Yellow Days is a project about youth — those sideways times when one’s place in the world is fairly guaranteed but little understood, where drugs and love and anxiety and opportunity meld into a sweaty-sweet haze, and all you can do is huff it and press on until clarity comes. Yellow Days is also George van den Broek, a young man with an old soul and the voice to match. His music, fittingly, feels both of his era and completely other: a woozy mixture of soul, blues, psych, and groove leaking through the walls of a jazz lounge that’s come unstuck in time. Although, to be fair, he writes the stuff in his parents’ garden shed in a Southern England suburb when he’s not in California working with a host of similarly talented musicians. A self-taught multi-instrumentalist and self-medicated auteur, George has never fit into one style or space. And as he readies his new album, his sound continues to warp funky, while his words dig deeper into modern malaise and mental health. It is, as he says with a chuckle, “Upbeat existential millennial crisis music.”
Yellow Days first turned our ears in 2016 with the Harmless Melodies EP, a bone-deep set of lo-fi gems that found a 16-year-old George putting his smoke-saturated vocal chords to good use, groaning out firsthand tales of heartbreak, hope, and depression — “Gap in the Clouds,” about overcoming the latter, was affecting enough to score a trailer for Atlanta‘s second season. When the dust cleared, he muddied the waters all over again with the collection Is Everything Okay in Your World?, complete with an opening cut called “A Bag of Dutch,” a psychedelic trumpet solo, and a sampled Alan Watts discussing how to live more ecstatically. The feel was something like a blues singer on acid — produced by a collagist — who was equally enamored of Ray Charles and Mac DeMarco. He’s since been teasing us with singles: “How Can I Love You?” with it’s Toro y Sinatra sway; the breezy but doubtful “What’s It All For?”; “Just When,” coproduced by Nate Fox (Chance the Rapper); and “It’s Real Love,” cowritten by John Carroll Kirby (Solange).