Northwest acoustic punk rocker Arms & Hearts has got to be one of the most prolific songwriters around at the moment. It seems as if every few months he has an exciting new release for us to listen to. We're big fans of Arms & Hearts (real name Steve Millar) here at CPRW so every new release is met with much anticipation. In fact there was a little disagreement between Emma and I about who would review his latest release, Wires Crossed. This new EP was released by the always reliable for great music Real Ghost Records and sees Steve take a foray into full band territory. I was keen to see how this new side of Arms & Hearts sounds.
EP opener Sore Sight For Sorry Eyes starts with a little bit of distortion as if he is signalling that this will be a full band release. Pretty quickly we're greeted with Steve's gruff yet soulful voice. I did wonder if some of the emotion of the earlier releases might be lost in a full band effort but in fact I found that the songs had more. Having the backing of a full band seemed to add more urgency to the songs which I loved. On the EP's title track, Wires Crossed, this urgency continues. There is also a superbly punchy guitar section that adds some attitude to the song. This punchy style accompanied by the melodic way in which Steve delivers the vocals really drew me into the song. What kept me interested was the way it builds towards the end. I love a great building section in a song, particularly when it hits its high point and the song explodes into a great big sing-a-long.
The third song, Falling Short, remains full band but feels more stripped back and bare than the previous two songs. This really allows the listener to focus on what Steve is saying in the song. Falling Short is about all the different character flaws in people and how they don't often hit the standards that perhaps they should. The penultimate song Back Up Plan is probably my favourite track on Wires Crossed. The song starts out simply with Steve's stunning voice pulling you into the song with just a bit of guitar to accompany it. Of course it quickly builds into an Americana tinged punk song that has me thinking of Dave Hause of The Loved Ones. The song feels nice and positive as Steve sings about the experiences he's had because of music. There is a section towards the end of the song with a phenomenal build – it really takes you on a ride and when it gets to the end it gives you a great feeling of satisfaction. On the EP's final song we are treated to an acoustic number. Titled Benchmarks, the song is about trying to improve yourself and as he sing "be better than this." The undoubted highlight of the song are the beautifully layered harmonies that take place towards the end of the song.
Arms & Hearts doesn't just consistently write songs, he consistently writes great songs. This was my first time hearing him with a full band backing him and I loved it. His solo acoustic stuff is superb but for me he really comes into his own with the full band backing – there's just an all round fuller sound. Wires Crossed is sure to place well on my end of year top EP's list.
Stream and download Wires Crossed here: https://realghostrecords.bandcamp.com/album/wires-crossed
Like Arms & Hearts here: https://www.facebook.com/ArmsandHearts/
This review was written by Colin Clark.