Published Oct 19, 2016The second eponymous American Football record is by no means a carbon-copy of the first, but the Illinois band seem to have done everything to pay homage to their now-seminal 1999 debut. Whether it's the album art that mimics the original, or both albums' nine-song, roughly 40-minute length, or the most obvious fact that they're both titled American Football, there have been a lot of hints that this would be a thoughtfully crafted comeback — which can be hard to come by.
More astounding than the fact that a Midwestern emo band that existed for only three years — and found an adoring cult following only after splitting up — has now reunited to make only their second album almost two decades later is the fact that the music itself so closely captures the feeling of that first record across such an expanse of time. "Where Are We Now?" begins with light, snowy guitars and Mike Kinsella's delicately delivered lines that begin the record beautifully. And as they proceed, American Football prove that their title as the patron saints of emo is rightly held.
Creating an airy, autumnal and wistful atmosphere out of intricate, cascading guitars and a modest yet deceivingly complex rhythm section, they exist between fragile contentment ("Desire Gets in the Way" or "I've Been So Lost for So Long, for example) and comforting melancholy ("Born to Lose" or "Everyone Is Dressed Up"). Soaring harmonies and echoing harmonics are key here, especially on a track like "Give Me the Gun," in giving each song acres of breathing space while still sounding like they're being played in a quiet living room hushed by carpet and blankets.
And those trumpets — let's not forget those trumpets.
In sound and in concept, this second American Football record reflects a band that has aged gracefully while remembering the feeling of their youth. There's a sense of waywardness and Weltschmerz in Kinsella's lyrics, a youthful angst emboldened by the passing of time. This is nostalgia in essence and in practice, and it's pretty much everything that fans could have wanted. You have to think that they're not just crowd-pleasing; there's something whimsical and innately desirable about the idea of coming together to relive the feeling of earlier days. And even if there are another 17 years between this and the next album — or no next one at all — there will exist the intensely desired second chapter that did right by its legacy. (Polyvinyl)