Album Review: American Football (2) - American Football
By Benjamin Irons
“Where Are We Now” opens Mike Kinsella. Well, here they are. With this, their only second studio album following a long, drawn out 17-year lapse between 1999’s debut full-length, emo-rock pioneers American Football step out of the shadows and make 2016 the year for thrift-shop jeans and oversized sweaters with the release of American Football (2).
Since their joining of the late-90’s emo-rock fad that decorated veterans of the movement Jawbreaker and Sunny Day Real Estate, they managed to render themselves stainless with the flawless pairing of the 1998 EP American Football and 1999 full-length of the same name. But even after all these years, the aforementioned releases have not since grown out of fashion. In fact, we’ve been sat around for what feels like an eternity and yet can still manage to feel in touch with the band after each and every spin of their records. And though you can take the youth out of the band, you can’t take the band out of their youth, which I suppose is what will make American Football (2) THE soundtrack to your jubilant stroll down memory lane.
Opening track “Where Are We Now” is this releases’ most befitting title, entering in a familiar fashion of delicately intertwining clean tones from guitarist Steve Holmes, poising lead singer Kinsella to finally raise the hairs on your goose-pimpled skin, but not with gentle tones reminiscent of their sophomore release, instead, as rustic as the keys to the house that has symbolised the very nature of the band’s demeanour.
“Those wounds won’t lick themselves”, murmurs Kinsella on “Home Is Where The Haunt Is”, as he seemingly reflects on the void that nearly dug American Football an early grave during their time apart. But their ability to shape math-rock with a more sweet-sounding sentiment is what kept their legacy in their field afloat, so it comes as no surprise that a release as belated as this is met with the same acclaim as their debut. “Born To Lose” then greets us with those all familiar time-signatures and, thus, is a consoling remedy of both melancholy and sunshine that made us fall in love with the band in the first place.
And tracks like “I’ve Been So Lost for So Long” and “Give Me the Gun” are met with those careful instrumental sections that allow the vocal parts to feel more dispersed but pronounced, which makes us listeners feel as attached to the lyrics as we first were. Like the aforementioned tracks draped qualms of deep depression in tuneful arrangements, Kinsella laces battles with alcoholism on “I Need a Drink (or Two or Three)” with thought-provoking beauty.
That’s been the story for American Football since their forming: to write songs that invite you to explore their meaning rather than just give your fullest attention to the instrumentation. Therefore, not exploring new ground sonically was arguably something that wasn’t at the forefront when making a new record. If anything, it was simply to reflect ideas of maturity, whilst also keeping the very nature of their youth at heart. And even after all these years, it’s as though they never went away.