American Football returns for round three

American Football

Polyvinyl · March 22, 2019

American Football has been known for pairing vocalist Mike Kinsella’s authentic lyrics about teenage angst with unique instrumentals, influencing two decades’ worth of emo and math rock bands. Their third self-titled album, referred to as LP3, is what happens when teenage angst turns into middle-aged angst.

Aside from the visual departure from the infamous “American Football house” that dominated their album art for the previous two albums, LP3 distinguishes itself from its predecessors from its very first moments. The first track, “Silhouettes,” opens with the crystal clear notes of a glockenspiel, a leap from the signature math-rock guitar riffs that have been prominent on their first two albums. Although the guitars come eventually, the precedent is set for a more instrumentally-diverse take on emo that continues throughout the album.

What makes LP3 unique is American Football’s ability to stray from the sound of their first two albums without sounding like a completely different band. The song “Heir Apparent” demonstrates their advanced musicianship through careful arrangement. Their usual guitar style meets bright, airy notes from both the flute and piano. The song also features the Omaha Children’s Choir, an unexpected choice that adds an eerie tone to the song as well as a subtle nod to the band’s midwestern roots.

Lyrically, “Heir Apparent” exemplifies the emotional vulnerability that is signature to American Football’s work. Their famous teen angst trope, although present in lines like “I’m unapologetically sorry for everything,” no longer takes center stage. Kinsella instead focuses on the transition from youth to adulthood and the confusion that comes with it, apologizing for both his childlike actions as well as aging in the same breath.

Not only does American Football push creative boundaries amongst themselves, but they also seek out three other artists to contribute to LP3. Elizabeth Powell of Land of Talk and Rachel Goswell of Slowdive both make appearances on the album, but the most powerful feature is Hayley Williams of Paramore on “Uncomfortably Numb.” Williams, known for her fiery vocals, takes a different approach to the song by starting off quiet to echo Kinsella. As the song continues, the pair sing back and forth, creating a stunning duet. The track also features some of the album’s best lyrics, with hard-hitting lines like “I blamed my father in my youth, now as a father I blame the booze.”

While the album does incorporate a variety of new techniques, a few songs like “Mine to Miss” and “Life Support” fall short and simply blend in with American Football’s previous two albums. Despite the ordinary instrumentals, Kinsella’s honest lyrics often save the day. On “Life Support,” which is the album’s final track, he summarizes the theme of the album with the simple line “When will it end, relentless adolescence?” His sincerity as a teenager is what made American Football successful, and his sincerity as an adult will ensure that they continue to be successful in the years to come.

Listen to LP3

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