Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Big pop moments with a human heart, the Kinsella cousins revel in complex inclusivity as LIES


Release date: 31 March 2023
Lies - Lies cover
28 March 2023, 09:00 Written by Craig Howieson

Cousins Mike and Nate Kinsella will be forever entwined with American Football.

So much so that it is hard to write about either without at least a passing reference to the pioneering emo group. Be it Mike's formation of the band in 1997 or Nate joining on bass for their long-awaited and hugely anticipated LP2 in 2016.

American Football's debut is, after all, arguably one of the most highly regarded emo records of its time, even if it took a while for the world to catch up. And given the success Mike went on to achieve with his impressive solo project Owen, the decision to reform after such a long spell was bold to say the least. The esteem they were held in was so high that it seemed the only direction they could go was down, but LP2 and LP3 subverted all expectations, and with Nate in the fold, quietly transformed the band and pushed it in new and unexpected directions.

Shifting focus once again, away from their respective solo projects as Owen and Birthmark, as well as from the collective workings of American Football, the cousins are exploring new sonic territory as LIES. Their debut is a glorious synth-pop rebirth into a world of filament-flickering loops and decadent strings; a place where no limitations are placed on scale or scope. It is also undoubtedly the biggest-sounding set of songs either has ever been involved in.

It is hard to believe that a song like “Resurrection”, with its shudder of nostalgic bass and big pop chorus, started life as little more than a synth loop recorded by Nate. Yet this was the case for the majority of the record where snippets were shared back and forth, expanded upon, and grew from basement tapes to skyscraper dwellers.

Amidst the high pop sheen, Mike's lyrics and vocals provide a welcome crack in the veneer. They act as a glimpse through to the bare brickwork of the songs, exposing their human heart. Over a career spanning more than 20 years Mike has learned that life’s challenges don't go away, they shift and evolve with time, as do our relationships with those around us.

Our ability to be infantile or irrational persists (“I built a house out of angry bricks” – “Resurrection”), but so does our capacity for empathy (“Mistakes were made along the way / but they don’t define you” – “No Shame”). And even as those around us may reach the end of their tether (“Friends and family are all out of sympathy” – “Echoes”), we can still look inwards and make positive changes.

Much has been made of the duo's early singles' nostalgic feel and likeness to Depeche Mode among others. However, the album, as a whole, shares far more in common with the forward-thinking quirkiness of Sigur Rós frontman Jónsi's solo record Go. The best moments on Lies are also the most abstract and inventive, such as the off-kilter birdsong melodies of “Blemishes” and the twitchy propulsion of “Broken”.

A common theme that prevails through the Kinsella's work is the intricate interplay between layers of sounds and instruments. Experts at complex constructions that are never exclusive, Lies is a set of beautiful equations, whose workings are as entrancing as the solutions.

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