Yellowcard is one of the most consistent, hardworking, and passionate bands in the pop punk scene. Their concerts have blown me away and their most recent album was another stellar addition to their discography. 2013 marks the tenth anniversary of their breakout single “Ocean Avenue” and their album of the same name. To celebrate, Yellowcard and Hopeless Records released Ocean Avenue Acoustic, a re-imagining of all thirteen songs from that album in an acoustic setting.
”On July 22, 2003 our lives were changed forever,” said the band in a joint statement. ”We didn’t know what Ocean Avenue would become, but it is a chapter in our story that we will never forget. We knew that for the 10th anniversary of the release we wanted to do something more than just a tour.” Ocean Avenue became an album I would never forget, and the acoustic version of that seminal record sent a flood of memories rushing back to me.
From the familiar opening guitar riff of “Way Away,” it’s clear Yellowcard may have stripped down the tracks but the emotions behind most of the songs are still present. Key’s vocals shine on “Breathing” and the band’s breakout hit, “Ocean Avenue,” as Sean Mackin provides backing vocals in addition to his signature violin making an appearance on most tracks.
Not every song translates acoustically, however. Key’s vocals, usually infused with passion, are lacking on the ballad “Empty Apartment.” I was waiting for a crescendo of some sort, but Key’s sleepy vocals never build to honor the feelings of loneliness and despondency in the lyrics. Key trades in punk for polish in “Only One,” my favorite Yellowcard love song. While his voice is powerfully clear, the grittiness of his vocals on the original track more definitively captured the sense of urgency and consuming love behind the song.
Yellowcard makes up for the shortcomings, however, particularly by invigorating songs that were primarily acoustic on the original Ocean Avenue with the addition of new instruments. An upbeat banjo accompanies Mackin’s violin in “View From Heaven” to give it a delightfully country tinge, and the guitar-heavy original version of “One Year, Six Months” becomes a beautiful piano ballad highlighted with violin.
Ten years later and Ocean Avenue is as full of powerful lyrics, catchy melodies, and strong emotions as fans remember. The missteps can be overlooked considering the wave of nostalgia this album will give fans, and it serves as a great reminder of how amazing this band was when they burst onto the scene and how they have maintained that talent. So go ahead, roll the windows down, and sing your lungs out. I promise it’ll feel as good as it did a decade ago, if not better.
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