American Football – LP3 (4 stars)

American Football – LP3

Illinois band's third full-length album is expansive and forward facing

Sequels are always a risky business, and the follow-up to American Football's iconic 1999 debut was one of the most highly anticipated records in alternative rock history. After pretty much vanishing following their seminal album's release, then staying quiet for seventeen years, it was certainly a hard ask for 2016's LP2 to live up to the hype. Unfortunately, many fans felt that it didn't. At some point since then, American Football have 'moved away from being a reunion band to just being a band,' according to guitarist Steve Holmes, and LP3 is the result of this evolution and undeniable growth.

From its first seconds it's clear that on LP3 American Football are exploring uncharted textures, timbres and territories in their sound. The opening track 'Silhouettes' is led by rhythmic chimes and evocative strings that bring fresh force to the heartstring-tugging emotivity that they do so well. Bouncing irregular time signatures and interlocking guitar riff rhythms retain the 'math-rock' style that became the band's signature, building tension that oscillates throughout the stretching seven minute song.

This expansive sound continues as the album unfolds, yet familiar elements remain present, mingling with the new: 'Doom In Full Bloom' starts with a wistful trumpet intro that is a complete throwback to old favourites like 'For Sure'. One of the freshest additions is guest vocalists on several tracks, including Hayley Williams from Paramore and Slowdive's Rachel Goswell. Lyrically, LP3 is also heavy with new perspective: 'sorry for aging / growing more and more disinterested...unapologetically ignored' Kinsella sings on the track 'Heir Apparent'.

Dusky, pondering and not a bit nostalgic, this is an album of sprawling low horizons that sits firmly on the 'post-rock' side of American Football's emo roots. LP3 sounds expectant, facing forward rather than behind, with a new sound that's enjoyable no matter how many repeated (and repeated and repeated...) listens you've given their first record.

Out Fri 22 Mar on Big Scary Monsters.