Childhood Eyes Review

I love Yellowcard. I've loved Yellowcard since I first heard Ocean Avenue at 13, when my sister gave me the cd to check out. I listened to that album at every possible chance I had during a camping trip to Warren Dunes in MI and I can still recall those feelings 15 years later. That said, I took their breakup announcement pretty hard in 2016. It never quite felt real that Yellowcard was done, even years later and significant life changes on my end. When they announced the Riot Fest show last year, there seemed to be a glimmer of hope. I wanted to believe that maybe, just maybe, they'd give us new music...

Here we are, halfway through August of 2023 and Yellowcard's new EP Childhood Eyes is available everywhere. Although I always wanted to believe it was possible, I genuinely never thought I'd see this day. Yellowcard has always been a massive part of my life, so It's been surreal to process; I'm endlessly grateful for the opportunity to do so.

That said, is the new music any good? Bands coming back isn't unheard of, especially lately, and the results can be mixed. Time changes people, and bands are just made up of people looking to express themselves through their art. I'll never begrudge artists for taking risks, trying new things, and creating something they love. But, that means I may not always like it on a personal level, even if I respect what they're doing. Although I'm biased as a lifelong fan of Yellowcard, I still have my favorite albums and eras. I had both high expectations and concerns due to the reality of how difficult it is to capture the magic of the past while also creating something new that isn't a rehash for the sake of nostalgia. To be clear, I was never worried the music wouldn't be good, I just didn't know if I'd like it. I've changed as a person in the past 7 years, and nothing is guaranteed. I was ready to accept any potential disappointment or disinterest. But, reader...

This is some of Yellowcard's best work. These five songs are fresh, impressive, and somehow pull off the impossible by being something incredible for both lifelong fans and new listeners. I'm not sure they've gotten enough credit for what they've created in Childhood Eyes, which is partially why I wanted to spend some time writing about it.

Album sequencing feels like somewhat of a lost art in the age of streaming and tiktok singles, but Childhood Eyes is crafted with such intentionality that it's impossible to miss, especially has a long time listener. Each song is placed with a purpose, as we get a brief lyrical journey through Ryan's thoughts on the past 7 years paired with an ordering that keeps you riding the ups and downs of each song's specific pace/energy in a way that feels natural.

The opener, Three Minutes More, sets the stage by being highly energetic both sonically and lyrically. It's clear that this is something new. The inclusion of Vic Fuentes from Pierce the Veil is a bold choice, particularly since it's less of a feature and more a duet situation. I was initially caught off guard by it, with the thought of, "Really? It's been 7 years since we've heard a Yellowcard song and it's not just Ryan?" However, that was the only negative thought I had through the whole experience and my perspective has since shifted. Of the 5 songs, it was the definitive choice for an opener.

"It's different this time, looking up at the sky; three minutes more might just save me this time."

The title track, Childhood Eyes, immediately harkens back to their 2012 record Southern Air; a somewhat radio friendly ear worm that's perfect for a summer anthem. Childhood Eyes is the best example of how the EP pairs the familiar summer sounds of Yellowcard with something new. Upon inspection of the lyrics, this is no surprise. If we can find our childhood eyes, maybe we can put aside our jaded expectations of life and see the world with a new perspective, one that's built on the lessons learned from the past. As Ryan sings out the outro, you can't help but wonder if Yellowcard might actually be here to stay.

"I am the love you need."

Track #3, Hiding in the Light, is already one of my all time favorite Yellowcard songs. Ryan's gone on record noting that this EP inhabits a similar sonic space to their 2006 record Paper Walls, and Hiding in the Light is the best example of this. Driving guitars lead the way as Ryan shares his new love for life and in turn, for Yellowcard, contrasting who he used to be with who he is now. Something I've always appreciated for Ryan's lyrical style is how effortlessly he intertwines concepts. Hiding in the Light is easily interpreted as a song both written to a lover and to the fans of Yellowcard, with neither perspective forcing itself as the "correct" one. There's a fine line between personal reflection that's a little too personal and the kind that's accessible enough for any listener to appreciate and relate to, and Hiding in the Light is the latter.

"You and me for the rest of this life... the future I see."

As a short aside, one of Yellowcard's strongest song writing qualities is window dressing. Rarely is there pointless empty space or moments that leave you feeling like that something is missing. Hiding in the Light could have ended on a final chord, ringing out, but instead we get this short, but very memorable, outro segment with a unique guitar part and a final strong vocal statement. Details like these help songs carve out a unique space within a body of songs, especially one as long and storied as Yellowcard's.

The intro to Honest from the Jump is another great example of a memorable production choice. Yellowcard experimented with electronic elements on 2014's Lift a Sail, so the bits and pieces scattered through Honest from the Jump feel like a loving callback, along with being extremely effective. Any song with lyrics that involve space has my interest, so the opening lines remain my favorite:

"We were just distant stars; Cosmic colliding hearts"

The structure of Honest from the Jump is notable, and I'm pretty sure the time signature changes from verse to chorus, although I'm currently feeling too lazy to prove it. I learned after the fact that the chorus is ripped directly from one of Ryan Key's solo songs, Brighton. This isn't the first time Yellowcard has re-used a previously written song, and I doubt it'll be the last. All that said, Honest from the Jump is a bona fide Yellowcard anthem that fits right into the upper tiers of their discography.

Last, but certainly not least, is The Places We'll Go. While directly stated by Ryan as being a rework of a song he wrote in 2015 based around a couple's love story, it's the perfect sendoff message for Childhood Eyes. The very first line references the current state of Yellowcard, through the eyes of the band:

"Twenty years passed, it's wild how fast; were we ever that young?"

It's been 20 years since Ocean Avenue and Yellowcard took the world by storm, creating a legacy that's lasted until now. Ryan goes on, speaking to how he's changed and wants to share that with the fans and those around him, who still have his heart. As mentioned earlier, the blend of Yellowcard/its fans and a lover is perfectly executed here. On one hand, you have a beautiful love story that speaks to how mistakes can be forgiven, wounds healed, and feelings reignited. On the other, you have the individuals of a band who've grown to realize the love of a fan base that's never waned, despite the many years apart. It hasn't always been easy, but it's time for something new and good. On top of that, you have a most classic Yellowcard song that's taken even further by having the crooning of Chris Carrabba in the harmony vocals. It's everything I wanted for the last song on this EP, and more.

The TL;DR is this: Yellowcard has returned with 5 incredible songs in the form of Childhood Eyes, an EP that easily fits into the upper echelon of their discography. Each song plays a part in reflecting on the past, present, and future of Yellowcard as it currently stands. Compared to a typical EP, this almost feels like a mini LP in both quality and presentation. If you haven't listened to Childhood Eyes yet, I highly recommend it.

Thanks for reading, and long live YC.

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