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Alternative & Indie - Released May 16, 2014 | Polyvinyl Records

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Reissue
American Football existed for a blink of an eye, coming together in the late '90s in a small Midwestern college town out of a small but enthusiastic pool of young musicians. The band, consisting of Cap'n Jazz/Joan of Arc alumni Mike Kinsella as well as guitarist Steve Holmes and drummer Steve Lamos, played only a few live dates before devolving into a recording project and then silently disappearing altogether around 2000. Apart from a three-song EP, their self-titled 1999 album was all the trio left behind, its nine songs exploring a hushed, thoughtful take on the often more aggressive tones of the hardcore-birthed emo scene. American Football's songs dig deep into uncommon time signatures and jazz-influenced chords, and even implement understated trumpet and electric piano into their web of interlocking guitar runs and muted, softly smiling vocals. Happening concordantly with a thriving post-rock movement hubbed close by in Chicago, the band has hints of the same musical crosscurrents of Tortoise or Gastr del Sol, setting their songs apart from the flock. The airy riff in 3/4 time and Kinsella's buried, eager vocals on opening song "Never Meant" set the tone for an album of soft-spoken yet high-spirited songs not quite like any of the band's emo contemporaries. The band seemed primarily focused on instrumental composition, with fully instrumental tracks like "You Know I Should Be Leaving Soon" and "The One with the Wurlitzer" standing out and vocals sounding like a floating, distanced element on many of the tunes that include them. The lilting, mysterious tone of the album is only occasionally broken up by an upbeat rocker like "I'll See You When We're Both Not So Emotional," where the band marries its jazz-influenced chops to the same kind of wide-eyed emo pop the Promise Ring was making at the time. Kinsella would go on to release solo material as Owen, drawing on the same soft-focus melodies he employed with American Football, but the collaborative magic he found with Holmes and Lamos would never quite be recaptured in any of the three's future projects. Every song here manages to sound meticulously constructed without diminishing the easy, often dreamlike feel of the album. The record is defined by a sense of possibility and youthful discovery, and stands out not just as an anomalistic emo-jazz hybrid but as a lasting, iconic statement in the often blurry history of independent music. © Fred Thomas /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released December 13, 2019 | Polyvinyl Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 5, 2004 | Polyvinyl Records

American Football existed for a blink of an eye, coming together in the late '90s in a small Midwestern college town out of a small but enthusiastic pool of young musicians. The band, consisting of Cap'n Jazz/Joan of Arc alumni Mike Kinsella as well as guitarist Steve Holmes and drummer Steve Lamos, played only a few live dates before devolving into a recording project and then silently disappearing altogether around 2000. Apart from a three-song EP, their self-titled 1999 album was all the trio left behind, its nine songs exploring a hushed, thoughtful take on the often more aggressive tones of the hardcore-birthed emo scene. American Football's songs dig deep into uncommon time signatures and jazz-influenced chords, and even implement understated trumpet and electric piano into their web of interlocking guitar runs and muted, softly smiling vocals. Happening concordantly with a thriving post-rock movement hubbed close by in Chicago, the band has hints of the same musical crosscurrents of Tortoise or Gastr del Sol, setting their songs apart from the flock. The airy riff in 3/4 time and Kinsella's buried, eager vocals on opening song "Never Meant" set the tone for an album of soft-spoken yet high-spirited songs not quite like any of the band's emo contemporaries. The band seemed primarily focused on instrumental composition, with fully instrumental tracks like "You Know I Should Be Leaving Soon" and "The One with the Wurlitzer" standing out and vocals sounding like a floating, distanced element on many of the tunes that include them. The lilting, mysterious tone of the album is only occasionally broken up by an upbeat rocker like "I'll See You When We're Both Not So Emotional," where the band marries its jazz-influenced chops to the same kind of wide-eyed emo pop the Promise Ring was making at the time. Kinsella would go on to release solo material as Owen, drawing on the same soft-focus melodies he employed with American Football, but the collaborative magic he found with Holmes and Lamos would never quite be recaptured in any of the three's future projects. Every song here manages to sound meticulously constructed without diminishing the easy, often dreamlike feel of the album. The record is defined by a sense of possibility and youthful discovery, and stands out not just as an anomalistic emo-jazz hybrid but as a lasting, iconic statement in the often blurry history of independent music. © Fred Thomas /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released March 22, 2019 | Polyvinyl Records

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Pop/Rock - Released September 14, 1999 | Polyvinyl Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 21, 2016 | Polyvinyl Records

Since American Football broke up soon after the release of their self-titled 1999 album, it felt like their one and only release was some kind of magical occurrence that existed at the point where math rock, post-rock, emo, and confessional singer/songwriter all coincided. In the years since, other bands came close to reaching the tender soft-focus heights that the band reached, but nobody ever managed to find the same blend of innocent technical proficiency and openhearted melodic grace that's both compelling and peaceful at its core. Even the projects headed up later by the band's own Mike Kinsella weren't able to fully recapture that elusive feeling. In 2014, the members of American Football reunited to play a series of shows around the world to all the people who had been touched so deeply by their album originally and over the many years since its release. It went so well that the band (the original trio of Mike Kinsella, Steve Holmes, and Steve Lamos plus Mike's brother Nate on bass) decided to return to the studio and make an album, which they again titled American Football. The first questions that come to mind before even spinning the record are something like: Have the years changed the band much? Did they embrace electronics or go acoustic or buy a bunch of fuzz pedals? The answers come during the first notes of the opening song, "Where Are We Now?" The band sounds pretty much like it did in the late '90s. The same crystalline guitar tones, the same interlocking arpeggios, the same kind of shifting time signatures, and the same plaintive vocals are all in place and continue throughout the entire album. It may be a little richer-sounding, less sparse and awkward at times, but mostly it feels like stepping into an audio time machine. The biggest difference is in the lyrics. Since the guys in the band have aged, started families, and experienced victories and losses over time, the album has a wisdom and weariness that the 1999 album couldn't have had. It's an inevitable tradeoff -- innocence for experience -- but the band doesn't wallow in it. There's a matter-of-factness about the new lyrical subject matter that is entirely fitting with the slightly more sophisticated, warmer, and more autumnal sound. Some might miss the more abstract appeal of the original AF album, but the way the band updates and slightly expands that approach makes this new album a resounding success that works on the sonic level, and maybe more importantly, a deep emotional level. © Tim Sendra /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 26, 2004 | Polyvinyl Records

The first release from ex-Cap'N Jazz/Joan of Arc guitarist Mike Kinsella. Light, refreshing melodies of dual guitars and no bass layered with soft, pitter-pattering, slow rhythms are complemented by Kinsella's high pitched, syrupy vocals. All in all, this three-song disc will leave you anxious to hear more. "'Letters and Packages" is perhaps the most compelling song of the three -- a quiet sort of driving piece that weaves through the ears gracefully. © Blake Butler /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released October 6, 1998 | Polyvinyl Records