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Always Summer: A Farewell to Yellowcard

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Melody Bot, Sep 29, 2016.

  1. Melody Bot

    Your friendly little forum bot. Staff Member

    This article has been imported from for discussion. All of the forum rules still apply.

    The first time I heard Yellowcard was sometime in the summer of 2004. I think my sister and I were packing for our annual trip to visit my grandparents in New Hampshire and I had the radio on. (This event is notable because I can legitimately not remember the last time I had the radio on of my own accord.) I had my radio tuned to the local “modern rock” station, which played about 50% Staind and 50% everything else. They also had this feature called “the Buzzcut,” where they’d play an up-and-coming song from an up-and-coming band and ask listeners to call in with feedback. If listeners liked the song, it got added to the playlist. If they didn’t, it never got played again.

    The Buzzcut song on this particular morning was “Ocean Avenue,” Yellowcard’s breakout hit single. At this point in time, the song was almost a year old, because it inexplicably wasn’t the lead single from the album of the same name. (More inexplicably, Capitol Records officially released “Ocean Avenue” as a single in February, the least appropriate month of entire year to be listening to “Ocean Avenue.”)

    The bad timing didn’t matter. That first time I heard “Ocean Avenue,” I knew it was going to be a hit. The chorus was just too undeniable for it to miss. And fuck, that bridge. If I recall correctly from that first listen, my sister thought “Ocean Avenue” sounded like blink-182.

    I thought it sounded like summer.

    Fast-forward 12 years and a few months, and it’s funny just how prophetic that first impression proved to be. It almost goes without saying that “Ocean Avenue” went on to be one of my “songs of the summer” for 2004. I remember pretty much immediately going downstairs to download the song after that first listen, so I could put it on my “travel mix” for the upcoming trip. Like I said, the song was just too undeniable to ignore.

    But Yellowcard were more than just a one-hit wonder, more than just a flash in the pan. Sitting here now, looking back at the journey I took to get from 13 to 25, perhaps no band captured the sound of the summers of my youth better than this one. Ocean Avenue wasn’t even an instant classic for me. I loved some of it (that massive chorus in “Only One,” or the chill-inducing build on the bridge of “Empty Apartment”), but didn’t care for all of it. Musically, 2004 was the most important year of my life and I weirdly don’t really associate it much with Yellowcard. It took me a little while to appreciate them as more than just another pop-punk band with a few great songs.

    But Ocean Avenue proved to be an album that stuck around. On Labor Day 2005, I made an “end of summer mix” to play all day as I mentally prepared myself for the first day of high school. “Back Home” felt like an appropriate inclusion. Something about that line in the second verse, about being “free to stand beside the ocean in moonlight,” perfectly captured the end of summer vibe I was going for on that mix. I was sad to see the summer go. I was nervous to start a new journey at a new school. I was excited to start high school. I was trying to hold on to the sunny days beneath those cloudless skies, even as they drifted away.

    Yellowcard’s transformation from a band I kind of liked to one of my favorite bands was kickstarted because of my decision to put “Back Home” on that playlist on Labor Day 2005. Every year since then, I have made a point of returning to that song as earth’s fairest season dies. It was there for every Labor Day; every 10 p.m. the night before school started up again; every attempt to do an entire summer reading assignment in the space of two hours; every journal entry where I reflected on the highs and lows of the preceding summer; every last summer drive; every last summer sunset; every last day of freedom.

    For a lot of people, that’s what Yellowcard’s music will always be. It’s loading all of your friends into the car and taking a road trip to the beach on a perfect sunny day, without any thought about when you’ll be coming back. It’s the summer romance that you still remember fondly, even though it ended so long ago. It’s the risk and excitement of summer parties back before you were old enough to legally have a drink. It’s the perfection of that last golden summer before responsibility finally set in.

