos Gods”
- Jungle Rot “Jungle Rot”
- Monstrosity “The Passage Of Existence”
- Satan “Cruel Magic”
- Deicide “Overtures Of Blasphemy”
- Necronomicon “Unleashed Bastards”
- Bloodbath “The Arrow Of Satan Is Drawn”
- Unleashed “The Hunt For White Christ”
Just some of my favorite tracks from 2018:
Jake Stringer “Tornado”
Ward Davis “Time to Move On”
Stryker Brothers “Charlie Duke”
Earls of Leicester “Sleep with one eye open”
Brent Cobb “.30-06”
Colter Wall “Tying Knots in the Devil’s Tail”
Mickey Lamantia “Outlaw uprising”
James Scott Bullard “Back to You”
Jason Eady “I Travel On”
Whitey Morgan “Hard Times and White lines” and “Bourbon and the Blues”
Addison Lee Thompson “Me and Jim Beam”
Robbie Fulks and Linda Gail Lewis “That’s why they call it temptation”
Kayla Ray “Yesterday and Me”
Richard Henderson “Autumn Moon”
Tompall Glaser “I Ain’t looking for the answers anymore” off “outlaws & armadillos” compilation
Travis Champ “Motel Cathedrals”
Brother Brothers “In the Nighttime”
Molly Pitcher’s 10 Best Protest Music Videos of 2018
I am a child of the 80’s, so I was imprinted by the art form of the music video. When they’re done well, a music video’s visual imagery can forever enhance how you hear a song. Sometimes they’re just straightforward recordings of performances, but sometimes they’re small gems of filmmaking. I frequently use Facebook to share music videos I play on the air during my show “The Melting Pot” because it can add so much.
For example, Aloe Blacc’s song “Live My Life” released in 2016 could be heard alone as just an anthem for someone’s personal goals. Lyrics such as “I don’t wanna die young / Cause I feel my life has just begun / So many many things I wanna do before I’m done” take on a completely different meaning when you watch the music video, where a young African boy loses his best friend to malaria and commits to becoming an activist to educate and empower families about the need for mosquito netting. Watch for yourself here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqTx-w6KPyw
2018 saw another great year with a tremendous outpouring of wonderful protest music, but not every song has a video—and not every video merits inclusion on a “best of the year” list. Here’s my recommendations for the best videos that combine both an excellent song and a compelling visual. Enjoy!
#1 “This Is America” by Childish Gambino: This video includes some disturbing violent imagery which either will upset you—or provocatively capture the outrage the artist feels about violence against black Americans—or both. Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) sparked a firestorm of conversation with the song and the video.
#2 “Tear It Down” by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings: Posthumously released song has one answer to the idea of building a wall: tear it down.
#3 “PARAD(w/m)E” by Sylvan Esso: The catchiest vision of a post-apocalyptic environmental crisis you could imagine!
#4 “Thought Contagion” by Muse: The British band Muse has had amazing music videos for many of their songs, and this one evokes the 80’s with an homage to Atari, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and more.
#5 “Yuve Yuve Yu” by the Hu: Mongolian folk rock with throat singing and a call for traitors to kneel down? Yes please.
#6 “Resilient” by Rising Appalachia: This sister act always has great melodic intertwining of their voices—in the video, modern dance performers intertwine physically too.
#7 and #8 “Here Comes the Change” by Kesha: One song with two different videos! The first link includes footage from the motion picture “On the Basis of Sex” (a dramatized biopic of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) while the second video was created for a ‘register to vote’ campaign. Both are simply excellent.
#9 Bella Ciao” by Marc Ribot featuring Tom Waits: This reworking of the 1940’s partisan song from those who fought Fascism in Italy is paired with contemporary footage of protestors demanding immigration reform. Quiet and moving.
#10 “Put a Woman in Charge” by Keb’ Mo’ featuring Rosanne Cash: The collaboration between these two artists would be enough to listen to—the imagery here including modern protests and historical footage from the suffragists will fire you up.