Album Review: American Football – ‘LP3’

Posted: by The Editor

As one of the foundation bands of the genre we now know as “emo”, American Football is more than just an emo band with a signature house on the cover of their album. They are a band that aged like a fine wine. With their first LP released in 1999 as self-titled, it wasn’t until their reunion in 2014 that their music started to regain traction. With a second LP released in 2016, those who adore American Football and their twinkly guitar tone were at the edge of their seats when they announced an LP3. Yet LP3 is so much more refined than any of their previous releases. They pushed the envelope of the unique sound they’ve already built up over the years. Yet, they bring forward a refinement to their sound. A maturity if you will, that marks their place in their 20 years of being a band.

The first track “Silhouettes” was previously released as a single. The first couple of seconds of the track are haunting. With just the tapping of notes on a xylophone-type of instrument, you can already tell that American Football aren’t sticking to their guitar-driven sound. They’re branching out into new instruments that are collectively making a denser and more creative sound. However, as the track progresses, it still has that layered style of different rhythms that are key to the American Football sound that they’ve created over the years. One instrument being played more alongside another, but not really having a conversation. It’s almost like these instruments are being played in separate rooms far apart from one another and then are brought together by the bass and guitar which only comes in roughly 1 min and 30 seconds into the track. The lyrics of “Silhouettes” are equally as important as the textual quality of the instrumentals. “Oh, the muscle memory/continue to haunt me” is repeated in the song. A lyric ambiguous yet powerful in nature. “I’m a fool for your pageantry” is another lyric that sticks where the ambiguity is present but also yet it says so much with so little. That’s one of the qualities of LP3 that American Football plays on very well. Showing not telling.

American Football also included a number of features on this album. “Uncomfortably Numb” features Paramore’s Hailey Williams, a powerhouse of pop punk. Her contributing vocals on that track add a more conversational type of dialogue to the lyrics. Also previously released as a single, “Uncomfortably Numb” is whimsical yet dense. It has a light and breezy nature to its instrumentals, but the lyrics are very thoughtful and melodic. It’s something that the emo genre embodies in the name itself. Emotional lyrics balanced with twinkly guitars, something that American Football are known for in their past releases. However, the addition of another vocalist, especially Williams on this track add another depth of vulnerability to the lyrics being sung.

Two artists who I personally didn’t know previous to this release were Elizabeth Powell, who’s featured on “Every Wave to Rise,” another heavily rhythmic track that with the addition of Powell’s vocals, adds an airy quality to the track. The guitars and string instruments become more prominent in this track and come back to American Football’s roots in multi-rhytmic guitar-driven music. Rachel Goswell, whose vocals are featured on “I Can’t Feel You,” is a track that feels as if it could be used in a trailer for a horror film. It’s use of repeated breaths and drum patterns, along with Goswell’s dreamy vocals, make the track spooky. The use of pitch in how the band arranges the track is what makes it so haunting. It creates the allusion of depth, but as the track builds, those pitches become more and more alike, creating more comfortable aesthetic to the music.

The emo genre has really expanded to have a more well-rounded sound that isn’t as tied into punk and hardcore like it was in the 80’s/90’s. Emo has matured and so has American Football with it. Tracks such as “Heir Apparent” is a great example of that. Incorporating woodwind instruments, keys, and also the signature guitars with really emotionally vulnerable lyrics tie the whole track up in an amazing listening package. American Football really put their all into those 8 tracks and made an incredible record that will be a landing ground for emo bands everywhere. 

LP3 is smart. American Football has clearly matured over the years as musicians and songwriters, taking in account the time and space of which the music they’re now creating exists.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Written by Sarah Knoll

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