    I didn’t love every Yellowcard album. I was particularly confounded by Lights & Sounds upon its release, and I still am to this day. I also never fell quite as hard for Paper Walls as many of the band’s fans seem to have done. But when I think of the bands that were most important to me growing up, I can’t leave these guys out. I can’t forget that, the day after I graduated high school, Ocean Avenue was the first album to get a spin in my car stereo. I can’t forget how When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes came to my rescue near the end of the worst semester of my life and reminded me that the hopeful perfection of summertime was still there, just a month or so away. I can’t forget driving away from my last summer in my hometown with Southern Air playing loudly, shouting along to “Always Summer” and the title track and knowing that everything was about to change. I certainly can’t forget how Lift a Sail held me together in the days and weeks after my grandpa passed away, when the only thing I wanted to do was break.

    The first time I heard the chorus to “Rest in Peace,” Yellowcard’s new single, I knew they were saying goodbye. “If you could go back now, would you say it differently?” Ryan Key asks in the song. “If there was no one there, would you open up for me? If this was the last time that we would ever speak, could we forgive somehow? Could we let it rest in peace?” When the band released that song, they hadn’t yet broken the news that they were calling it quits. But one listen to that chorus told me everything I needed to know: this was the sound of a curtain call.

    It’s surreal to think that Yellowcard will never again soundtrack a summer—at least not with a new set of songs. It’s also fitting, though. When, I reviewed Lift a Sail back in 2014, I wrote about how myself and so many other listeners of the band had reached “the point where those carefree summers of old may still sound as utopian as they always have, but where they also don’t apply to us anymore.” The band grew out of their summer sound on that record—a fact that disappointed a lot of people. For me, though, it always felt right. Southern Air had capped the last summer of my youth, the last one where it felt like real responsibility was still just a dot on the horizon. When Lift a Sail came out, I was a year and a half out of college, I was married, and I had just dealt with the death of a loved one for the first time. I was growing up, and the band was growing up with me.

    The band’s final album, the self-titled Yellowcard, is the logical next step, and the last one. In “Southern Air,” Ryan Key sang about how he was ready to lay his head down for a bit and stop running for awhile. On “Fields & Fences,” this album’s closer and the last song of the band’s career, he’s finally found the place where he can settle down and stop. Fittingly, he’s somewhere in Tennessee, awash in the southern air he once sang about with such wistful reverence.

    The album that gets us there is classic Yellowcard through and through, but also delivers a surprise or two. The topics are familiar: fractured relationships, regrets, wishes to go back and change things, hopeful glances toward the future, and of course, home. (Summertime and California don’t make any overt appearances in the lyrics, but they’re there in spirit.) The music, also, is thoroughly Yellowcard, reviving the band’s penchant for soaring choruses, walls of guitars, and cinematic violin solos one last time. Sometimes the sound flits in a more aggressive direction (as with the Tony Hawk-ready “Got Yours” or the resentful “Savior’s Robes”). Other times it drifts further toward country music than this band has ever gone outside of “Ten” (the acoustic “I’m a Wrecking Ball” or the bittersweet “Fields & Fences”). For the most part though, Yellowcard is an album that bids fitting farewell to the band’s legacy without becoming fan service. It evolves the band’s sound without taking it too far beyond what fans have always loved. It sounds like a Yellowcard album without being a retread. And as evidenced by the lyrics to “Rest in Peace” it makes plenty of references to goodbyes and endings without being too heavy-handed about it.

    Even so, even though Yellowcard is about the best swansong you could have asked for from a band that means so much to so many of us, Yellowcard’s decision to call it quits is bound to inspire a lot of questions. Why break up? Why now? Why ever? Alternatively, why not just end the narrative at Southern Air, an album that feels in every regard like a career capper? Other questions will abound as well. Why not invite LP out for this one last tour? Why drop your last album in the fall when you’ve always been a summer band? Why play new songs on your tour when fans mostly want to hear the old stuff?

