American Football - American Football (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

American Football

American Football (2019)


It's safe to say that if you were questioning if the emo revival were real or not, the fact that American Football and Mineral put out music in the same calendar year means it never really died at all. Now, with Mike Kinsella and Co. looking to trudge on from LP2 a few years ago, fans who are into the modern brand of the genre like me can bask in the glow of what LP3 means moving forward -- and that's that the emo wave is as strong as ever. I mean, we live in a time where Pedro The Lion, The Get Up Kids and Saves The Day have new music out too, so that should be enough to sum this notion up. But I digress, because as much as everything else surrounding this institution known as American Football seems to be hitting heights and resonating the way we want, AF sadly just isn't registering the same notes.

What this record does for me is simply remind me I need to get over "Never Meant". That'll never be recaptured again, which I should have sensed after the last full-length disappointed. Good but by the high standard I set, it far from exceeded expectations. So that's why I went into these new songs with trepidation, slight apprehension and lowered expectations, and it works for the most part. But I still feel like the flourishing magic that stirs up when I see that house on AF album covers just isn't there.

The last album felt too much like Kinsella's Owen, and while these tracks do too, they bridge the gap much better to what we crave from new AF. The opening track "Silhouettes" starts off nicely, with bells ringing and goes into a slow, melodic, mid-tempo crawl of Kinsella pondering how the past influences the present. 'I'm a fool for your pageantry, tell me again... what's the allure of inconsequential love?' is a pretty deep line that earmarks how AF has grown from cliches, Tumblr jokes and memes. It's a mature kind of romance and the rhythms here immediately wash away the bad taste of the last album. But sadly, the next few songs regress into that territory. "Uncomfortably Numb" with Paramore's Hayley Williams feels uninspired and lacks a sense of impetus. The instruments are graceful and elegant but there's no spirit and passion on the vocals.

"Doom in Full Bloom" then goes on like a remix of the opener and you're left wondering if it's just going to be a bunch of picky, shimmery soundscapes that feel the same -- as if it's the beginning of a Netflix documentary with drones overlooking green fields. "Mine To Miss" is a better perspective on why the album picks up at the end as it has more energy and vibrancy. It does well to shake the lazy vibe that preceded, and begs why AF didn't go in and venture more out-the-box territory like they did with Slowdive's Rachel Goswell on "I Can't Feel You".

I mean, some of what AF try to do here, I've heard New Jersey's Gates, Philly's Kite Party and Scotland's Mogwai do it much better in terms of that dreamy, twinkly aesthetic. Instead, here there's a lack of growth signalled. Anyway, by the time the record closes with "Life Support" things do feel a bit better as the drab, monotone and anticlimactic feel has been scrubbed. When the dust clears, if you're an emo band you need to be evoking some sort of emotion. However, half of this album feels by-the-numbers and I love AF too much not to demand better. Like I said, it's not bad but it's not that exquisite either.