Despite release dates of more than a decade apart, the new album from American Football, American Football (LP2) shares a remarkably consistent sound with the 1999 album American Football. (If you’re new here, yes, that’s two self-titled albums, not including the original self-titled EP).
If anything, the band’s skills as musicians have grown, the impressive guitar riffs slightly more intricate and tighter (although only slightly- the original album is so well-written and well-played that there is little room for improvement). They still rely heavily on carefully constructed, intricate, overlapping guitars in interesting tunings, starting from a single riff and building to huge, beautiful swells.
The biggest change is in the lyrics and vocals. The lyricism is still plain-spoken and heartfelt, but brings a more matured, poetic flavor. Check out beautiful lyrics like “where are we now?/ both home alone/ in the same house” in the opening track, “Where Are We Now.” (The whole album is named like a collection of Shakespearean Sonnets, each track titled after the first line of the lyrics, although long intros make it difficult to notice in many songs.)
The vocal melodies have a wandering, meandering feeling to them, as if you don’t know exactly where they are headed, but you can tell it’s going to be a lovely journey. This album also features vocal harmonies which parallel the careful instrumental layering. The vocals are cautious not to distract from the guitars, and the songs still have plenty of instrumental interludes, but the vocals are pushed further forward than in the previous album, which had vocals so understated that they felt almost an afterthought.
This is perhaps because Kinsella’s vocals are much, much stronger than they once were. His confidence as a singer was somewhat low in 1999, but 17 years is a lot of time to improve a craft. His range is improved, but also the songs are pitched more carefully. In an interview in 2015, Kinsella said of the 1999 album “we were so young and naive… Now I’d be like ‘well let’s drop that song like, six steps so I could hit some notes’ but at the time it was like, ‘well the song’s there, I’ve got to hit those notes.’” And it seems in this new recording he’s indeed no longer stretching beyond his skill.
The entire album is a treat, and the song-to-song flow is so well constructed, it’s difficult to recommend individual tracks, but in addition to “Where Are We Now,” “I Need a Drink (or Two or Three)” will be loved by both old and new fans.
The album’s only single, “Desire Gets in the Way“, is perhaps the most un-like the old music.
It features a more playful beat and vocal melody that feels almost country-inspired, showing the band’s Midwest origins in a way most of their music does not. Those looking for only more of the same might dislike it at first, but give it more than one listen and it’s likely to grow on you.
Want to hear more about American Football? Check The Story of American Football