Whether or not we really are blindly hurtling toward the apocalypse, these can feel like dark and scary times.
The naively imagined bounty of politically-driven protest art that was supposed be born from fascism’s western rise hasn’t necessarily materialised.
Instead we’re left with an increasingly fractured world and the question of what protest music is meant to sound like in 2019.
Should it be angry, sly and humorous like Slowthai’s Nothing Great About Britain? Glittering and mournful à la Anohni’s Hopelessness? Dirty and indirect like U.S. Girls’s In a Poem Unlimited?
The answer, of course, is all of the above. However, there is something to be said for a sunnier kind of protest song — a protest powerful not for its righteousness and rage, but for its refusal to be anything but light in the face of growing darkness.
Think the sunny psychedelia of Kacey Musgraves’s blockbuster Golden Hour in service of the planet rather than a new love.
It’s in this realm that Eagle & Hawk’s Liberty finds itself — an album whose loudly political subject matter is offset by a heartening, decidedly summery soundscape.
The long-running, proudly Indigenous band’s first collection of songs in nine years was released Nov. 13, and acts as a sort of love song to the earth and its people — a solidly constructed set of major-key contemporary rock songs pleasantly subverted by softly glowing synth figures and a refusal to wallow in despair.
The songs on Liberty are more interesting than they seem on first listen, and though there’s a certain naivety to the record — a clunky lyric here and there — there’s also a refreshing positivity, an uplifting sense that all is not lost.
Traditional drums, horns, blushing keys, electronic touches and lush backing vocals weave in and out of relatively standard rock structures and grant the record a playful liveliness that belies its heavy subject matter — environmental degradation, spiritual disconnect, the rights of women and immigrants and both literal and figurative borders.
It’s the keys, courtesy of recently passed icon Gerry Atwell, that help raise this record above standard fare. A celestial counter to all the fist raising and bluster, Atwell’s touch is the playful heart of Liberty, floating through these songs like will-o’-the-wisp.
It’s in these guiding beams that Eagle & Hawk make their best case for Liberty’s sunny disposition. It’s not enough to simply be simply angry and scared.
Instead, there must also be levity, a way forward, a belief in humanity’s essential goodness.
Perhaps there is a light in all that darkness.
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