Rhythm & Views

American Analog Set

The American Analog Set (AmAnSet) normally record their albums in living rooms and bedrooms. Set Free, however, was recorded not only in houses, but in actual studios all over the country, since singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer Andrew Kenny lives in Brooklyn, and the rest of the band lives in Austin. But you'd never guess anything was that different.

Over the years, AmAnSet's albums have not changed much, but they don't have to--their sound is stability in musical form. It's all midranges, comfortable and relaxed and never extreme: brushes on the drums, clean guitars, vibraphone, organ and Kenny's hushed vocals. Beautiful in its ability to stretch within its own limits--which Set Free does--it's 12 more AmAnSet songs that perpetuate their stable mood.

AmAnSet can make a song coolly rock without the traditional noise factor: Their very method of understatement, combined with the lyrics, gives the songs just the right amount of lip. On "Cool Kids Keep," instead of getting louder, Kenny gets quieter by the end, nearly whispering, "The cooler kids will live forever." The only percussion on "She's Half" is a tambourine, and layered vocal harmonies give the song a dreamy quality, yet it's one of the catchier songs. The album gets progressively thicker, with even a little distortion on the guitars, but by the last song, "Fuck This ... I'm Leaving," we're back to near-whispered vocals and twinkling vibraphone. The record ends in the same mood in which it began: stable, comfortable and relaxed.