ARMS is what happens when the back burner bursts into flame. A one-time side project transformed into a full band, ARMS synthesizes Todd Goldstein's years of bedroom experimentation and sharpens them into a single bright blade. ARMS' full-band debut, Summer Skills, explodes the lo-fi pop of 2008's Kids Aflame into a widescreen epic, telling a fractured tale of love under supernatural circumstances. Sonically generous and emotionally raw, ARMS' Summer Skills lures listeners like a siren song and then pulls them into the deep.
Todd Goldstein has been writing and recording songs as ARMS since 2004 although never quite like this. During his years playing guitar in NYC-based indie rockers Harlem Shakes, Todd quietly self-released his own music as ARMS, sneaking home-recording sessions in his rare spare time. Todd's first album as ARMS the luminous, ramshackle pop of Kids Aflame was released on Melodic Records (UK) / Gigantic Music (US) in 2008 to enthusiastic Internet-praise. When Harlem Shakes disbanded in the summer of 2009, Goldstein expanded ARMS into a full band with the addition of Tlacael Esparza on drums, Matty Fasano on bass / vocals and David Harrington on keyboards / electronics. The group immediately began writing the songs that would become Summer Skills, holing up with producer Shane Stoneback (Vampire Weekend, Sleigh Bells, Cults, Fucked Up) in Stoneback's Treefort Studios in Brooklyn.
On Summer Skills, ARMS' former emotional directness is abstracted and expanded into something more ambitious and ambiguous: a keenly observed fictional universe that shows more than it tells. With Stoneback behind the boards, drums pop and shimmer, analog synths cast audible shadows and ambient clouds glow on the horizon, rendering ARMS' golden guitar pop something both lovelier and more ominous than before. Todd's unmistakable baritone is the anchor; it swoops and slides into view, veering between vulnerable, seductive and, maybe, a little bit dangerous. The resulting noise calls to mind the atmospheric clarity of British pop experimentalists like Talk Talk or Kate Bush, with a nod to the minimalist melancholy of Red House Painters and the end-over-end urgency of early REM. But ARMS ' noise is all their own, taking the no-nonsense bones of tight songcraft and covering them in shining skin.
Amid the life-or-death stakes of Summer Skills, noses drip kerosene, chill winds blow sweet and razor-sharp teeth gleam in the darkness. It's this terrain of texture and mood, set among the long purple shadows of August afternoons, that underpins the album's sequence of haunting moments little nightmares lit with the blurry shine of dreams. With Summer Skills, ARMS manages the elusive trick of weaving these threads into something both lush and beautifully, painfully alive.