Sound — 6
An interesting proposition of a more rock-oriented approach was both an interesting and, to a degree, radical alteration for the members of Yellowcard to approach during the making of their ninth studio album. Bold steps into new musical territory is something the predominantly alternative rock collective have carried out previously in their career, having originally been centered towards a hardcore punk style around the origin of their formation nearly two decades ago in 1997. The main hazard involved in such transitions, however, is finding a way to maintain some degree of familiarity and identifiable elements for longtime followers to cling onto throughout a new batch of studio material; fortunately enough, Yellowcard establish this same middle ground on their latest offering, "Lift a Sail."
While the previous outlandish comparisons to the Foo Fighters and Nirvana attributed by members of the lineup prove to be just that, nothing more than blatant aggrandizements, such statements take nothing away from the actual end product found on Yellowcard's latest studio effort. Mellow orchestrations don't give too much away about the album as a whole during the brief instrumental introduction "Convocation," however it's through the propelling chord progressions and vocal harmonies to such selections as "Transmission Home" and the overtly melodic "Crash the Gates" that the recent additions to the Yellowcard songwriting chemistry become apparent. In complete honesty, there isn't much separating this batch of material from what one might expect from The All-American Rejects, particularly on the aforementioned "Crash the Gates" or "Make Me So," which gallivant that same formula of foot tapping power pop highlighted by fluent vocal harmonies, repetitive riff arrangements and a simplistic refrain. All this being said, it's still a notch above the band's most recent efforts, and still maintains a degree of "Ocean Avenue"-esque chemistry to showcase the identity of the performing artist to seep through towards the attention of established listeners.
Other numbers, for example the melancholy-laced "Fragile and Dear" and "One Bedroom," show the members of Yellowcard dropping their fist on the pace while maintaining that heavier pop rock edge of the album's previous tracks. This same consistency allows "Lift a Sail" to flow relatively well from one song to the next, which is quite something for a mainstream effort with thirteen cuts within it's track listing. Radical steps outside of this predescribed sound barrier aren't common here; "My Mountain" and "The Deepest Well" continue the trend previously set by the album's more uptempo numbers, whereas "California" and "MSK" reinforce the more reflective themes found on "Fragile and Dear" while abandoning that adrenalized angst.
Lyrics — 5
Lead vocalist Ryan Key doesn't have the most unique voice in alternative rock, but it gets the job done and occasionally makes from some strong melodic refrains throughout "Lift a Sail." His vocal range is considerable, however it mostly stays at a pitch only moderately higher than your typical talking tone. For the at home listener, that means less effort to sing along to the album's catchy choruses, however as far as Key's performance is concerned it isn't all that applaudable. Perhaps he is going for an approach that is more complimentary to the album's instrumental side, but when that, too, is largely built upon repetitive arrangements and all-too-simplistic guitar solos, allowing the underbelly of the Yellowcard songwriting chemistry to stand out through this method isn't the wisest choice.
Overall Impression — 6
Albeit their transition from pop-punk to pop-rock was admirable, Yellowcard is ultimately found offering a compilation of unoriginal-sounding material on their new album, "Lift a Sail." While with the proper marketing this album could find a regular rotation in pop radio airtime, the majority of the songs found on this effort are heavily built upon overtly simplistic musicianship and unimpressionable lead vocals. That being said, there are still enough melodic hooks to be found here that may appeal to casual listeners of the band.