American Football (LP2) Album Review
Released October 21, 2016
Genre: Emo, Math Rock
When you create a genre defining record in college, subsequently call it quits, announce a reunion tour fourteen years later, and then announce a second LP sixteen years later, you’re just asking to have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Quite possibly one of the most-anticipated emo records of all time, the similarly (read: exactly titled) follow up to American Football’s seminal self-titled debut isn’t concerned with moving the band’s sound forward, or offering new ideas. The album simply picks up where American Football (LP1) left off, and carries it forward. These nine songs all sound as if they could’ve been on that 1999 classic; and at this point it’s tough to expect anything drastically different from Kinsella & Co. What they do manage to evoke here is mood; whether it has matured or not, that’s up to you.
American Football‘s ability to expertly capture and preserve specific emotions associated with youth, innocence, the looming shadow of adulthood, movement, and summer nights has given the band’s reputation within the emo genre an unexpected sense of hype and importance; an album crafted from four college kids in Urbana, Illinois has become one of the most celebrated emo records – any record, really – ever. This new LP’s title is more of a revisit than a repeat. “Where Are We Now?” revisits the band’s trademark juxtaposition of bright yet sorrowful guitar tones and clear yet nostalgic lyrics – at 2016, the band (now four members strong) still know how to project emotions tangible enough to be recognized and understood. For any fan who has followed them since the late nineties, it’s easy to get caught up in the emotions and feelings their debut so expertly internalized and expressed.
Now, that isn’t to say this album surpasses the debut, it nonetheless falters from a lack of progression, musically. Albeit wrought with vacuous song titles (“Home Is Where The Haunt Is”), Kinsella & Co.’s emo-ballads still manage to hit where it hurts. At 2016, the band have spouses, families, different projects, desk jobs – it’s easy for people like this to get nostalgic and wistful about the past, and they really explore how long those seventeen years have affected the band and their music. The sweeping atmosphere of “Born To Lose” operates as an escape for wistful teens/young adults – Kinsella’s amorous vocals lending the song an introspective tone. The songs on LP2 are not as concerned with directly impacting its listeners, just as “Honestly?” had done. Instead, it creates atmosphere and tone through repeated musical passages. The four-on-the-floor drums of “I’ve Been Lost For So Long” backdrops the intertwining guitar lines, the perfect soundtrack for a lost twenty-something wandering about in the early morning hours of a quiet college campus.
The band has grown up however, that is obvious, visiting darker themes and places. “I Need A Drink (Or Two Or Three)’s” vocals intertwine with the backing vocals to create an ideal space to get lost in the depressive lyrics; it’s three-verse structure shows Kinsella’s emotionally complex progression in his songwriting, where he ends the second verse on the album’s lowest (read: highest) point. “Desire Gets In The Way’s” jangly and upbeat demeanor revisits Kinsella’s pattern of yearning and longing; this time around, he sounds more versed and experienced – as if he’s ready for whatever outcome is to happen. “Give Me The Gun” finds the band in a particularly dark moment; however, its message is clear: human compassion, especially in times of emotional distress, results in a genuine feeling of gratitude, friendship, and love.
American Football (LP2) is nothing new; if you’ve listened to the debut then you know what to expect. But the band is older now, wiser – and experienced in the struggles of that transition from a romantic college student to a pragmatic adult. While the music stays the same, the lyrics offer up new stories, lessons, and tales from one of emo’s impassioned acts to console all of us dealing with young adulthood assuring us that everything is going to be all right. In the end, we just have to stick together.
If you have thirty-seven minutes in your day, get lost in this record. It’s perfect for the worrisome college student aimlessly going through the motions; and if you have been a fan of the band since the beginning, those special moments of your youth where getting lost to “The One With The Wurlitzer” was a daily exercise will feel all the more special. In this busy day and age, with friends moving in and out of our lives, it’s great to have the time to stop everything and take it all in, one song at a time.
FAV TRACKS: Where Are We Now?, Born To Lose, I Need a Drink (or Two or Three), Desire Gets In The Way
LEAST FAV TRACK: Home Is Where The Haunt Is