Because of COVID-19, most Denver musicians haven't been able to play much live music — or share their politics in person — this year. Moved by the November 3 election, which is now just a few days away, Zoe Van De Voorde, who makes music as Eleanor Nash, launched Politico Music Colorado in early October to give singers and songwriters a way to crank up the volume on their thoughts on the state of the world.
The first effort from the group is the austerely titled compilation album Anthology 1, which dropped on streaming platforms earlier this month.
“We put together the first anthology, sort of reaching out and making it happen, and [getting] a quick turnaround before the election,” says Van De Voorde. “We've had a couple of artists reach out already and say, ‘Hey, I heard about this. Are you still taking entries or submissions?’"
The compilation includes songs from The Sagebrush Bohemians, The Barrelors, To Be Astronauts, Dead Pay Rent, Eleanor Nash, Brianna Straut, Jenny LaJoye, The Bent Brothers, Isabelle Stillman, Sky Choice, Teresa Suydam and White Rose Motor Oil.
“Every artist coming together in this brought a different voice of protest, so you get the gauntlet of themes, ranging from protest against the rich to evangelical Christianity to fighting for women's rights,” Van De Voorde says. “It's pretty cool to listen to them all together. There's a lot of emotion and power here.”
While there are some more traditional-minded folk songs on the album, including a Bent Brothers cover of Woody Guthrie’s “All You Fascists Bound to Lose,” the collection strays from what you might expect when you hear the term “protest song.” The twelve Anthology tracks range in style from Americana to cowpunk to country to punk rock.
“We ended up allowing bands to submit songs that fit the theme more than the specific genre,” notes Van De Voorde. “Limiting it to folk constricted what we were trying to put together. This felt a little more representative of what’s actually going on in the Denver music scene right now.”
The idea for a compilation came about because it’s an election year, she explains. Musicians stuck at home during COVID-19 haven't had the chance to speak directly to their communities about social issues as they normally might at shows.
“Obviously, we can’t right now,” Van De Voorde says. “The goal is to provide a platform for anyone who wanted to speak out in that way.”
After reaching out to numerous people, she was impressed with the variety of what was submitted. For example, To Be Astronauts’ “This Is Not Normal,” a Mudhoney-esque indictment of current United States politics, complete with an angry diatribe against greedy, inept politicians. Sonically, it’s miles away from LaJoye’s pensive “What Did I Do,” which is addressed to Trump-supporting evangelicals. The latter song makes the argument that a vote for the president is a vote against Jesus.
“I wrote this right after the 2016 presidential election,” LaJoye explains on social media. “It’s a letter to the Evangelical Christian communities that raised me, questioning their widespread support of Trump in that election. As one of their queer siblings, I wanted to theologically reframe the crux of their religion — the death and resurrection of Jesus — so that they heard the voice of a denied, betrayed, and dying Jesus as the most marginalized among them.”
In spite of the record's diverse sounds, it feels cohesive.
The organizers, spurred on by the enthusiastic reaction to the project, plan to release a second volume in December. A lot could change between now and then because of the election, but more compilations are likely. Van De Voorde says that whatever happens, it’s important for people in the music community to support one another, lift each other up and even challenge one another.
“We're kind of holding our breath to see what happens on November 3 and what the fallout of that is, and then responding appropriately to whatever that situation is,” she says. “That might be more music. That might be an event. That might be organizing a protest, a fundraiser, whatever.”
She says that compiling the songs has been a cathartic experience, because it’s bringing people together in a world where seeing others in person isn’t always an option. She's happy with how the first volume turned out.
"I'm blown away by the quality of the songs that were submitted," she says. "You listen to the whole thing and you're like, 'Holy shit. Denver's got some incredible songwriters.'"