The month of March saw no shortage of music releases. Both Hozier and Weezer made their comebacks—one triumphant, the other less so—and Solange’s When I Get Home awed Country and R&B fans alike. The final two weeks of this tepid, rainy month have provided us with two more treasures: One from midwest-emo heroes of yore, American Football, and another from seventeen-year-old sensation, Billie Eilish.
WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? by Billie Eilish
Katia Innes, A&E Editor
Star rating: ★★★☆☆
I approached Billie Eilish’s newest album with a degree of hesitance before I had even listened—I found myself irritated by the goth seriousness of the homeschooled seventeen-year-old California native, who rose through the ranks of sad-girl playlists via a collection of SoundCloud singles. So, it was with great reticence that I listened to her album WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, an ambitious debut that lulls listeners into Eilish’s cough syrup-sweet vision of Los Angeles.
Produced by Eilish’s older brother Finneas, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP melds bass-heavy trap with light electro-pop; Eilish cackles and gasps between the opposing elements, grounding the album with her eerie vocals. WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP was inspired by Eilish’s recurring sleep paralysis and night terrors, a subject she references in the lead single “bury a friend.” Eilish’s lilting soprano urges listeners to “Step on the glass, staple your tongue / Bury a friend, try to wake up.” The effect is an unsettling portrait of female youth that rejects Ariana Grande-style #girlbossery and embraces the violent angst that is traditionally reserved for male artists.
Eilish’s youth is apparent in many of the tracks, a characteristic which is simultaneously the album’s biggest strength and biggest detriment. It is hard not to crack a smile when Eilish peels off her Invisalign in the opening track “!!!!!!!,” but she counters this earnestness with cringe-worthy lyrics that betray her immaturity. In “wish you were gay” her assertion that “If three’s a crowd and two was us, one slipped away” is delivered with such self-assurance of her own wisdom, but is genuinely quite confusing. The exhausted ennui that plagues the track “xanny” and unexpected ephebophilic turn in “bad guy” seem out of place. Despite these missteps and the occasionally repetitive melodies, it is refreshing to see a young female artist experiment with her lyricism and style. Following in the footsteps of Lorde’s Pure Heroine and Kate Bush’s The Kick Inside, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP is a welcome debut that holds a great deal of promise for Eilish.
LP 3 by American Football
Kevin Vogel, Staff Writer
On March 22, the Illinois-based emo-indie rock band American Football released their third self-titled album, LP 3. Breaking up only three years after their formation in 1997, American Football took a 14-year long hiatus, performing together again in 2014. Their latest album touches on familiar themes of longing and remorse, yet sets itself apart with a pleasant mix of soft guitar riffs and the smooth, airy voice of lead singer-guitarist Mike Kinsella flowing from track-to-track.
While all of LP 3’s tracks easily hold on their own, “Uncomfortably Numb” (feat. Hayley Williams) deserves special praise. The song tells the story of a broken love and the role of parenting and healing in the aftermath of separation. Kinsella opens with a melancholic assessment of his life: “I can’t feel anything inside / I blamed my father in my youth / now as a father I blame the booze.” Williams joins in the second verse, breaking from the faster tempo style of Paramore to provide a consoling contrast to Kinsella’s sad-dad vibes. She echoes Kinsella’s lyrics, concluding by singing on her own, “I just want you home.” Treading unusual waters, Williams adds a beautiful layer to Kinsella’s sigh-singing.
In more classic American Football style, “Doom in Full Bloom” features a gentle opening trumpet solo by drummer Steve Lamos. Kinsella and backup singers then contribute a choir-like sound for the remaining seven minutes of the song, lamenting in a lonely contrition over lost love. While lyrically unremarkable, the song uses clever harmonies with vibraphones, vocals, and trumpets to produce a musically-rich but easy to listen to piece.
LP 3 gives something for American Football fans and regular listeners alike. Whether played for its moody ambiance or just for study music, American Football hasn’t lost its lustre after all these years.