    Me? I don’t want the answers to any of those questions. I don’t need them and I don’t think I am entitled to them. And that’s not because Yellowcard aren’t one of my favorite bands. Certainly, I’ve never held them up to the same level of the Jimmy Eat Worlds or the Andrew McMahons or the Butch Walkers of this scene. But in a recent project where I picked one song to encapsulate each year I’ve spent on this planet, there were no less than five years where a Yellowcard song was in the running. Put this band’s streak of albums and songs down on paper and it becomes clear just how important they’ve been to me.

    Rather, I don’t want to ask those questions because none of them is what I want my parting words for this band to be.

    For this band? I think I’ll settle for something simpler:

    For this band? I think I’ll settle for “thank you.”

    JRGComedy likes this.
  2. Davjs


    A station that plays 50% Staind would be pretty cool.
    Craig Manning likes this.
  3. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    Well it was the best radio station in my hometown at that point, though I'm not sure that's saying much. Haha
    JRGComedy, Chase Tremaine and Davjs like this.
  4. Davjs


    Very nice write up though. Got a chance to listen to half the album on the way to work this morning, What Appears and A Place We Set Afire stand out on the first listen.
  5. blacktaxi2d


    very good article here. i loved ocean avenue, but never had a real connection to any of their later works honestly. this makes me want to check out the new album though, and since it still feels like summer in Jacksonville, Florida, i will still get a summer vibe.

    one of the weirdest things is how they have all but disowned my hometown here, which gave them "Ocean Avenue" even though the street doesn't exit lol
    Craig Manning likes this.
  6. Zip It Chris

    Be kind; everyone is on their own journey.

    Almost feels like you wrote this from MY brain...graduated in 2004, yellowcard opened up for a band I can't remember now, but it was right before Ocean Avenue dropped and their live performance mixed with the songwriting on Ocean Avenue made them my favorite band instantly. Great to drive around town to, and I even remember not being able to open the CD and had to use my keys which scratched the case that I still have to this day...they deserve to go out on top, and I am EXTREMELY appreciative of their careers and providing us with so many great tunes. Thanks for the write up Craig, you nailed it!
    crowntownguy and Craig Manning like this.
  7. Michael Schmidt

    Don't recreate the scene, or reinvent the meanings Supporter

    I still don't think I am ready for this breakup. I just hope we haven't heard the last of Ryan Key making new music.
  8. FTank

    Prestigious Prestigious

    Awesome write up, Craig. I don't have as long a history with this band as you, but they're one of the most important to me as well.
    Craig Manning and sebastianrcgr like this.
  9. Dubui_209


    If it wasn't for this band, god knows what I'd be or where I'd be. They gave me faith when times were hard and made me feel alive when times were good. I could never thank them enough.
  10. delvec19


    InfiniteArms and Craig Manning like this.
  11. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    Thanks for reading and commenting, all. Means a lot.
  12. relientcasey


    Love the write up Craig. Thank you so much for encapsulating a lot of my thoughts in a lot of ways.

    When I think about Yellowcard's career ending, I think about how much I took them for granted in the scene. I can't tell you how many times I spun Ocean Avenue and Southern Air. They were a constant in many ways and even though I love the band dearly, I feel like I never gave them enough love. I'm sure feeling it now. Looking forward to this record a lot.
  13. fourstarters

    Team Wiggum

    Oh man, I'm not even sure where to start with this band, but here goes nothing in a very abridged format.

    Back right around when OA came out, Yellowcard was touring on Warped and some headlining shows around the country. I joined their message board around when the internet started really breaking bands. Made a ton of friends, volunteered for Takeover Records on Warped, and found myself in Las Vegas to meet some of these internet friends for the first time. Within a year, I'd moved to California to pursue a long distance relationship with one of those aforementioned internet friends. 12 years later, we've been inseparable ever since and we'll celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary in November. I still keep in touch with some of the kids on that board and have seen them all grown up, graduate, get married, and have kids.

