Today, legendary emo/indie rock band, American Football, released their sophomore full length record titled, “American Football (LP 2)”. This second full length album by the group is their first release in 17 years and is one of the most anticipated albums of 2016. American Football, who got their start in 1997 in an Illinois college town, have become one of the most influential and significant bands in the emo and indie rock genres. Despite the fact that their career as a band before their 2014 reunion was extremely brief, they were still able to leave their mark on these genres and have inspired numerous artists to write some amazing records in the process. American Football is a group that I personally think highly of and I have been looking forward to this record since it was announced earlier this year. Even though the lineup itself hasn’t changed, the near two decades between the monumental “American Football” and the long-awaited “American Football (LP 2)” has caused the members as individuals to change significantly, and this personal change directly shows in this project.
Despite the massive gap between records, “American Football (LP 2)” features numerous similarities to its predecessor. One of the most obvious examples of this is the visual theme and aesthetic that American Football is known for. For example, the font and style of text for the band name and title of the record is exactly the same. The iconic spelling of “americ anfootball” in the top right section of the album artwork in the clean, white font hasn’t changed at all since 1999. Also, both releases feature 9 individual tracks and on each record the album artworks are pictures of the same house from different parts of the home. On the 1999 release, the image is of the house at dusk from the outside of the building (which is seen below), is different from the 2016 release, which shows an image of a hallway during midday, leading to what appears to be the front door of the house. Along with having visual similarities, there are also music related aspects that can be heard on both full length albums. Things like distinctive and memorable trumpet parts and complex, calm-sounding, familiar peaceful songwriting elements are not absent from either release and are solidified as consistent features in American Football projects.
On the other hand, there are a ton of prominent differences between these records that an American Football fan would clearly notice. One of the most obvious changes is how the vocals were mixed. On the first “American Football”, the vocal tracks were a lot more quiet and were virtually in the background behind instrumental tracks. Now on LP 2, these vocal sections are mixed at a higher quality and brought to the forefront of the track, which is an extremely common way of recording vocals. This might negatively affect a fan’s opinion of this record, but personally I believe this ends up strengthening the album as a whole. Mike Kinsella’s vocal style, and even the pitch in his voice, has seen a drastic change since 1999 as well, and this change in production helps emphasize this. In fact, the higher pitched vocals heard on “American Football” are now replaced by a more calm, deeper voice that in my opinion is a better fit for the group’s sound. The more mature, emotion filled vocal melodies truly empower the message behind every song, and the lyricism, which depicts multiple troubling times in Mike’s life, appear to sound more heartfelt than the vocal delivery heard on the band’s first album. As stated before in the “Track of the Day Tuesday” blog, which appeared on this site earlier this month and is also attached below, this sad yet happy, and somber yet peaceful style of singing is one of the highlights to this new American Football release. To further describe this change, the lyrical themes have also grown and matured with this latest record by the Illinois group. The personal, relationship based problems Mike discusses in the 1999 release have now been replaced by what appears to be more pressing issues, like talking to someone who’s close to him out of committing suicide, which is heard on “Give Me The Gun”, and different struggles and problems he and his family have dealt with. This change and variation in lyrical themes perfectly fits the vocal style and songwriting, and even surpasses what has previously been heard on American Football releases, by including elements that could not have possibly existed in the late 90s, due to the fact that these events and this change in vocal pitch simply did not occur yet.
In addition to vocal changes heard, there are also changes in production that are distinctively heard on “American Football (LP 2)”. The recordings appear to have less of a near Lo-Fi sound and more of a normal, high quality recording style. While this might disappoint some fans, I believe it makes the band sound more precise as a unit by showcasing that their playing style is a lot tighter since 1999. Especially when dealing with polar opposite lead and rhythm sections, that sometimes include weird time signatures, this high quality recording allows American Football to prove how their musicianship both as individuals and as one unit has grown. In fact, the only complaint I have is that at some points, this unique calm sounding recording style lacks a little emphasis for more prominent parts. This can be heard on the first self titled record, especially if you focus on percussion parts, and if this aspect found its way onto “American Football (LP 2)”, then the production would be absolutely stellar and far ahead of the first “American Football”.
In summation, this is my favorite, and the greatest, American Football release. I give it a 9.3/10 and highly suggest any fan of either American Football or Indie rock and emo to give it a listen. The growth and maturity over the years, despite being nearly two decades of growth, truly paid off and helped create another beautiful American Football album. Make sure to BUY your copy today and listen to the full stream of “American Football (LP 2)” below!