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Genre-Bender Yellow Days Stays True to Soulful Style

| Thursday, November 2, 2017

Andrea Savage | The Observer

If you’re finding it difficult to nail down Yellow Days’ genre, you’re not alone. In fact, the 18-year-old himself has said there’s no such thing as genre anymore — the absence of any one classification may be exactly what makes this artist so distinct. The Southeast England-based teen first made himself known in November of 2016 with the release of his debut, bedroom-produced EP “Harmless Melodies,” in which he stunned listeners with his atmospheric fusion of jazz, soul and blues. Now, he’s made a resurgence with the release of his first full length album, “Is Everything Okay in Your World?,” and has retained all of the hypnotic, slacker rock-infused vibes we heard in the EP. Setting a slightly more auspicious and sometimes existential focus than George van den Broek’s yearning voice conveys in “Harmless Melodies,” “Is Everything Okay in Your World?” is teeming with stirring and thought-provoking expressions, all while remaining saturated with the layered synths and commanding vocals that made Yellow Days stand out from the start.

The shortest song on the album, “Bag of Dutch,” sets a relaxed tone for the rest of the record, packed with the bluesy rock customary of Yellow Days. Van den Broek’s tranquil voice cuts smoothly through the rippling synths and provides a good build-up for the succeeding tracks. However, Yellow Days’ captivating vocals shine through, perhaps most of all, in the album’s up-tempo second number. Released as a single earlier this year, “That Easy” has already been considered one of Yellow Days’ best works. Repeating “I ain’t giving up, not that easy,” van den Broek’s raspy, powerful voice is supported by mellow guitar, simple drums and a bubbly, arpeggiated synth.

Yellow Days follows up with a fantastic jazz-fusion track. Featuring trumpet player Nick Walters, “The Tree I Climb” takes listeners back down to a tempo similar to “Bag of Dutch.” The next track contains the most well crafted lyrics on the album. “Holding On” is seething with raw emotion about being depressed, addicted and anxious in the 21st century. “But still the structure breaking at the joints, I forgot what was the point?” he asks, describing what it feels like to believe you exist without meaning. Ironically, what comes next is the most lyrically redundant song on the album, “I Believe in Love.” The song seems to be a direct follow up to the grief-stricken “Harmless Melodies” EP,  showing van den Broek’s newly optimistic perspective on love. Although it provides little variation throughout, his achingly emotional vocals when he proclaims “I believe in love!” make the tune relatable and listening pleasant.

Falling halfway through the album, “Lately I” keeps listeners interested, no doubt due to rapper Rejjie Snow’s feature. The song provides a near perfect blend of the two artists’ styles, making it undeniably the most unique song on the album. With heavy use of speaking samples, “I’ve Been Thinking Too Hard” and “Tired” are reminiscent of Yellow Days’ “Intro” and “A Little While” from his EP.

We hear a return to the heartbroken themes we’ve grown familiar with in “Hurt in Love” where van den Broek’s chilling, yearning voice really shines. In contrast, the next track, “A Smiling Face,” is somewhat melodically homogenous. From the heartbreak, Yellow Days follows up with the record’s most uplifting tune, “Nothing’s Going to Keep Me Down,” and the album begins to wind down with “Weight of the World” and the hypnotic, almost entirely instrumental “Outro (Lost in a World with You).”

At just 18 years old, van den Broek has already created a great number of mesmerizing songs, with more to come just around the corner. His influence from Ray Charles certainly emerges in his raw, affecting lyrics, while his inspiration from more contemporary artists, such as Mac DeMarco, compile into the one-of-a-kind sound that is Yellow Days. His lyrical and musical growth and maturity are clear in this album, as well as his increasing confidence. Though it could have used a bit more of a buildup to really blow listeners away, “Is Everything Okay in Your World?” is an excellent album, overall. It’s jam-packed with familiar atmospheric guitars and synths and brimming with perhaps Yellow Days’ most impressive feature, his emotional, aching vocals straining to find as many different ways as possible to answer the question — is everything okay in your world?

Andrea Savage

Artist: Yellow Days

Album: “Is Everything Okay in Your World?”

Label: Good Years

Tracks: “That Easy,” “Holding On,” “Lately I”

If you like: King Krule, Cosmo Pyke, Mac DeMarco

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

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About Molly Chen

Molly is a senior anthropology major from Davenport, IA.

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