At the Heav­en­ly Week­ender at The Trades in Heb­den Bridge back in Jan­u­ary, Amber Arcades’ half-hour ear­ly evening set was the most engag­ing of the three days (young Hal­i­fax band The Orielles were the oth­er stand-out act). The focal pres­ence on stage is Amber Arcades’ mas­ter­mind, the very cool Annelotte De Graaf, vocal­ist, gui­tarist, songwriter.

Amber Arcades are all about sub­lime, shim­mery pop which coasts along but this is no airy-fairy out­fit; De Graaf’s musi­cians lend a mus­cu­lar back drop to her dreamy vocals. Their out­put so far – album Fad­ing Lines and two sin­gles – has been a ros­ter of strong, catchy num­bers. It’s not easy to pick favourites and there are no obvi­ous weak num­bers (those ones where peo­ple start talk­ing or slink off to the toilets). 

Stand­out songs are Which Will with its rip­pling gui­tars, or the sexy Fad­ing Lines – while on Per­petu­um Mobile, De Graaf cranks up the breathy vocals and gives the song a smoky, wist­ful 60s French pop song feel. De Graaf’s vocals are laid back in the mix, a seduc­tive and ten­der lay­er woven into the fab­ric of the song. And it’s that jux­ta­po­si­tion, that mix of urgency and jit­tery­ness against her sooth­ing vocals that gives Amber Arcades their heartbeat.

I man­aged to catch them again at The Fins­bury in north Lon­don two weeks ago. I haven’t vis­it­ed this pub venue for a while so it was a pleas­ant sur­prise to see their improve­ments to their live music space, where for only £5.50 we saw three high­ly pro­fi­cient bands (includ­ing the riv­et­ing Son­ic Youth-flavoured grungy gui­tar band Drahla who I hope to catch again). 

This time round with a longer set, Amber Arcades were able to ful­ly get into their stride and De Graaf seemed more relaxed, find­ing more time to chat to the crowd, includ­ing a cou­ple of sto­ries about life on the road.

Amber Arcades are play­ing sev­er­al Euro­pean fes­ti­vals, includ­ing Sea Change, Totnes.

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