Yellowcard Takes a Step Above Mediocre with “Lift a Sail”
There a two kinds of Yellowcard fans. Those of us who know they’re most popular hits, like “Only One,” “Ocean Avenue,” and (maybe) “Lights and Sounds”. The other comprises those of us who latched onto them from day one with songs like “Rocket” or “October Nights” off of some of their first albums. While the production quality of Yellowcard’s music has maintained a very steady increase from album to album—this band has what I personally consider to be some of the best-recorded drum tracks of any other pop-rock band out there—the overall composition of their music has been on somewhat of a decline. Since the release of Lights and Sounds back in 2006, Yellowcard really hasn’t put out any other hits. That is not to say, however, that they haven’t been recording good music. Some of my favorite Yellowcard material came from Paper Walls, the album they followed up Lights and Sounds with. Their more recent music, however, has taken a turn away from the typical Yellowcard album, where every single song is without a doubt a masterfully constructed piece of adult-informed angst. In their newest album release, Lift a Sail, there are a couple shining moments but the album as a whole lacks a necessary cohesiveness and strength that would have helped to make for a much more solid record. For referencing purposes, I recommend you find the album on Spotify right now and listen through the album with me as you go through this article—I’d love to hear what you think about it! The first two songs—a little introduction piece followed by the album’s lead-off track—are so awesome. A two-minute violin piece introduces the band’s album with a nice ode to their signature sound, which leads right into an extremely catchy and well-produced intro to the song ”Transmission Home”. One of my top songs off the album, they definitely started things off right.
Unfortunately, I was only met with disappointment by the album’s third track, “Crash the Gates.” “Crash the Gates” is simply just too average of a song for me to really enjoy hearing. The second half of the song is slightly over-produced in a way that just sort of clashes with any sort of organic-ness (yes, that’s now a word) that the song might have had on its own.
As for the next track, ”Make Me So”, I have very similar sentiments. The only thing that saves it is a really snappy breakdown in the second half of the track that I definitely didn’t see coming. While it does sound very similar to the intro to “Transmission Home” with a little more clutter, it’s a nice way to add something new to the track to keep it from sounding exactly like every other mainstream pop-punk song out there nowadays.
Check out this live acoustic rendition of “Make Me So”!
If you happen to be listening through the album with me right now, please just skip “One Bedroom”. That might be the only comment the track is worth, unfortunately—it’s a very lackluster attempt at a slow jam.
Instead, if you’re looking for something to appease that post-breakup sad soul of yours, check out the next track, “Fragile and Dear”. It’s definitely another one of the better songs off the album. While the verses are fairly produced with some electronic instruments, the chorus provide an extremely refreshing escape from that to mellow instrumentation and powerful vocals. If you’re a fan of Yellowcard’s violin magic, the second half of this song also contains a nice treat for you. Definitely one of the few tracks that I’d say is worth more than one listen.
Once you’re finished with that track, keep listening. Up next, “Illuminate”, is my favorite song overall from the album. It contains everything I love about Yellowcard; a perfect blend of old and new. If you happen to be keen to some of their other albums, this is a song that easily could have been included on their Paper Walls album (which happens to be my personal favorite, so no biases here, right?). The song has a great guitar riff and an awesome outro that really does separate it from most of the other cookie-cutter tracks on the album.
“Madrid” comes close to falling into the same trap to which “One Bedroom” succumbed. A seemingly half-assed attempt at a slow ballad, it really just doesn’t quite make it all the way there. The content of the song is a little deeper than love lost, which is nice to see, but the song itself just seems to stagnate a little too much for my personal liking.
Historically speaking, tracks that bands place after ballads are usually really solid. This is of course based on absolutely no evidence, but it seems that it would follow to reason. If this is indeed true, the track after “Madrid”, called “The Deepest Well”, probably should have been moved. It’s another very mediocre track on the album, and it really doesn’t add much of anything new to the record.
The album’s title track, though, “Lift a Sail” is, for a lack of a better word, simply a cool song. It incorporates all of the instruments in Yellowcard’s repertoire, and has a progression to it that is very representative of the album’s theme of overcoming adversity and moving on to what comes next.
There are three more tracks on the album, but out of them, there are two that really stand out. Third to last off the record, “MSK”, and the closing track, “California”, are the two ballads that Yellowcard were looking for among their numerous previous failed attempts. A violin track lays down the main foundation for “MSK” with a very soft and non-invasive piano accompaniment. Basically acoustic with the exception of some light drum rolling towards the end, it’s the perfect love song (at least, as perfect as a love song can get when you’re no longer in middle school). “California utilizes the piano as its foundation and gives us something a little different to vibe to. As the only instrument in the song other than the vocals, the piano accompanies the lead vocals extremely well. Well enough that it doesn’t even bother me that this happens to be yet another song about another girl. That’s what we expect from these guys, anyway, yeah?
When you’re done listening through, I’d recommend going back and listening to Paper Walls or Lights and Sounds just to remind yourself of how incredible this band really is, despite a slightly disappointing album release. I have faith that Yellowcard will be back with another album, and something tells me that their next release will be the catalyst that blasts them out of the mellow rut into which they’ve been slowly falling.