Review Summary: I jumped, I fell, I hit the ground, but here I am alive.
It's hard to quantify how impactful Yellowcard's music has been on me, especially in a time of heightened emotions and uncertainty in my life. I'm 21 years old. I'm still a ways removed from any semblance of what life has in store. I'm still growing out of that youthful, innocent romanticism that occupied Ocean Avenue
and even When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes
. Those albums carried me through some heartbreak, but Southern Air
has seen me through the beginning of my transition into adulthood. I'm starting to carve out a niche and an idea of where I want my life to go. Of course, it's hard to foretell where it's going to go, but Southern Air
has pointed me towards the vantage point I'm longing for.
There's something particularly special about the way Ryan Key begins the album with "Awakening." When he tells his nameless muse, "with the morning comes the rest of my life," you know he's serious this time. He may have poured his aching heart out on Ocean Avenue
and even yearned for reconciliation on When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes
, but this is a Ryan Key that has never been more content with where he stands. Having found love at this point in this life, he finds himself finally able to lift old burdens off his shoulders. What that was for me, the listener, was an extended olive branch, something I could emotionally latch on to. Knowing how quickly things can change and what personal implications they may foster is sometimes a truly gratifying experience.
Of course, the melancholy that precedes Southern Air
still translates to writing material. Longineu Parsons' catchy drum fills support Ryan's "story full of restless nights" on "Surface of the Sun" and Sean Mackin's ever-beautifully done violin work carries "Here I Am Alive" through some incredibly introspective lyrics about not knowing yourself anymore and having the strength to come out the other end a better person. This is one of many moments
on Southern Air
I keep finding myself in, and it's helped me truly appreciate what a great songwriter Ryan Key is. "If I could write to the kid I was before, I'd tell him you'll get everything you ever wanted, but you will still want more," he sings as he reflects and ponders on the life he's lived to this point.
"Always Summer" is a celebration of the summery youthfulness Yellowcard is known for, with its ebullient instrumentals, upbeat guitar work, and Sean Mackin's incredible
violin solo. But it's also a celebration of the personal growth Ryan Key pours out in the lyrical content. He extends thankfulness to a nameless companion for seeing him through the bad times and being there to see him blossom. "Here you are forgiving me again. You'll never know how real to me you've been," he sings. "This is a start, another empty page where I begin," he optimistically promises. "A Vicious Kind" is occupied by some of the best vocal work of Key's career, as he says goodbye to a former flame. "All I ever wanted was for us to beat the odds", he tells them. But he continues, "you can't buy forgiveness or blame me for the fall." One thing that stuck out on When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes
was Key's eagerness to put the past behind him and that is fully realized on Southern Air
"Telescope" sees Key turning his attention back to his new love. "You showed me strength in my skin," he thankfully proclaims. Ryan Mendez's great guitar work accompanies Sean Mackin's graceful violin work as Key optimistically nudges the listener. "Let's just keep driving on...let's go where we belong," he goes on. "Ten" is the late album acoustic ballad. For as emotionally heavy as the album has been up to this point, it arguably reaches its pinnacle here. Ryan Key calls out to a child he never had and expresses how happy their life together would have been. This is as solemn as Southern Air
gets, however, as the album subsequently closes with its title track.
on here is particularly strong in its role of closing out the record. If "Back Home" the song that closed Ocean Avenue
, was the early aftermath of Ryan Key's initial heartbreak, "Southern Air" is that boy all grown up, married and more at peace than ever before. "This will always be home", Ryan exclaims, taking in the atmosphere around him with a certain sense of gratitude. The violin-led instrumentals are strong as always, and this track captures the overarching positivity that engulfed most of the album leading up to this moment. "After living through these wild years, I'm coming out alive", Key continues, leaving the listener not just better equipped to tackle new challenges, but confident to pursue life with a strengthened sense of optimism and focus. On that note, Southern Air
draws to a close.
This is easily among Yellowcard's best material. Of course, the angsty upstart that Ryan Key was is still there spiritually, but we now find our everyman not simply armed with a new lease on life, but thankful for where the bumpy road behind him has led. This record has been particularly helpful and impactful in my own life, as I finally begin to shed some of the shortcomings that come with youth and begin to claim some semblance of what life is and where it will take me. As I sit here, happy
at last and renewed in my drive and determination, I find myself especially thankful to Southern Air
for seeing me through it.