Dutch-born musician Amber Arcades (real name Annelotte de Graaf) has suitably impressed us with her dream-pop melodies and her commanding live shows.
Ahead of her return to UK shores this February to play The Finsbury, she shares with us five songs that have influenced her life and sound.
Yo La Tengo – Today Is The Day
In 2010, I moved to Philadelphia for my studies and ended up playing in my first band (a bluegrass traditional/punk band) there. In this period I was very much into folk, Americana and ‘big indie’ like MGMT and Bon Iver and stuff. I didn’t know anything about 90s alternative music except for Nirvana. I made a friend who worked at a small record store and one day when I was hanging out with her there I bought this mix tape CD for a dollar which had this track on it. Even though I knew nothing of this kind of music this song resonated with me. I didn’t go on to really musically explore until another couple of years or so but when I did I bumped into Yo La Tengo again and began listening to more of their albums beyond this one song. Now they are one of my fav bands.
Sharon van Etten – Give Out
When I got back from the States I began playing in a band with my boyfriend. We broke up a couple of years later and our band kind of died with that. That’s when I first started writing songs by myself. SvE’s record Tramp (and this song especially) got me through that period. I learned to play every song from that record and sung my heart out on it. While doing this I learned so much about my own voice. SvE has a very distinctive way of singing and singing her songs for the first time ever I felt like I found a way of using my voice that felt natural. Also her music was “familiar” enough (not so far away from the folk and Americana I was listening to) for me to immediately get it but also had a certain elusive melancholy that made it different and introduced me to new ways of approaching melodies and songwriting.
Deerhunter – Desire Lines
When my roommate first introduced me to Deerhunter I found it really hard to place. I was coming from a place of folk and Americana and the way Deerhunter used melodies for some reason just didn’t stick with me. I did find it intriguing though and was intent of broadening my musical knowledge and taste on some level so I kept listening to it and after a couple of more listens I finally ‘got it’. And when I did get it it was such a revelation. Like a whole new world and musical vocabulary opening up. Especially Locket Pundt’s style of playing the guitar -it’s something I am still very obsessed with and this occasionally finds its way into my tracks. They were definitely a gateway band that got me listening to a lot more diverse stuff.
Broadcast – America’s Boy
Again it was my roommate who introduced me to this band (he’s like a walking music encyclopaedia). And also again, at first I had a hard time listening to it at first because it was such a different use of melodies and instrumentation than what I was used to, but after repeated listening the pieces clicked together and I fell in love with it. Especially the Tender Buttons album and its minimal use of beats and sounds. Broadcast, and also Deerhunter, I feel both make quite eclectic music. And reading about stuff they were listening to and how that influenced them and hearing it back in their music in turn introduced me to so many other bands.
Ryan Adams – Come Pick Me Up
Because I was listening to so much folk and Americana for the first couple of years when I was making music, when I finally got out of that and started broadening my musical taste, I kind of turned against the whole folk and Americana thing. It began to feel boring to me, like old news, unadventurous and entangled with some bad memories. I hated it when a journalist told me in an interview “so, you are basically a folk singer, right?”. I had tried so hard to break away from that and push myself to discover new music and influences. Only lately I’ve been kind of going back to the stuff I was listening to back then, like Ryan Adams, and kind of re-discovering that actually that kind of music is also pretty great. I’ve even started writing some stuff with more of a ‘songwriter’ approach again! Who knows what the future brings.