SoCal-by-way-of-Florida pop-punk band Yellowcard has always had a slightly different sound than its peers, thanks to the violin in its uptempo emo-rock songs. That instrument fits particularly well on the group's latest album, "Ocean Avenue Acoustic", an unplugged re- recording of its 2003 major-label debut, "Ocean Avenue".
Yellowcard didn't completely reinvent most of these songs; the acoustic versions still have much of the same energetic spirit. Opening track "Way Away" maintains the same urgency in its acoustic form, and "View From Heaven" is almost a note-for-note cover of the original, right down to the violin melody.
The songs that show the most growth for Yellowcard are those that depart from the originals. The sparse "Empty Apartment" has a full-fledged singer-songwriter feel, and vocalist Ryan Key sounds somber instead of emoting his typical whiney croon. Even more impressively, "One Year, Six Months" has been completely redone as a piano ballad, complemented beautifully by Sean Mackin's violin melodies.
Those reimagined covers, however, are in the minority. With so many songs that are straightforward reworkings of their electric versions, "Ocean Avenue Acoustic" may not offer much for those outside Yellowcard's fan base. But the few songs that veer from the originals show a remarkable maturity from this pop-punk band.
-- Catherine P. Lewis