Dutch native Annelotte de Graaf (aka Amber Arcades) is a bastion of dreamy psych-pop, her sweet vocals floating peacefully over '60s-inspired twanging guitars, driving beats and jazzy horns ('Simple Song'). It's as contemplative as it is exciting, with light-footed synths peppering a deeply cinematic record.
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Music is such a slow thing isn't it? How many listens before you dismiss an album. At first I thought this was terrible and boring but repeated listens are certainly helping it escape the wrath of my pen. Dutch national Annelotte de Graaf returns to her Amber Arcades project which yielded a pretty decent (and decently pretty) debut in 2016 with Fading Lines which contained members of Real Estate pottering away. This follow up starts promisingly with 'Simple Song' which has some gorgeous Stereolab-ish hornplay which could suggest she's moved up a gear since her debut. Yet 'Hardly Knew' is just really really boring both musically and lyrically, plodding away and her voice isn't distinctive enough to raise it above the thousands of other songs that just plod along in similar fashion.
And herein lies the problem initially with this album, it's primarily just singer songwriter stuff without anything to make it distinctive from everyone else who does the same. I'm aching for a change of pace or a change of sound, at least 'I've Done The Best' tries a different approach with honky tonk bar room pianos and a bit of distortion on her voice. It's a shame as 'Simple Song' promises much and 'Oh My Love' isn't bad at all - it reminded me of a lot of pretty 90s albums by bands like Birdie. The usual caveat does apply though in terms of the fact that these could be growers and perhaps I need to give the album more time than my allotted half an hour. In fact - I'm going to stick my neck out and say that on second listen things are coming through a bit more clearly. Certainly fans of the likes of First Aid Kit should give it more time than I have and see what happens.
9/10 Andy 7th October 2018
Gonna both agree and disagree with Clinton on this that yeah it’s a slow burner and it definitely helps if you’d followed Amber Arcades across 2018 as the big hitters from this album were drip fed through your fave streaming service, cos that’s helped this one bed in. But no I think it stands out - especially compared to a lot of the other completely average dreck on the same label (which i think is mildly concerning but that’s another issue).
This one way more sophisticated and focused than anything else she’s done, if ever so slightly at the expense of some of the experimentation of her debut.
But yeah it’s September and definitely an AOTY contender.
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