4/15/17 – American Football “American Football” (1999)

American Football’s self titled album passed me by on my first few listens, but just now thanks to a friend who won’t stop posting about it (Dave), I decided to give it another try. A surprising number of guitar riffs were instantly recognized, even though I haven’t listened to it in years- and didn’t even like it back then. Emo isn’t a favorite genre of mine and this is one of the defining albums for Emo. Listening again, I’m not sure why I was put off it, maybe the connection between the instrumentation and the vocals was too disjointed, or I didn’t like singer Mike Kinsella’s unenthusiastic delivery. Regardless, I’m finding a lot more to love in this LP on the revisit.

Never Meant is a great opener, and introduces you early to the sprawling instrumentation that guitars will journey on. They really like to explore the scales with melodies that would probably be considered too long for Indie Rock standards. I think it’s because of this style that Kinsella’s vocals seem a bit out of place, or it could equally be just the mixing that places him on the same level as the guitars. His singing isn’t the typical Emo whine, it’s despondent and detached- so don’t shy away from this album if that’s your concern. The production here is on point, and although the guitars take the spotlight, the drums and bass aren’t invisible- they even drive the incredible Honestly?.

I love the trumpet on For Sure, it’s just so emotive and mournful. The track is nearly instrumental with the following song You Know I Should Be Leaving Soon being completely lyric-less. That’s countered by what might be my favorite song on the album, the lyric-packed I’ll See You When We’re Both Not So Emotional. It’s here where all their musical ideas come together completely and compliment each other perfectly. The mood it sets matches up with the sound so well, and it feels like something completely unique. The melancholy of American Football peaks in the following song, Stay Home. The drains of anxiety are expressed so well here, especially with the repeated chorus: “But that’s life, so social”. It’s repeated 12 times before the powerful final lines:
“But that’s life, so social
So physical
So so-so
So emotional
So stay home”

My favorite trumpet returns on the instrumental closer The One With The Wurlitzer, a fitting end to an emotional ride through the doldrums. I’m really surprised how much I liked this album, given my initial sour response. I’ll have to thank Dave for another album to listen to again and again, as I feel this relisten is proof enough that there is hidden depth to it.