Arms is the beloved music project of Todd Goldstein, a seasoned musician who is finally getting the attention he deserves. Not always visible but always audible, Goldstein was perhaps best known for his work with the Harlem Shakes (R.I.P.), which split not long after a tour with Passion Pit and the release of its second album, Technicolor Health. The Harlem Shakes’ breakup was a bummer for the music community, but it ended up being a real win for Goldstein. In their stories about the Shakes’ demise, music publications were sure to mention the surviving members’ current projects, including Arms, Goldstein’s good-natured, guitar-driven wistful whisperings. I’m not saying the slew of “Goodbye Shakes, Hello Todd Goldstein” fed the Arms publicity fire, but in a way, it sort of did.
Melodic Records, a U.K. label, took and released it in the U.K. about a year and a half ago. That being the case, Kids Aflame’s stateside arrival was delayed for quite literally, years. But now that Goldstein has his chance in the sun, it will be curious to see the long-awaited reaction.
Goldstein has all of the pluck, valor and talent of any prominent indie songwriter. Anyone who has seen Arms in concert knows that the dude can belt out a tune and that he’s an adept guitar player. And Kids Aflame, which got its U.K. release about eighteen months ago by U.K. label Melodic, has poignant, clever lyrics that demonstrate just how good a writer he is. Goldstein is honest and straightforward with words, but he obscures what he means with ample metaphor. Shove past the poppy exterior and really get into the meat of Goldstein’s world. “I wrote down all my thoughts/ To see what I thought/ I gave it a shot/ And there thousands of spiraling knots/ Now’s the season/ For taking chance/ Crooked smiles on crooked glances,” croons Goldstein on one of Kids Aflame’s standout tracks, “Whirring.” Also consider “Eyeball,” which sounds like an indie sing-along taking place in the basement of an Italian Bistro.
You won’t get the same thing twice on Kids Aflame, and Goldstein keeps the surprises coming with subtle changes to his vocals, adding layers of horns in unexpected places and by simply choosing not to be safe.