Arms – Whirring / Jon The Escalator
“Whirring” is the debut single from Arms, aka 24-year old Brooklynite and multi-instrumentalist Todd Goldstein. In Arms (one of Goldstein’s three bands, including indie pop up-and-comers Harlem Shakes and lo-fi duo the Sea & the Gulls), influences ranging from Stephen Merritt to Slowdive to post-punk are channelled into music that looks beyond the usual realms of the singer songwriter – think of Arms as a band, but with one person calling all the artistic shots.
In Arms’ incandescent first single “Whirring” (and its B-side, “Jon The Escalator”), a Chameleons-esque shimmer engulfs a soaring, hopeful melody, with lyrics alluding to the time when Goldstein first moved to New York, struggling to cope with big city life. Clearly, the sound of the Big Apple got under his skin – his songs are, at once, very personal and very New York.
“It was a very confused time for me,” he says. “I was freaking out so hard, it just sort of made sense to write these songs from the perspective of a wiser person telling someone how to handle himself when he’s hit that early-adulthood wall, when you realize that nothing really means anything apart form the meaning you ascribe to it, that your parents have no idea what they’re doing either, that there really isn’t a whole lot you can count on for stability in your life. Most Arms songs are about allaying your anxieties by closing your eyes, screwing up your courage and making decisions.”
Goldstein’s music has evolved considerably over the years as his tastes matured from geek rock to indie, art-punk to psych (“I put in an application for a hardcore record nerd licence,” he jokes). In New York, he finally found his own voice.
“I finally started relaxing, just letting the sound come out and seeing what happened, and the result was Arms, a much more sedate style influenced by Morrissey and other low-voiced crooner types,” he says. “I don’t know if I’m actually melodramatic a person in real life, but for some reason, whenever I sing, I croon.”
Outside of Arms, Goldstein is in one of New York’s most talked about bands, Harlem Shakes. He joined last year after overhearing that the band was seeking a guitarist.
“Working with the Shakes is a very cerebral, very intense experience,” says Todd. “We’re going on our first few tours soon (Deerhoof last February, Tapes ‘N Tapes in the spring) and we’re looking forward to a bright, promising future. Whereas the Shakes are spazzy, multicoloured pop, Arms ends up being like a break from the Shakes, just expressing myself simply and honestly. I try to get a little gloomier, a little creepier, a little more emotionally itchy with the Arms stuff.”