American Football - American Football - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

American Football - American Football

by Brian Thompson Rating:8 Release Date:2019-03-22
American Football - American Football
American Football - American Football

When Illinois emo legends American Football first released their relatively unassuming self-titled debut in the fall of 1999, they had no way of knowing that it would earn a devoted cult following and serve as the bellwether for the direction of guitar rock for the next two decades and counting. Despite receiving critical attention and an avid, word-of-mouth fanbase, the band dismantled shortly thereafter, not to reappear for nearly 15 years with a handful of live dates and an eventual sophomore album, also titled American Football. Now, finishing out their eponymous triptych, American Football have returned to their roots, once again weaving confessional lyricism and slick, driving melodies into a transcendent record that is sure to remind lifelong fans why they fell in love with the mellow shoegazers in the first place.

Following their extended hiatus, American Football had to learn how to be a band again. Singer/guitarist Mike Kinsella, guitarist Steve Holmes, drummer Steve Lamos, and bassist Nate Kinsella each went back to the drawing board, sharing ideas and exploring new ways to expand their well-worn sound. This drive for experimentation has translated into layering their songs with added bells and whistles, sometimes literally, as on moody, dizzying “Silhouettes.” By the time we get to the end of “Heir Apparent,” they’ve even added a children’s chorus. The Midwest emo pioneers also realized that they needed some fresh voices, bringing in an array of vocal talents, including Paramore’s Hayley Williams (“Uncomfortably Numb”), Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell (“I Can’t Feel You”), and Land of Talk’s Elizabeth Powell (“Every Wave to Ever Rise”). The haunting balance of feminine voices against Mike Kinsella’s rich, dependable echo truly brings out the sharp emotional sting of his vulnerable lyrics.

Much of what makes an American Football record so potent is how seamlessly each of the four members falls in sync with one another. Here, the lengthy tracks give them the breathing room necessary to demonstrate their inseparable harmonies, often blossoming into expansive jam sessions. It’s in these moments that the band truly comes alive, whether it’s in the sprawling, horn-fueled opening of the cosmic and melodic eight-minute track ”Doom in Full Bloom” or the boiling showcase of their newfound dream pop instrumentation on ”Life Support.” The connective tissue between the various sonic ventures continues to be the scattered patter of Steve Lamos’s drum beat, a distinctive bridge between worlds that serves as the record’s grinding, pulsating rhythm.

While the second American Football album often felt as though it were desperately trying to recapture the lightning in a bottle moment of their debut, LP3 has its own trail to blaze, reaching toward new sounds and finding the group growing as a collective. With lyrics now filled with ruminations about aging and parenthood, the band has opted for a more mature approach to songcraft, and as a result, they’ve followed their creative muse down vibrant, atmospheric avenues. American Football is the mark of a band that still has a treasure trove of creativity at its disposal.

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