learning love songs

est. 2008




“I’m here reaching out again,
Lead into the wind on my knees
My fear is a memory
It’s a reverie and I’m free

I wanna take this crown from my head,
I wanna build something with my hands

I will send a transmission home
To say that I’ve been out here too long alone
And I wanna come down now
I will send a transmission home
To say I should have called in so long ago
And I wanna come down.”

~Transmission Home
Yellowcard, Lift a Sail 
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I am going to have the privilege of seeing Yellowcard this Saturday, checking off a 12-year concert goal from my ever-growing, never-shrinking list of artists I hope to see live.

A lot of people know Yellowcard from their “Ocean Avenue” days – their true breakthrough in the scene back in 2003 – but I’ve kept an ear on them since and they’re almost a more influential band to me now, in my late 20s, than they were in my teens. Sure, I played the hell out of “Only One” back in the day (and I still do!!)  but the added depth and maturity of their later work is really worth digging into.

Their sound has evolved into one that’s much fuller, and less catering to the (expertly done) fiddle trope they built their reputation. New Yellowcard is an unfiltered brand of rock music, but one that’s rooted in a very emo and scene place, enough to be warm and familiar and more melodic than what you might find on the radio or wherever that boring brand of rock music lives (you know, the kind for large men with pick-up trucks and arm band tattoos. I’m generalizing, but you get the idea).

Last year’s “Lift a Sail” has grown on me so much – it’s a record that definitely needs some time to familiarize with because at first it does feel very “collection of songs” and therefore easy to dismiss. But I found myself seeking out their hooks and choruses and key changes. As much as I’ve grown to appreciate its solemn reflection and anthematic choruses, though, this isn’t my favorite record of theirs. That goes to “Paper Walls,” a record I’ve played more in the past year than I have in the previous seven. Why it took me so long to get attached to I cannot say, but “Fighting,” “Shadows and Regrets” and “You and Me and One Spotlight” are now some of my favorite songs in their catalog. I can’t wait to see if they’re still in the band’s rotation.

I’m hoping to get a new appreciation for their musicianship – but most of all I’m just hoping for that feeling you get at concerts sometimes, the one where you know the songs before they start, sing too loud, get lost in a crowd, and feel like you’re home. Coming from a band like this, that I discovered years ago in a different place but will always associate with the place I am now, that feeling is as timeless, freeing and grounding as you can hope to find in a life full of moving parts and morphing attitudes.

“I heard, heard myself
Say things I take back
If I could, could retell
And make these stories last
I see, see shadows
Of who you’ll always be
I drive, drive these roads
Made of memories

When we were only kids
And we were best of friends
And we hoped for the best
And let go from the rest
Shadows and regrets
We let go from the rest.”

~Shadows and Regrets
Yellowcard, Paper Walls


I’ve been listening to a lot of Yellowcard lately. While “Ocean Avenue” is a classic album, ubiquitous across a time and place, the later releases are equally well-executed, bright and full of feeling.

Few bands capture yearning and nostalgia as well as these guys can – there’s a reliance on memory, and a subtle, almost innocent, treatment of desire. When this song came on shuffle the other day, I realized I hadn’t made it all the way through “Paper Walls” probably since it’s release, and never got to know it closely. What a well-timed, romantic surprise, with twinkling guitar melodies turning into soaring crescendos to match Ryan Key’s full-blown theatrics. This song is built around the chorus, and Key masters using octave change in this way, turning a simple pop format into a tension-fueled slow jam with cymbal crashes and slight orchestral touches to spare. I wouldn’t call this one of their best or most complicated songs, as it is probably neither, but it is honest, and uncomplicated, and it makes me think of magic in the air…so I might not hesitate to call it among my favorite Yellowcard songs, and perhaps one of the most beautiful.

“It won’t be long now
The music’s on loud
We’ll sing this song out
And then we’ll lie down
I’ll hold you close then
I’ll let you know when
The space and time bend
And then we’ll fall in…

Go put on your best tonight
It’s you and me and one spotlight
One more show, one last time
We are ready

Say you will be all around me
When your body sets your heart free
Say you will be all around me.

I’ll look for your eyes
To keep me inside
When everything dies
But one last sunrise
And when we stand there, together not scared
I’ll dry your last tear
And then we’ll just have…

Go put on your best tonight
It’s you and me and not much time
So watch the world burning bright, we are ready…

Say you will be all around me
When your body sets your heart free
Say you will be all around me
Say you’ll get me through the ending
Take my body set my heart free
Say you’ll get me through  the ending

Go put on your best tonight
It’s you and me and one spotlight
One more show, one last time
It won’t be long now…

Say you will be all around me
When your body sets your heart free
Say you will be all around me
Say you’ll get me through the ending
Take my body, set my heart free
Say you’ll get me through the ending
Say you will be, you won’t be long
All around me, you won’t be long now.

~You and Me and One Spotlight
Yellowcard, Paper Walls


Yellowcard’s Ocean Avenue Acoustic may just be one of my favorite reissues I’ve ever heard. These songs sound so beautiful and the stripped down, less punky more patient treatment reveals the meaning that all us fans heard back in the day when this record was a soundtrack to summer nights with friends, fall afternoons alone, hallway head phone listens and so much after.

Truly love how they kept structures the same, as the songs were not rewritten. But the violin solos ring a little more mournful over acoustic – the setting on “Empty Apartment” is gorgeous – and the meaningful moments are spotlit with all this new space, like the “Believe” intro and the entirety of the title track. It’s also mixed and produced extremely well in terms of clarity.  These songs could be played in front of me right now and the guitar would sound just as clear, drums just as crisp. And I can hear harmonies I don’t recall, though that may be more my own distance from the original.

It’s not easy to revisit songs (as I noted recently about the goddess herself Tori Amos) and I love that Yellowcard, a band that was a pivotal listening point for many music fans today, was able to do so without sacrificing their integrity or musicianship.

“There’s a piece of you that’s here with me
It’s everywhere I go, it’s everything I see
When I sleep, I dream and it gets me by

I can make believe that you’re here tonight
That you’re here tonight
If I could find you now things would get better
We could leave this town and run forever
I know somewhere, somehow we’ll be together
Let your waves crash down on me and take me away”

~Ocean Avenue
Yellowcard, Ocean Avenue Acoustic



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