In the face of unrelenting volume, what’s more punk than turning down? That’s the core conceit of the American Analog Set, an Austin band who, over the course of a decade, chose subtlety and silence as its twin musical characteristics. Anchored by the hushed voice of Andrew Kenny, AmAnSet (as they’re known to their small-but-passionate fanbase) crafted a handful of beautiful, intimate albums. While the group has since called it quits, their 2001 pinnacle, Know By Heart, recently received a full vinyl re-release, packaged with a bunch of demos.
Listening to the album all these years later, it’s hard not to factor in the surrounding time period. The group started out crafting songs out of lengthy jams, but after losing a few members, Kenny decided to simplify and write most of Know By Heart himself. There’s a focus to the sound: acoustic guitars and vibraphone fill in the melodic spaces and the drumming–while subdued–almost sounds like a drum machine. The fact that the record was released just months before 9/11 gives it added, if unintentional, emotional heft. “I’m on your side,” Kenny confesses on the gorgeous opener (and hilariously titled) “Punk As F***.” While the pop punk of blink-182 and the dance-pop of Jennifer Lopez dominated the charts, Know By Heart charted a different path, becoming a cult-classic in the nascent indie underground.
It’s only fitting that blink-182 themselves would later acknowledge their love for the record, with singer/bassist Mark Hoppus calling it “one of the best albums from the greatest band that never got the light it deserved.” Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene cites it as well, and Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie liked the band so much he even appeared on “The Postman”–the melancholy folk-pop of the song seems to point directly towards Death Cab’s later style. Even with the high-profile accolades, Know By Heart is a small record, but even the smallest can make big ripples.
Catch a full interview with Andrew Kenny on the Austin Music Experience this Friday at noon and again at 11 pm on KUTX 98.9.