American Football Album Review

By Matt Balogh

At first glance, this particular band’s name would lead you to believe you are accidently reading the sports section. American Football is an Indie Rock/Emo band from Champaign, Illinois that started in 1997, back when emo was a genre and not a falsely labeled fashion trend. Created as a studio project of Steve Holmes and Mike Kinsella (previously of emo bands Joan of Arc and Cap’n Jazz), American Football experimented with elements of indie and math rock.

While initiating the process of “just jamming,” Mike Kinsella invited his college roommate Steve Holmes to join in. The trio subsequently put out two self-titled releases: A 3-song EP in 1998, and their debut studio album in 1999. At first, the album showed to little response, considering it only being viewed as a side-project to Kinsella. Later on, through popularity on college radio, the album gained a much larger following, claiming it as a new classic in the emo genre.

After three years of American Football, the band ultimately came to an end. More recently, in 2014, the band announced they had gotten back together to perform a limited amount of shows in the U.S, to coincide with the re-release of their debut album. This release charted the band on the Billboard 200, landing a spot on number 68, a benchmark rarely obtained for many underground bands. This rapidly spreading audience motivated the band to get back together full time, with the inclusion of Mike’s brother Nate Kinsella on bass, and to release a new album.

On Oct. 21, 2016, 17 years after their first album, they released their second self-titled album on Polyvinyl Records. The album is a modern masterpiece of both indie rock and emo. The band brings back their familiar charm of pristine guitar licks, songs varying in both tunings and time signatures, and of course the unique sounds of the trumpet: an instrument seldom used in emo music. Along with their signature guitar work, they infuse technical back melodies with jazz-influenced drumming style, keeping the band together through time and speed changes.

The opening track, “Where Are We Now?” works as the seamless transition to cover 17 years of absence. Right away, the listener is returned to the sounds of the former record, with a new refresh on the band’s intricate song formation. Track number two, “My Instincts Are The Enemy,” features a classic melancholic melody that drives throughout, and cuts time signatures half way through, creating a sound similar to combining two songs into one.

The first single, “I’ve Been So Lost For So Long” immediately hinted at the environment of the record. Once released, the song fits perfectly as a transition and to introduce Side B of the record. Track number eight, “Desire Gets In The Way,” has a very original sound, and is very different from previous work. The song not only features Mike Kinsella singing higher on his vocal register, it is a lot more upbeat, and stands out among the tracks on the album.

Lyrically, the album explores usual topics of loneliness, but also strays off to more intimate features. Splicing together feelings through metaphor and vivid imagery, the band never fails to create an ambience of isolation, and the perfect “rainy-day” album that the world of emo had needed in this day and age.

Rating: 10/10