    I'm not the same Yellowcard fan I once was, but I'm still incredibly thankful for their place in music and the effect they've had on my life.
  14. crowntownguy

    I think I'm growing into someone you can trust

    Didn't expect to tear up today Craig, so thanks for that.

    Haven't been able to hear the new album yet, but I know it will probably be one of the more bittersweet pieces of music I've heard. Growing up in an extremely religious community, I wasn't allowed to listen to non-Christian music growing up. Ocean Avenue was the first album I ever heard that wasn't about Jesus and it's stuck with me as one of my favorite albums of all time ever since then. That whole album seemed to pervade everything in my life for the next year or so and I have so many memories attached to that album.

    Might have to do a Yellowcard retrospective this weekend and go back through all of their albums.

    Amazing piece Craig. Thanks for writing this for fans like me.
  15. doubledribble


    I alluded to the Ocean Avenue single in a post I made earlier. Thanks to That I got to see YC with 300 or 400 other people in a tiny venue in my hometown and then they went on their arena tours lol
    Fuckkmerunning and Craig Manning like this.
  16. So good! So good.
    InfiniteArms and Craig Manning like this.
  17. efp722


    Waiting for my preorder to arrive before I jump in, and I have to exclude YC pre Ocean Ave since its been about 10 years since i've listened to any of it, but my current rank is:

    1. When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes
    2. Southern Air
    3. Ocean Ave
    4. Paper Walls
    5. Lift A Sail
    6. Lights and Sound

    One For The Kids is the only pre Ocean Ave album that I can even remotely talk about it. It's been years since I've heard it, but I remember liking Starstruck and Drifting a lot in early high school (2002ish)
    Fuckkmerunning likes this.
  18. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    I definitely think they were taken for granted by some people. I feel like our community is one of the few places that really gave some of their later records a chance. And even we kind of got into this groove of thinking they'd always be around. They weren't a band I'd ever really thought about breaking up, just because they've been around since I first started getting really into music.

    This is such a cool story. Thank you for sharing.

    This is also a very cool story. I can't imagine not being allowed to listen to anything but Christian music, haha. Music was such a personal thing for me from such a young age. I think I'd be a completely different person if I had had to go through something like that. Glad you eventually got to listen to something else (and that it was Yellowcard, ha).

    I listened to One for the Kids yesterday and it's honestly amazing how much better Ocean Avenue is from every single standpoint. I hadn't listened to that album in a long time and didn't really remember what it sounded like.
  19. doubledribble


    Thanks for always sharing your thoughts with us. I find that our music tastes can be very similar and so different. Because of that, I've discovered some great music!
    Craig Manning likes this.
  20. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    Awesome to hear! What have you discovered?
    InfiniteArms likes this.
  21. doubledribble


    Oh man... putting me on the spot!

    Jason Isbell
    Noah Gunderson
    Emerson Hart

    That's just off the top of my head
    InfiniteArms and Craig Manning like this.
  22. efp722


    I'm saving your podcast until after I hear the album, do you guys rank the albums in it? Would love to hear your list.
    Craig Manning likes this.
  23. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    That's great, I'm glad you checked those guys out. The first two are two of my favorite discoveries of the past few years too.

    Ha, oh yeah, we rank them. Or we try, at least. I put @Jason Tate on the spot at the end of the podcast because I knew people would ask.
    doubledribble likes this.
  24. efp722


    Excellent. Can't wait. Oh, and great write up by the way!
    Craig Manning likes this.
  25. Loki

    God of mischief

    This write-up really gave me goosebumps while I was at work. I decided to quickly check the headlines but started reading and was hooked.

    I am sad to see these guys go. As many of you have stated I'm not sure I appreciated these guys enough despite how much I always liked them.

    This just feels like another nail in the coffin of youth, especially the summer mindset/sentiments Craig touched on...

    Thanks for this, Craig. This was my favorite piece ever on the site.
    Craig Manning likes this.