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Kids Aflame is the debut full-length by Arms, aka 26-year-old Brooklynite Todd Goldstein. Inspired by a love of "sad/weird/insular genius types" like Neil Young, Stephin Merritt, and David Byrne, Arms' music cloaks catchy tunes in fuzzy, echo-laden production and Goldstein's melodramatic, crooned vocals. A true one-man band, Goldstein recorded Kids Aflame over a period of three years in various apartments across Brooklyn, playing all the instruments himself, save the occasional drum, sax, bass and keyboard part.
"I'm self-taught in this home-recording business, so I didn't
really know what I was doing –except that I wanted to make the kind
of music I've always wanted to hear but haven't," he says. "It
was written and mixed mostly at night, after I'm done with everything
else, and most people I know are asleep."
That hazy, late-night mood runs deep in the record's 13 tracks, which range from the shoegaze-y gallop of the lead-off single "Whirring" to the lilting ukulele of the title track; from the country-inflected "Sad, Sad, Sad" to the soaring "Shitty Little Disco" and the noise-drenched "The Frozen Lake". Elsewhere, "Jon The Escalator" wears its Smiths influence on its sleeve, and "Pocket" blends dark lyrics with brassy, Aztec Camera-style pop. And although Kids Aflame is a lo-fi album – and unashamedly so – it's also one with a surprise around every corner, be it a drop-dead catchy hook or a total change of pace, as in Eyeball's campfire chorus and bouzouki melodies.
Arms is one of three musical projects that Goldstein's currently involved in (with more on the horizon); the others being lo-fi duo The Sea & The Gulls and hotly tipped band Harlem Shakes. As Goldstein's solo project, though, Arms is closest to his heart, and an outlet for his most personal and idiosyncratic material.
"When I write by myself, alone in my bedroom, it's always an Arms song," he says. "I like shutting my brain off and seeing what comes out in a way that I don't get to with my other bands. I don't know what's going to happen much of the time, and so, when the writing is going well, I feel like I'm getting to know my favourite band, song by song."
Goldstein moved to Brooklyn in 2004 with the express intention of making music – but upon arriving in New York he was overwhelmed by city life and unable to write. When he finally managed to reignite his creative flame over a year later, he found himself composing a different kind of music than he'd ever done before – the kind of raw, intimate songs he would eventually release under the Arms moniker.
"Once I found myself writing in this new style, I knew I needed to give it its own name. I somehow heard of a British rapper called Ears, and I thought, plural body part, that's a cool, strange thing to name a band," he says.
Goldstein was discovered, some 5,000 miles away, by Manchester-based Melodic records following a flurry of interest in Arms on the blog scene.
"Melodic sent me an offer via MySpace," says Goldstein.
"It was sort of magical – a very modern label-finds-band
Now, with an outlet for this first Arms album, such a long time in the making, Goldstein is clear in his aim for the release.
"The music that I really, really keep close to me – the
stuff that made me who I am – is the kind of music that keeps you
company when you're alone,” he says. "I'd like Arms to keep
lonely people company. That's about it, really."
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