For fans who have quite literally grown up with Yellowcard, their 9th album (do you feel old yet?) Lift A Sail is certainly far from their usual peppy musicality and catchy choruses that get stuck in your head for life. But when you think about it, they’ve been around for almost 2 decades (if you didn’t feel old before, you should totally feel old now) and listeners (including myself) still still keep coming back for more regardless of what they put out – a very obvious sign of success. Lift A Sail signifies their growth as a band and is by far their most personal and emotional album to date due to more than a handful of heavy events occurring since the release of 2012’s Southern Air (including the departure of original drummer Longineu Parsons III).
Musically, Lift A Sail easily reveals dramatic personal experiences through how heavy the instrumentation and vocal tone are (apart from the lyrics of course) and is started off with pure violins in Convocation. Speaking of violins, this particular album incorporated a lot (and I mean A LOT) more into its tracks than usual and in turn portray Yellowcard’s musical maturity. However, the significantly slower pace paired with the growing amount of violins and frontman Ryan Key‘s emotional vocals kind of give each track an unintentional gloomy feel that we’re not used to. It’s definitely not a terrible thing considering the less-than-ideal series of events that have occurred and it truly showcases a deeper connection between the music and the listener.
With Lift A Sail being Yellowcard’s experimental album, I was happy to hear that they didn’t veer off in a completely different direction all together. There are tracks like “Fragile and Dear”,”Illuminate”, and the album’s title track that play around with voice distortions and electronic elements while still ending with “California”, a track free from any musical alterations. Key also incorporates his newfound married life experiences in hauntingly beautiful melodies like the acoustic-y “Madrid”, the Maroon 5-esque “MSK” and first released single “One Bedroom”. They keep long-time fans happy with upbeat anthems like “Transmission Home”, “Crash The Gates”, and “Make Me So” (which could easily be reminiscent of “Light Up The Sky” from 2007’s Paper Walls) as well as a continuation to the series of tracks about family members in Key’s life (this one in particular in the perspective of his late grandfather) called “My Mountain”.
Yellowcard is one of those few bands that can pretty much incorporate any type of theme in their music without trying too hard and whose skill absolutely shines through in “The Deepest Well” and “One Bedroom”. Not only can they meet high expectations for love songs, but they can also create uplifting ‘believe-in-yourself’ anthems.
If you’re looking for an old-school Yellowcard kind of feel, “The Deepest Well” is the song for you. It’s very much a track discussing that ongoing battle of facing “the barricades ahead”of those who are just waiting for that perfect moment to knock you down with “compliments like falling rocks” and the like. When you’re “crawling up the walls for so long” and having people constantly drag you down, there’s always that underlying feeling of wanting to give up. Key (featuring the vocals of Memphis May Fire‘s Matty Mullins) represents that person on the sideline cheering you on in the fight and can be indicated in lines like “I will take a torch with me/and light the way for you to see”.
I’m probably not the only one who appreciates a well-written and not God-awfully cheesy love song and “One Bedroom” is the absolute epitome of that. I wasn’t sure what to make of it being the first released single, but after hearing it along with the rest of Lift A Sail it was apparent that they released yet another romantic jewel that raises the bar for rock ballads everywhere. With this album being the first for Key as a married man, “One Bedroom” experiments with a combination of acoustic guitars, violin, and electronic drums yet still holds on to the past musicality that we all know and love (think “Only One” from Ocean Avenue). Powerful guitar riffs and passionate vocals that grow as the song continues on give this song a more personal touch that proves that it is way more than just another love song. “One Bedroom” is so cute and romantic that it makes me want to gag and yearn for a love like that all at the same time.
There is an extremely prominent growth in Lift A Sail that makes all of the experimentation in this album worthwhile. Younger fans can easily appreciate the modern electronic elements while long-time fans can relish in the absolute beauty of each song’s lyrics. With all of the crazy stuff that’s happened in their personal lives in the past two years, it’s not surprising that they chose to make this effort completely based on those experiences, which in turn makes you want to curl up in a ball on the floor and cry your little eyes out (trust me, this is a compliment). While I personally prefer some old-school Yellowcard, l also appreciate how much heart and soul was put into this album and should absolutely be seen as an exceptional work of art.