“Requiem for 2016.” “Burn Your Money.” “I Know YOU Know You’re Evil.” Glancing down the list of tracks released for “Our First 100 Days,” a daily song project by and for those unhappy during Donald Trump’s early months in office, and the titles would seem to promise pointed speeches or singalongs. Is it a let-down, then, that all of the song names above are for instrumentals? As the relaxed breakbeats of one such instrumental, “Vacuum Life” by the Sylvan Esso spinoff Made of Oak, boomed from my speakers, I told a friend who had just walked in that I was listening to a compilation of songs against Trump. “Maybe the chords are spelling out something about the electoral college,” he cracked.
Though the left-leaning music world has stayed active and loud since Trump has taken office, its recent efforts often break with common expectations about what “political music” is—as, to an extent, such efforts always have. When recently asked about the state of protest music, Joan Baez replied, “People are waiting for a ‘We Shall Overcome,’ they’re waiting for another ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ and ‘Imagine.’ Hasn’t been written yet.” She’s right that people often wish for a new smash anthem of uplift, resistance, and unity, and she’s right that there isn’t one, quite yet, for the Trump era. But the call for new protest music is nevertheless being answered in ways large and small under one of the most disliked incoming administrations in American history.