Although they’re often lumped in with the whole “emo” crowd, American Football’s brand of emotional indie-rock has always felt more elegant and refined to me. This is due, in large part, to the band’s use of minimalist arrangements and atmospherics that have more in common with Steve Reich than, say, Rites of Spring or Sunny Day Real Estate.
The band’s first album, American Football, was released back in 1999. After a seventeen-year hiatus, during which band members played in various side-projects (e.g., Owen, Joan of Arc, Birthmark), American Football released their second album in 2016, also titled American Football (aka, LP2). And now, they’ve announced their third album titled — you guessed it — American Football (aka, LP3). Based on the band’s statement, LP3 will represent something of a break from previous albums:
LP3 is less obviously tethered to the band’s past than the second album. An immediate contrast between LP3 and its two predecessors is its cover. The two previous albums featured the exterior and interior of a residence in the band’s original hometown of Urbana, Illinois (now attracting fans for pilgrimages and photo opportunities), by the photographer Chris Strong. But American Football knew that LP3 was an outside record. Instead of the familiar house, this time the cover photo (again by Strong) features open, rolling fields on Urbana’s borders. It is a sign of the album’s magnitude in sound, and of the band’s boldness in breaking away from home comforts.
American Football also joked that LP3’s genre was ‘post-house’, because of this very conscious visual break. But, in a strange way, there are links in LP3 with an actual post-house genre: shoegaze. The more exploratory members of the original British shoegaze scene were inspired by the dreamtime and circularity of house music (ambient house in particular), cherishing its sonic possibilities. That spirit drips into LP3, most obviously on ‘I Can’t Feel You’, a collaboration with Rachel Goswell of Slowdive.
You can listen to the new album’s first single, “Silhouettes,” above. It’s clearly of a piece with the band’s previous output, from the precise melodic structures to Mike Kinsella’s pleading vocals and cryptic lyrics, but it also feels more expansive.
LP3 will be released by Polyvinyl on March 22, 2019.
Read more about American Football.
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I've also written for Christ and Pop Culture, ScreenAnarchy, Filmwell, and Christian Research Journal. I pay the bills by creating beautiful user interfaces and websites for Firespring and Red Bicycle.