Sound — 9
Following the 2014 album "Lift a Sail," Yellowcard return for a final stand on their latest self-titled album, "Yellowcard." Rather than trying to experiment or grow as a band, this album serves less as a follow up album and more as a farewell album that represents what the band has always been about. Varying from the pop-punk sound that gets you jumping to the slower rhythmic jams that calm your soul and everything in between, this is the very best of the Yellowcard you've come to know and love.
Making this almost immediately apparent, the opening track "Rest in Peace" starts off strong, with Ryan Key seamlessly transitioning from an acoustic, pop sounding verse that builds up to a chorus full of that distinctive pop-punk rhythm that utilizes the best of guitarist Ryan Mendez, violinist Sean Mackin and bassist Josh Portman's work. All without missing a beat and setting a good tone for the rest of the album. In a similar fashion, the same can be said for the songs "A Place We Set Afire" and "Empty Streets," basically using the same formula that made "Ocean Avenue" such a big success. The single "The Hurt Is Gone" isn't anything too complex, musically. In fact, it may be one of the simpler songs on the album. But the rhythm and beat of it makes it work really well and is easily one of the most catchiest songs on the album. Moving on to a more ambient setting that may especially appeal to fans of their 2014 album "Lift a Sail," "What Appears" has an instant hook with a slightly more heavier chorus and guitar work while maintaining a spacious atmosphere, but it doesn't alienate older listeners. Speaking of heavier, "Got Yours" and "Savior's Robes" are the fast and heavy punk-rock sounding tracks on the album and aren't for the faint of heart, but may bring a sense of familiarity with some Yellowcard veterans.
As far as ballads go, Yellowcard are no strangers, and that's where "Leave a Light On" comes in. Although a piano ballad isn't nearly as common, Ryan Key makes it work, and, given the right mood, is an enjoyable listen. Lastly, we have the acoustics, "I'm a Wrecking Ball" and "Fields & Fences." The former has much more of a pop, folk, boot stomping feel to it with lyrics that fit the song. Perhaps one of the only songs where they seem to step out of their comfort zone, though the result is fairly decent. The latter, "Fields & Fences," takes the high road, with the first half of the song taking a more tranquil approach with a smoothening melody until the second half when the guitars and drums come into play, creating a more energetic tone. It particularly reminds me of material you might find on their 2012 album "Southern Air." It makes for a very powerful and touching closing song.
Simply put, it's fairly easy to picture any one of these songs on a different prior album, and that's a good thing. Musically, their last efforts match up incredibly well with what they set out to make. That is, an album that, old and new, simply defines the name, "Yellowcard."
Lyrics — 7
There's a lot more to saying goodbye forever than just saying it. There's a certain weight to it. You need to add a lot of depth. Lyrically, they explore that depth in this album.
Starting things off, the opening track "Rest in Peace," for example, shows how you need to make amends with everyone you may have wronged, so you can look back with nothing to regret. "A Place We Set Afire," for example, seems to be the most self-aware song on the album and practically make references to the breakup and moving on with lyrics like "You tell me there must be a little light left flickering, burning in a place we set afire. But no one will listen if we just wait here to burn. We gotta swing away, gotta cut the wire." And "Empty Streets," for example, shows the importance of moving on from a positive point of view; embracing what you've accomplished and how grateful you are to have earned that place in history. And finally, when all is said and done, there's a need to reassure yourself that you know who you are and you know where your headed, which is covered in the song "What Appears." Overall, to say goodbye forever, you need to express how truly grateful you are to the people who made everything possible and for everything they've done, as well as reflect on all the memories you've made together.
Though it mostly serves as a farewell album, realizing this to be their last opportunity to say what they have to say, they didn't skimp out on providing their own final thoughts either. There's a range of messages that obviously have a lot of personal meaning. "The Hurt Is Gone" is an inspirational song that explains the importance of accepting who you are. "Savior's Robes" on the other hand, seems to be a direct and aggressive attack on the music industry in general, calling it a "devil in a savior's robes." But also still offering a hint of gratitude, saying "Still I feel I need to give you thanks. You took my edge, sharpened it in case you were the one needed cutting away."
Point being, they make sure to get personal and pack a variety of emotions and meaning on this album. And Ryan Key is just as talented at singing them as he's always been. Musically, all of which have an appropriate setting to them as well. Although the main message throughout the whole album is naturally pretty straight forward and simple, they still manage to be fairly creative with it lyrically.
Overall Impression — 8
Though it may leave a bittersweet feeling, Yellowcard's final, appropriately self-titled album delivers the best of their classic, signature sound found throughout previous albums. Every track contains a little of the roots and branches of everything they've ever been. Farewell's aside, this album was clearly made with the fans in mind. Whether you've been a fan from the start or later on down the road, they make sure not to betray your expectations on this one. Even if you only enjoyed select albums, it deserves a good listen and earns a solid place among any fans' collection.
All in all, with this being their final release, their legacy will be well preserved.