The end of summer is weird. As a kid, I hated it because it meant I was headed back to school. As a teen, I hated it because it meant the weather in Cleveland was getting colder, my depression was about to flare up, and still, I was headed back to school. Something flipped in college, and I began to cherish the end of summer. There’s something special about the first cool weekend on campus. You can throw on jeans and a hoodie and smell the dead leaves as you make your way to a football game. It’s a special time of year that I’ve only recently begun to appreciate.
American Football’s self-titled 1999 release feels like the official end-of-summer soundtrack. It opens with “Never Meant,” the band’s most well-known song, which features perhaps my favorite 45 seconds of music released in the ’90s. The second track is called “The Summer Ends.” I don’t know of many pieces of music that capture a mood and translate it to music better than this one. The guitar and horns are almost overwhelming, and I’m instantly transported back to early-September Sundays at 14 years old.
The band called a hiatus after the release of American Football and 17 years have gone by. It seems fitting that they’re launching this comeback effort on August 23, which is the beginning of what you could call “American Football Season.” I won’t pretend to be the biggest fan, but I still had to stop what I was doing when “I’ve Been So Lost For So Long” hit the internet. (Seems like a perfect title, doesn’t it?)
“If you find me, would you please remind me why I woke up today?” It’s everything you want from American Football: The introspective lyrics. The familiar melodies. The unmistakable guitar riffs that somehow sound exactly like American Football and no one else. The way the song whithers away to a close, just like they all did in ‘99.
It sounds just like a newer version of the band, which I suppose is all you can really ask for, especially for a group whose last album was released during the Clinton administration. For bands trying this kind of comeback, I’d imagine the two biggest temptations are to either completely rehash old sounds in an attempt to recapture the magic or to completely go in a new direction in an attempt to prove that they’ve grown. “I’ve Been So Lost For So Long” feels like a perfectly logical progression, and frankly it’s kind of amazing that the band seems to have picked up so seamlessly from where they left off in 1999. It’s so natural that it almost sounds like the lead single of a 2001 American Football album. Of course, I’m drawing all of these conclusions from just one song, but I digress.
The new album comes out October 21, just in time for me to cry my way through autumn. For now, summer is coming to a close, and American Football’s guitars and melodies are right back where they left them 17 years ago. It doesn’t get much better than that.