Over the years, by giving their output incongruous or humorous handles, American Analog Set could apply a little friction to their mellow, quietly gleaming songs. Like calling the brightly sighing opener to 2001's Know by Heart "Punk as Fuck," or labeling an early single "High Fidelity vs. Guy Fidelity." The practice continued through 2003's Promise of Love, which stole the blabbing radio phrase "Continuous Hit Music" for a song, and it's alive and well in 2005 on Set Free, AmAnSet's Arts & Crafts debut. Andrew Kenny uses a sports cliché to delineate a damaged heart on "Play Hurt," and the song's low-end groove is meatier than the band's been in a while. American Analog Set have been accused of writing the same song over and over -- and over -- again, and Set Free isn't immune to that. The instrumental "(Theme From) Everything Ends" could be from anywhere in their career. It's certainly polite, but by this point it's probably also the sort of thing they write on autopilot. Fortunately, on most of Set Free American Analog Set seem refreshed inside their established formula. Opener "Born on the Cusp" builds insistently on lingering vibraphone and acoustic guitar, while "Immaculate Heart 2" twinkles on the warm fringes of post-rock. Kenny sings louder than a whisper on "She's Half," his voice layering over itself like a more intellectual, less eccentric Wayne Coyne as he recounts an old romance in flickering remembrance, and "Green Green Grass" could sell Saturns with its squirrelly backwards guitars and tick-along beat. In a final note of song title incongruity, Set Free culminates in "Fuck This...I'm Leaving." Naturally, it begins as one of the record's most fragile things, Kenny's vocal hesitating like a menagerie on the edge of a high shelf. But it gets rewardingly louder later, and offers a suitably pretty end to an album that effectively reshuffles what seemingly could not be reshuffled.
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus