Yellowcard may never top the perfection of Paper Walls and they may never reach the pinnacle of popularity they achieved with Ocean Avenue, but they certainly show no problem in continually cranking out fresh and enjoyable material every time they enter the studio. Just as When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes was a flawed but ultimately successful new dose of Yellowcard’s upbeat brand of pop punk, Southern Air continues the streak as a pleasant but not entirely unparalleled experience. Ryan Key’s light-hearted declarations about youth and love are as endearing as ever while Sean Mackin’s affluent violin skills still inject extra life and verve into their already catchy pop punk sound, but this album does feel like more of the same at times. The strong lyrical content and lively guitar riffs haven’t gone anywhere either, but like the band’s last effort, Southern Air feels slightly lackluster in comparison with the masterpiece that was Paper Walls. This new album won’t draw in many new fans, but anyone itching for the latest fix of Yellowcard won’t find much disappointment here.
“Awakening” kicks Southern Air off with a lengthy and incredibly well-written song that has no equal for the remainder of the album. This is Yellowcard at their finest, delivering a memorable track with almost all of their most notable trademarks: buoyant drumming from Longineu Parsons III, cheerful guitar riffs from Ryan Mendez and pitch-perfect vocals from Key, whose youthfully clairvoyant declarations of “Bottoms up tonight / I drink to you and I / ‘Cause with this morning comes the rest of my life” fill each catchy chorus. It’s unfortunate that the best song of the album comes so soon, but “Awakening” certainly starts Southern Air off on a promising note.
“Here I Am Alive” marks one of the album’s most infectious singles as well as one of Yellowcard’s more historically diverse tracks. Whereas the majority of the band’s catchy appeal lies in their pure pop punk sound, this contagious song expands that sound further into pop territory with a synth beat and guest vocals from Tay Jardine. This song is clearly aimed at a broader audience with its ultra-catchy and almost dumbed down chorus, but this first single off Southern Air certainly earns its stripes as one of the most enjoyable experiences of the record.
Whereas these first two standout tracks are largely absent of the incredible violin of Mackin that separates Yellowcard from their pop punk peers, “Sleep In The Snow” sets things back on track. Mackin’s violin riffs may only fit in the background, but they add fun to the song during it’s spunky choruses and sentiment as it winds down with accompanying strings and piano. This song won’t turn any heads initially, but it could just be the most underrated track of Southern Air in following “Here I Am Alive.”
Despite only having ten tracks, Southern Air is surprisingly lengthy. Unfortunately, Yellowcard doesn’t quite capture the imagination throughout this album’s duration as effectively as they have in the past. That’s certainly not to say that this latest release is anything less than yet another highly enjoyable pop punk effort, because Southern Air is yet another breath of fresh air. The only downside to producing an album as stellar as Paper Walls is that everything afterward will seem slightly unsatisfactory until the band finds a way to replicate that same kind of masterful work. Although Yellowcard has made true strides in their lyrical depth and maturity, the pure pop punk adrenaline that Paper Walls exudes doesn’t pack quite as powerful a punch on Southern Air. It’s almost unfair to judge each and every subsequent Yellowcard album by that ridiculously high standard, especially considering that other than Lights And Sounds, this band has given their fans nothing but the best since Ocean Avenue. Fans of New Found Glory, Sum 41, The Starting Line, Cartel, Sugarcult, Amber Pacific, Blink 182, All Time Low, The All-American Rejects and The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus know how influential and important Yellowcard has been in not only shaping the pop punk genre, but expanding it further. With an upbeat tempo, heavy guitar riffs, rapid-fire drumming, original lyrics and a dash of ingenuity in the form of Mackin’s genius violin-playing (see “Always Summer” or the fast-paced rock gem “Rivertown Blues”), Yellowcard proves their skills as musicians once again. So although it doesn’t challenge the band’s best work, Southern Air certainly sticks to the formula for another winning effort.
Final Score: 8.2/10
Rank: 3rd (eight total albums)
- Surface Of The Sun
- Always Summer
- Here I Am Alive
- Sleep In The Snow
- A Vicious Kind
- Rivertown Blues
- Southern Air