Next Wave #687: Amber Arcades

Blissfully imaginative psych laden with pop hooks...

Upon hearing the name Amber Arcades you might be inclined to imagine a band, or possibly a defunct chain of video game themed nightclubs. Tell that to the incredibly pleasant Amsterdam-born singer-songwriter the name denotes, however, and she’ll emit a singularly Dutch chuckle. “There are loads of singer-songwriters with band names, like Bright Eyes,” she reasons, “I thought about doing under my own name, Annelotte de Graaf, but I figure no-one outside of the Netherlands could actually pronounce it!” She’s right, and don’t embarrass yourself by trying. This decision represents a typical concession towards the feelings of others from Annelotte, from the earnest thankfulness of her stage banter to her reluctance to attribute her burgeoning profile to anyone other than her ‘team’, Amber Arcades seems to be that rarest of finds: an egoless solo artist.

The funny thing is that the more she tours the less she feels like a solo artist. “I’ve really noticed on this tour that we’ve developed a band vibe. I’m amazed by how committed the others are! They could just turn up to play the songs but they’re always asking what they can do to improve the whole experience”. This is just as well, because the songs on new album ‘Fading Lines’ sound far too expansive to be constrained to the mind of one individual. In a decade that has witnessed the rise of Tame Impala and War On Drugs, Amber Arcades’ own brand of soft psychedelia could come off as uninspired, even boring. Stick ‘Turning Light’ or ‘Constant’s Dream’ through your headphones, however, and you’ll find yourself transported to a world of glowing warmth and endless comfort that only a few artists (such as major influences Yo La Tengo and Deerhunter) can conjure.

Since the inception of Amber Arcades the label ‘dreamy’ has, unsurprisingly, stuck to her like double-sided sellotape. Naturally she’s far too breezy and optimistic to worry about being pigeonholed, “If anyone asks me what music I make I just say pop music, because everything’s pop music. If I were to define it further? Yeah, I’d probably just say dreamy.” This is music to wake up and crack a beer along to on a festival campsite, an all-embracing sonic swaddling cloth of reassuring textures and gentle melodies that’s better suited to drying tears than inducing them. “My favourite time to listen to music is while driving,” she explains, “so I always ask myself when writing ‘is this going to sound good while driving a car?’ Driving at sunset, that’s the mood I want my songs to embody”.

Besides her desire to write the perfect road-trip record, Annelotte’s main ambitions for her band revolve almost entirely around her stomach. “I’m the biggest food freak! Because we’re on tour all the time we’ll always try to be healthy and eat well, but it’s hard. I was thinking of making a Band on Tour Cookbook with recipes you can prepare using just your hands, no cutting board and a knife that’s also part fork and part spoon, which would also come with the book.” It seems like Amber Arcades has all the ingredients she needs to forge a lasting career: a loyal band, a winning personality and an oven-full of great pop hooks.

WHERE: Amsterdam
WHAT: Sun-kissed woozy pop built on cascading guitars and sultry vocals
GET 3 SONGS: ‘Turning Light’ ‘Constant’s Dream’ ‘Fading Lines’

FACT: Annelotte works for the Netherlands’ National Immigration Service using her law degree to help reunite refugees with their families

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Words: Josh Gray

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