Album review: American Football (2016)

A few stray guitar notes, some studio chatter, a drummer trying out some fills—these inauspicious sounds begin American Football’s classic self-titled debut from 1999, a landmark album that spawned countless emo bands that paled in comparison.

Those offhand noises gave way to “Never Meant,” an unassuming anthem of love gone quietly wrong. The first notes of the Illinois band’s second album (also self-titled) arrive with its predecessor’s subtle emotional pull, followed by guitarist-vocalist Mike Kinsella’s thin-but-heavy voice singing about familiar patterns: “We’ve been here before,” he intones. Though, he adds, “I don’t remember a lock on the door, for keeping me out or you in.” That song, “Where Are We Now?,” is about the dangers of nostalgia and memory, a fitting theme for fans who have waited 17 years—since last century!—for another batch of songs from Kinsella, guitarist Steve Holmes, and drummer Steve Lamos (and this time also bassist Nate Kinsella).

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