2LP, Light Blue Vinyl
Polyvinyl Record Company (2019) US
With American Football (LP3), the band used the same producer, Jason Cupp, and recorded the album at the same studio (Arc Studios in Omaha, Nebraska) as its predecessor – yet they approached it in a markedly different way. There was a determination to let the songs breathe, to trust in ideas finding their own pace. The final result is a definite, and deliberate, stretching of the band.
As a result, LP3 is less obviously tethered to the band’s past than the second album. An immediate contrast between LP3 and its two predecessors is its cover. The two previous albums featured the exterior and interior of a residence in the band’s original hometown of Urbana, Illinois (now attracting fans for pilgrimages and photo opportunities), by the photographer Chris Strong. But American Football knew that LP3 was an outside record. Instead of the familiar house, this time the cover photo (again by Strong) features open, rolling fields on Urbana’s borders. It is a sign of the album’s magnitude in sound, and of the band’s boldness in breaking away from home comforts.
American Football also joked that LP3’s genre was ‘post-house’, because of this very conscious visual break. But, in a strange way, there are links in LP3 with an actual post-house genre: shoegaze. The more exploratory members of the original British shoegaze scene were inspired by the dreamtime and circularity of house music (ambient house in particular), cherishing its sonic possibilities. That spirit drips into LP3, most obviously on ‘I Can’t Feel You’, a collaboration with Rachel Goswell of Slowdive.
The album also features Hayley Williams from Paramore on the album’s catchiest moment, ‘Uncomfortably Numb’, and Elizabeth Powell, of the Québécoise act Land Of Talk. Mike wrote lyrics in French especially for her.
LP3 is contemplative, rich, expressive, yet with a queasy undercurrent. It is heavy with expectancy, revealing its ideas slowly, eliciting the hidden stories people carry around with them.
American Football is now a bona fide ongoing focus, and they are making some of the best music of their lives. American Football (LP3) stands with two other rare reunion successes – Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine’s mbv – as a fine example of how a band refinding one another can augment, rather than taint, their legacy.
American Football stands as an enduring symbol of elusive emotional landscapes, where introspection can be as dramatic as confrontation.