On Lights and Sounds, Yellowcard sounds light years away from its One for the Kids/Where We Stand days. Granted, the band still trades in the immediate melodies and heart-on-sleeve lyrics that they've used since the beginning, but major-label success suits them well. Lights and Sounds is even slicker and more polished than their Capitol debut, Ocean Avenue, but Yellowcard ends up sounding self-assured instead of compromised in its big-budget surroundings. "Ocean Avenue" was a genuine breakthrough single that proved that the band had a way with connecting with listeners outside of its expected fan base; on this album, Yellowcard expands on its expected sound. Songs like the title track, "Rough Landing, Holly," and "Down on My Head" are tightly crafted, state-of-the-art examples of shiny, earnest punk-pop that sounds sunny even when it's sad, but "Two Weeks from Twenty" boasts downright jazzy guitars and whimsical lyrics reminiscent of Ben Folds, while "City of Devils" is a moody power ballad that continues the album's surprisingly grown-up feel. Indeed, ballads make up a big part of Lights and Sounds, making the most of Sean Mackin's skills with string arrangements, particularly on "Waiting Game" and "Space Travel," where the strings have just the right amount of melodrama for songs about young heartache. However, Lights and Sounds occasionally goes from expansive to indulgent, particularly toward the end of the album, which is bogged down with too many mopey, samey-sounding songs that are overpowered by big productions and arrangements. Yellowcard's ambitions to expand and emote are admirable, but their tighter, poppier songs still work the best. Regardless, Lights and Sounds' good songs are very good, and the album ends up being the band's most accomplished work yet.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares