Dave Hause excels at observing the state of the modern world and identifying how it impacts the individual. His first masterpiece came with 2013’s Devour, which examined capitalism and the American Dream through the perspective of a person who feels lied to and cheated. The album focused on how one’s mental health and personal relationships are affected by financial stress, religious disillusionment, and the current political climate. It was, in my mind, a hugely underappreciated critique of contemporary America.

While his 2017 album, Bury Me In Philly, echoed some of Devour’s themes, it was more personal and had a very different intent than its predecessor. Hause’s latest album, Kick, is in many ways the spiritual successor to Devour, as a powerful examination of what life is like in the US in 2019. Kick is more concise and more directly political than Devour, but still spends much of its time operating through the lens of the individual.

Lead single ‘The Ditch’ explores Hause’s struggle to keep his sanity in a country led by hateful crooks. He finds himself “shaking every night and day” as he tries to hold onto hope and joy for himself and his family. This song also introduces the recurring theme of “kick[ing] against the current” and not accepting the way things are – a theme most explicitly featured on the following track, ‘Saboteurs.’

‘Weathervane’ is another standout that focuses on the personal anguish and confusion caused by a laundry list of stressors including mass shootings, climate change, pollution, rising medical costs, and government surveillance. Similarly, ‘OMG’ sees us “all drunk driving, sending texts from the center lane” as the world burns down around us.

However, the true centerpiece of the album is ‘Warpaint,’ in which Hause reflects extensively on the way women are treated in this country. He notes the women around him with “warpaint on” and their “keys between [their] fingers” at all times and states that there is only “one promise for American girls: there’s no mercy in a man’s world”. This refrain is hauntingly repeated again and again by female vocalists in a manner akin to The Rolling Stones’ ‘Gimme Shelter’. The result is an ambitious musical and lyrical accomplishment on a scale never seen before from Hause.

Dave Hause also recently became a first-time father in his early 40s, and he reflects on aging and his new responsibilities on ‘Eye Aye I’, ‘Fireflies,’ and ‘Bearing Down.’ The latter directly references the suicides of Hunter S. Thompson and Robin Williams as well as Hause’s own mental health struggles. He acknowledges that he cannot abandon those who depend on him by taking his own life, which he had sometimes considered doing.

Hause is far from the only musician releasing political music in 2019, but he is able to distil large scale issues down to the micro-level in a way very few others can. On Kick, he deftly weaves together several broad ideas to tell a complete story about why so many of us feel lost in present-day America, and he does so with such passion and energy that I find myself turning to this album more than anything else released this year.

  1. Dave Hause – Kick
  2. Oso Oso – basking in the glow
  3. The Highwomen – S/T
  4. Signals Midwest – PIN
  5. The Drew Thomson Foundation – S/T
  6. Great Grandpa – Four of Arrows
  7. American Football – S/T
  8. The Menzingers – Hello Exile
  9. Bad Religion – Age of Unreason
  10. Alex Lahey – The Best of Luck Club