Breathtaking and moving
Amanda Palmer is no stranger to dark and intense albums, but this might be her most intense one yet, and for a good reason. Amanda Palmer & Friends Present Forty-Five Degrees: A Bushfire Charity Flash Record is, like the name already gives away, a charity album for the victims of the devastating bushfires in Australia that happened around New Year’s. The proceeds of this album all go to the Charity organization Firesticks.
Amanda Palmer was touring in Australia right around the time the fires hit an all-time high and Palmer knew she had to help in the best way she could. Her whole team gathered together and recorded this album, and the list of featured artists is endless. Missy Higgins, Clare Bowditch, Montaigne, Brian Viglione, the drummer of The Dresden Dolls and Fred Leone with his Didgeridoo. The album mainly consists of cover songs like, “Favourite Things” (yes that song from The Sound of Music), and “Beds Are Burning” (originally by Midnight Oil). The remarkable thing about “Favourite Things” is that it starts off like the original, but right after the first chorus, it turns dark and sarcastic.
It is hard not to get caught up in the lyrics, lyrics about the death of the animals, ashes flying around and ultimately the death of the people. Her voice is captivating and so powerful. Every song featured of the album is already dark with its lyrics, but Amanda Palmer manages to give them even more gloom. This shows in “The Drover’s Boy,” a country song by Ted Eagan. Palmer’s version is almost disturbing dark and it is incredibly passionate. With drum beats that almost sound like deep canon shots that sometimes happen at funerals.
“Black Smoke” by Emily Wurramara features the ukulele in the beginning, but then it is only a piano and an upright bass that accompanies Palmer and Clare Bowditch. The message of the song is clear, but yet the original reflects more hope than Palmer’s cover. Palmer’s feelings are so involved in every note in the entire album, her voice seems almost to break in every song and this just contributes to the fantastic sound of this album. “Suck It Up, Buttercup” is the only original song on the album, and one of the deepest and impactful ones. Palmer’s voice is fascinating, the piano captivating and the lyrics not easy to digest.
Palmer chooses her words wisely, but yet they are haunting, and it is so hard not to think about them even after the song finished. This song can cause tears or at least some goosebumps, it might even need a trigger warning for some. The song is almost nine minutes long, but it almost feels like seconds, it is clear this song is not about bushfires or climate change entirely, it’s about the society we live in. Palmer wrote this song and performed it by herself, with only her voice and her piano. “Truganini” is another cover of Midnight Oil, and this song is dedicated to the indigenous people of Australia, another cause that is very important to Palmer.
The Firesticks charity is an organization lead by Indigenous. Palmer sings this song together with Australian singer-songwriter Montaigne. With “Solid Rock” (originally by Goanna) the didgeridoo creates a gloomy atmosphere combined with the piano, didgeridoo never sounded so mysterious. Songs about genocide are incredible heart wrecking and the passion and anger in Palmer’s voice give the song even more power. The album ends with “Regional Echo” originally by Jen Cohler. Although it is no upbeat song at all, it is a little easier than the other song on the album. The sound is a little lighter and faster. It is a good way to end the album, the audience needs a lighter ending to breathe.
Amanda Palmer & Friends Present Forty-Five Degrees: A Bushfire Charity Flash Record is breathtaking, captivating and it is hard to actually sum it up in words. Amanda Palmer’s engagement in the climate crisis is an amazing thing. Still, she doesn’t stop there; she found a way to direct some attention to the struggle of indigenous people in Australia. It is easy to forget about it if you are not directly involved. This album was funded by her fans through crowdfunding, every fan who donated can be proud of this incredible moving album.