Perfect Songs – “Never Meant” by American Football

In our first installment I talked about bands versus singer-songwriters. Here’s what a band brings to the table that I’ve rarely heard a singer-songwriter accomplish: every part of the song represents a uniquely creative musical idea. When I heard this drum part, I immediately wanted to sit down and learn it. Then I wanted to learn the intertwined guitar parts, which are in the band’s own idiosyncratic tuning. And then the bassline. And the vocals. Everything about this song is f*cking magical.

In particular I enjoy the parts of the song where the lyrics are stretched so far apart in time that they’re hard to parse as a full sentence and are processed primarily as just chunks of words. At the end they add up to the very conversational, almost stammering statement, “Not to be, overly dramatic, I just think it’s best. Because you can’t miss what you forget. So let’s just pretend everything and anything between you and me was never meant.”

The band’s chief songwriter, Mike Kinsella, makes his living as indie rock singer-songwriter Owen. The band broke up shortly after the debut LP was released in 1999, but the album just kept going, from mixtape to mix disc, via word of mouth and the Internet. When the band decided in 2014 to reunite for a quick tour, they thought they’d play a few small shows and go back to their lives. They did not anticipate multiple sold-out shows per city. The band has since released two followup LPs as of 2018.

The whole debut record is full of creatively composed arrangements and beautifully sad lyrics. For musicians, the song is a great puzzle to learn, for non-musicians it’s a warmly sad breakup song. In my case, given the person who introduced me to the song and the relationship we had, it’s both.

>> Download Never Meant or the album
American Football from