I have always liked Yellowcard, but I've never loved them. Seeing them live (twice!) at Warped Tour UK at Alexandra Palace last year, I thought that was beginning to change - their live show is energetic and charismatic the likes of which I haven't stumbled across very often. I have been anticipating the release of 'Lift A Sail' for quite a while now and, sadly, I'm rather disappointed.
Starting off with 'Convocation', a beautifully haunting instrumental introduction, was both intriguing and confusing. This is not a Yellowcard that I've heard before and that theme continues throughout the majority of these thirteen tracks. I'd heard about the fact that Yellowcard had switched labels to Razor & Tie and had announced that this album was going to be less pop-punk and more rock, but I hadn't really considered the implications of that announcement. The implications being that, honestly, this doesn't sound like a Yellowcard album.
I'm not sure if it was just me that got the feeling, but many of the songs sounded similar to Jimmy Eat World, resonating a vibe that would have fitted perfectly at home on 'Futures' or 'Clarity'. 'Transmission Home', 'Crash The Gates', 'Fragile and Dear' and 'Lift A Sail' were all songs that I had this problem with and when the majority of an album sounds like it could be coming from another band that's not a positive thing. However, despite the fact that the songs didn't sound like Yellowcard, they did all sound extremely good. 'Transmission Home' and 'Lift A Sail' were both anthemic and had a soaring atmospheric that sent chills down my spine, with 'Crash The Gates' having a "ohh, ohh, ohh" moment that will be electric in a live environment.
Other than these exceptions, I absolutely adore the rest of the album. 'Make Me So' is the only song that really feels like it could fit on to a previous Yellowcard album and I can imagine this being the favourite song amongst the hardcore fans, but development is not always a negative thing. The inclusion of 'Fragile and Dear' with its dance undertones and the auto-tuning on vocalist Ryan Key seems like a modern choice included to show how the band are attempting to stretch their reach and try something different, but to me it just grated on my nerves. When the vocal is impressive enough without any effects they're just completely unnecessary.
My favourite moment is a toss-up between the unexpected and absolutely brilliant collaboration of 'The Deepest Well' with Matty Mullins from Memphis May Fire and 'Madrid', which I think is one of the most beautiful songs I've heard in a long time. However, a lot of the songs on this album are very beautiful musically and lyrically, with 'One Bedroom', 'California' and 'MSK' (which has an amazing introduction by Sean Mackin, by the way) all seeming as though they wouldn't be out of place on the soundtrack of 'The Vampire Diaries', 'Pretty Little Liars' or some other teen movie-esque type show.
As a whole, I wouldn't call the album bad, but it just doesn't seem very cohesive. The jumping between fast and slow songs gets a bit draining, but I understand why it was organised in such a way as having all of the slow songs together might have made it boring. Individually the songs are all pretty good and I would definitely recommend checking it out, but it's not the best of the nine Yellowcard albums even though some of the songs are definitely the best that they've done.
Crash The Gates
Make Me So
Fragile and Dear
The Deepest Well ft. Matty Mullins
Lift A Sail