Canadian/Icelandic songwriter Lindy Vopnfjörd has announced his new album, Frozen In Time. Vopnfjörd has once again joined forces with producer Todor Kobakov (Lights/Metric/Dan Mangan), this time recording the bulk of the album live off the floor. Additional instrumentation and vocals were added from a global cast of musicians, including guitar work on "Melting" and “Force of Nature”from Luke Doucet (Whitehorse). Vopnfjörd's quiet confidence permeates the album, inviting the listener into his world of wisdom and attention to social consciousness, human rights, and political oppression, with tenderness.
The collection of 13 songs explores an immense landscape from the common and dulcet-light, to dark, epic tales. Consistent with the magic of his live performances, Vopnfjörd plucks his acoustic guitar sensitively to songs about courageous stories of champions for human freedom, Vikings, and his love for his wife.
Vopnfjörd is a gifted storyteller who distills human experience into the vital emotions that define a moment so crisply and memorably, that the effect is stunning in its resonance. "Human" and "Far Behind" were inspired by North Korean defector and human rights advocate Yeonmi Park - her journey to escape North Korea with her mother to reunite with hersister in the South. Another song is inspired by the prison diary of Professor James Tooley, who in Hyderabad, India was wrongfully imprisoned while researching education in slums and shantytowns and advocating for poor families trying to start their own schools. "Melting" was written at the Reykjavik Folk Festival, inspired by the local Icelandic artists and the awesomeness of the Icelandic landscape. Hope, despair, triumph, and loss are feelings framed by Vopnfjörd on his sixth album.
TORONTO — Folk singer-songwriter Lindy Vopnfjord climbed into bed stunned on the night Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency, but he awoke the next morning feeling activated.
Bristling with an urge to speak out, the Icelandic-Canadian musician wrote a series of lyrics that might've seemed alarmist at the time.
And even two weeks ago, when he finally released "Darkness is the Day" to coincide with Trump's inauguration, some of the words didn't resonate quite as much as they do now.
"Opinion is king, one-plus-one is three. The loudest truth is the truest, so repeat after me," Vopnfjord sings. "It takes a little time to get the spin to unwind. It takes a little time."
Vopnfjord is stunned by the evolution of his song's significance.
"There's so much that keeps feeding into the lyrics," he says. "There was more to it than maybe even I realized."
He's just one of countless musicians using their voice to push against what they see as an alarming political climate. Over the past month, prominent artists have contributed a chorus of anti-Trump anthems, which started flowing out ahead of the election last November.
Tracks by Arcade Fire and Mavis Staples ("I Give You Power"), Fiona Apple ("Tiny Hands") and the Gorillaz ("Hallelujah Money") have stood out as recent highlights.
Before that, artists like Franz Ferdinand ("Demagogue"), Jimmy Eat World ("My Enemy") and Amy Mann ("Can't You Tell?") collaborated for "30 Days, 30 Songs," a project that counted down to election day in the hopes of drawing attention to Trump's potential power. The campaign recently expanded to 1,000 songs that will be revealed throughout Trump's presidency.
Listeners appear eager to hear more protest songs too.
Several anti-Trump anthems became viral hits last year, including Ledinsky's "Donald Trump Makes Me Wanna Smoke Crack" and YG & Nipsey Hussle's "FDT," a rousing rap track which pairs an expletive with the president's initials.
All of this newfound inspiration has longtime social-activist musician Buffy Sainte-Marie a bit suspicious. She questions why some artists only decided to write protest songs when there's "going to be money" in it.
But she's also not against more people speaking out.
"The art of the two-and-a-half minute song — it's such a powerful tool," she says.
"If you can say something in three minutes that somebody else had to write a 400-page book about, the book is going to be shelved. The song can live forever."
Sainte-Marie says she writes her songs with the mindset of a photographer capturing snapshots of history.
Her 1964 protest anthem "Universal Soldier" was a portrait of the Vietnam War era while "Now That the Buffalo's Gone" tackled the centuries-old plight of indigenous communities that still continues today.
She wrote "Universal Soldier" as if she was a student crafting an essay for a hypothetical professor who didn't see eye-to-eye with her perspective.
"I was determined to get an 'A-plus' out of this guy," she says.
"(I was) deliberately trying to give people a different point of view than they may have come across before."
Fellow activist songwriter Bruce Cockburn is cautious when it comes to deciding how to express his opinions through music.
With a career spanning nearly 40 years, he's found himself inspired by causes like the environment ("If a Tree Falls") and the devastation of war ("If I Had a Rocket Launcher"). But so far, the U.S. election hasn't motivated him to write anything pointed, and he says it might not.
He says he doesn't want to veer into territory where he's just spouting his political views against a backdrop of bad music.
"It's not always obvious to put it in a song that (doesn't simply become) a propaganda diatribe," says Cockburn, who will receive the People's Voice Award at the Folk Alliance International awards show in Kansas City, Mo., this month in recognition of his social and political commentary.
So many political songs just capitalize on anger, he argues, but don't have any artistic merit. He points to 1965's "Eve of Destruction," a song recorded by Barry McGuire that topped the Billboard charts, as one example of a misfire.
"It was a huge hit, but a terrible song," he says.
Cockburn suggests the track was too literal and sounds especially dated now. Many protest songs that attack their subject head-on suffer the same fate of becoming irrelevant, he adds.
Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" stands as a far superior example, he suggests, or "We Shall Overcome," which began as a hymn in the early 1900s and evolved into an anthem of the civil rights movement.
"It had tremendous application over the years to any number of causes," he says of the latter.
"It's absolutely timeless."
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David Friend, The Canadian Press
BY SARAH GREENE
You may remember Lindy Vopnfjörð as just Lindy, the name he went by until 2013’s independently released Young Waverer. So you can file Vopnfjörð under “ones to watch again.” The Icelandic-Canadian songwriter’s stellar (literally often about stars) sixth album, Frozen In Time, came out quietly in late October. He’s throwing a belated launch party for the record – a stark, dark, torchy, autumnal and wintry meditation – this week.
Cardinal CTV TV SERIES (2017): Episode 2 "The Real Thing" and the grand finale episode "After The Surveillance State"
Women and Sometimes Men (2017): (Feature) “Closer than you Know” and “How I Know.”