It’s been just under a year and a half since Yellowcard released, When You’re Through Sinking, Say Yes, their first record off-hiatus. The album drew consistent high reviews, showing hope for a band fresh off of a two year break. Now, in the summer of 2012 with the release of Southern Air, Yellowcard are back to take total control of the season and the scene that they have so strongly held onto.
From the opening riff of “Awakening,” this feels like a Yellowcard album – fast pop-punk that makes you feel like there’s some serious fun to be had somewhere. Key’s voice and lyrics are solid, and strongly complimented by Mendez, Parsons, Portman, and Mackin, who shines as always with YC’s trademark violinwork.
“Surface of the Sun” leads well from the opening track, laced with crisp strings and background “ohh-ohh-ohh’s” behind Key singing “We were born to be the ones / and burn like the surface of the sun / to show the faithless what we’ve done” before drawing into catchy-as-hell the lead single “Always Summer.” The track, which is one of the better pop songs you’ll hear this summer, features everything a Yellowcard fan, new or old, would expect from a single; Mackin’s string solos thrown between verses, accompanied by lyrics about letdown and love (“I just want to say I know I let you down / but I’m letting out / and I found a way that I can tell the truth / make it up to you”), all going hand-in-hand to make solid pop-punk music.
“Here I Am Alive” brings in guest vocals from co-Warped Tour 2012 stars We Are the In Crowd’s Tay Jardine. The duet of Key and Jardine’s voices flows perfectly, mixing with one another during a clap-along chorus of “They say you don’t grow up / you just grow old / it’s safe to say I have done both.”
The one-two combo of Mendez and Parsons flexes its muscles at the album’s halfway mark, “Sleep in the Snow.” With each further listen, the more it feels like an easy contender for the second single, with Key’s vocals stretching to high notes, a piano and violin intermission, witty lyrics, and a catchy “whoa-ohh” chorus.
“A Vicious Kind” lives up to its title. Portman gives a steady bassline beneath a hard-hitting chorus of “I want you to know I’m not sorry at all / you can’t buy forgiveness or blame me for the fall / All I ever wanted was for us to beat the odds / I thought we were lucky ones / but all your luck is gone.”
The soft-starting “Telescope” brings Jardine back for a second shift, along with All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth and Cassadee Pop of Hey Monday. With four fantastically-talented vocalists, the track seems like it could be overcompensating, trying to overstock on singers. But honest lyrics and an all around spot-on performance from all members makes this one of the album’s standout track.
The introduction into “Rivertown Blues” allows you no chance to catch your breath, jumping directly into a drum-heavy performance and giving Parsons a moment to take the reins. This is easily where Ryan Mendez shows his stuff, ripping into a solo at the tail end of the track before fading away.
Aside from Frank Turner’s “Long Live the Queen,” there aren’t many songs that I can think of that have taken me more than one try to get through or moved me on my first listen. But where “Rivertown Blues” hits you with hard drums and guitar solos, the acoustic “Ten” tugs on your heartstrings and sends chills down your spine. Key gives us some of the strongest, emotionally honest, and heart-wrenching lyrics I’ve ever heard, and though Yellowcard are known for being a rare band to utilize violin, its presence here is gorgeous and stands out as if it’s being used for the first time in their catalog. It is, easily, one of the most beautiful, haunting songs I’ve heard.
Thankfully, the retrospective “Southern Air” picks up our spirits and strongly closes out the record. For a band that has been around for so long, it’s refreshing to hear a hometown anthem on their eighth record, providing a strong finale to a solid album. As the album draws to a close, the chorus repeats “This southern air is all I need / breathe it in and I can see / camera sets behind my eyes / All the colors of my life / This southern air is in my lungs / it’s every word I’ve sung / It seems the only truth I know / This will always be home” before fading to a stop.
Southern Air is the type of album that will please any Yellowcard listener and make fans out of new ears. Throughout ten tracks and forty minutes, the band delivers a little something for any taste. Coming off of a well-deserved spot on this summer’s Warped Tour, and with a new tour lined up for the fall, this album gives ten new tracks to add to an already impressive list. To sum it up, Yellowcard have delivered us one of the summer’s better records and a breath of fresh air.
Total Runtime: < 40 minutes
Release Date: August 14th
2. Surface Of The Sun
3. Always Summer
4. Here I Am Alive (f. Tay Jardine)
5. Sleep In The Snow
6. A Vicious Kind
7. Telescope (f. Alex Gaskarth, Tay Jardine, and Cassadee Pope)
8. Rivertown Blues
10. Southern Air
Ryan Key – Lead vocals, guitar, piano
Sean Mackin – Violin, vocals
Longineu W. Parsons III – Drums
Ryan Mendez – Guitar
Josh Portman – Bass
Written By: Eric Riley