Over the past couple of years of this site’s history, I’ve managed to write quite a bit about Utrecht, The Netherlands-based singer/songwriter Annelotte de Graff and her solo recording project Amber Arcades. And with the release of her full-length debut, Fading Light, de Graaf quickly received attention for pairing crafted guitar pop with erudite thematic concerns — in particular, time and the relativistic experience of it, magic, jet leg and her own dreams, which have managed to influence a great deal of her personal and creative life. In fact, as the story goes, De Graaf used her life savings for a flight to New York and studio time with Ben Greenberg, who has worked with The Men, Beach Fossils and Destruction Unit, and a studio backing band that included Quilt’s Shane Butler (guitar) and Keven Lareau (bass) and Real Esate’s Jackson Pollis (drums) — both of whom she had specifically hand picked because she had dreamt of working with them.
de Graaf’s critically applauded Cannonball EP, an effort that landed at #1 on this site’s Best of List last year — with the gorgeous “Wouldn’t Even Know,” landing at #4 on the Best Singles list. Slated for a September 28, 2018 release through Heavenly Recordings,de Graaf’s forthcoming album European Heartbreak was recorded and co-produced in Los Angeles with Deerhoof’s Chris Cohen and in Richmond, Virginia with Trey Pollard, who oversaw horn and string overdubs from the Spacebomb Records crew. And the album sonically and thematically are reportedly a major step forward for the Dutch- born and-based singer/songwriter and musician — thematically, the album is about the nature of memory and the human tendency to over-romanticize the events of our lives. And while naturally focusing on the passage of time, there’s a disillusionment that’s been concealed just under the romanticized surface. Nothing in this life is what it really seems — and ultimately, everything can be a bit disappointing, alienating and downright strange. As Annelotte de Graaf says of the album, “If it were called ‘American Heartbreak,’ you wouldn’t bat an eye. Somehow calling it ‘European Heartbreak’ feels far less comfortable, almost like a statement in itself. I’m Dutch, hence European. The focus of the record is Europe. As for Heartbreak, for me a heartbreak symbolises any kind of falling apart of one of these concepts or stories we invent for ourselves, like romantic love, a sense of identity, nationality, an economic system. It’s kind of a universal thing in my mind.”
Sonically speaking, the material, as you’d hear on the album’s first single “Goodnight Europe” managed to be both sophisticated yet anachronistic as it finds her sound nodding at classic, late 60s and early 70s rock — in particular, Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, T. Rex and Sgt. Pepper and Let It Be-era Beatles, as the song features some impressive and bluesy guitar work paired with a gorgeous string arrangement; but interestingly, the song is both a meditation on the current state of the European Union and of a dysfunctional and confusing romantic relationship, meshing the personal and the political in a way that expresses a concern over what it all means in the first place.
European Heartbreak’s latest single “Alpine Town” is a decidedly 70s AM rock-like song centered around shimmering guitar, twinkling piano, a sinuous bass line, a mournful horn and string arrangement and de Graaf’s ethereal vocals floating over the mix. The song evokes a deeper disappointment — that an illusion that the song’s narrator once held as true has now been proven to be false. And as a result, the song is a world weary sigh while being someplace away from home. As de Graaf says of the song “I wrote this song exactly a year ago while on holiday in Guillestre, a small town in the French Alps. I was kind of in a sad place and my boyfriend had dragged me along to get away from all that, but I guess it doesn’t really work like that, ha. It just made me reflect on the sad part of the tourist condition as a metaphor for life, man.”