When they returned from their hiatus, Yellowcard stunned audiences with the record When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes. After listening to this record for only two minutes, I instantly knew that the fire that they ignited across the world was still blazing. Southern Air is a classic – full of spirit, invigorating ethos, and tunes with enough lyrical charisma and integrity to showcase their continuing progression and maturity.
They sound better than ever when the record kicks off with “Awakening,” getting right to the pop-punk with no filler. The track is classic YC in pure form, with just the right amount of punch. It’s utterly infectious. “Surface of the Sun” keeps it moving, showcasing Ryan Key’s lyrical prowess in full stride (ie: the goofy but catchy one-liner “do or do not/there is no try” in the first verse), while being filled with so much raw energy. “Always Summer” is a perfect summer treat, so roll the windows down and get this track rolling on full blast. You’ll see that the furious fretwork, bass lines, drumming, and noodle-y violin leads are right where they should be in the mix, and the production doesn’t falter one bit.
“Here I Am Alive,” which is the equivalent to WYTTSY’s ballistic track “Life of Leaving Home,” shares the concepts about growing up and doing what you love – and coming out on the other side through the struggle. It hits equally hard and the more string-focused approach works wonders. That contrast works well going into another heavy hitter, “Sleep in the Snow.” This song would fit perfectly on Paper Walls, the record that preceded WYTTSY. The layers of harmonies that envelope this song work incredibly well in the progressive buildup during the bridge, and the chorus is one of the best on the record (they’re all amazing though, I mean come on).
“A Vicious Kind” is arguably the record’s heaviest ball-buster, with the ensemble of crunchy and driving guitar work and some of Key’s most dynamic vocals really bringing this one home. Heading right into “Telescope,” which is on the softer side compared to the former, it brings another level of contrast for their stellar musicianship. One of the great things about YC is they don’t try to fake anything else, they know exactly who they are. Sure, the lack of left turns and strange arrangements do leave less to the imagination about what their new songs sound like, but why potentially ruin a great thing? YC have got the formula nailed down, as violin player Sean Mackin mentioned in this interview I did with them back last year. They know what they’re doing and how to do it right.
Moving towards the end of the record, “Rivertown Blues” is another perfect summer slammer, complete with a deliciously punk intro. You’ll find this one on repeat for sure. “Ten” is the traditional melancholy song they crank out with every record, knowing they can’t do too many but not using them as an excuse to be soft. This song in particular, compared to the other songs like it on other records, is the saddest and most heartbreaking of them all. It is incredibly moving, and not only warrants but alludes itself to special attention. Key absolutely kills on this song, delivering the kind of performance that would garner a lifetime’s worth of respect. This is easily one of the best songs on the record. Knowing they can’t end an album on that note though, they come back for one last piece of “Southern Air,” which ironic to my previous words is the title track. Returning back to pop-punk, the final song drives home a peaceful but forward feeling of content. It rings out with the message of being home, which is a feeling everyone can relate to.
Yellowcard have really outdone themselves again, proving that even after shattering expectations with a record that no one thought they could make after their hiatus, they could outdo even that record with this one. Southern Air is the summer delight everyone could have hoped for, so roll down your windows and feel the breeze as you soak it in. It will easily stand on its own as another great notch for their continuing belt of success. Bravo gentlemen, bravo.