Published on November 2nd, 2012 | by Phoenix0
Yellowcard’s Latest Scores a Goal
Yellowcard, to me, has always been one of those bands that’s resisted classification somewhat. I always want to cram them into the “pop-punk/emo” pigeonhole, but for some reason I just… can’t. Maybe it’s the electric violin. Maybe it’s Ryan Key’s vocals. Whatever the reason, they’ve just always seemed more interesting than traditional pop-punk outfits. Their latest album, Southern Air, continues that tradition.
Yellowcard’s lyrical themes are fairly boilerplate for the most part: failed relationships, fights among friends, and rousing anthems designed to inspire action among a group of people. The album succeeds most with the latter theme, with the songs “Surface of the Sun,” and “Here I Am Alive,” contributing to a slow buildup of energy in the first part of the album. The songs about failed relationships get a little repetitive towards the middle and latter halves of the album, but still are solid.
Into that repetition steps “Ten,” probably the most interesting song on the album. “Ten” is written from the perspective of a young couple who faced an unplanned pregnancy, but gave up the child for whatever reason. The father wonders what it would have been like if they had kept the child. He understands and accepts the decision they made at the time and probably doesn’t regret it, but still wonders about what might have been. The good thing about Yellowcard’s lyrics is while they usually describe a negative or regretful situation, they always feel honest, and never melodramatic or forced. I think that’s what distinguishes them from the usual punk bands. Also interesting is the title track, which talks about singer Ryan Key’s recent move from Los Angeles to Georgia to be closer to his family. Yellowcard’s last two albums have been released on indie labels, as they’ve faded from pop charts following their hiatus from 2007-2011. Those two albums both have a “getting back to their roots” feel that the song “Southern Air” underscores.
Of course, I would be remiss without discussing the most obvious distinction Yellowcard has from other bands: their violinist, Sean Mackin. Many rock bands use a violin in some of their songs, but hardly any have one as a full-time member of the band. Mackin makes his presence felt on most tracks, but probably most clearly in “Always Summer” and “Ten.” He has an excellent ability to adapt his solos to the needs of each song, whether he needs a rockier sound like on the former track, or more legato and melodic on the latter track.
Overall, this album is a strong effort from a strong band, with relatable lyrics and strong musicianship. You get the sense that Yellowcard puts a lot of effort into their songwriting, so that they don’t sound the same as every other band out there. Maybe they’re not especially unique, but they keep it different enough to hold any listener’s interest. Probably the biggest knocks on the album are the aforementioned repetitive stretch, and their underutilization of several strong guest vocalists on “Telescope.” I wouldn’t put Southern Air in the same category as their best albums, Ocean Avenue and When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes, but I think it’s probably better than their other major-label albums, Lights & Sounds and Paper Walls. I’d give the album an 8/10, and would definitely recommend a listen. I’m going to see them live in 2 weeks (with our resident photographer, Fox), so check back here for a review of that show.