As the Dutch songstress Annelotte De Graaf returns with Amber Arcades for their second full-length release, European Heartbreak, we’re introduced to a far more mature level of musicianship from the band. Amber Arcades have not only discovered their sound, but managed to perfect a brilliant level of finesse and charisma within each song, all coated in the melancholic themes of political uncertainty and the general instability which can be found across this modern world.
As we kick off, we’re immediately met with the beautifully soft yet endearing sound, the terrifically named ‘Simple Song’ is just that. It’s a simple opener that delivers a fresh yet breezy feel to the album which is carried through from start to finish. As Annelotte’s vocals kick in, she injects a sense of almost laziness to the song, which only adds brilliantly to its dream-like character, really forming it into a delightful listen.
The level of political messaging throughout the album is subtle, yet noticeable enough for it to be a significant factor. Lead single ‘Goodnight Europe’, for example, places emphasis on a far more brutal grittiness to compliment the lyricism. “Europe, I’m sorry / They boarded all your windows and your doors / Now it smells like death is coming up through the floors” is a personal favourite lyric, and the brutality of the delivery through Annelotte’s voice, which lacks of emotion, only further adds to that power, whilst angelic harmonies litter the track, contrasting the dystopian tones.
It seems politics isn’t the only thing on Amber Arcades’ agenda though. This album also exquisitely captures a nonchalant take on the charade of modern romance, ‘Self-Portrait In A Car At Night’ being a wonderful example of such simplicity but also an honest review of oneself. The level of minimalism behind the track really adds excellently to its narrative and truly does emphasise that for this band, less is certainly more.
The comparisons to bands such as Wolf Alice are present, however, if anything I would argue somewhat compliment the band’s desired aesthetic. The similarities may be there, but the difference in the material is more than visible. More so than anything, it feels as though European Heartbreak acts as a real sense of maturing in Amber Arcades’ career. It is as though the band have taken everything that was exciting about their 2016 debut, Fading Lines, and carefully crafted it to paint a holistic narrative which captures the band’s emotions in a far more structured and thought out way.
All in all, European Heartbreak paints an incredibly cohesive picture, no track feels out of place and adds its own chapter to the album so to speak. The incredible ‘Alpine Town’ is a certified favourite, the brilliant level of colour and breeziness behind the song really does transport you to a picturesque snowy mountain town of tranquility: a wonderful song from start to finish. The entire album blends smoothly yet still provides enough grit and edge to be worth the listen. Amber Arcades are certainly a name to have on your radar right now and if this is a sign on things to come, count us in.