"To be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing." - Raymond Williams

Dark Optimism – The Album

by Shaun Chamberlin on February 18th, 2017

Because why not?

I have a passion for tracking down that elusive rarity – eco-songs that don’t suck! And thanks to several Dark Optimism readers, my collection’s growing, from a wide range of genres.

Back in 2011, I published the first ‘Dark Optimism album’, but sadly it was lost due to my using an external MP3 player which later disappeared.

Just hit play below for the 2017 edition, with a few more recent favourites added to the mix:


Honourable mentions also to these pieces from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Akala and RapNews, each brilliant in their own way, but not quite hitting the spot for this collection. Enjoy!

And any more songs (or other creative responses) that you’d like to share greatly welcomed in the comments below.

  1.  Dalvin says:
    19 February, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    Shaun,
    Take a listen to “(nothing but) flowers” by The Talking heads.
    It may fit the criteria for your album.
    Best,
    d.

  2.  Shaun Chamberlin says:
    19 February, 2017 at 7:27 pm

    Ah, thanks Dalvin – yes, I know that one well! V interesting song 🙂

  3.  William says:
    7 August, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    One that comes immediately to mind is Alice Phoebe Lou – She
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPH9j0qVM3A

  4.  Bill Everett says:
    20 January, 2018 at 7:34 pm

    If there is no object, I will nominate possibilities for album 2:

    Phil Ochs – No More Songs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2o1Mno5yjqo

    Ruth Mundy – Adani https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CqE37lmsvs

    Ruth Mundy – Love in the Time of Coral Reefs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTFFOr_G6ZM

  5.  Shaun Chamberlin says:
    23 January, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    Many thanks Bill. Both artists were new to me, and I’m very glad to make their acquaintance.

    “Love in the Time of Coral Reefs” brought me to tears, so that’s likely to make the cut!

  6.  Vasa Endicott says:
    1 February, 2018 at 3:42 am

    You all may also enjoy Kid Beyond’s I Shall Be Free, though not directly eco-related, more on the idea of “waging peace.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4MFE9bfDYg

  7.  Shaun Chamberlin says:
    2 February, 2018 at 4:36 pm

    Thanks Vasa – it’s all interconnected alright. Nice track!

  8.  Matt says:
    4 March, 2018 at 6:10 am

    Hey mate. My band’s whole album fits the theme. Vanishing Point by The General Assembly. Enjoy! https://thegeneralassembly.bandcamp.com/album/vanishing-point

  9.  Shaun Chamberlin says:
    4 March, 2018 at 6:57 pm

    Cheers Matt, will have a listen. Hope you found something stimulating in my collection to date.

  10.  Matthew Slater says:
    16 November, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    Hey shawn can you follow matslats and jembendell on twitter

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    […] Dark Optimism – The Album […]

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  13.  Robert says:
    19 November, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    A few more suggestions:

    Caravan of Love (Housemartins)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehfiQd7lcPY

    Pharaoh – Richard Thompson
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtM-QKqj0tg

    London Calling – The Clash
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfK-WX2pa8c

  14.  Calum McFarlane says:
    11 December, 2018 at 11:19 pm

    River Man, by Nick Drake. These days, I cannot listen to it without being moved to tears.

  15.  Calum McFarlane says:
    12 December, 2018 at 10:14 am

    Also – Dead Flag Blues, by Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

    “The car is on fire, and there’s no driver at the wheel
    And the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides
    And a dark wind blows

    The government is corrupt
    And we’re on so many drugs
    With the radio on and the curtains drawn

    We’re trapped in the belly of this horrible machine
    And the machine is bleeding to death

    The sun has fallen down
    And the billboards are all leering
    And the flags are all dead at the top of their poles

    It went like this:

    The buildings toppled in on themselves
    Mothers clutching babies
    Picked through the rubble
    And pulled out their hair

    The skyline was beautiful on fire
    All twisted metal stretching upwards
    Everything washed in a thin orange haze

    I said, “Kiss me, you’re beautiful –
    These are truly the last days”

    You grabbed my hand
    And we fell into it
    Like a daydream
    Or a fever

    We woke up one morning and fell a little further down
    For sure it’s the valley of death

    I open up my wallet
    And it’s full of blood”

  16.  Shaun Chamberlin says:
    14 December, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    Thanks Calum, that Godspeed song’s an old friend, but somehow I had failed to consider it for the album. Thanks for the nudge – it’s now strongly in the running for the next!

    the Nick Drake song was new to me. It didn’t hit me hard on first listens, but I have the feeling it’s a slowburner…

  17.  Mr Calum A McFarlane says:
    28 December, 2018 at 3:43 pm

    Betty came by on her way
    Said she had a word to say
    About things today
    And fallen leaves.
    Said she hadn’t heard the news
    Hadn’t had the time to choose
    A way to lose
    But she believes.

    Going to see the river man
    Going to tell him all I can
    About the plan
    For lilac time.
    If he tells me all he knows
    About the way his river flows
    And all night shows
    In summertime.

    Betty said she prayed today
    For the sky to blow away
    Or maybe stay
    She wasn’t sure.
    For when she thought of summer rain
    Calling for her mind again
    She lost the pain
    And stayed for more.

    Going to see the river man
    Going to tell him all I can
    About the ban
    On feeling free.
    If he tells me all he knows
    About the way his river flows
    I don’t suppose
    It’s meant for me.
    Oh, how they come and go
    Oh, how they come and go.

    The lyrics feel strangely and impossibly prescient of our present predicament…like a poem written after a beautiful nightmare

  18.  Welcome to Dark Optimism! - pinned post - Dark Optimism says:
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    […] Dark Optimism – The Album […]

  19.  Ken Stokes says:
    16 October, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    Jackson Browne’s latest album has two strong candidates for anthem of our ‘momvement’:

    Which Side (Are You On)…about “the battle for the future”
    Standing In The Breach (title track)

    I regularly sing both at the top of my lungs!

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