In Review: Yellow Days - 'The Curse' (feat. Mac DeMarco)

Is it possible to write something ironically and for it still to feel emotionally affecting? George van den Broek aka Yellow Days remains a musical wunderkind, yet 'The Curse' is emblematic of his new record’s wider shortcomings.
Posted: 23 September 2020 Words: Miles Ellingham

Yellow Days’ George van den Broek has long maintained his position as the most interesting millennial slow-mo, synth-crooner around. People loved Yellow Days right from the off because it was engagingly experimental, and, unlike many contemporaries, wasn’t afraid to critique the genre, enriching it with imported hip-hop, vapour wave and funk inflections. Now van den Broek’s recorded an all-new album in sunny L.A – both a mixed bag and a bulk container, with some commentators criticising its twenty-three song track-list and gargantuan run time of one hour and seventeen minutes. ‘The Curse’ (which features fellow indie deviser, Mac DeMarco) is song number sixteen from A Day in a Yellow Beat and is released as a single. Although, ‘The Curse’ harbours some interesting elements – showcasing van den Broek’s signature experimentalism – it’s also emblematic of the record’s wider shortcomings. 

Catch any of the press for Yellow Days’ new release and you’ll inevitably be directed to a quote from can den Broek that reads, “I’m trying to brand my own version of ironic dance music full of depressing truths.” This encapsulates a lot of the record’s problems – namely, is it possible to write something ironically and for it still to feel emotionally affecting? Sure, ironic art can be funny, but ‘The Curse’ isn’t trying to be funny, it’s trying to be “depressing” apparently, and, since you can’t empathise with irony, the project stumbles, because you can’t be ironically depressed. Another problem is the totally limp appearance by DeMarco, who just sounds bored and doesn’t really bring anything to the track other than the odd, disinterested “woo… yeah!”. This is a running theme on the album itself, which features a host of musical talent from Shirley Jones to Bishop Nehru – none of them really feeling entirely present. 

This being said, ‘The Curse’ is seriously well produced, and van den Broek remains a musical wunderkind. Each layer of instrumentation feels perfectly mastered, with slow funk bass-lines melding seamlessly with hypnogogic audial effects. The track is also accompanied by an arresting, post-digital music video, in which van den Broek waltzes forlornly though a glitching world, one that tricks the eye, moving in and out of reality. The problem comes, though, when you move past the initial screensaver wonderment, and realise that, beyond it, there’s not much left. 

A Day in a Yellow Beat is out now via Sony Music Entertainment UK Limited.

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