20. Weyes Blood – Something to Believe (2019)
From its cover photo of a submerged chamber, 2019’s Titanic Rising looks like an album informed by the climate crisis, but the lyrics rarely address it explicitly. Something to Believe is the perfect example: a plea not to feel overwhelmed or nihilistic in the face of challenges, beautifully imbued with the lush sound of early ’70s Los Angeles.
19. David Axelrod – The Warnings Part 1 (1970)
The 1970 Earth Rot album won the award for the most idiosyncratic environmental protest record ever made: a 22-minute orchestrated jazz-rock song suite with a choir singing lyrics from the Bible and legends of Najavo. Opener The Warnings Part 1 is succulent, icy and disturbing all at once, propelled by a funk surf and like nothing else.
18. Common, Malik Yusef, Kumasi feat Aaron Fresh, Choklate, Laci Kay – Trouble in the Water (2014)
Hip-hop isn’t a big fan of the environment (see Pitbull’s album Global Warming, whose title track literally tells you how awesome Pitbull’s private jet is) but Common’s collaboration with, between others, Kanye West producer Malik Yusef is terrific: military rhythms; intelligent and witty words; hard electronics; a refrain that is off-putting and catchy.
17. Dead Kennedys – Moon Over Sailor (1982)
Musically influenced by the Sex Pistols, but venturing into lyrical realms where the initial wave of British punk rarely manifested – despite Crass’s anti-nuclear power – Moon Over Marin imagines a nighttime swim on a polluted California beach, the frontman Jello Biafra sounding wide-eyed in horror at the inconvenience of it all.
16. The Beach Boys – A Day in the Life of a Tree (1971)
An ecological variety runs through the work of the Beach Boys of the 70s, from Don’t Go Near the Water to Dennis Wilson’s River Song. But it never produced a fruit more peculiar than this, an incredibly dark and memorable song. described by the late Ian McDonald as “so radically at odds with the now pervasive irony of pop that you laugh or become humiliated by its painful frankness.”
15. The weather station – Atlantic (2021)
Like Weyes Blood’s Titanic Rising, The Weather Station’s Ignorance is an extraordinarily beautiful album inspired by the impending ecological disaster, rather than directly about it. Sweet, yet nervous, Atlantic finds singer-songwriter Tamara Lindeman gazing at the beauty of the titular ocean, wine in hand, trying and failing to forget impending disaster.
14. Cerrone – Supernature (1977)
Perhaps the strangest disco hit of all: 10 minutes of Giorgio Moroder-style synths, simulated keyboard flourishes, four-part rhythms and… a lyric (by Lene Lovich) that seems to predict GM farming, puts on guard against arrogance and pride, and ends with the slaughter of the human race by “creatures from below”. He made the Top 10.
13. Talking Heads – (Nothing That) Flowers (1988)
His music influenced by Congolese soukous, (Nothing But) Flowers is a typically complex and witty examination of a post-apocalyptic “Garden of Eden” where nature took over: “Si c’est le paradis Protests the narrator, who has already wished for precisely this scenario, “I would like to have a lawn mower.”
12. Hawkwind – We Made the Wrong Years Ago (1971)
Amidst the space-rock motorik and Hawkwind’s In Search of Space experimentation hides this: a psych-y, heavy ballad on the 12-string guitar and fatalistic lyrics – well in line with the ecological leaflets. sobering from the Limits to Growth era and The Closing Circle – which thrillingly erupts into a frenzied synth-assisted scramble midway through.
11. REM – Fall on Me (1986)
Fall on Me sounds magnificent – misty autumnal, surrounded by pretty counter-melodies and a soaring guitar – but its lyrics go from oblique to incisive. His best line sums up perfectly the ever-present desire to avoid the gravity of the environmental problems we face: “This is the progress we have found: a way around the problem.”
