American Harmony: The Neo Politans Deliver Big, Uplifting LP

It’s a bit strange to open up a review of American Harmony, the debut LP from the Neo Politans, talking about British harmony. But it’s also an impossible task otherwise. And as a self-confessed musical anglophile, I definitely very much approve of this impressively original sound the Neo Politans have crafted for their freshman album.

This is an album that sonically bridges late 1960’s Kinks, early 1980’s Talking Heads, and mid-2000’s Kaiser Chiefs, with noticeable threads of Tom Petty woven into the mix. There’s a powerful current of refreshed vintage energy coursing through each song, seasoned to perfection with classic country guitar twang, hearty helpings of horns, and an uplifting musical and lyrical sensibility the world could definitely use more of these days.

Of course, the Neo Politans aren’t from the Kinks’ London, the Talking Heads’ NYC, or Kaiser Chiefs’ Leeds. This is a Parlor City band with lyrics that bop between highly relatable stories and wonderfully apolitical, socially-conscious messages. And it’s all packaged professionally and beautifully by Mike Micha at Abandoned Studios and Matt Ebbers at the Mastering Mill.

I went into this review without being all too familiar with the Neo Politans’ sound. And I regret not hearing them earlier. This is a band with a hell of a lot of serious potential. And this is an album you’re going to want to grab as soon as it’s available on April 12th.

American Harmony, Act I: Band Together, Cash, and Everything

Band Together has a heartland rock rhythm, driven largely by Alex Craver’s tight Americana drumming and some top-flight bass riffs from Luke Brown (of Damn the Kid fame). Bob Rodgers delivers an epic vocal track here that reminds me immediately of one of my favorite Toronto bands, Sloan, and also quite heavily of Tom Petty, and both in the best ways imaginable.

Bob’s son Ben Rodgers throws down some excellent steel pedal here as well. And Shawn Travis’ rhythm guitar parts are beautifully structured, too. Band Together is a major earworm I found myself humming long after listening to the full album three times over. This track is going straight onto our Parlor City Soundtrack playlist on Spotify when the album is out.

The next track, Cash, is where that Kinks reference comes into play in a big, big way. If you’re a fan of their Village Green/ Lola vs. Powerman era, Cash is going to knock your socks clean off of your frantically-dancing feet. There’s a great cameo here by Grown Ups‘ Oliver Kammerman, too.

The next song, Everything, diversifies that vintage tone the Neo Politans have so thoroughly established, with a sound and a vibe that reminds me a bit of Talking Heads’ Speaking in Tongues period, but with some of Paul Simon’s funkier, more rhythmic material from that same era peppered in. You might even say it’s somewhat similar to Cake, though musically and not vocally. I think it’s fair to say there’s a tiny sprinkle of late-era John Lennon in there too, thanks partly to the horns. This is an incredibly upbeat, uplifting track that will let a little sunlight in no matter what your mood happens to be.

Saratoga, Come With Me, Avery & Zoe, Open the Door

Kaiser Chiefs are one of my favorite British acts. But they aren’t very well known in America, which I think is a travesty. Their earlier albums are top notch, and I hear a bit of their tone, however unintentional, in Saratoga. Luke Brown puts in a stellar bass riff. Bob Rodgers’ vocals really impress on this track, too. And Chris James of Grown Ups adds some of his trademark guitar tone to the track as well. This one belongs on my personal list of 2024 favorites.

If you listened to Cash and found yourself disagreeing with my Kinks parallel, Come With Me is going to shut down any potential debate once and for all. Like, I almost accidentally referred to Bob Rodgers as “Bob Davies” after hearing this song. This is another excellent track, and features some of the best drumming and guitar playing on the whole album. And that’s quite the statement on an LP overloaded with stunning musical talent. Ithaca’s Fall Creek Brass Band adds seriously gorgeous horns to this track as well.

Avery & Zoe blends that unique the Neo Politans sound with a very faint hint of zydeco, and there’s a little bit of They Might Be Giants in the mix, too. This is a summertime groove that further exemplifies Bob Rodgers’ fantastic songwriting. James Burns’ auxiliary percussion is top notch on this track too, and really helps build out the track’s depth.

Open the Door has a wonderful 1950’s doo-wop sound, modernized in a way Pixies fans will appreciate. Meghan Leonard colors things really well here with her stellar backing vocals.

The Neo Politans and American Harmony: Be sure to catch the Neo Politans live when you get the chance. They'll be performing at a record release show for American Harmony at Ransom Steele Tavern on April 13th!
Be sure to catch the Neo Politans live when you get the chance. They’ll be performing at a record release show for American Harmony at Ransom Steele Tavern on April 13th!

Dreams Come True, Rain On Me, and American Harmony

Dreams Come True has a stylish classic country sound that’s tugged across the pond by a few progressions that recall the classic Beatles B-side Don’t Let Me Down. It’s a moving and at times somber track, with warm, smooth country guitar flourishes that fits the song like a glove. This is another beautiful track where the backing vocals deserve a big round of applause, and where Meghan Leonard’s vocals especially jump out at you.

Rain on Me showcases Tom Petty’s obvious influence on Bob Rodgers as a songwriter. And if Rodgers told me he was also a fan of Roger Daltrey, I’d definitely hear that in his vocals here too. Musically, there’s a bit of a revisitation to that Kinks sound, and it’s a track that would fit in well on Who’s Next. And again, I mention these acts and potential influences with love. This isn’t imitation or even homage. The Neo Politans seem to land here organically, and in only the very best of ways.

Finally, we come to the title track, American Harmony. And it’s a song that makes a resounding point that regardless of our differences, we’re all equally American. And it’s those differences, immutable and otherwise, that make this country great. Musically, it brings those Kinks and Kaiser Chiefs sounds together in gorgeous harmony. British harmony, but also decidedly American Harmony.

American Harmony is way too good to be a debut LP

The Neo Politans are still a very new band, having formed in the summer of 2022. I didn’t really know much about them before hearing their debut LP. Honestly, from the little bit I’d seen and heard, I thought they were more of a honky tonk or country band than they actually are. I seemingly forgot that this is the Binghamton music scene we’re talking about. And the Parlor City is a place where music acts break molds without even trying. Maybe it’s something in the water. But Binghamton music just isn’t like music made anywhere else.

Simply put, American Harmony is just way too good to be the Neo Politans’ debut LP. The songwriting, the deep appreciation for tone, the bouncy, danceable energy, the vibrant storytelling … this is an album you can’t help but fall in love with. It’s an album of musical optimism and positivity. It’s a road bounding across the English countryside, lovingly rutted by an American rock guitar sound of firm, vintage country.

In a year of incredibly unique Parlor City music releases, the Neo Politans manage to stamp American Harmony with a brilliantly original sound that stands out in one of the most original music scenes around. You’re in for a treat when this impressive album releases on Friday, April 12th. Be sure to drop by Ransom Steele Tavern on April 13th to celebrate the release of American Harmony with a live performance by the Neo Politans, too. We may have yet another contender for album of the year on our hands.