Arms: Kids Aflame

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Brad Kelly

13th November 2009
At 00:32 GMT

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Arms is primarily just a singular musician by the name of Todd Goldstein.

His work, both in the studio and on-stage is made up of varying musicians who all lend a hand in creating the Arms sound and who helped, in part, to create this, the Goldstein's début record Kids Aflame which is now being re-released.

Now, with the description out the way, let us get down to business. Arms lay somewhere between experimental pop and melancholic indie, often fusing the two without much trouble. None of the thirteen songs that make up the forty-one minute album are particularly shiny nor 'accessible' in their totality but Goldstein certainly has something appealing about his contradictory personality. He's cocky but emotional, confident but introvert, bearing his teeth and licking his wounds at the same time.

"When the smoke finds a way to your nose, it's telling you boy that it's time to go. Then the smell gets in your hair and your clothes, oh no, oh no." He quips on title track Kids Aflame. It's a mournful acoustic three minutes, lifted in spirits only slightly by its vocal harmonies during the ukulele break. It's simple but also oddly eerie and hypnotic, building a hazy, down-trodden atmosphere that's genuinely affecting. It happens again a few tracks later on Fall, a despondent number that silences the air and smothers the surroundings with a thick coating of introspection. "Hands placed over my eyes" repeats Goldstein throughout the barely three-minute duration. It's the resonating guitar and vocal tone that becomes the song's real spirit and heart but even the barely noticeable backing 'ooo's' add another facet to such an uncomplicated effort.

Looking past the more poignant material, the début also offers it's fair share of noise and whilst it's these attempts that also contain the majority of flaws present on the record, that doesn't mean they're not still surprisingly raw and passionate for a first effort. Whirring, the first real track with vocals and second track overall is fit with jarring guitars, a hyperactive melody and a healthy helping of lo-fi aesthetics. They're even more cathartic on the spiralling Tiger Tamer that breaks and stops and builds like there was never such a thing as 'structure'. It's a sweeping, tiny three-minute slice of pandemonium and a fantastic display of the band at their most experimental. 

There's moments of weaknesses along the way (Sad, Sad, Sad doesn't offer anything that they haven't already accomplished more successfully elsewhere) and the under-stated production can wreak havoc on lower-priced speakers (laptop speakers are not recommended, however a decent set of headphones are) but there's so much genuinely accomplished song-writing, lyrical content and heart-felt music that it vastly out-shines it's faults.

There's a healthy stream of new and upcoming bands flowing through the underground music scene at the moment but none with the potential that Arms have displayed with just a single record and extremely few live shows (Their performances at CMJ back at the end of last month were their very first shows). They're not revolutionary and they're certainly a little uncertain of what path to take and when but as an overall LP, Kids Aflame is nothing short of fantastic.

Rating:  7 / 10

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