The Manchester melodic punk act formed by Steve Millar, better known as Arms & Hearts, makes a solid introduction to the folk-punk scene on The Distance Between. With a raspy voice that ranges from the howl of songwriting veterans such as Brian Fallon and Chuck Ragan, Millar makes a powerful opening statement on this collection of nine well-structured songs. The material teeters between sounding like a singer-songwriter at a dimly lit nightclub, to the full-bled passion of a punk band packed to capacity in a sweaty venue. What Millar does best is making his listeners hang on his every word as he sways from a soft croon to a blood-curdling scream.
On songs like “Community,” Millar showcases his depth as a songwriter as he cautiously opens with a story of, “You traded in your youth, for a penchant of pride / A lack of vulnerability and a crooked smile / And these words count for nothing, and these days pass me by / All these tired cliches and you can see it in their eyes / As the road rises to meet me, the flood of red lights / I’m reminded of something greater, than you or I / Something built before us, by calloused hands,broken tools and foiled plans.” He does a great job of strumming along with conviction on an acoustic guitar as he embraces his tireless past of being on the road looking for the right audience to hear his songs.
My personal favorite, “Out For Blood,” tells a tale of debauchery and lessons learned as Millar builds up to a sing-a-long chorus with professional ease. On the second verse Millar shares his heartache as he sings, “You had your points to prove, you had war to declare / You had the knife twisting in the flesh / I’m a glutton for punishment, now I’m running down the platform into the early morning sun / I got nowhere to hide / ‘Cos I can’t share the air and I won’t even try.” His approach to breaking his songs down to the core of what makes him tick is equally thrilling as it is heart-wrenching.
Other tracks such as “Forever the Pessimist,” and especially “Worry in the Walls,” paint Arms & Hearts as a folk punk act that is willing to wear their heart on their sleeves in order to tell their story in the most passionate of ways. Millar continues to showcase his impressive vocal range on the latter track, and you can feel his pain as he leaves a blueprint to his past in the remnants of the songs that he put forth on this LP.
Album closer, “Fortitude” sheds a little glimmer of hope as we look forward into the unknown Millar’s songwriting career. The tone of the guitar shifts dramatically on this song, and matches the overall message of optimism as the record wraps up. Overall, I came away from The Distance Between impressed by the songwriting chops of Millar, and he does a lot of things well in making a great first impression for his audience. The melodic elements found on the sing-a-long choruses are something that Arms & Hearts will likely to continue to expand upon on subsequent releases as they look for their voice in this chaotic life we’re living. With the right tour placement, Arms & Hearts could be noticed sooner rather than later.