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Amber Arcades - "Fading Lines" | Album Review

by Kat Harding (@iwearaviators)

Heavenly Records artist Annelotte de Graaf, musically known as Amber Arcades, released her album Fading Lines in June of 2016. A refugee legal aid worker, de Graaf has put forth ten tracks of shimmering summery pop, perfect to brighten these cloudy winter days. 

de Graaf has always been a hard and socially conscientious worker; she has earned a law degree, worked for an international war crimes tribunal, and currently works to grant asylum to refugee families in the Netherlands. Her album reflects her worldly and reflective view, with delicate melodies and precise, thoughtful lyrics. After saving money for her gap year between high school and college, she decided to instead put that cash toward something more concrete, and flew to New York to work on an album with producer Ben Greenberg in May 2015. Fading Lines was recorded with a top-notch backing band featuring members of Real Estate, Quilt, and Kevin Morby. With this set of songs and a friend working at Heavenly Records, Annelotte landed a deal to release her debut in 2016. 

A divergence from her 2012 ballad EP, this record is pure fuzzy pop bliss. Previously released versions of a handful of these tracks appear on her Patiently EP, released in October 2015. Fading Lines sees these songs reach their full potential. The psychedelic-tinged title track calls to mind the end of a relationship: “I look around but nothing’s what it seems/ Can’t tell the worst from the best in me/ These fading lines are all I see/ Now I understand, it shines brightest at the end,” de Graaf croons over swelling guitars distorted with fuzzy pedals. While she’s singing a sad song, the music prevents it from becoming a self-pitying ballad. It’s a moving-on-from-the-end empowering track. 

“Right Now” features Annelotte urging you to change your life: “But we could go right now/ we could have another life/ we could go right now,” and features enough hypnotic synths and guitars to be a motivating song instead of a depressing one. The deep and dark lyrics of each track are often hidden under upbeat and sunny guitars while steady drums and swirling synths comfort, but the important messages remain: life the live you want to. 

Album closer “White Fuzz” has de Graaf's voice fuzzy and gently distorted, coming in from the end of a distant tunnel. “But babe we have so much to dream, and so much to choose,” she reflects. The shortest track on the album, it’s a rumination on a relationship that didn’t last. The perfect closer, it encourages looking inward without wallowing. When the last guitar chord fades, you’re left feeling inspired and warm.