Sound — 7
The journey of Yellowcard has been one full of sprints, stalls, retreats and retreads. After their violin-laced pop punk sound caught the attention of Capitol Records in 2002, their breakthrough run with the major label came with its own trials and tribulations, including an arguably unsuccessful attempt to pivot to a moodier alt-rock sound in 2006's "Lights and Sounds," and growing tensions within the band resulting in the contentious departures of founding lead guitarist Ben Harper and bassist Peter Mosely. Going on a relatively short hiatus after their run with Capitol, Yellowcard's recent streak of albums showed another spell of aspiration culminating, and after the well acclaim of 2011's "When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes" and 2012's "Southern Air," the band signed with Razor & Tie to release 2014's "Lift a Sail," a record that strongly deviated from their pop punk style, shifting into an arena rock sound with much more pop music production value.
Though it didn't receive as much negative feedback as "Lights and Sounds," the absence of pop punk in "Lift a Sail" was destined to polarize the band's listeners, and though Yellowcard touted their recent signing with Razor & Tie as a multi-record deal, things changed shortly after, with the band resigning to Hopeless Records and announcing their upcoming tenth album would be their last.
Given the prior plans abandoned, the announcement was quite a whiplash of a situation, but in the band's self-titled final album, Yellowcard do a better job threading the needle between their roots and their pop rock aspirations. With the opening pop rockers of "Rest in Peace" and the electronica-addled "What Appears" crafted with some 7/4 measurements to give them more intrigue than the pop rock output of their previous album, Yellowcard dive back into the pop punk pool in "Got Yours" and "Savior's Robes," the former boasting some great bass riffs from Josh Portman, and the latter working in a gentle post-rock break in the middle for a more dynamic offering.
Beyond building a bridge between their pop punk roots and their recent pop rock inclinations, Yellowcard bring forth even more styles in "Yellowcard." The indie rock flavor in "The Hurt Is Gone" sounds like Bloc Party with Smashing Pumpkins-style string sections, and they tend to their soft side in the piano & strings ballad of "Leave a Light On" and the country folk cut of "I'm a Wrecking Ball." Though some songs make less of an impact, like the more elementary arena rocker "Empty Street" and the folk-tinged power ballad "Fields & Fences" climbing up to a Coldplay-esque crest that's more meek than rousing, the majority of "Yellowcard" offers a nice variety of sounds.
Lyrics — 7
Still dishing out his lovey-dovey subject matter, Ryan Key's lyrics in "Yellowcard" gravitate towards themes of reconciliation, resolution, and closure, likely to run in synch with the status of the album being the band's last. With songs like "Got Yours" and "A Place We Set Afire" highlighting the importance of those going their separate ways for their own sake, Key's messages of rebuilding bridges in "Rest in Peace" ("Could we forgive somehow, could we let it rest in peace?") and "Leave a Light On" ("Don't let the past become the reason you're not here / I hope to see the day you're walking up the drive / To come back inside") applies just as much to former paramours as it does his former bandmates whom he hopes can put past conflicts aside. In more direct references to the subject of the band's run and impending breakup, however, Key doesn't shy away from chiding the fickle feelings of listeners who have derided Yellowcard from not sticking to their classic style and material in "Savior's Robes" ("Play us a song I know / Make it an older one / Don't you get it?"), though that still doesn't stop him from voicing his gratitude for all the support throughout their career in "What Appears" ("Slow steady hands waving their last goodbye / They've come a long way / They've carried me, they've carried me through waking dreams").
Overall Impression — 8
With the last several Yellowcard albums displaying an ebb and flow of aspirations to make music beyond their signature pop punk style, their very last album effort of "Yellowcard" succeeds in finding a happy medium between their familiar strengths and new sonic endeavors. Not every moment is a hit, but between the substantial pop punk moments and the handful of different genres brought to the table, Yellowcard's desire to create an eclectic and full-bodied record finally hits the mark in "Yellowcard," ending the band's discography on a victorious note.