New Politicians – Drag a City

Not all post-rock is pop, but some of it is.  New Politicians strike a fine balance, injecting their spacious and dynamic environments with tugging bass guitar, insistent drums, and crystal-clear guitars.  Synths float evenly from song to song, filling in the lower-midrange gap in the mix left wide open by the rest of the band.  There are some obvious comparisons to be made which I don’t care to engage in, but comparisons to other bands, like the French band AaRON, which I think are fair and favorable.

New Politicians have a grasp on dynamics in rock music.  What’s important for the listener to hear in the arrangement and mix at any given time?  What sort of spaces should each instrument inhabit?  Where can the synth compliment the song most?  The have a solid answer for everything, and the key is, I think, that the mixing and mastering of the record doesn’t appear to be on the front-lines of the loudness war.

As soon as you play the first track, the volume – and in an essence, the presence – of the music is slightly diminished in comparison to the sounds we’re used to hearing (which often border on the abrasive.)  However, a mix can lose it’s sense of clarity and headroom when pushed to the max.

In order to show the listener the complete power and scope of their songs, New Politicians have provided a mix of their work that allows for a better view of the rising and falling action; the full spectrum of mood and texture is available to the listener, and not just the melodic content that survives over-wrought mastering.

The music itself, elegant and pronounced, is at times nuanced and other times obvious.  The record is just as concerned about the arrangement and performances as it is about creating mood.  There’s a slightly cinematic feel to the record, couched between a nostalgic 80’s feeling and a also a peculiar “newness.”  It’s as though we’ve been led back to a grand old city – one the entire world knows from a bygone golden age.  We’ve seen the pictures and we have practically visited every street in the cinema of our minds.  But New Politicians takes us back to see all of those things we missed.

“The Length of Our Love,” the opening track of four on this criminally short EP, builds (similarly to the other songs) from little to a lot, simple and cleanly guitar guiding towards a swirling vortex of call and response vocals.  The sound of New Politician’s voice isn’t plain but it isn’t exactly unique.  The voice sounds as it ought to: clean, focused, correctly positioned within the mix.  Even if the styling isn’t exactly new, the vocals are capable of great power.

“Sail Away” enters with somber, drowned organ, prompting guitars to coalesce around it.   It’s an oft gloomy record, full of shadow and rain.  Even so, there’s a devotion to clarity present; a desire to open a day and let the light in.  It reminds me of rainy days on the streets of Seattle with the water pouring like rivers from the sky.  The street floods and the sidewalks are glassy smooth with rain and white in reflection of the featureless sky above.  Watching people dance through a window, streetlights and neon blurry ghost-like fixtures overhead.

“Are We the Dining Dead?” picks up the energy, just in time.  It’s probably my favorite song, beginning with a very specific feeling brought to gentle life by synth bells, piano, and a spooky reverb.  They rush in to meet the rest of the band, who are ready to rock (and dance a little.)  It’s about as ferocious as the band gets, but it’s got a palpable, driving energy that not only sets itself apart from the other songs – it compliments the overall arch of the album.  The guitar solo at three minutes-two is spare but exactly right.  It draws a handful of bars of attention to itself and then goes back in the drawer.  Not wild and out-of-control, but incredibly well calculated.

The title track, “Drag a City,” is a harpsichord-laden song that reaches back a bit further than just the 80’s.  The beat and overall mood is drastically different from the previous three songs, but’s it’s coherent and ornate – keeping the sense of space and clarity that is present throughout the EP.  While perhaps not my favorite song, it still certainly brings to mind some lovely imagery with the slight rolling march of the snares, the mournful chord progression, the ebbing flow of strings, and finally the empty, cold drone “Drag a City” empties into…  The end of something spectacular, beautiful, and tragic.

Drag a City is a record of equal amounts throwback and innovation.  It is partially dislodged from the class of bands who appear to be eternally shuttered inside the squalor of music that looks back more than it looks forward.  There are plenty of fresh ideas from one song to the next, and overall you will want to hear it more; you will want the experience to go on and explore more territory.  Alas, four songs will have to do.  But even in the space of those four songs, New Politicians managed to reach me.  If my attitude going in was “here’s a band like all the others,” it certainly wasn’t that by the conclusion of the EP.  I got hooked by  Drag a City, and I wanted to stay there for a while, and be that man on a rainy street once more.