After more than a decade, the men behind Yellowcard are reinventing themselves. In "Illuminate," Ryan Key sings: "We hope to run from what's been done/Look for a future no one else has sung." This is a message that the band clearly took to heart. Lift A Sail is Yellowcard's biggest album yet, a sweeping and illustrious rock album no one could have foreseen. And it's safe to say that this one is a game changer.
Opener "Convocation" prepares listeners for the journey they are about to embark on - its openness is as beautiful and bright as it is tender and stirring, and it is a sign of what's to follow in the next twelve tracks. Not because of the tone or the lightness, but because of how big the track truly is. And while many fans are sure to draw comparisons between this and its Lights and Sounds counterpart, it is worth nothing that "Three Flights Up" closes in upon its piano centric melodies, whereas the layers of elegant strings in "Convocation" continue to swell until its conclusion.
"Transmission Home" picks up where "Convocation" leaves off: with hollow, booming drums before diving into a crunchy guitar melody. The verses are grounded and clear-cut, contrasting with the spacious choruses that have Key pleading into the void: "I will send a transmission home/To say that I've been out here too long alone/And I wanna come down now." The bridge brings him back down with its sweet piano melody and soothing violins, while the synths sparkling just beneath the surface lend an ethereal awareness.
Those synths play larger roles in later tracks, a truly new and unexpected look for Yellowcard. "Make Me So" makes use of electronic drums and bubbling, futuristic melodies to underscore the verses, building up one of the album's fastest tracks and leading into an explosive chorus. Meanwhile in "MSK," the track's synth-driven tunes coalesce with Sean Mackin's enlightened violins in what becomes a mash up of all that Yellowcard has been and all that the band has yet to become.
Throughout Lift A Sail, listeners will hear Key push his vocals further than he has in the past. He plays around with falsetto and short riffs on songs like "Transmission Home" and "Illuminate," and as longtime fans listen through the album, there is sure to be one common thought: "I didn't know he could do that!" Surprising as it is, Key sounds stronger and more confident as a result and that's what is sure to resonate most.
Noticeably missing through most of the album are the violins that have so long been a commanding force in Yellowcard's music. Their appearances in Lift A Sail are often subtler, just a gentle ringing in songs like "Madrid" and "Lift A Sail." But those moments when the strings take center stage are all the more touching for their rarity: a soaring solo in "Fragile and Dear," a "Believe"-esque melody in "MSK." Mackin's skills have by no means been put on a backburner for this album; rather, they have been refined and focused so they are at their most effective.
Ryan Mendez has also continued to hone his talents, and produces some of his most impressive work since first joining Yellowcard over nine years ago. "One Bedroom," which starts with electronic drums and a soft acoustic melody, opens up in the bridge and sets Mendez up for a towering and defiant solo that rings out as the track gradually fades away.
"The Deepest Well," featuring Matty Mullins of Memphis May Fire, is home to some of the heaviest tones found on Lift A Sail. The guitars cascade beneath the bold and rebellious verses ("And I will not be fooled again/I took my means and found my end/And all the days from then till now/Were steps I climbed to show you how"), and lead the charge into the final rounds of the chorus.
Though much is different on Lift A Sail, it is the personal and honest reflection within the songs that makes this a true Yellowcard album. From meeting his wife ("Madrid") to the aftermath of an accident that left her paralyzed ("One Bedroom"), to the loss of his grandparents ("My Mountain"), Key pours himself into every line. And when all is said and done, his promise: "I've left myself in every song in every note/And if you need me I will never be too far," holds true for fans and family alike.
Lift A Sail isn't the Yellowcard album we were all expecting - I'm not even sure the band knew what would come from this one. But now that it's been laid out, you can be damn sure it's the Yellowcard album we all needed.
- Becky Kovach (Property Of Zach)
2. Transmission Home
3. Crash The Gates
4. Make Me So
5. One Bedroom
6. Fragile and Dear
9. The Deepest Well
10. Lift A Sail
12. My Mountain