Album Review: American Football's new LP was worth the wait

In Kinsella We Trust.

click to enlarge American Royalty: It's been 17 years since emo legends American Football released an album. - Shervin Lainez
Shervin Lainez
American Royalty: It's been 17 years since emo legends American Football released an album.

American Football's sound is at times somewhat indescribable, easily experienced yet a challenge to articulate to the uninitiated. We could start by saying the guitar work is twinkly, jangly and pristine, the lyrics poetic and at times fittingly despondent, and the time signatures syncopated, with complex yet understated rhythmic structures that rely on stark juxtaposition. Or we could just drop the formality and say it's superb. It's unique. It's unlike anything before it or after; it's simply American Football.

LISTEN: AMERICAN FOOTBALL LP2

Nearly 17 years after dropping their debut (and only full-length)  album, Mike Kinsella and company have returned as the prodigal kings of all things emo. And at a time when reunions continue to offer much-needed conclusions to artist legacies to fans old and new alike, American Football's timing seems impeccable.

The album opens with "Where Are We Now," a sparkling hymn that leaves the narrator questioning if they've "been there before." As an audience, we can admire this charming start that effortlessly references their impact so long ago. LP 2 is also rife with an understated vulnerability, best exemplified by "Home is Where the Haunt Is," where Kinsella gently declares "Some things never change" — this statement couldn't be any truer. "Give me the Gun" and its surprisingly percussive sections underscore bitingly dark, pleading lyrics, creating a dynamism that wasn't seen as often when compared to their first LP. "I Need a Drink or Two or Three" elicits a fist-pumping joy as soon as the first horn accent announces its presence, encapsulating both familiarity and a newer soundscape. "Desire in the Way" presents a side of American Football seldom heard, animated and poppy, with surging vocals and elevated verses. There's a mad glee, maybe some sardonic currents in Kinsella's singing that illustrate even further the depths of maturity that this album probes.

There's no stretching the somber, sullen tonality of this album, perhaps reaching an apex with the album's last track, "Everyone is Dressed Up," which feels equal parts funeral dirge and loving, tender acceptance of the passage of time. That's what perhaps makes LP 2 so striking: the way in which it utterly denies the presence of the first full-length. This album is not about a teenager reflecting about love in the suburbs; this album is written with a clarity about adulthood and its shortcomings that is tender, fraught with peril, but still beautiful.

It's rare, nigh impossible that such adjectives as "perfect" or "transcendent" can be applied, but this album is a reflective masterpiece that doesn't deny the passage of time, but instead accepts American Football's growth as a band and our growth as listeners. The aforementioned adjectives could easily be applied here. We're all still enamored with that same house that adorned the cover of their first LP, but maybe now that won't be the case as much. That house has been renovated. More rooms have been built — there's more to explore, sonically, lyrically, conceptually. The house that American Football built defined a genre, and LP 2 continues to do so.

(Critics Rating: 4/5 Stars)

American Football LP 2 sees release on October 21 via Polyvinyl Records. You should ask your local record store whether they're carrying it.

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