When a musician leaves a successful indie band and strikes out on his or her own, the idea is that the music will start to flow immediately. Years of composing and performing with others, finding compromises and collaborations that fit, are all of a sudden needless expenses of energy. Everything is supposed to come together.
But it rarely works like that. There’s that initial sonic ejaculation, the few songs toyed with at the back of the tour bus maybe, but it takes a while to find one’s feet, to really nestle in to a sound. For Todd Goldstein once of Harlem Shakes but now ten years into ARMS, that's now happened emphatically.
ARMS’ third album, Patterns, premiering on Noisey today ahead of its June 3 release, is the type of confident, assured record that can only come from a band that knows itself. From the off-kilter keys on album opener “Laughing Academy,” Goldstein’s descending croon above everything, right through to the pretty, hook-heavy “Missing,” the record is a cohesive whole.
It’s clear that, more than ever, Goldstein has cast his gaze backwards and looked towards canonical songwriting to push himself. “Goodbye To All That” is type of song that could have come from any decade since the ‘60s, all full of laments, “clinging to a slim hope” and “grasping with such grave grips.”
The keys inject a sense of the uncanny where they can, flourishes of off-kilter melodies that stretch a chord to its limits and interact with Goldstein’s acoustic guitar. There are odd and charming additions strewn across Patterns, all adding to the steady, classical lilt.
But it all really falls back to the songwriting, flitting between Leonard Cohen homages and Rufus Wainwright inspirations, always more than the sum of its parts. It is, immediately, the best album that ARMS have put together.
Listen to it below. Patterns is out 6/3 on Paper Garden Records.