New Politics: the journey of a band you should have heard of

New Politics in Oklahoma City, November 2010

Marjorie Ryan

New Politics in Oklahoma City, November 2010

Layne Robinson, Writer

In February 2018, in a tiny club in downtown Kansas City, three bands played a show together. I was twelve years old at the time, and as I entered that one-room building, if you were to ask me what was about to happen, I would not have answered that my life was going to be changed. But it was. It inspired in me a passion for music that stays with me even now. To this day, that remains the best concert I have ever been to, and the headliner was a band called New Politics.

New Politics is a Danish-American rock group founded in 2009. They are a three-piece band made up of David Boyd, Søren Hansen, and Louis Vecchio, and although they got their start in Copenhagen, Denmark, they have worked out of Brooklyn, New York for most of their musical career. Over the past eleven years, they have produced five studio albums, and there has been a noticeable shift in the genre and style of their music over that time. This change is representative of the group’s evolving sense of self and their journey to find a unique artistic identity, a journey that only makes their music more enjoyable.

New Politics, the group’s self-titled first album from 2010, has by far the most visible punk roots. This album is much more hard-core than their later work, including tracks like “Burn” and “Yeah Yeah Yeah,” which are up-tempo and feature largely shouted lyrics, as well as the songs “Nuclear War,” “We Are The Radio,” and “New Generation,” which feature more overt political messages characteristic of the genre. Their later albums mellow out by degrees, but the energy of this record carries throughout the rest of their discography in the bombastic performances the band is known for. The stark difference between this album and New Politics’s later work indicates the genre exploration that often occurs during a band’s early years, but this eventual evolution does not diminish from the enjoyment of the album, which remains a favorite of many.

In 2013, A Bad Girl in Harlem was released, featuring many songs reprised from the previous album. Despite this, however, the album has a distinctly different feeling to its predecessor. Harlem bears much more resemblance to alternative pop-rock than the straight punk of New Politics. For the first time, the group tries their hand at proper slow songs like “Tonight You’re Perfect” and “Overcome” without totally abandoning the more hard-core tone that can be found in “Harlem” and “Just Like Me.” This is, in every sense, a transitional period in New Politics’s career. Harlem maintains a sense of integrity in spite of this change to a more mainstream genre, and the band’s unwavering energy aids this significantly. At no point does the album feel disingenuous, or convey a feeling that the group was trying to do what was popular at the expense of their own artistic vision. Once again, this genre-shifting only proves that New Politics was a young band trying to find its place in the musical world, a process that takes time, effort, and a healthy amount of experimentation.

At first glance, 2015’s Vikings seem like more of the same, perhaps a return to form for the expectations set by New Politics. But, upon closer inspection, the album combines the harder and softer elements prominent in the group’s first and second albums. Vikings’ slower songs, like “Stardust” and “Pretend We’re in a Movie” are more refined and carry more emotional weight than similar tracks on Harlem, and its higher energy songs, like “15 Dreams,” “Aristocrat,” and “50 Feet Tall” have a more unique feeling than before, breaking out of strict genre boundaries and embracing more of their own musical niche. In addition to these improvements, Vikings manages to synthesize two very different vibes in a way that Harlem never quite achieved. The album retains a consistent tone from song to song that enhances the listening experience, a feature not present in earlier records.

Two years later, Lost in Translation was released, breaking from the mold of previous work to an even greater extent than Vikings did. If that album synthesized pop and punk influences, then Lost in Translation builds that synthesis into something entirely original. It takes a softer and more personal approach than the group has done before, but still incorporates the signature energetic, high-tempo pieces they are known for through songs like “CIA” and “Lifeboat.” However, there is one track that truly makes this album and encompasses everything it means to New Politics’s career. “One of Us” is incredibly upbeat, a song that compels the listener to tap their toes and sing along, while still conveying a heartfelt message of friendship and acceptance that everyone can relate to. This song is anthemic, and that essence characterizes everything released after it; from this point, New Politics will take their enthusiastic energy in an entirely new direction, embracing a more pop-like, dance-rock vibe.

This new direction is on full display in 2019’s An Invitation to an Alternate Reality. More hard-core rapped and shouted sections are incorporated into songs like “Unstoppable” and “Death of Me” alongside slower, more emotional verses. The result is a consistent upbeat style with happier undertones than other albums. This record is also unique among the group’s discography due to its experimentation with spoken word and nonmusical sounds added to the start and end of some tracks. In “Wish You Well/ … Can’t Explain,” these elements are combined into a full narrative in a way that the band has not attempted before, but spoken poetry and even a recorded voicemail can also be heard on “Live The Life/It’s The Thought That Counts” and “Let Your Head Go/Pretend It’s 1995 & Talk.” These segments are seamlessly included within the songs they accompany through the use of electronic filters throughout the spoken and sung portions, a concept that was played with as early as New Politics but not fully fleshed out until Invitation. This album proves that a group never truly stops evolving, and can stay vibrant and experiment with their sound even 10 years after its founding.

In 2020, New Politics released three songs under the title Escape to Paradise. These tracks lean into the electronic dance style of Invitation, suggesting that the band will continue to play with this sound in the future. However, throughout all of this time and change, they have never lost the extreme energy and underlying punk tones of their first album. New Politics is a band that has done a little bit of everything and done it all well. They straddle genres, and even as their sound has evolved over time, they’ve never lost their passion for what they create. Any music fan would be hard-pressed to find a more enthusiastic group working today. Beyond their energy, there is legitimate technical skill behind all of their songs, and this skill is consistent across styles. Anyone who listens to music will be able to find something to love in the New Politics discography.

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