10. Anohni – 4 degrees (2015)
At first glance, 4 Degrees appears like a simple condemnation, written from the point of view of a climate crisis denier: in fact, according to its author, it was about her, “not my aspirations but my behaviors, revealing my insidious complicity “. Anyway, it’s really powerful: violent rhythms, threatening electronics, triumphant strings.
9. Esprit – Nature’s Way (1970)
Seemingly inspired by Cleveland’s polluted Cuyahoga River that caught fire in June 1969, Nature’s Way haunts: Harmonious West Coast acoustic rock has become deeply uncomfortable and menacing (“something’s wrong” ). The 1991 cover of This Mortal Coil – beautifully orchestrated, sung by Alison Limerick – is also worth hearing: radically different, just as powerful.
8. Gojira – Amazonia (2021)
Always fond of an apocalyptic storyline, heavy metal is perhaps the most environmentally friendly genre: everyone from Ozzy Osbourne and Architects to Metallica and Napalm Death has touched on the subject. Amazonia, a highlight of Gojira’s acclaimed Fortitude album, is a fierce example: the destruction of rainforests scoured by a monumental riff.
7. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – From the Sky (1967)
Ecology didn’t really establish itself as a pop subject until the early 1970s: there is something almost strangely premonitory about this jazzy single, which the sci-fi obsessed Hendrix has brought back to life. aliens on Earth for the first time in thousands of years. the “smell of a burnt world” – “maybe it’s climate change”.
6. Childish Gambino – Looks Like Summer (2018)
Feels Like Summer is a fabulous bluff of a single: a hazy afternoon slow jam – softly strummed guitar, falsetto vocals, flute, released alongside the simpler Summertime Magic – which gradually reveals itself to be on a subject. noticeably larger, darker and more loaded. than lazing around in the heat.
5. Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (1971)
Maggot Brain opens with a monologue by George Clinton – “Mother Earth is pregnant … for you all knocked her out … rise above all or drown in [your] its own shit ”- but its power as a protest song relies on the next 10 minutes of instrumentality and the amazing and sorry Eddie Hazel guitar solo.
4. Pixies – Monkey Gone to Heaven (1989)
A compelling and very Pixies approach to environmentalism, in which the ozone layer and ocean pollution are somehow tied to Hebrew numerology, the latter of which causes an explosion of Black Francis’ patent, never-thrilling cries. Elliptical enough that late ’80s indie disco fans might have missed the point, Monkey Gone to Heaven rightly endured.
3. Neil Young – After the Gold Rush (1970)
Neil Young is one of rock’s most staunch environmental activists, but he has never written a more touching song on the subject than After the Gold Rush, a fragile sci-fi parable steeped in a broken atmosphere. of the aftermath of the 60s and which houses its most famous line on the subject: “Watch Mother Nature on the run in the 1970s”.
2. Marvin Gaye – Mercy Mercy Me (Ecology) (1971)
A litany of woes informed What’s Going On’s song cycle – Vietnam, racism, police brutality – but Marvin Gaye kept the best song on the album for the song about environmental destruction: almost disconcerting about the way the lightness of the melody and the subtlety of the medium collide with the desperation of the lyrics.
1. Joni Mitchell – Big Yellow Taxi (1970)
It’s not a protest anthem in the vein of We Shall Overcome or Give Peace a Chance – you don’t hear people singing its lyrics on the marches – but the most enduring song on what have been called the “Green questions”: covered by Bob Dylan, sampled by Janet Jackson, still a radio staple 50 years later. It was written on a trip in the late 1960s to Hawaii – home to the Foster Botanical Gardens, aka the lyric ‘tree museum’ – and in part influenced by the Silent Spring anti-pesticide leaflet by Rachel Carson, or at least the fury he sparked. Mitchell’s anti-globalization / industrialization / business message transcends his era, in part because of his catchy and sweet melody, but mostly because of the timeless simplicity of his main line: ‘You don’t know what you’ve got until until he’s gone. “