The year 2016 has been interesting and not necessarily in a good way. Many Americans are fearful of the administration set to be sworn into office in a few weeks, and many more citizens have to protest to convince people that their lives matter.
That's why Neil Young’s latest album Peace Trail is so important. In his 37th studio album, Young voices his frustrations with the state of America today, specifically with the events happening in Standing Rock, North Dakota in regards to the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.
Like any Neil Young album, the highlight of the record is the lyrics. Young has a knack for discussing complex and controversial issues in a poetic, yet simple way. Tracks such as “Indian Givers” and “Terrorist Suicide Hang Gliders” focus on the plight of Native Americans and Muslim Americans, respectively.
While both issues are highly debated in the political sphere, with related conversations revolving around oil pipelines and national security, Young strips away the politics and instead focuses on the humanity of our fellow citizens.
Young makes listeners realize that they have been programmed to focus on our differences as opposed to our common ground as human beings. With lyrics like “I think I know who to blame/ all those people with funny names,” in “Suicide Terrorist Hang Gliders,” Young forces his listeners to confront their own biases that they may not even be aware of.
This is a powerful poetic tool which makes Young a master storyteller.
Despite his musical talents, listeners will find that the instrumental tracks on this album are downplayed in order to emphasize the arguments Young makes throughout his songs.
However, tracks like “Texas Rangers” and the title track “Peace Trail” both have a strong, steady guitar tracks that drive the songs.
The strongest track of the album is “John Oaks,” which Young uses to create an argument for the model citizen, someone who “won't take shit lyin’ down/ he calls it like he sees it.”
Always one to promote social activism through his music, Young urges listeners to be like the protagonist of the song, fighting for what you know is right.
The album ends on a mellow note with “My New Robot,” which focuses on our dependence on technology. A pleasant acoustic guitar track is coupled with robotic sounds to create a strangely beautiful and powerful track.
For an album that focused on our need for humanity and understanding, this song wrapped up the album nicely and drove Young’s message home.
For those concerned about the state of the nation and the planet, Peace Trail speaks to those concerns, as well as promoting the idea that to make change, one must always be ready to stand up and fight for your beliefs.
With all of the changes that 2016 brought, this album was a great way to wrap up the year.