Lift A Sail is possibly Yellowcard’s biggest album to date. The album sees the band, after nearly a decade; finally decide to reinvent their music by returning to their roots instead of punching out the contrived pop-punk anthems as they had grown accustomed to. Lift A Sail is a massive rock album that draws influence from 90s alt-rock bands like Foo Fighters and Nirvana. Each guitar riff has been renewed with a blistering intensity and Nate Young’s (Anberlin) presence of the drums gives the album a bit of an early Anberlin feel, when they were all about the loud alternative rock sound.
Don’t let the massive rock sound fool you though; Lift A Sail is just as emotionally cathartic as it is a massive rock album. Peppered between blistering rock anthems and rousing choruses are some of the most heart-wrenching ballads that mainly focus on Ryan Key’s whirlwind of a relationship with his wife Alyona Alekhina. Key’s writes some of his most profound lyrics to date as he describes his journey with her. He describes meeting her in “Madrid” and dealing with standing by her side after an accident that left her paralysed from the waist down. “One Bedroom” is just one of the songs that handles her rehabilitation process. The song is about the apartment they shared in Denver during the first stage of her rehabilitation. It is set to the gentle strumming of an acoustic guitar before giving in to a rock anthem that can rival “Everlong” by Foo Fighters. Keys profound lyric writing can be found all over the album, featured on the most emotional of ballads and on the loudest of rock songs. This truly reflects just how much the band has grown up since their first album.
Backtrack to the beginning of the album: “Convocation” leads you into the album with Sean Mackin playing a hauntingly beautiful violin piece that readies you for the whirlwind of emotion that is Lift A Sail. This leads you into my favorite song off the album: “Transmission Home.” It is a massive sounding rock anthem with grungy drums that are reminiscent of Dave Grohl’s days as the drummer for Nirvana. Ryan Mendez’s guitar work churns out a newfound intensity while Key explores new territories with his vocals as he tries out a piercing falsetto on the choruses. It sounds beautiful as he leads you into the rousing chorus of “I will send a transmission home / to say that I have been out here too long alone / and I want to come down now.”
“Illuminate” sees the worlds of grungy alt-rock colliding with the well-rehearsed sounds of modern pop punk. Grungy guitar riffs collide with clean pop punk riffs while Young churns out your typical pop punk drum pattern. It is a song that reflects everything that Yellowcard used to be, and everything that they have become. It is perhaps the song that best displays just how far Yellowcard has come since 1997. “Crash the Gate” displays similar characteristics to “Illuminate” with raging guitar pieces and Mackin’s sophisticated string pieces swopping down to elevate grungy rock anthems to entirely new levels. “The Deepest Well” also channels this same energy; especially with Matty Mullins of Memphis May Fire lending his vocals.
One of the most unique songs on the albums is “MSK.” It sees Mackin truly display his talents on the violin against a backdrop of keys and swirling mass of atmospheric electronics provided by Young. This creates the perfect backdrop for Key to deliver his brilliant emotive vocals as he truly delves into just how much he loves, and needs, his wife. “MSK” is unlike anything Yellowcard has ever done before, and it is utterly brilliant.
What more can be said about Lift A Sail? It is Yellowcard’s best album to date – and they have released some damn fine albums in the past. It was a bold new step by them to turn to something that is stuck between the world of alt-rock and pop punk, but it sounds truly brilliant. The album sums up everything Yellowcard was in the past, and opens them up to something entirely new for the future.