Shit happens … or so the saying goes. Well, if you’re the American Analog Set, capitalism happens. That is, your label crumbles two days into the making of your sixth full-length, leaving just a band where there once was an indie band. Still, despite the irony (or maybe because of it), Austin’s American Analog Set soldiered on through thirteen months, three studios, and two states to create the appropriately titled Set Free, a studied, dazzling collection of minimalist rock that makes an asset out of diversity.
The ingredients, even the method, is much the same throughout these twelve tracks: two- or three-chord guitar, breezy percussion, lazy bass, synth drone, and a bit of shimmering vibes all played at the pace of a three-martini strut, Andrew Kenny’s hushed vocals intoning something vaguely sweet and a little sinister. It sounds like the Velvet Underground run through molasses, but it makes for some of the best music of the band’s ten-year career.
“First of Four” and “The Green Green Grass” are little nuggets of jubilant longing that have Kenny pining for an unattainable love while maintaining enough of a sense of humor to utter a line such as, “I’ll make it easy, either you want him or you want me.” And if any band can still write a song as breathlessly gorgeous as “She’s Half” — a soft tune with harmonies that ride like a Corvette toward a Kansas sunset — after a decade in and out of studios and on and off stages, it need not concern itself with earthly concerns like record labels or their ilk.
Maturity can be — and often is — a dirty word for a rock band. It describes listlessness, irrelevance, lameness. Such is not the case for the American Analog Set. Set Free is a triumph, full of tunes that affect well beyond their modest means.