American Football were remembered prior to 2014 as a band hailing from Champagne, Illinois, famous for their tunings and time signatures and released a debut record that was well respected in the emo world. The band would shortly break up in 2000 and would gain super cult status. In their absence the emo genre fizzled out moving in a post-hardcore direction. It had a resurgence with a new wave of artists in the 2010’s, but none have really stood up to the quality that the 90’s brought to the scene.
American Football made their surprise comeback and even released a second album in 2016 which was a great piece of work that was harshly compared to their debut. The album almost seemed to fit too close to the original record playing on the same themes, including the house that featured on the album cover and lyrical styles. It was a bit too safe however and very catchy in its formula which caught me off guard. From then on American Footballhave remained together and have released their third full length ‘American Football (LP3)’ and it is a step in the right direction to a band that still has plenty of creativity left in them.
To compare their new record to their debut release of 20 years ago, American Football are not college kids anymore, they’re dads who want to express their emotions and talk about their adult feelings. I think ‘mature’ is the best word to describe this album, it’s very grown up and very well put together with just eight songs that happen to clock in around 47 minutes. Unlike a lot of albums in the emo genre, the shortest track on this album is 4:10 and demonstrates American Football’s dedicated creativity in music. The album time doesn’t overstay its welcome and gives you more than enough in its runtime.
Another word that comes to me with LP3 is ‘beautiful’. The sounds, tones and harmonies of Kinsella’s vocals and jangly guitars provide an atmospheric aura throughout the album whilst galloping drums low bass tones push through the tracks and really fill it out. The drumming time signatures by Steve Amos have always stood out to me to be some of my favourite drum pieces and he doesn’t disappoint with how he can so easily make the drums stand out alongside the twinkly guitars. Without his drumming quality and ability to hold up the rhythms in the back, the album and their previous work would be missing most of what fills them out as solid pieces of math rock.
There are plenty of hauntingly good moments on this album and I think the misty sunset album artwork really makes the sounds stand out a lot more. The high picking notes on the guitars really resonate throughout the tracks – especially on singles ‘Uncomfortably Numb’ and ‘Silhouettes’. The guitars overlap each other and together fill out the song which is what American Football have always done well and set themselves apart from other artists. Two guitarists playing different patterns in different tunings to put together one full song. ‘Every Wave To Ever Rise’ low notes fall over each other as Kinsella’s voice soars and these deeper tonal moments from the guitars really provide a new side to the band’s memorable jangly high notes.
The tracks feel like a slow breeze when they begin and these new approaches to reverb sound, blemishes of post-rock and dreampop send shivers down my spine. There’s some chilling moments and I think the production is to thank for that. Kinsella’s soft voice is the perfect mixture to enhance a relaxing vibe at the same time, I’m feeling my body shiver, but I feel safe at the same time.
During his time away from American Football, Mike Kinsella has released many albums under his band ‘Owen’ and has always expressed variety there. Throughout this record his vocal work is what shines above the rest with Kinsella attempting many styles with top production accompanying his voice. Compare to the previous records, you are really seeing the band taking new risks and steps and it is all paying off. There really is range and talent bleeding through every note.
This is the first American Football record to feature guest vocals and we don’t just get one, we get three. These include Hayley Williams (Paramore), Rachel Goswell (Slowdive) and Elizabeth Powell (Land of Talk). Each of their contributions harmonise well with Kinsella and fit the soft approach of the album, giving that feeling that these mixture of harmonies and their solo moments were something that the previous album was missing. Each artist plays to their strengths with the only downside being Goswell not getting to contribute more, but her dreampop influence is definitely heard throughout ‘I Can Feel You’.
‘Doom In Full Bloom’ which is the longest track on the album gives me nostalgia chills as soon as it starts with Steve Amos’ trumpet playing, a standout moment on the debut album. Kinsella’s prolonged vocals add a dreamy approach to the track and the continuous production and vibraphone addition provides a comforting touch. The bass guitar really feeds through here and it’s good to see it become a dynamic part of the framework since Nate Kinsella was made a permanent member of the band upon their return.
The middle of the album sees the track ‘Heir Apparent’ stand out for its sorrowful lyrical and musical tone of an apology note. The group female vocals in the outro are chilling and send out a deep apology of a person describing they cannot hold up to this ‘king’ title they have been bestowed. The last two tracks ‘Mine To Miss’ and ‘’Life Support’ hold onto the typical American Football style.
This is the direction I am glad American Football have taken. To see a band reflect on their lives as they’re getting older and not be gallivanting around like they’re college kids like Blink-182 has done is warming. I can see the band going on to bigger and better things with each release and I anxiously await what comes next. The way American Football have adapted from their second release and continued their experimentation with news sounds like vibraphones and keys gives the impression that this will continue on future releases always. This is certainly a contender for my album of the year from what I’ve heard so far and I highly recommend checking it out.