American Football (Polyvinyl Records ’99) Rating: A
Like quite a few albums over the past few years, I discovered this album via the excellent community website Rate Your Music. Apparently the leader of this band, Mike Kinsella, was previously in the "seminal emo band" Cap'n Jazz, who I'm not familiar with but who are also highly regarded, but from what I've read this album is much different from that band and stylistically it sounds like I'd like it better. Frankly, I adore this addictive album, though I need to be in the mood for it; it's certainly not a weekend party album (given that the band's name is ill-fitting), but is for thoughtful, contemplative times of melancholic introspection. It can certainly provide a soothing, comforting companion for those who have loved and lost (and most of us have or will at some point, right?), for this is definitely a "breakup album" that vividly captures teenage angst (just look at some of the song titles!). Perhaps some may find Kinsella's vulnerable, high-pitched vocals to be a bit on the whiny (i.e. "emo") side, but I find his singing to be impossibly affecting and a perfect match for his moving lyrics. As for the music, which can be simple and repetitive sometimes, adventurous and post rock-y at other times, the languid guitars (Kinsella with Steve Holmes) are consistently gorgeous, Steve Lamos' drumming stands out as being outstanding even though the music is mostly very mellow, and I just love it every time they break out those lonesome trumpet solos (Lamos again). The highlights to me are definitely "Never Meant" and probably "For Sure" and "I'll See You When We're Both Not So Emotional," but on the whole this is a consistently stellar set of sad sack songs. Note: Apparently this is the only American Football album, but Kinsella is involved with several other bands/projects as well, though I haven't any of heard them (yet).