ALBUM REVIEW: American Football – American Football (LP3)

Release Date: March 22nd 2019
Label: Polyvinyl Record Co./Big Scary Monsters


Illinois quartet American Football may have kept fans waiting seventeen years for a follow up to their 1999 debut, but luckily only three years have passed for the release of their third full-length which, just like the previous two, is also self-titled.

Whilst the previous two releases established and reaffirmed the group’s sound, this third LP sees collaboration from vocalists Elizabeth Powell (Land Of Talk), Hayley Williams (Paramore), and Rachel Goswell (Slowdive) to draw new shades to frontman Mike Kinsella‘s soft croon.

‘Silhouettes’ begins with bassist Nate Kinsella delivering a busy glockenspiel arpeggio against delay heavy keyboards and pulsing bass notes. Taking cues from psychedelic rock, the notes collide and collapse, giving way to swirling feedback, lush drums, and Steve Holmes‘ finger-picked guitars.

As the track ebbs and flows against layered melodies, it becomes apparent that the record will be focused on simple yet effective motifs. Using his voice as an additional instrument, Kinsella plays with technique to bring a density to the dynamically shuffling track. Ending on sweeping pads and driving drums, the coda of “The muscle memory continues to haunt me” propels the track to its original motif.

The record sees itself straddling the line between previous releases and venturing into new ground. Tracks such as ‘Uncomfortably Numb’ hold its foundations in their earlier work, but with funk tinged bass lines and the call-and-response vocals of Kinsella and Williams open up new avenues for the group.

With a solid foundation of simplicity and a watertight dynamic approach, there’s space to take risks with tracks such as ‘Doom In Full Bloom’ showcasing Steve Lamos‘ dexterity with his trumpet melodies swimming amongst skittish drum patterns and expanding harmonies.

Some further experimentation is found in ‘I Can’t Feel You’, with vocal breaths mimicking bass note accents as the track drives towards urgent staccato chords and melting vocal hooks.

With deviations from their core sound aside, American Football have delivered what is expected from them; simple yet catchy, heartfelt tracks. With every track being allowed its space to roam and discover, there’s no need to over compensate.

Delving deeper into additional influences and taking risks has paid off for American Football on their third full-length; a record that works with rests and atmosphere to deliver a memorable listening experience for both existing fans and newcomers alike.