Yellow Days – A Day In A Yellow Beat Album Review

Sony Music – 2020

George Van Den Broek AKA Yellow Days returns with the follow up to 2017’s Is Everything Okay In Your World? which saw the indie singer-songwriter expand upon his soulful take on the jangly guitar sound that became an indie favourite throughout the 2010’s. A Day In A Yellow Beat is Yellow Days’ first release on Sony Music, a move away from his first label Good Years. With this new high profile label came new opportunities for Yellow Days and an ability to re-invent or amplify his established sound. It seems as though given this ability Yellow Days chose to move his sound into a more funk based style without this album being packed full of groovy bass lines, funky beats and enticing melodies. It’s clear to hear the influence in his sound, in fact this whole album feels like a homage to the late 70’s funk.

What set Yellow Days apart from the rest of the jangle pop scene of the last decade was his soulful and crooning voice, often caped in copious amount of delay and reverb. But on Is Everything Okay In Your World? the aesthetic of the album was raw, and this overuse of effects felt natural to the sound that Yellow Days was creating, often allowing the lyrics to be presented with more flavour. On A Day In A Yellow Beat however the overuse of reverb sometimes feels like an excuse for the lack of lyrical content. “And just keep it alive, Gon’ keep it alive, yeah, Keep it alive, Gon’ keep it alive, oh” he repeats on the many chorus’ of “Keep Yourself Alive” in which Yellow Days releases his inner Leon Bridges. This song has feel good intentions, and admittedly it is a nice listen as background music. But the main issue with this song and many songs throughout the entirety of this album is they feel too plastic and just a bit overcooked. This new big budget production has allowed Yellow Days to create his cleanest sounding record yet, but this polishing has taken away all the soul from a soul centred voice.

It’s hard to pin it down to just one element, whether it be the over saturation of flanger that coats almost every instrument and movement on this album. Or whether it’s just the overthought instrumental movements that might tail end a song, like the slow stroll out of “Getting Closer” that wobbles back and forth yet somehow keeps going for nearly 2 minutes. The funk, jazz and soul of old that Yellow Days takes inspiration from on this album was built upon its raw and off the cuff feel that allowed even the biggest moments of showmanship to feel humbling. All the elements of Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” are here, but everything just feels over saturated. Almost to a point of feeling like this music is a synthetic version of what it strives to be.Which is somewhat ironic as the start of this album features a long vocal sample of a Ray Charles interview talking how “When I listen to a lot of this stuff today, I hear so many of these kids, they— They sound so much the same, you know”, almost as if Yellow Days was warning us before we began.

It’s not to say though that this album isn’t without it’s merits. There are moments of great songwriting and memorable tracks, it just takes quite a lot of digging to get to them. “You” features one the sexiest soundscapes that Yellow Days creates on this album, with some off-key seductive nasal chorus lines thrown in. And yet it works. The beat is simple and the backing instrumentation is a tame swirling guitar riff, and a flowing melody but that’s all the track needs. It doesn’t overcomplicate itself and keeps the elements tight and in place. And there’s “The Curse” which is one of the longest tracks on the album, yet through it’s continual progression and refined sharpness it doesn’t drag like others. The woozy synthesisers, sloppy beat and Yellow Days’ clearer vocal performance help deliver a true synth pop banger. The synthesiser breakdown just before a certain founding father of the aforementioned modern jangle pop sound, Mac DeMarco, rips a classic jizz-jazz chorus fuelled guitar solo is one of most powerful moments on the album, almost as if the magic of the curse he’s been singing about is taking effect.

Speaking of Mac DeMarco, the first EP that brought about attention to his music was the Rock And Roll Night Club EP. A concept album about a radio station that plays lo-fi almost Elvis like jangle pop songs, spliced with radio interludes and pitched down vocals. Yellow Days seems to have taken this idea to the extreme where this album features nearly 12 minutes of samples or interludial tracks, which even taken away would make this album just over an hour. They never really seem to add too much in the way of progression, just bumping up the track list numbers. Which is one of the main problems with this album, the length. At an hour and a quarter you certainly have to clear your schedule if you’re planning on listening to this in one sitting. But even after on an album that’s 23 tracks long, it becomes hard to pick out many memorable moments as they all blend into each other in an amalgamation of flaccid funk. But that seems to be the idea, many albums these days have increasingly larger track lists to aim towards the streaming market. It doesn’t matter which one of these songs ends up on appearing on your Spotify suggested playlist as there’s so many to choose from. The more tracks, the more likely one will appear. The funk, soul and synth pop of this album make for great additions to ‘chill indie’ playlists, but too often become plastic imitations of what inspired them.

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