Review Summary: A beautiful commemoration of Yellowcard’s past.
Yellowcard’s return in 2023 has been one of the brightest spots of the pop-punk renaissance, with the band’s twentieth anniversary tour for Ocean Avenue
and their vibrant Childhood Eyes
EP helping to highlight what was a banner year for the genre. The band’s work ethic also appears to have returned intact, as they are following up their bustling 2023 with yet another release here in early 2024. While this one is merely a compilation of existing Yellowcard tunes, it does get a refreshing spin beyond the typical-of-the-genre “punk gone acoustic” outings. Here, they’ve joined forces with ambient/post-rock band Hammock, and the way these re-imaginings sound when filtered through their uniquely tranquil soundscapes is, as you might expect, quite pleasant.
A Hopeful Sign
succeeds in many of the ways one might expect it to. The set of nine songs is dreamy and soothing, offering a mesmerizing alternative to many of the songs that have earned a special place in fans’ hearts. It was a nice touch to primarily include tracks from outside the band’s celebrated list of hits (‘Ocean Avenue’ and ‘Only One’ are the only tracks that would be recognizable to the casual passerby), giving a new luster to the gems and deeper cuts. Take ‘Telescope’, lifted from 2012’s Southern Air
, for example: the song is about the death of Ryan Key’s aunt, who helped to instill musical confidence in him at a very young age (“wherever you're resting, I'm carrying your light” / “When the fireflies / Lit up our skies / Those were the nights when the world made us smile”). The original version of the song is beautiful in its own right, but the re-imagining on A Hopeful Sign
lends itself even better to the track’s wistful nature. Hammock’s ability to effortlessly capture the emotion and aura of ‘Telescope’ is impressive, and the way that they slowly escalate the percussive tempo only to have it quietly explode into splendorous ambience captures the soul of ‘Telescope’ –it's rooted in intense sadness, but is also glowing with beauty and nostalgia. ‘Waiting Game’ is another highlight, presenting us with the grooviest and most hypnotic number on A Hopeful Sign
. The song’s poignant sway is remarkably in tune with simple but heart wrenching lines like, “If I lose you I don't know.” While certain tracks here shine brighter than others, all of the song selections seem to effortlessly coalesce with Hammock’s vision for them – a testament to just how in-tune they are with everything Yellowcard was trying to express in each of these songs.
The drawbacks to A Hopeful Sign
are also easy to pinpoint. As an ambient re-imagining, the album lacks a lot of the energy and variation that is typically inherent to Yellowcard’s music. That’s largely the point of course, but in addition to the slow, plodding tempos that are ubiquitously present, they also all have a similar overarching sound
– the vocal melodies do not deviate far enough from their original tones and inflections, and occasionally sound at odds with the tempo that Hammock is trying to dictate. It seems more could have been done on both sides to feed off of each other’s vibes and collaborate to make these songs sound a little more different from their original counterparts. At times it almost feels too deliberate, as if the bands’ correspondence with each other was “here’s some vocal cuts, now make it all spellbinding and dreamy.” If so, mission accomplished – but one can’t help but feel like some pockets of creativity were left unexplored.
At the end of the day, those who come to A Hopeful Sign
in search of some breathtaking reinterpretations of Yellowcard songs will get exactly what they wished for. If you’re a longtime fan of either band, this will make for a unique addition to your collection. The relatively by-the-books approach makes it less than essential, but it’s still enjoyable nevertheless. A Hopeful Sign
a beautiful commemoration of Yellowcard’s past as they eagerly await a future full of unwritten things.