Harlem Shakes’ guitarist Todd Goldstein steps out on his own as ARMS with his debut, Kids Aflame. Best known as a member of Brooklyn’s own Shakes (QRO spotlight on), Goldstein has also invested time in his solo project, ARMS. While certainly not the Shakes, on Kids Aflame Goldstein stretches in many directions. Though his vocals could use some work, his guitar plays very well.
After the forty-two second intro ‘aah’, “Sabretooth Typist”, Kids Aflame ignites with probably its best track, “Whirring”. Wry and knowing, but not jaded or too clever, just enough press in the beat aids Goldstein’s fine guitar work. Generally, Aflame is strongest when Goldstein puts the guitar and effects first, and adds in some press, such as on “Whirring”, or the alt-Brit expanse of middle track “Shitty Little Disco” (which also has great lyrics, delivered in a nice, low-key manner). The penultimate “Pocket” also really stands out this way, with more of a fun press and uplifting, gangly guitars.
But as ARMS, Goldstein reaches out in various ways. The title track is a catchy little strum. “Tiger Tamer” has an echoing effect and interesting, unusual vocal distortion. “Fall” is more relaxed and melodic, but also flowing and knowing. “Eyeball” is truly strange, in a little, almost twinkling way, while finisher “Ana M” is slower, pretty, airy, and sad.
However, when Goldstein’s vocals come to fore, they can play a little high and reedy. That holds back the stripped, finger-pluck strum of “Construction”, and the alt-country slow of “Sad, Sad, Sad”. It also makes “John The Escalator” a little too twee, marring the otherwise good and memorable piece.
While we wait… and wait… for the Harlem Shakes to release their follow-up to last year’s wonderful Burning Birthdays EP (QRO review), the newest Shake has busted out on solo as ARMS. Kids Aflame might come as a shock to fans of the Shakes (especially those who haven’t seen their growth live since Burning), but it’s a wonderful record that can hold itself up.