Southern Air, Yellowcard’s second album in as many years since returning from their hiatus, is the record they should have based their comeback around. While 2011’s When Your Through Thinking, Say Yes was a nice collection of songs, it lacked the connection and staying power of previous releases. The record signified the band’s return and served as a primer for new fans, but for the group’s first release in four years, expectations were not met.
“Awakening” kicks off the new record in typical YC fashion. The fast head banger feels like it would have fit on Ocean Avenue. “Always Summer” could have been the anthem for Warped Tour kids if it was released three months earlier. In their most blatant attempt at pop crossover, “Here I Am Alive” features female harmonies and reflective lyrics on growing up. It’s also one of the best and most catchy tracks on Southern Air. The middle of the record lags a little with two slower tempo songs, but “Rivertown Blues” steps on the gas with a shredding guitar solo from Ryan Mendez and “Southern Air” has one of the heaviest sections the group has ever written.
The beauty of Yellowcard is that they’ve always been able to create fun songs based around amazing musicianship (drummer LP Parsons, violinist Sean Mackin) and lyrics that are easy to relate to. They’ve managed to take what most see as a gimmick (Mackin’s violin) and seamlessly weave the instrument into their songs, adding texture and creativity without ever forcing a solo. Credit long-time super producer Neal Avron for constantly working with the band and honing their sound.
Naturally, the band and many of its fans think Southern Air is their best effort to date. It is very good. But for me, Paper Walls is still the definitive Yellowcard album (followed by Ocean Avenue). Southern Air is certainly a fresh breath. The band has found its swag again and have put out a record to bring back the old fans and convert new ones.
Unrelated live footage, but it rocks.