Review : Yellowcard - Southern Air
SputnikmusicAs Yellowcard stamped its triumphant return, When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes, with the closing track ‘Be The Young’, I found myself more affected than I probably should have been by a pop-punk album at the age of twenty four. We all tend to think of growing up as something that happens when you are a child, and perhaps as something that continues into your young adult life as well. There’s no accounting for where the time goes – we just learn lessons, make memories, and become the people we think we are supposed to be. Once that’s all settled, we are “grown ups.” But the line, “this is endless and I know, growing up has just begun”, for as simple of a notion as it is, really got me thinking about how we perceive growth – both in ourselves and in others. As someone who has journeyed halfway through his twenties, graduated college, and now holds a full-time job, I’ve started to realize – as Ryan Key cautioned in the aforementioned quote – that growth isn’t finite. It’s something that occurs gradually from the time you are born until the moment you pass. I think that it only makes sense for bands to progress in a similar fashion. Their first few steps usually fall upon unstable ground, testing the waters in search of an identity. Then, with more time and experience, they blossom into confident musicians. In Yellowcard’s case, we see a band that has been remarkably consistent, to the point where they’ve been accused of not progressing much at all. While it may be true that the band has remained loyal to its sound over all these years, there is something to be said for dependability in today’s perpetually evolving musical climate. For many fans, Yellowcard has become a staple of pop-punk. Not only are they a symbol of our youth, but they have grown up with us – laughing when we laugh, crying when we cry, and just sharing our experiences with us. Therefore, Southern Air isn’t just the next installment in Yellowcard’s discography – to some of us, it’s the next chapter in our life....full text
IdobiCall it a comeback for Yellowcard. Despite their return from hiatus in 2011, these legends of pop punk have left fans waiting for something as hard-hitting and memorable as their early hits for nearly a decade. Their sixth full length, Southern Air, proves the wait to be more than worth it. Infused with a resurge of energy, touching lyrics, and an obvious wave of newfound inspiration, Southern Air finally gives fans exactly what they’ve been waiting for. With the familiar production of Neal Avron and guest vocals from fan favorites Alex Gaskarth (All Time Low), Cassadee Pope (Hey Monday), and Tay Jardine (We Are The In Crowd) paired with masterful writing that rivals that of the classic Ocean Avenue, Yellowcard have constructed an album with true lasting value.
It takes no time at all to realize that Southern Air far surpasses the quality of its last few predecessors. Opening track “Awakening” begins with vocalist Ryan Key singing of celebrating life and pleading for a new beginning. The upbeat track is immediate evidence that this is the beginning of a new and improved era for the band. Followup track “Surface of the Sun” grapples with the same idea that despite the trials life can bring, the will to be someone amazing can always conquer. First single “Always Summer,” the catchy anthem that graced the ears of Warped Tour goers all summer, represents the entirety of Southern Air, managing to overflow with positivity while simultaneously touching on the internal struggles that everyone deals with.
Musically, Yellowcard still have their classic pop punk sound made unique by the beautifully-placed violin of Sean Mackin. With a natural sound that demands attention without being contrived or overbearing, Southern Air is quintessential Yellowcard but with a newfound maturity that brings forth emotion that was missing from the band’s last few releases. Even on the most contemplative tracks, “Telescope” and “Ten,” we are met with an undertone of uplifting drum beats and sweet violin melodies. Despite being paired with more serious subject matter, the stunning essence of every track resonates with feelings of hope and contentment. Southern Air culminates with its amazing title track, which takes a look at the simple things that come to be the makeup of a person’s being....full text
AbsolutepunkFor a band as established and celebrated as Yellowcard, the decision to return from a hiatus is a weighty one. It’s not as simple as waking up, getting back into the studio, putting out a record and playing a few shows. There is a lot at stake, and the band’s legacy is part of those stakes. Putting out a bad or even a mediocre record can tarnish an otherwise sterling career, and this is something the fans consider, too. Certainly, some reunion records we could have done without – even some reunion records that have come out fairly recently. Many would rather not have their outlook on their favorite band be affected by a hasty and ill-advised reunion album – in some cases, the allure of “what could have been” might have been more satisfying than the product of the reunion.
Yellowcard is just not one of those bands. Last March, the Jacksonville natives released When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes, a record that I wrote served as a statement. A statement that not only was Yellowcard active again, but that the band was truly and sincerely back. The album was a refresher, essentially a crash course in all things Yellowcard, as the band took a sound that we were all familiar with and crafted a comeback album that stood shoulder-to-shoulder with its past work. It was a perfectly executed return to the scene. But with Southern Air, Yellowcard expands on that statement and reveals a monumental triumph in the process. Southern Air is the definitive Yellowcard album, featuring Ryan Key’s most intimate and personal storytelling, Sean Mackin’s most emotive violin contributions, and Longineu Parsons’ ever-steady backbone behind the drum kit.
Most of us can recognize a Ryan Key chorus as quickly as anything by now, and Yellowcard’s sixth studio effort kicks off with a big one on “Awakening.” It’s not the chorus that stands out on this track though, but rather the verses, during the second of which Key belts out, “Yes, I miss you still / And probably always will / I’m living with a busted heart that I will have until / I find the strength I know is somewhere in bones / To pull the curtain up again and get on with the show / At least you know that I still care enough to write.” Key’s lyrics have been a mixed bag ever since the band got its start, with distinguishable highs and lows, but there’s no doubting that his lyrical prowess has magnified on this record.
“The Surface of The Sun” kicks the door down with a huge rock sound, one of the more aggressive songs in the Yellowcard catalog. The drums and guitars are big here, and the song shares similarities with a sister track, “Rivertown Blues,” later in the sequencing. The latter of these two is more impressive, and is also the uncontested album highlight for me, with a punk-first beat from Parsons and a wailing guitar solo from Ryan Mendez. Parsons goes wild on the drums during the prechorus as Key sings, “You wanna know what I’m thinking? / I think about back then / Back when we built something new / The world was ours to conquer / And we were not afraid to lose ourselves.”
As always, Yellowcard throws in a few slower songs to mix up the pacing during the album’s 10 tracks, and they each serve a different purpose. “Telescope” is a brooding, building number, reminiscent most of the Paper Walls era, while “Ten” is the emotional highpoint of the album. Key delivers an intensely heartfelt story about a child lost before birth, with so many personal references that an overcoming image is drawn up for the listener. The song is so intimate and so strongly impacted by Mackin’s emotive violin underbelly that by the time it’s over, you come up for air, gasping for breath – it’s Key’s strongest effort on an album full of strong efforts. The other midtempo song, the Patrick Stump-co-written “Here I Am Alive,” again allows Key’s lyrics come to the forefront, this time as he offers insight into the highs and lows of his band’s career and hiatus....full text
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