American Football – ‘LP3’

By Gem Rogers

When it comes to emo – ‘proper’ emo in musical form, rather than the all-encompassing term that came to be synonymous with studded belts and some, er, questionable haircuts in the mid-2000s – there are a handful of names that will always come immediately to mind. Sunny Day Real Estate, Saves The Day, Jawbreaker and, with their 1998 EP and debut self-titled LP in 1999, American Football. The band had pedigree from the start – vocalist and guitarist Mike Kinsella, now something of a legend in the genre, formed influential emo rock outfit Cap’n Jazz with brother Tim at the ripe old age of 12, before joining forces with drummer/trumpet player Steve Lamos and guitarist Steve Holmes to create what would become American Football.

It took another seventeen years to get a second album from American Football in ‘LP2’, after their split in 2000 and reformation in 2014. Fortunately, we haven’t had another lengthy wait on our hands for the third, with ‘LP3’ now arriving just three years later and with the addition of Nate Kinsella to the band’s line-up – first single ‘Silhouettes’ caused ripples of excitement through the emo community (and beyond) on its release in December last year.

Clocking up an impressive 48 minutes in just eight tracks, that first single also opens the album, as swaying vibraphone chimes lull listeners into a hypnotic state before finally building in layers of guitar, drums, and vocals. Second track ‘Every Wave To Ever Rise’ continues this hugely atmospheric vibe, and sees the first of three guest vocalist appearances with the sweet, gentle tones of Land of Talk vocalist Elizabeth Powell.

The use of guest vocalists adds a shining, irresistible new dynamic to American Football’s own style, and possibly nowhere to greater effect than on the radio-friendly ‘Uncomfortably Numb’ with the soothingly familiar voice of Paramore’s Hayley Williams. A captivating and more conventionally melodic track, it’s one that will no doubt be responsible for introducing new waves of fans to the band, with Williams’ vocals perfectly complementing and weaving around Kinsella’s.

‘LP3’ is mostly characterised by a shoegazing, atmospheric vibe, waltzing through ethereal and beautifully layered instrumentals that continue the hypnotic effect set in by ‘Silhouettes’, feeling minimalist yet complex in its delicacy. A touch of brass on the intro to ‘Doom In Full Bloom’ ups the melancholy fittingly alongside Kinsella’s haunting, conversational vocals; there is a maturity and relatable honesty in the lyrics that reflects their age and life experience, veering reassuringly away from attempting to mimic the feelings of a twenty-something emo band.

With ‘LP3’, American Football have crafted a blissful, transcendent escape from reality; it is the warmth of the sun on a bitter winter’s day, a comforting breeze in the stillness of summer. This is an album that steps into a gap few else could fill, redefining the band and broadening their appeal without alienating their existing core audience – and with releases like this, we can only hope they stick around for more.

GEM ROGERS

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