Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Album Review: Too Much Sleep, Not Enough Dreams by Arms & Hearts (by Emma Prew)

As you probably know if you are a regular reader of Colin’s Punk Rock World, Arms & Hearts is the name that acoustic folk punk Steve Millar goes by. I say you probably know this as he’s a CPRW favourite and we’ve reviewed his stuff before! Last year I reviewed his two track EP titled The Jaded Captain (spoiler alert: it was great) and so I was keen to take a listen to his newest offering when given the opportunity.

Too Much Sleep, Not Enough Dreams is a four track EP that was released by Under The Bridge Records last month. Before I talk about the music, I just wanted to say how much I love the artwork which features four neat (I think) linocuts by Alex Rennie that represent each of the four tracks – clever.

The first song on Too Much Sleep, Not Enough Dreams is called Racketeers (not to be confused with ‘raconteurs’ which means something different, although they were an excellent band!). The track begins with some gentle acoustic guitar which is a nice soothing entry into the EP before Steve’s distinct, ever so slightly gravelly vocals come in. You can feel all of the passion that goes into Arms & Hearts’ songs in his voice. ‘And the city’s been dragging me down, Love the lights, Oh I love the lights, But I can’t see past them.’ Cue some subtle backing woah-ohs that lift the track. A promising start to Too Much Sleep, Not Enough Dreams. Next up we have Embers which kicks off with dual guitars – one acoustic and one electric. It’s a bigger sound that reminds me of Chuck Ragan and that’s no band thing – all it needs is some fiddle thrown in! Despite the bigger and somewhat uplifting sounds of a electric guitar in the background, this isn’t the most positive of songs. The lyrics deal with the idea that nothing happens for a reason (rather than the classic ‘everything happens for a reason’) but, in the end, that’s okay and we’ll be able to deal with it. ‘And I no longer believe in apologies, It will all fall on deaf ears, And we’ll burn down like embers, And we’ll burn down to the ground, We’ll burn down to the ground.’ 

Following on from Embers is a track called Blue Sky Minds. This song builds on the stripped back acoustic nature of Racketeers, combines it with the electric guitar elements from Embers and creates my favourite song of Too Much Sleep, Not Enough Dreams – best of both worlds on the musical front. At almost 4 minutes long, Blue Sky Minds is the longest song on the EP but it doesn’t waste a second. There is a great sense of building throughout the song, both musically and lyrically. I don’t know for certain that this is what Steve is referring to but a ‘blue sky mind’ is the idea that there is a calm and clear mind underneath all of our thoughts, emotions and anxieties. The way I interpret Blue Sky Minds, the song, is that your friends can help you to find that calm place. But maybe I’m just too spiritual-hippy in my thinking. Oh yeah, and there’s some great handclaps at towards the end of the song! While the last two songs had fairly big sounds, Arms & Hearts returns to a stripped back and acoustic-led track with High Time, High Tides closing Too Much Sleep, Not Enough Dreams. All of his songs are highly emotive but perhaps this song is the most heart-wrenching of all – the soft guitar and slower pace helps with that. The addition of bluesy harmonica between verses helped to cement my interest – I do love a bit of harmonica. The song is very much a sorrowful one and I found I couldn’t listen to it too many times, lest I become too sad. That could be seen as a negative against the song but it also means that High Time, High Tides connected with me on a deeper level than simply having a catchy tune or whatever. Great songwriting.

Arms & Hearts hasn’t exactly pushed any genre boundaries with this EP but, hey, I wouldn’t want him to. I’ve enjoyed everything that Steve Millar has put out up to this point and Too Much Sleep, Not Enough Dreams is no different. Another solid release.

You can buy and stream Too Much Sleep, Not Enough Dreams from the Under The Bridge Bandcamp, here. And also find Arms & Hearts on Facebook, over here.

This review was written by Emma Prew.