Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
Yellowcard have to be one of the most consistent bands of the twenty first century when it comes to productivity. Despite being on hiatus between 2008 and 2010, they have churned out no less than seven albums since the turn of the century. But more important than quantity is quality and these guys certainly know the meaning of the latter.
Musically, the band have maintained a high standard across each of their successive releases and new album, Lift a Sail, is no exception. This is a record that is very Yellowcard, while also managing to stand apart from the rest of their discography by sounding and feeling bigger.
“Convocation” serves as a pleasant and moving violin led instrumental introduction with a classical air. It leads smoothly into the roaring drum beat of “Transmission Home,” which is soon joined by a delightfully heavy guitar riff. This is one of Yellowcard’s finest songs to date. It is loud and epic, with Ryan Key’s superb vocals lending an otherworldly atmosphere to the piece.
“Crash the Gates” begins with another loud, infectious riff that doesn’t relent as the verse commences. The chorus has a very celestial feel, with Key bursting into more impressive vocals while mesmerising guitars blare in the background. Overall, it carries a dire and urgent sound.
“Make Me So” is more of a classic, fast paced pop punk number. It features quiet verses that build into loud energetic choruses and showcases some upbeat guitar work.
It really wouldn’t be a Yellowcard album without a wonderfully heartfelt love song and “One Bedroom” is just that. It starts acoustically with a nicely paced beat, giving way to loud, heavy guitars about three quarters of the way through. The beautifully sung lyrics are incredibly moving and emotional. It eventually all fades out to some great guitar work. This is a definite high point of Lift a Sail and an instant Yellowcard classic.
A fast, electronic beat gets “Fragile and Dear” off to an interesting start. This electronic sound is maintained throughout but is soon joined by heavy and mellow guitars. Added to this is a nice violin solo by Sean Mackin that emphasizes the somber tone of the song in a chilling way.
“Illuminate” boasts terrific vocals during its choruses and outro that give it a dreamy, contemplative sound. The lyrics are very poetic, pondering the past, present and future. It is quite a reflective song with a lot of depth.
“Madrid” is a solemn, acoustically based entry. It’s light on the music, instead focusing on the vocals and lyrics. It’s very touching in its simplicity.
“The Deepest Well” is another classic punky anthem, featuring energetic riffs and beats. Ryan shares vocal duties here with Matty Mullins of Memphis May Fire and their voices complement each other quite well. There’s a very familiar Yellowcard sound to this, with fast paced guitars and a lively, upbeat vibe.
The album’s title track, “Lift a Sail”, is one of the more reserved additions, but that doesn’t stop it from being another definite highlight. The extraordinary wind effect during the choruses and stirring background violin work throughout make this something truly special and unique.
“MSK” is really a vehicle for the talents of Key and Mackin. It is almost exclusively vocals and violin, the former of which is haunting. Slowly, more of a beat picks up as things progress while the enthralling violin work maintains a poignant feeling throughout. There’s a vibe and lyrics that seem simultaneously sorrowful and hopeful.
“My Mountain” has a more upbeat sound, with Ryan declaring that he “left [himself] in every song, in every note.” The sincerity and passion of that line is admirable. It’s a lyric that seems to summarise the content and general theme of Lift a Sail as a whole. Musically, “My Mountain” also features nice instances of heavy guitar blasts.
Pianos and crisp, clear vocals sung with with a lot of emphasis and heart are what define closing track, “California.” It brings an emotional, somber end to the album. Yet there’s a feeling of optimism hidden within the melancholy tone and an amazing sense of love in the lyrics.
Yellowcard’s latest release is a mix of epic rock anthems and emotionally wrought ballads. There’s an extremely transcendent and contemplative feel and sound to the whole thing. While the lyrics are clearly close to Ryan Key’s heart, there’s a lot of relatability to be found in the words here, as is usually the case on a Yellowcard album. Musically, it features energetic guitars, rousing violins, heavy drums and splendid vocals. Lift a Sail is endowed with the familiar Yellowcard spirit, but with a larger, more grandiose feel.
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