a likely scenario: After his former band, Harlem Shakes, switched from
great-indie-hope to defunct, guitarist Todd Goldstein decided to release a
collection of lo-fi sketches and songlets. The vague instrumental that opens Kids Aflame suggests this backstory is
exactly right. Then “Whirring” begins, and explodes the assumption.
fact, the album’s sound is less than burnished, and there are some sketchy
numbers among these 16 tracks (including three bonuses added since the original
European release). But most of them are fully formed, whether they feature a
full-band sound or — like the title track — just ukelele and a voice or two.
Goldstein can come on like a stoned neo-folkie, marveling (in
“Eyeball”) “Oh, isn’t it strange/That people have eyes?”
Well, no, but such too-cute ditties are the exception here.
contemporary balladeering and ’80s-style alt-rock with hints of Big Star’s
third, the album is often rueful: “Fall” remembers the day the
narrator “broke my hip and the bones in both legs,” while
“Shitty Little Disco” notes that “I haven’t been in a fight for
years” as if that’s about to change. But the latter tune blends its
apprehension with vigor and defiance, and “Tiger Tamer” is positively
uplifting, in a downbeat sort of
“We’re swimming in our skin/Hurting through our pain” isn’t the most
anthemic couplet, but the song is stirring nonetheless. That balance of
melancholy and exuberance is the crux of Kids
Aflame’s appeal: When Goldstein sings “the Tokyo moon is out of reach,” the melody
ignores the lyric to reach up toward the unattainable.
Standout Tracks: “Tiger
Tamer,” “Shitty Little Disco,” “Tokyo Moon” <a