To say Yellowcard have had a tumultuous run of late is an understatement. The Los Angeles based four piece bringing us their new album Lift A Sail is a far cry from the pop punk boys that delivered the commercially successful Ocean Avenue in 2003. Through a slew of heartbreaking personal battles, the band has been recreated. The result – a more mature, alternative rock sound with raw, beautiful lyrics, and powerful, melodic anthems that are a true testament to their fight.
You don’t have to know their story to be touched by Lift A Sail, but it certainly helps. Frontman Ryan Key’s story is one about true love and true loss, a story that is at the forefront of this record. Key’s young fiancé was tragically paralysed in a snowboarding accident just months after their engagement. They were married in the ICU and he was by her side through months on intensive care and physical therapy. If that wasn’t enough, Key lost his grandfather earlier this year. All this in the midst of Violinist Sean Mackin completing his surgeries and treatment for cancer. But looking for no sympathy, Yellowcard openly share their struggle in a cathartic and emotional record, opening with the gorgeous instrumental, Convocation.
Convocation opens with Mackin’s subtle and contemplative strings arrangement, immediately setting the record apart. It’s melody is equally haunting as it is lovely and brought tears to my eyes like listening to the score of an epic movie. Some of the other more tender tracks on the record explore the aftermath of the accident in more depth. One Bedroom sounds like a modern Unwritten Law track, a love song about a safe place with a message of “us against the world”. Madrid is a gentle piece, highlighting Key’s emotive vocals and Mackin’s stirring strings. Make Me So, while more up tempo, is just as provocative. Written from his fiancé’s perspective it speaks of Key’s weakest moment, when he thought he might not be strong enough to endure such a tragedy and of her never-ending resolve. The honesty is his writing is the main attraction of this record, and what will allow Yellowcard fans to connect to most.
There’s plenty of contrasting, powerful rock anthems on the list as well. Transmission Home, Crash The Gates and The Deepest Well are maybe the best examples, with heavy guitars, smashing drums and melodic chorus’s that recall the feeling of Live or Creed’s best work. My Mountain plays with tempo and offers some of the best lyrics on the record, focusing on the loss of a loved one and dedicated to Key’s Grandfather in his final days. I’m on my mountain / I’m there with her / I can see it all so clear / I’m young again up here.
A highlight on the record and perhaps the main contender for some serious radio airplay is title track Lift A Sail. It has a clear message of the self belief that comes when you face down your fears and endure life’s trials, and that’s exactly what Yellowcard has done. This record is a gorgeous tribute to a fight that has defined them and I can’t help but be on their side.