Monday, January 18, 2016

Yellowcard: Lift a Sail [2014] — Album Review

Ryan Key: Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Keys
Sean Mackin: Violin, Backing Vocals
Ryan Mendez: Lead Guitar, Bass, Percussion
Nate Young: Drums, Percussion
Diana Wade: Viola
Joann Whang: Cello
Produced by Neal Avron

1. Convocation – 1:56
2. Transmission Home – 4:18
3. Crash the Gates – 3:20
4. Make Me So – 3:11
5. One Bedroom – 4:35
6. Fragile and Dear – 4:04
7. Illuminate – 4:06
8. Madrid – 2:07
9. The Deepest Well – 3:57
10. Lift a Sail – 3:55
11. MSK – 3:46
12. My Mountain – 3:59
13. California – 4:11
Total Runtime: 47:25

Lift a Sail is the ninth album from Yellowcard, and marks a significant departure in sound from their pre-hiatus (Ocean Avenue, Paper Walls) and post-hiatus (When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes and Southern Air) records. Lift a Sail is much less pop-punky than Yellowcard has ever been, and this is the first album without longtime drummer Longineau Parsons.
Lift a Sail opens with a violin and cello solo—"Convocation"—which transitions nicely into "Transmission Home". With some heavy guitar, unless you were told, you probably wouldn't guess that you were listening to Yellowcard until you heard Ryan Key's voice. "Transmission Home" doesn't really sound like old Yellowcard, but, that's not a bad thing. In fact, "Transmission Home" is pretty freaking great.
"Crash the Gates" was the first single from Lift a Sail, and it was definitely a good choice for the first single. While not as awesome as "Transmission Home", "Crash the Gates" still manages to hold up in its own right. "Make Me So" is nice, with some awesome guitar work, and "One Bedroom" is stellar, both songs have great lyrics, and "One Bedroom" just sounds beautiful. "Fragile and Dear" rides the soft waves left by "One Bedroom" by keeping it nice and soft, and "Illuminate" picks up the pace without destroying the flow. "Illuminate" is also probably the most reminiscent of past Yellowcard (specifically post-hiatus). "Madrid" drops back to the soft, but it's not jarring like "Drugs or Me" is from "Pain" on Futures by Jimmy Eat World.
"The Deepest Well" again returns to the loud, but it starts out soft enough that you don't have tonal whiplash coming off "Madrid". "The Deepest Well" has some great guitar work, and the imagery is just terrific. Finally, we reach our title track, and just from hearing this you would definitely never suspect you were listening to Yellowcard. "Lift a Sail" manages a great balance between soft and loud, with a great chorus to boot.
"MSK" (still not sure what it stands for…), riding the coattails of "Lift a Sail", keeps things soft again, and "My Mountain" returns to the distorted guitars before our closer, "California".
"California" is way, way outside Yellowcard's conquered territory, but they have conquered new territory, everyone. "California" is just a piano and Ryan Key. The lyrics are stellar, and the production sounds very nice.
Overall, Lift a Sail is a huge accomplishment for Yellowcard, and this new style sounds great. I hope they don't abandon their old style, but I'm eager to see where they take this new one.

Convocation: 8/10
Transmission Home: 9/10
Crash the Gates: 8/10
Make Me So: 7/10
One Bedroom: 9/10
Fragile and Dear: 7/10
Illuminate: 8/10
Madrid: 6/10
The Deepest Well: 8/10
Lift a Sail: 9/10
MSK: 8/10
My Mountain: 8/10
California: 8/10

Subtotal: 103/130
Bonus Points:
New Style Pulled Off Well: +4
Total: 107/130
Score: 8.2 Excellent

Genres: Alternative Rock

Last Review: Full Collapse by Thursday
Next Review: War All the Time by Thursday
Next Yellowcard Review: Southern Air

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