An Introduction To Yellow Days

Playing Laneway Festival 2019

George Van Den Broek (pka Yellow Days) is 19 years old, but he doesn’t sound that way. His howling, aching voice is the most immediately noticeable aspect of Yellow Days’ music, however that’s not to undersell his startling jazz chops, which permeate the musicianship on display.

Over two albums, George has created a genre in and of itself – a smattering of King Krule’s jazzy scuzz, the internet fandom of Boy Pablo, and the croony soft-rock influences of fellow Laneway ‘19 artist Rex Orange County.

We hand-picked five Yellow Days songs to provide an introduction to this singular, precociously talented songwriter.

‘Gap In The Clouds’

(Harmless Melodies, 2016)

For many people this was their first introduction to Yellow Day – and what an intro. Swirling synths give way to George’s pained croon and twinkling organ chords. There’s a Motown lilt to the entire reverie, both in the skipping drums and the way he stretches his voice to its elastic breaking point in the song’s chorus. “A gap in the clouds, the sun comes out,” he intones. It’s atmospheric without losing sight of his gift for concise melodies.

‘Your Hand Holding Mine’

(Harmless Melodies, 2016)

The woozy, slow-moving ‘Your Hand Holding Mine’ is another prime example of George’s preternatural talent for arrangements and songwriting beyond his years. Guitars are pitch-shifted to within an inch of their life, while halcyon synths search for a root note. His voice is the only consistent in the song; an oasis of calm in a sea of wanting and longing that becomes untenable for the song’s narrator. A real treat of a pop tune.

‘How Can I Love You’

(single, 2018)

You’ve probably guessed a pretty common lyrical theme for Yellow Days by now: longing, loneliness, and the absence of a partner in life. But on ‘How Can I Love You’, George isn’t pining for a lost love. He’s found one, but he’s struggling to understand the point of it all. Over skittering, jazzy drums, slap bass and ragtime piano, he croons of being “lost again with thoughts of you”. His voice is smoother than it’s ever been, as he desperately tries to find contentment in the one place he can: his dreams. The song’s denouement is indicative of Yellow Days’ growing confidence as a composer and arranger, layering on coo-ing harmonies and Destroyer-esque sax to create the world’s smoothest fade-out into oblivion.

‘The Way Things Change’

(single, 2018)

‘The Way Things Change’ has the ominous, encroaching feel of an anxiety attack, crawling along at a walking pace and slowly ramping up the paranoia. The guitars have the same watery sound as the dreamiest Connan Mockasin tune, but George’s deep, resonant voice urges the listener to “keep going”, bringing in a welcome sense of unease to proceedings. While the song never reaches a welcome crescendo, the menacing mood throughout never wanes, establishing Yellow Days as an auteur and master of atmosphere.

‘A Little While’

(Harmless Melodies, 2016)

‘A Little While’ has a casual strut to it that contrasts with the croaky vocals, which sound like George is shouting at the bottom of a well, desperate to be heard. The guitars shine with single upstrums, while the bassline continues to wander around, the embodiment of the searching inner-monologue that makes up the song’s lyric. There’s a soulful quality to the song’s stark, minimal production that contrasts with the classicism of George’s songwriting. It’s another example of his remarkable skill at fusing disparate genres, sounds and moods to create the Yellow Days sound.

Words by Laneway’s Dom O’Connor

 

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