William Ryan Key
Release Date: May 25th, 2018
Label: The Lone Tree Recordings
Review by Jared Stossel
It's quite difficult to believe that just over a year ago, Yellowcard officially bowed out of the pop-punk/alternative rock music scene after performing their final show in Anaheim, CA, after a massively successful career that had been in motion since 1997. Many were uncertain as to what the future would hold, but it's become clear in recent months that at least one member of the Florida five-piece is ready for the next steps in their musical journey: William Ryan Key, the spirited frontman who encouraged sing-along after sing-along throughout countless world tours and ten full length albums in the band's career.
This time around, Key has taken a turn for the acoustic. Thirteen represent Key's first solo endeavor, and it's not what Yellowcard fans will be expecting (but we mean that in a good way). While each of the five tracks feature veritable instrumentation and a prominence of acoustic guitar throughout, you can picture a full band. Thirteen evokes memories of 90's alternative rock acts like Smashing Pumpkins, Bush, and Third Eye Blind. That style emanates from Key's vocal melodies and guitar strumming on tracks like "Thirty Days" and "Form and Figure", as he reflects and looks inward on his life and past relationships from the previous seventeen years as a frontman in a band that, with the exception of a short hiatus, had little to no downtime along the way.
"Old Friends" opens the record in a nostalgic (yet un-nostalgic) look back at past mistakes ("In 1999, I was first learning to sin/cranked up and hit the road to grind some gears again"), providing a clear indication that this selection is all about finally slowing down, stepping outside of the box, and reflecting on what once was, and what can become. The most "Yellowcard-sounding" track on the record comes in the form of the single "Vultures", in which a familiar strumming pattern leads straight into a song that examines relationships of the past, and the introspective nature as to whether the kinds of situations that drive us crazy everyday are better to have occurred because they teach us something, or not at all ("Is it better to have had, or have not?").
Thirteen closes with the powerful and moving "Great Unknown", which showcases Key embracing the future and what it holds, rather than running from it. It's interesting; the first track of off Ocean Avenue, undoubtedly one of Yellowcard's most successful albums during their career, is a song called "Way Away", a track that is all about leaving and trying to get away from things that you didn't necessarily want to confront. It's funny what seventeen years can do. It seems like Key is done running, and he's here to stay, while embracing what the future has to offer.