Sparkling pop in tune with sometimes grim social realities...
'European Heartbreak'

Annelotte De Graaf came to our attention back in 2016, before that thing, for her ‘woozy pop’. Since then, an EP, ‘Cannonball’, and extensive touring programme have followed, which have transformed her project into something markedly slicker and more lucid, with an ear for beautiful melodies.

Case in point: the last bit of ‘Self-Portait In A Car At Night’. So swoony!

From ‘Where Did You Go’’s chorus to the weariness of ‘Antoine’, there are plenty of other examples. Even songs that start a bit ploddy like ‘Baby, Eternity’ and ‘Hardly Knew’ tend to morph into expansive, strangely stirring arrangements. ‘Oh My Love (What Have We Done)’ gets a tad corny with all those trumpets but still bears pithy truisms like “People are the worst and dating’s such a bore”. It’s smooth as hell, less scattered and way less guitary than previous efforts, this time co-produced by Chris Cohen.

The exiled writer banging out a more compelling evocation of home when thousands of miles away is a well-worn trope, but one that fits here - decamping to LA and Richmond, Virginia to record the album hammered home de Graaf’s Europeanness.

But she’s no stranger to that posture, having previously recorded in NYC. The difference here is that there’s an equally well-worn LA numen that lingers, that one of open roads, lush production and extended recording sessions. It’s as if it stowed away on the flight back home, ready to come along for the van ride to Switzerland where “some sweet memories” can still be made. It’s Erasmus years, interrailling, wwoofing. But it’s “while we still can - it’s not all sunny, there’s an underlying evanescent note.

Really, though, it’s an album in tune with sometimes grim social realities but one which doesn’t get wrapped up in them, privileging lovely tunes and a broad appeal. ‘European Heartbreak’ is a triumphant wodge of sparkling pop.

8/10

Words: Wilf Skinner

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