After a bit of thought, it occurred to me that the Jacksonville, FL five-piece veterans Yellowcard, are a little like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Sure you could always go out there and get a loaded BLT (melodic mayonnaise, pickled percussion, hold the screamo), but when all else fails you always have that slice of Americana readily available and its a taste that never goes out of date. YC’s break-out hit “Ocean Avenue” and subsequent lower-profile releases (“Lights And Sounds,” “Paper Walls”) have all kept up with the catchy rock and positive/creative writing bar they have always set for themselves — even since their first album with front man Ryan Key, “One For The Kids.” This time, after the release of their favorable full-length “When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes,” the band decided that since there was so much positive energy coming from the fans and the group, the band went back into the recording studio almost immediately. The result is the latest album “Southern Air,” which feels like a blast from the past, blaring yellow sun rays on the cover and all.
Listeners won’t have to wait long to hear the chipper pop-rock that Yellowcard is famous for, as the album opener “Awakening,” starts the effort off right with harmonized vocals, complimentary violin-tinged melody, and of course a heaping bowl of catchy guitars. From then on, the album takes no breaks, sewing one end of a head-nodding, foot-tapping song to another. With the exception of the beautifully sung and slide-assisted acoustic ballad, “Ten,” “Southern Air” never lets off of the gas, strumming out addictive rock tracks that will flourish in fan’s and new listener’s ears alike. The band has also once again incorporated memorable one liners in their songs, ie “Surface Of The Sun“‘s story of reaching for the stars while understanding the higher you go the farther you have to fall,”This is a story full of restless nights. Do or do not, cause there is no try” as well as “Here I Am Alive” which is the quirky introspection on younger Ryan and how he used to be, “They say you don’t grow up, you just grow old. It’s safe to say I haven’t done both. I’ve made mistakes, I know I know. But here I am alive.” Ryan’s lyrics always run the line of being simple yet with an underlining brilliance, which spills over with purpose.
Knowing the band, you will always expect them to do Summer songs perfectly and this record is no different; with songs that exemplify the warm and breezy months of June, July, August, and September like “Always Summer” and “Southern Air,” both of which share strong performances from violin-rocker Sean Mackin and swift percussion from “LP” Longineu Parsons III. The former song of which has lyrics that really set the whole tone for this record, “I left home but there’s one thing that I still know. It’s always Summer in my heart and in my soul.” Also, the impressive performance on “Rivertown Blues” shouldn’t be skimmed over as wild guitar and violin solos make for a huge musical presence.
While it was becoming apparent that Yellowcard was still making music that made it’s way to the radio and popularity, the last few years their efforts kind of fell flat for me. “Ocean Avenue” just had so much energy and a positive force pushing it (ie. catchy songs, admiring lyrics) that simply hasn’t been able to make the jump to later records since. “Southern Air” however, has surpassed that bar set back in 2003 with some of the most endearing pop-rock you are likely to hear this year and in the entirety of the band discography. You will be hard pressed to find any flaws in this record, from the powerful and intricate rock in “Awakening,” to the touching tribute to Ryan’s recently passed aunt Stephanie, “Telescope,” and the satisfyingly complete pop-rock package of the albums striking title-track “Southern Air,” YC has really out done themselves this time; and it was all because the moment and energy felt right to make it, showing that timing is everything and this record hits all the right notes while also sharing touching stories that we can all relate to. Now it’s time for me to make a tasty Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich and spin “Southern Air” a few dozen more times. [Staff]
Score: 4.5 (out of 5)
Release Date: August 14th, 2012
Record Label: Hopeless Records
RIYL: The All-American Rejects, Amber Pacific, Jimmy Eat World
2. Surface Of The Sun
3. Always Summer
4. Here I Am Alive
5. Sleep In The Snow
6. A Vicious Kind
8. Rivertown Blues
10. Southern Air
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