Review of Yellowcard's 'Southern Air'

Whatever you call a band like Yellowcard – pop-punk, posi-punk, alternative rock, or just straight up pop music – it is pretty hard to discredit them for what they’ve done for whatever genre you label them. In fact, you could say that Yellowcard is one of the most consistent bands out there today. So with their fifth studio album (second after a big hiatus), Southern Air brings their fans what they expect – good songs from start to finish.

“Awakening” is a catchy opener that is filled with catchy lyrical cliches that just so happens to work incredibly well for the band. The first single “Always Summer” was one of my Songs of the Summer this year, as it brings the feelings of being free and having fun back into modern radio-friendly music. “Here I Am Alive” is a letter that Ryan Key is writing for his past self, producing a very uplifting anthem with singer Tay Jardine of We Are The In Crowd. “Rivertown Blues” is their loudest effort on the disc, filled with some blistering drum work and mosh worthy speed.

For me, Yellowcard has always been great at their slower songs throughout their career – something that is kind of lacking in Southern Air. The two slowest songs, “Telescope” and “Ten” are nicely produced and played (although some of the lyrics are incredibly cheesy) “Ten” surprised me with it’s use of some country-style guitar playing and layering of Sean Mackin’s violin and of how well it sounds. However, none really captivate me like “Only One” did in 2003 or “Dear Bobbie” in 2007. Compared to those two, these songs are just bland and unoriginal. Their nice in the context of the album, but doesn’t quite reach the heights that they’ve set for themselves

The funny thing about Yellowcard is that they have not changed their sound since they debuted in 2003. They still have rather impressive drumming from LP, gentle violin playing from Sean Mackin, and simple fun vocal works from Ryan Key. Their 4/4 formula and sensitive lyrics makes for enjoyable, and oddly reminiscent to all of their previous material. That is not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, but something that’s very odd with that sub-genre. Take New Found Glory and All American Rejects. NFG is like Yellowcard in the realm of sounding the same on every album, and in my opinion, is a little bit taxing. Their latest outing Radiosurgery was just ok, nothing really spectacular. And for AAR, they try to make new sounds and textures from album to album, but have ultimately flopped in their last outing earlier this year. Both of their stars right now are fading away into the background, only being heard by die-hard fans. With Yellowcard, each album feels rather fresh, regardless of their simplicity. In fact, Southern Air is right up there sonically with Ocean Avenue, which is an ever so welcoming thing to hear.

Of course, if you’re not a Yellowcard fan, than this album is obviously not for you. Their sound stays pretty much the same (not that it’s a bad thing from my perspective), so if you hated their past materials, then this won’t change your opinion. In all honesty, their sound throughout this album was very samey samey. There were a couple of slower songs here and there, but the rest seemed pretty much up their level. And as long as I’m nitpicking, there’s also a giant disconnect between the last two songs “Ten” and “Southern Air” that kinda dampers my listening experience at the finish line (might just be the streaming feed through YouTube, or just a case of sloppy production). Either way, it put a bad taste in my mouth at the end – and almost cripples the gentle ballad “Ten” into a skipable song.

As the posi-punk music is growing up, its bigger acts are starting to fade away into the background a bit. Bands like The Wonder Years and Forever Came Calling are going to be grabbing for that spotlight now that some stars are starting to dim. However, it seems like Yellowcard still has some good years left in them before they too start to dim. Let’s hope that it’s not anytime soon.

Final Grade: B

Go Download: “Here I Am Alive”

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