Review Summary: If I lose you, I don't know.
There are some records in this world that, from the very first second they reach your ears, are simply art
. You want to frame them, explain them and fall asleep to them. They're different for everybody, but we all have albums on our shelves that seem to us to be so meticulously crafted and so deliberate that they reach outside the confines of music and into deeper, more philosophical waters. Maybe they help you to escape; maybe they help you realise you weren't trapped to begin with. Whatever, whatever, whatever. They exist for all of us. Fortunately, you can stop worrying. Lights And Sounds
doesn't come within a thousand light years of 'art'. On the other hand, that doesn't stop it from being absolutely brilliant.
For a start, it's pop-punk, and fairly unambitious stuff at that. But for the violin's famous presence in Yellowcard's range of instrumentation, there's very little to set them apart on paper from other less talented and less successful bands. Granted, their drummer is pretty special, and he provides the momentum needed to propel the tracks, but on its own that doesn't seem to account for fourteen, loud, effortless anthems. What keeps this record on its feet is the lyricism, the production and the simplicity of it all.
Billed as kind of a concept album, Lights And Sounds is nothing of the sort. It has vague themes relating to Los Angeles and dis-illusionment in the big city, but there are a range of other topics at hand, which largely stick to standard pop-rock subject areas - love, loss, youth and all that jazz - the record's most adventurous lyrical move (and, consequently, biggest mis-step) being the vague war is bad
message of Two Weeks From Twenty, which is simply the only skippable song here. It doesn't sound
the same, though - there are guest vocals and acoustic guitars on How I Go
, near-tribal percussion on Words, Hands, Hearts
and the record is led in by a haunting and incredibly catchy piano introduction. When you add the violin, it makes for a record that struggles to get old even when you try and make it.
Special mention has to go to vocalist Ryan Key, whose passionate performance is one of the album's most enthralling qualities. Many pop-punk vocalists are hit-and-miss, nasal or generic, but Key manages to maintain emotion and a real sense of connection to the music whilst still merging very well into the backdrop of guitars that accompanies him the majority of the time. He's helped a great deal by the lyrical content which, though fairly normal in terms of its scope, is far more potent than usual in its expression. Single Lights And Sounds
contains the awesome "They gave you the end, but not where to start / Not how to build, how to tear it apart"
and stand-out Grey
reminisces "Where did we go wrong? I know you still hold onto me..."
. The point is not that they look like poetry when they're written down, but that you can pump your fists to them when they're coming out of your speakers, and that's definitely the case.
When it comes down to it, Lights And Sounds has everything you would expect from a great pop-rock album - hooks galore, big choruses, plenty of quotable lines and a load of energy. A lot of bands would run out of steam over 14 songs but the variety is well-executed and subtle enough, without any major jolts in sound or aesthetic, that it also manages to feel well-rounded. There's nothing on here that's going to move you to tears, change your life or ever be considered art
, but Lights And Sounds is pretty much essential listening for anybody who loves catchy, addictive pop-rock, and one suspects that's all Yellowcard were really trying to achieve.