Album Review: Yellowcard - 'Southern Air'

19 August 2012 | 10:32 pm | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

All the things you love about Yellowcard, taken to a new level. Yellowcard aren't just back, they are better.

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Considering Yellowcard's last full length, When You’re Through Thinking Say Yes was released a mere 18 months ago, many people wouldn’t be shunned in expecting very little from Southern Air. But think again.

After coming back from hiatus, last March Yellowcard released a record that served to prove to everyone that after three years, not only were they making music again, but Yellowcard were well and truly back. The album served as a reminder of what the band could do, taking the sound that everyone was familiar with and creating an album that could slot nicely into the group’s discography. Now, a little more than a year later Yellowcard have released Southern Air - an album that takes that fundamental Yellowcard sound and brings it to a whole new level. Led by Ryan Key’s passionate vocals and intimate storytelling, coupled with the clash of Sean Mackin’s melodic violin and the crashing of Longineu Parsons’ drum kit, this is a renewed style.

Awakening’ is the perfect album opener. Its frantic pace easily matched with melodic undertones begins the album with a much-needed burst of energy. It works as a perfect reminder of why Yellowcard are still so highly regarded in the pop punk genre. Key's credits this energy to the time off the band had during their 2-year hiatus, and the opener pays homage to that west-coast lifestyle.

As the full-length continues, you hear everything that has made Yellowcard a hallmark presence in the genre - ever reliable and brilliantly melodic. And then, ‘Here I Am Alive’ begins. While Yellowcard have never been afraid to create a mainstream sounding pop track, it has never been something they have brought to the forefront. But, with ‘Here I Am Alive’ that is exactly what they have done. It is a simple, boppy, straight up pop tune detailing the highs and lows of the band’s career and hiatus...and it works. The track is also assisted by the sugary sweet female vocals of We Are The In Crowd’s Tay Jardine and co-writer effort from Patrick Stump.

The pop sensibilities of this track are perfectly contrasted by 'Rivertown Blues'. It is in many ways the fundamental pop/punk song. Carried by Parson’s frantic, hard-hitting work on the drum kit, the pace never ceases for the majority of the track. It is also a strong reminder of Yellowcard’s take on the genre as soft, melodic violin lines clash and flow between punchy drums and quick guitars, all carrying Key’s crisp vocals. Together, these two tracks showcase the Yellowcard sound spectrum.

As always, Yellowcard thread in a few slower tracks at just the right moments to break up the pacing of the album. ‘Telescope’ is a sweetly paced, building number featuring backing vocals from Alex Gaskarth (All Time Low), Cassadee Pope (ex-Hey Monday) and Tay Jardine (We Are The In Crowd). ‘Ten’ is the album’s emotional highpoint. For the most part it is an acoustic track, driven by Key’s soft vocals and intimate storytelling, simultaneously carried by emotive violin and flowing guitar lines. The song tells the story of a child lost before birth, and it is personal and perfectly placed at the tail end of the album.

Southern Air’ rounds out the album perfectly. An ode to the band’s home and roots, it is exactly the catchy style Yellowcard have mastered throughout their career. It is a track that defines exactly why Yellowcard had to continue making music.

The strongest part of this album is its consistency. There isn’t a single track that falters or misses the mark. The album is paced out evenly and as cohesively as possible. The key ingredient in this album is not that Yellowcard are doing something different, but rather that they have returned to the original fire and passion that first defined the band.

While Southern Air wont shock or surprise you, it is definitely going to be an album that you return to. Where WYTTSY paved a path for Yellowcard to come back on, Southern Air has proven that Yellowcard are still at the top of their game. It ensures people realise they are still a major player in the genre. It is Yellowcard doing what Yellowcard do best. That is, blurring the lines between hard-hitting pop punk and catchy, pop tunes. Equally, it shows the group's abilty to craft tracks filled with huge hooks, sunny choruses, heartfelt lyrics and upbeat tempos...only this time it's taken to a new level. While, the album might not have any exceptional highlights this isn’t a bad thing. Southern Air is a complete album from beginning to end and it doesn’t miss a beat.

1. Awakening
2. Surface Of The Sun
3. Always Summer
4. Here I Am Alive
5. Sleep In The Snow
6. A Vicious Kind
7. Telescope
8. Rivertown Blues
9. Ten
10. Southern Air