By: Matt Lefever
I’m always skeptical of reunions, especially when the band has influenced an entire genre like American Football has. Anyone that enjoys emo music has inevitably been exposed to American Football’s beautiful, mathy, self-titled album from 1999. In the resulting years, lead singer Mike Kinsella has continued to make complex acoustic music under the moniker “Owen”, and while it has given fans something to latch on to, there was always a sense of being slighted, a feeling that American Football should have released more than just that one album. After 17 years, American Football has finally returned.
American Football’s first self-titled album showed the exterior of a house with two rooms at the top illuminated, juxtaposed with a sea green sky and an intense sense of melancholy. The cover of their newest album instead shows the entryway of a house with the door cracked open to let sunlight in, and I think this difference is an apt comparison for the difference between the two albums as a whole. While the first one was riddled with teenage heartache, a feeling of being left on the outside, LP2 emits a grown sense of understanding. Kinsella is now on the inside; he’s come to terms with what happened outside and has moved past it, now looking back on it as a time of growth.
With this being said, the new album is just as heart wrenching as LP1. “I need a drink or two or three or four/To spend any time alone with me anymore/Every day, a chance to change”, Kinsella sings on “I Need a Drink”, probably one of the tracks most akin to their old sound, with a strange time signature and a dark, brooding tone. Fans of Death Cab for Cutie will find something familiar in “Desire Gets in the Way”, with Kinsella’s voice sounding eerily similar to his contemporaries in Ben Gibbard or even Colin Meloy of the Decemberists.
The album drips with nostalgia, as if American Football have grown with the genre they helped create. The album’s single, “I’ve Been So Lost for So Long”, starts with a riff reminiscent of LP1’s opener, “Never Meant”, but with a more normal time signature. There’s less vocal harmonies on this album; Kinsella’s vocals are his alone. American Football have also toned down the math-rock aspects of their first album, opting for a more subtle, nuanced sound. And what American Football album would be complete without a hauntingly beautiful trumpet solo, saved on this album for the closing song, “Everyone is Dressed Up”.
While it’s easy to look at the first album through rose-tinted glasses, this album shows American Football moving on, growing up, changing, and adjusting. Fans who grew up listening to LP1 will find just as much to love as those who are just now discovering the band.
4/5: High Rotation
Recommended Tracks: My Instincts Are the Enemy (Track 2), Home Is Where the Haunt Is (Track 3), Desire Gets In the Way (Track 8)
RIYL: Sunny Day Real Estate, The Purity Ring, Empire Empire (I Was A Lonely Estate)