Kids Aflame

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Todd Goldstein's more immediately known for his work in Harlem Shakes, but recording solo as Arms shows that what might at first seem like yet another in the endless series of indie rock records has something a little more to it. Goldstein's voice -- slightly hangdog but not mumbling or unclear -- is the key, in that he almost preternaturally captures the similar feeling of Peter Perrett, whose work in the Only Ones has remained a cult signpost for similarly just-on-the-edge-of-mopey singers since then. By not sounding either mass-market emo or swanningly theatrical, he stands out almost by default in a pretty crowded music world. With this as the secret weapon that becomes more crucial the more one listens, where Kids Aflame, his debut under the Arms name, really succeeds is when Goldstein steers clearer of standard enough indie rock arrangements to more left-field approaches, most often the calmer or sparer ones. The title track's gentle guitar twinkles, matched later by the similar sounding "Eyeball" (which has some killer lines like "When I remember my dreams/They're always of you"), brings out his main and harmony vocals to the full, and even in a resigned and understated way they still hit very nicely. Goldstein doesn't set aside humor in all this -- thus the wryly titled "Sad Sad Sad" -- and with the excellent "Shitty Little Disco" readily demonstrates a knack for a slowly building, triumphant sounding anthem that's still a little downbeat no matter what.

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