New Politics

A Bad Girl in Harlem

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On their second album, Danish alt-rock power trio New Politics attempt to ditch the safety net of their influences to strike out on their own with A Bad Girl in Harlem. Where their self-titled 2010 debut found them mining the sounds of alternative radio, their sophomore effort finds them turning their dial towards the pop charts. While this gives New Politics a sound that's decidedly more polished, it also leaves them feeling a bit overproduced. While the basic elements of the band are still in place, the songs are swimming in studio flourishes that feel tacked onto the band's pop-punk-influenced sound. The problem with a band like this, though, is that when they get too slick there's nothing left to really grab on to. Take, for instance, "Stuck on You," a perfectly sweet and catchy ballad that inexplicably has the sound of crickets running through it, creating a strange kind of cognitive dissonance as the natural world butts heads with the sterile hi-fi of the rest of the song. New Politics start to make the sound work for them on "Die Together," a Muse-inspired track that finds the band really incorporating the electronics into their sound rather than just using them to fill in empty space. The albums standout track definitely comes by way of "Just Like Me," a raw, no-frills rocker that really lets the band spread their wings and get real for a second, showing that they're more than capable of writing a seriously catchy song without polishing it into something it's not. All told, A Bad Girl in Harlem is an admirable attempt by New Politics to forge a sound that's more their own, and though it's definitely a step in the right direction, it's an album that ultimately ends up feeling overcooked.

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