Working under the name Amber Arcades, Dutch singer/songwriter Annelotte de Graaf went from being a teenager dreaming of someday recording an album to later working with an all-star indie rock cast in Brooklyn on 2016’s shoegaze pop album Fading Lines, then following it with the burnished modern pop of 2018’s European Heartbreak, which was recorded at Virginia’s highly regarded Spacebomb Studios.
Growing up in Utrecht, Holland, a teenaged Annelotte de Graaf began saving her money with an eye toward someday recording an album. While living temporarily as a student in Philadelphia in 2010, she began writing songs -- once back in Holland she released Benjamin, an EP of folky songs. Over the next few years she continued honing her craft, writing songs and releasing EPs (Amber Arcades in 2013 and I Guess I'm Free But I Don't Know What That Means in 2014) while working as a legal aid on UN war crime tribunals and as an assistant at Holland's immigration center. Settling on the name Amber Arcades, she pooled her money and flew to New York to work with producer Ben Greenberg of Sacred Bones band the Men. Laying down the songs she wrote at home in Utrecht with a band including members of Quilt (guitarist Shane Butler and bassist Keven Lareau) and Real Estate (drummer Jackson Pollis), de Graaf's sound was very much Stereolab- and Broadcast-influenced. Heavenly Records liked what they heard and signed Amber Arcades to their label, releasing the five-song Patiently EP in October of 2015. The full-length Fading Lines was released in June of 2016. While on tour in the U.S. later in the year, the band met up with Greenberg in N.Y.C. and recorded a five-song EP, Cannonball. The record was released in June of 2017 and featured a dream pop update of Nick Drake's "Which Will," plus a guest vocal from Bill Ryder-Jones. When De Graaf began work on the second Amber Arcades album it was with the idea that it would be lo-fi and sparse, while at the same time arranged and lush. To accomplish this goal, she recorded with a small band in Los Angeles with producer Chris Cohen of Deerhoof. De Graaf then took the tracks to the Spacebomb studio in Virginia where producer Trey Pollard helped add strings and horns. The resulting album, European Heartbreak, was released by Heavenly in September of 2018. ~ Tim Sendra, Rovi