An almighty reckoning is peaking over the European horizon, and there’s virtually nothing Amber Arcades can do about it.
Amber Arcades, the stage name of Dutch singer/songwriter Annelotte De Graaf, feels like she’s in the eleventh hour of her lifelong protest. With the myriad of problems and divisive political demonstrations strewn throughout Europe, De Graaf can’t help but feel that the European political climate has reached a boiling point. Her 2018 album European Heartbreak highlights Europe’s poignant injustices with broad strokes by avoiding the mention of any specific wrongdoing, yet calling listeners to arms regardless. Her pessimistic dream pop paints the marriage of overt political unrest with the unstoppable steamroller of time, all the while urgently asking the inanimate continent when and where she can manage some love in between all her ubiquitous hardships.
Despite lyrically unearthing a fairly bleak topic, Amber Arcades’ vocals and supporting instrumentals are carefree, easy, and inviting. It’s as if the beautifully uncomplicated and dark vocals of Mazzy Star met the peppiness of Belle and Sebastian, thus promoting pessimism through a blithe, amiable lens. If English wasn’t your native tongue (as is likely the case for some of her European audience), you might not be able recognize the downcast futility European Heartbreak exploits ad nauseam.
Interestingly enough, the slightest mention of governmental unrest in today’s political climate immediately incites offensive/defensive battle cries either for or against the current United States administration. Fortunately for us listeners, Amber Arcades deliberately abstains from beating that dead horse. She explained her thought process to The Guardian, telling them, “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…for me heartbreak symbolizes 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.”
But why Europe? Why is this continent receiving the brunt of Amber Arcades bitter flak?
Believe it or not, Annelotte De Graaf is somewhat of an expert in her political field. She earned a masters degree in law just before the release of her 2016 album Fading Lines, while she’s also worked extensively with Syrian refugees granted asylum in the Netherlands by assessing their claims to have their families allowed in the country as well. As a result, she’s not only well read on political transgression – she sees it first hand in her enlightening and sobering day-to-day. From a musical perspective, De Graaf takes this experiential understanding and lets it empower her as a charming firebrand. She earnestly identifies Europe’s stubborn, self-inflicted chaos with an impassioned, exceptionally resolute tone. She knows there isn’t much we can do to turn back time. That isn’t what European Heartbreak is about. It’s about using the past as an excuse to speak up, love, and actively change more while we still have the power and time to do so.
Favorite Tracks: Alpine Town, Hardly Knew, Goodnight Europe, I’ve Done The Best, Antoine