Emo-rock stalwarts Yellowcard have been building toward a more mature, nuanced sound over the course of their past few releases, and the band continues this trend with 2012's Southern Air. Coming up on 15 years since they first started playing, Yellowcard are clearly at the point in their lives when teenage ambitions have long since given way to adult realizations. In that sense, while Yellowcard's songs still retain the youthful, emo-rock enthusiasm and catchy melodicism that marked the best of their earlier work, there is a weightiness and expansive gaze to many of the songs on Southern Air. No track on the album points this out as directly as the bittersweet "Ten," which finds lead singer Ryan Key working through the loss of a child and imagining what their relationship might have been ten years on. He sings "You would be ten and I'd be driving you to school/You would tell all your friends that you thought I was cool/And you would have all the love in my heart." Key has also clearly struggled with keeping his sense of self while fronting a rock group, and tracks like the leadoff "Awakening" and "Here I Am Alive," the latter co-written by Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump, showcase Key's knack for turning his inner angst into rousing and passionate guitar rock anthems. Addressing the "kid I was before" on "Here I Am Alive," Key sings "They say you don't grow up, you just grow old/It's safe to say I haven't done both/I made mistakes I know, I know/But here I am alive." The lyrics, combined with the song's insistent guitar riff and sparkling chorus (featuring backing vocals from We Are the In Crowd's Taylor Jardine), make for an immediately addictive and surprisingly moving pop/rock single. It's a winning formula the band successfully exploits throughout much of Southern Air.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar