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WE REVIEW THE NEW SINGLE FROM ARMS AND HEARTS – KEROUAC ON MINIMUM WAGE

Steve Miller, the mancunian best known as Arms & Hearts, may be the guitar equivalent to Billy Joel’s piano man. Performing perched upon a stool in a grimy bar while onlookers remark ‘man what are you doing here?’ – he embodies a long tradition of DIY folk rockers.

This is no truer than with his debut album The Distance Between – an album that only takes one minute before quoting Neil Young. But it’s the record’s second track, now released alongside a new video, that delves deepest into this aesthetic. It’s title, ‘Kerouac on Minimum Wage’, evokes Tom Waits’ literally mind while its harmonica-embellished, group-sung choruses sound like early Bruce Springsteen.

While not short of sonic checkpoints, Arms & Hearts remains authentic and the storytelling is necessarily personal. But it’s the lyrics that impress as Miller tells of an individual’s scrappy attempts to navigate personal difficulties. The narrator is bereft of income, speaking of ‘how [they] live when [they’re] not really living’ –

Welcoming in ‘another year of just scraping by’ as the winter air prompts ‘aching limbs and dried-up lips’, it’s easy to imagine how optimism would be a prerequisite. It is this air of hope that drives the song endearingly, evoking resilience in times of adversity. By successfully transforming frustration into irreverence, Arms & Hearts extracts the positive from the bleak.