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Yellowcard holds a special place in my heart. They were responsible for the “song” I shared with my first boyfriend, one of my first concert experiences, and the best show I attended in Los Angeles last year. After a two-year hiatus, the band triumphantly returned last year with the critically acclaimed When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes, which signaled the beloved pop rock band that dominated summer soundtracks with songs like “Ocean Avenue” and “Lights and Sounds” was back and better than ever. The band then recorded the follow up to that album, Southern Air, in between touring in the fall of 2011 and performing as one of the headliners of this summer’s Warped Tour. Southern Air drops today via Hopeless Records, and it has all the impressive energy, infectious musicality, and appealing themes of a classic summer album that will remain a favorite throughout the year.

Southern Air rivals Yellowcard’s most classic albums, and I am overjoyed that they’ve added ten more tracks to their already impressive collection of feel-good, upbeat anthems for the most emotionally-charged life moments. Violinist Sean Mackin spoke with the LA Music Blog during Warped Tour and explained the band had to fit recording an album before the tour began in May: “We knew we wouldn’t have time to record after Warped and we really wanted to do Warped, so we held up for two months to write the record. It wasn’t easy, but we bit the bullet and sucked it up.”

Producer Neal Avron, who was behind every Yellowcard album since Ocean Avenue, helped the boys through the tough process. “It was such a great environment to work in, and Neal gets the best performance out of all of us,” Mackin said. “After twelve years, we sort of figured it out and this could be our best record yet.” Though the band had no concerns musically, they did have a few hesitations: “[Lead vocalist] Ryan [Key] was really worried about writing lyrics, he’s such a great poet. The way he tells stories pulls people in.”

You’d never guess Key, the album’s sole lyricist, struggled with words. His lyrics and vocals have never been stronger. “Awakening” blasts the record open with a hopeful toast to new beginnings. “Sleep In The Snow” has lines made for lovers, such as “I’ve always run right through the moments that count / but somehow with you, I slow down.” The empowering promise of youth takes center stage in “Surface of the Sun.” The band teased fans by releasing “Always Summer” in May, a track that has all the hugely appealing elements of a classic Yellowcard track: catchy hook, upbeat, positive lyrics exulting love and friendship in an endless summer world.

Not all the songs on this release are lighthearted, however. Mackin explained, “We have a fun side. We’re still Florida boys who like to drink beer and have fun, but we want to show evolution. We aren’t afraid to tackle heavy topics. We keep it all together, and it doesn’t sound like a different band. We like to show as much of our life as possible, and we always wear out heart on our sleeve.” WYTTSY had the deeply personal “Sing For Me,” written for Key’s aunt who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, and Southern Air‘s “Telescope” — featuring guest vocals from Hey Monday’s Cassadee Pope, We Are The In Crowd’s Tay Jardine, and All Time Low frontman Alex Gaskarth — is this album’s emotional heavy-hitter. You should also prepare your heart for the acoustic, gut-wrenching “Ten.” Rewriting the lyrics to the track here wouldn’t have near the same impact as listening to the song, but suffice to say, it’s incredibly brave of Key to share this story with the world (whoever’s it may be since Key is keeping mum on the subject.)

The album culminates with the enlivening “Southern Air,” a nod to the band’s roots that exemplifies the catchy, feel-good music Yellowcard has mastered. The closing track reminds me what is so great about Yellowcard’s return; a decade after Ocean Avenue, a collection of powerfully emotional anthems with hooks that will forever be in my head and heart, the band is still creating tracks that are lyrically and musically as powerful as ever. Yellowcard is releasing this music without a major label and without Top 40 radio play. They are creating music their way and touring relentlessly to promote it. For those reasons alone, the band should be commemorated, but Southern Air is another stellar addition to the discography that will certainly solidify Yellowcard’s place as a top dog in the pop rock scene. Well deserved, boys.

Yellowcard Tour Dates w/ The Wonder Years and We Are The In Crowd:

11/02 – Vinyl at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas, NV
11/03 – House of Blues Los Angeles, CA
11/05 – Sunshine Theater Albuquerque, NM
11/06 – House of Blues Dallas Dallas, TX
11/07 – Emo’s East Austin, TX
11/09 – Jannus Live! St Petersburg, FL
11/10 – House of Blues Orlando Orlando, FL
11/11 – Masquerade Atlanta, GA
11/13 – The Fillmore Charlotte Charlotte, NC
11/15 – Rams Head Live! Baltimore, MD
11/16 – The Electric Factory Philadelphia, PA
11/17 – Best Buy Theater New York, NY
11/18 – House of Blues Boston, MA
11/20 – House of Blues Cleveland, OH
11/21 – St Andrews Hall Detroit, MI
11/23 – House of Blues Chicago, IL
11/24 – House of Blues Chicago, IL
11/25 – Pops Sauget, IL
11/27 – The Summit Music Hall Denver, CO
11/28 – The Complex Salt Lake City, UT
11/30 – The Fillmore San Francisco, CA
12/01 – House of Blues Anaheim, CA
12/02 – House of Blues San Diego, CA

For more information:

Yellowcard Facebook Page