Ten Of The Best Protest Albums of 2022
*The following is a collection of some of the best albums of protest music released in 2022. They were selected by Kevin Gosztola and C.J. Baker, who publishes writing regularly at Ongoing History Of Protest Songs. They are in alphabetical order by artist.
**Full playlist with each album on Spotify
Ashenspire – Hostile Architecture
Hailing from Glasgow in Scotland, the lads of Ashenspire make progressive metal for the working class that is grandiose and theatrical. The lyrics are largely delivered as spoken word over instruments that amplify the dark storytelling and agitation of the narrator.
In a final call to action, Ashenspire belts out, “Get down off the fence before the barbed wire goes up.”
Jake Blount – The New Faith
Sometimes it is necessary to look to the past to learn about the future. That is the case with Jake Blount, a singer, multi-instrumentalist, and scholar whose stunning concept album weaves a compelling Afrofuturist narrative.
“Take Me To the Water,” a traditional hymn and first track on the album, morphs into an ominous prayer for those seeking to “be washed for the sins of humanity.” It is a call “to reject the greed of our forefathers,” who “melted the ice at the ends of the earth, drowned the coast, emptied the seas and forests of life, filled the very ocean with fire.”
Not only does Blount prove he is a skillful musician, but in developing these themes throughout his album, he proves that he is also an archivist, historian, and prophet capable of sounding an alarm for humanity.
Bob Vylan – Bob Vylan Presents The Price Of Life
UK grime-punk and hip hop duo Bob Vylan storm their way through a crash course on underclass survival in a capitalist world, where one’s life could be snuffed out at any moment without any remorse.
“The BBC are talking about the GDP. That means fuck all to me,” Bob Vylan raps. “I gotta eat.”
“Alexa, take me to prison,” the duo roars at the end of their gutting indictment.
Fantastic Negrito – White Jesus Black Problems
Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz, who performs under the pseudonym Fantastic Negrito, recently discovered that his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents were a white Scottish servant named Elizabeth Gallimore and a black slave whose name has been erased in the annals of history. This lineage inspires Fantastic Negrito’s compelling concept album, which he released as a multimedia project with a companion film.
Ezra Furman – All Of Us Flames
On “Book Of Our Names,” Furman expresses a desire to forever remember those who historically tend to have their identities erased. On “Lilac and Black,” Furman dreams of “my queer girl gang,” whose enemies will eventually “bow down before our wrath.”
Hurray For The Riff Raff – Life On Earth
Puerto Rican singer-songwriter and self-described “nature punk” Alynda Segarra’s album is a worthy follow-up to their exceptional 2017 album, “The Navigator.” It explores themes of immigration, the environment, and other social ills.
One of the album’s many highlights is “Precious Cargo,” where Segarra sings, “We made it to the border. I jumped and I was detained. Split me from my family. Now the light begins to fade. They took me to the cold room, where I sat down on the floor. Just a foil for a blanket. For 17 days or more.”
Leyla McCalla – Breaking The Thermometer
“In 1980, Radio Haiti was shut down and all of its journalists were either executed, jailed or exiled alongside many of Haiti’s most prominent artists, intellectuals and academics,” recalled Haitian American multi-instrumentalist Leyla McCalla.
The song, “Ekzile,” is a somber melody mixing several string instruments over soft percussion. It features a Haitian woman who recounts fleeing brutal repression and ending up in New York. McCalla movingly grapples with what it is like for someone to have to leave their home because they are no longer safe.
Jean Dominique, Radio Haiti’s owner, was murdered, and McCalla developed a close relationship with Michèle Montas, Dominique’s widow. The project honors their resistance. “A big part of their connection and their love for each other was their love for journalism and their vision for what this could do to transform their country,” McCalla told the Guardian. “It’s a really hard thing to have faith in, but that faith held them together.”
Samora Pinderhughes – GRIEF
Our annual list, given Shadowproof’s journalism on prison abolition, would not be complete without this collaborative album from singer, songwriter, pianist, and scholar Samora Pinderhughes.
For “GRIEF,” a part of the Healing Project, Pinderhughes interviewed around 100 people of color who shared their experiences with incarceration or “structural violence.” The online archive of interviews features includes insights on abolishing prison, but the album is more introspective than essayistic and draws from the well of emotions that come from prison life and life in a world of prisons.
Through the harmony of “Holding Cell,” Pinderhughes sings, “Holding cell, I can’t get well while you hold me.” The slave labor, or slaving for the tiniest of wages, comes through on, “Hope,” as Pinderhughes, Nio Norwood, and Jehbreal Jackson sing, “While we try to build a room for our freedom (for our freedom). We build what they destroy.”
Pinderhughes told the New York Times that he intended to explore how the machinery of incarceration operates and ask, what is the system doing to people? What can be done to fight back? And then, from a more personal perspective, “How am I a part of that? How am I implicated, and how am I doing something against it? What does that make me feel like?”
Soul Glo – Diaspora Problems
Since their formation in 2014, Soul Glo has built a reputation for their ferocious musical attack and radical political lyrics. The hardcore punk band is made up of Black musicians who share their experiences as artists in a genre dominated by white groups.
On the album, the band dispels the myth that lasting change can come from continuing to prop up the two-party system. For example, lead singer Pierce Jordan derisively snarls on “John J,” “It’s been ‘fuck right wing’ off the rip. But still liberals are more dangerous.”
The album is filled with killer anthems of righteous indignation that continue punk’s tradition of confronting racial and social injustice, and it is the band’s first release on renowned punk label Epitaph.
Tanya Tagaq – Tongues
Canadian Inuk singer Tanya Tagaq aims “to repair the damage” from trauma inflicted by centuries of colonial repression.
|HONORABLE MENTIONS: Jimmy Cliff – “Refugee” | Dropkick Murphys – “This Machine Still Kill Fascists” | Moor Mother – “Jazz Codes” | Mali Obomsawin – “Sweet Tooth” | Special Interest – “Endure” | SAULT – “11”/”Earth”/”Today & Tomorrow”/”Untitled (God)”/”Air”