Darling Arms
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"POP ROCKS / pop & rock reviews"


Darling Arms
All the Ghosts
By Chris Whibbs

This debut EP of Christina Frances, formerly of Montreal’s One Candle Power, has much in the way of immediacy and rawness, but, as with all singer-songwriters, she faces challenge to distinguish herself. With just the simplest of instrumentation, Frances is really just left to her own voice, which, due to its charmingly imperfect nature, allows for some intimacy. When she wants to create emphasis, the voice cracks ever so slightly, giving the songs a great raw quality that some may call emo. Another interesting note about these songs is Frances’s lack of fear concerning their length. At least two crack the six-minute mark, which is somewhat unusual for singer-songwriters, but it works really well in Frances’ hands. Vying for the top spot is “A Fish Hook, A Cat Eye,” where the plaintive acoustic guitar slowly leads into Frances’s able vocals, all made gloriously morose by an echoed bass. This really isn’t complicated music, but it does catch the imagination, and, considering the vast field Darling Arms competes in, that is sometimes more than enough. (Blue Skies Turn Black)
- Exclaim!


"Solo project of Christina Frances Musacchio, formerly of Montreal’s One Candle Power"

CD REVIEW
by FFWD WRITER
DARLING ARMS
All the Ghosts EP
Blue Skies Turn Black

· Solo project of Christina Frances Musacchio, formerly of Montreal’s One Candle Power.

With that voice, it would have been a tragedy if Darling Arms (Christina Frances Musacchio) never bothered singing along to an acoustic guitar. Though her songs are occasionally too epic, her exquisite vocals and pensive prose could eventually land her in the same company as Maria Taylor and Cat Power. Ultimately confessional and best suited for late nights, All the Ghosts is the story of a restless heart that is rapidly approaching a crossroads. Listen for the standouts "Beluga" and the closing time heartache in "A Fish Hook, A Cat Eye." - FFWD Weekly


"AMY MILLAN + Darling Arms"

AMY MILLAN + Darling Arms
@ Main Hall
Montreal QC
Date Attended: February 10th, 2007

Entering a sold-out Main Hall only minutes after yet another disappointing Montreal Canadiens performance, this deranged Habs fan was in desperate need of some comforting, which came thankfully in the form of his other love: the live show.

After a sufficient wait upon entrance, the chandelier lights dimmed as the lovely Darling Arms took to the stage, and established the perfect setting for an audience clutching their winter coats. Fronted by former One Candle Power vocalist Christina Musacchio, their serene melodies held onto the listeners’ ears and gaze throughout the entirety of a very pleasant yet melancholy set. Backed by a standup bass, violin, drums and piano, most songs were introduced through Musacchio’s sweetly engaging anecdotes about "working for the man", gender-based product advertisement (Concept Car) as well as the beautiful sadness heard in "The Hero" that left most in awe. The performance ended in a barrage of balloons floating around the audience, celebrating Christina’s birthday.

The wait in between sets went by rather quickly, as they were spent happily listening to Tom Waits’ Mule Variations and the Eels’ Shootenanny playing over the P.A system. If one would’ve known who the operator was, there would’ve been an embarrassing Don Cherry-like thumbs up shot their way along with an ear-to-ear grin.

Enter Amy Millan sliding a capo up the neck of her acoustic guitar as she greets the audience with "Losing You", the downhearted opener off her first solo offering Honey From The Tombs. Shortly thereafter, the rest of her live ensemble (also known as The Winter Boots) took to the stage and aided Millan through a solid 80+ minute performance. You wouldn’t have imagined how much work went into such a "solo" presentation. At times, she was flanked by six other musicians on stage pulling multiple instrumental duties (brass, lap guitar, piano) for songs such as "Wayward and Parliament" and "Baby I".

Having temporarily strayed from her full-time band Stars, Millan produces heart-wrenching tales of love and despair that would catch the affection of anyone, including those who’ve listened to her previous musical accomplishments. Honey From The Tombs is a strong album beginning to finish, as it’s carried by Millan’s luscious voice that just oozes a certain soothing tenderness. Although it was impressive to see the songs come alive on stage with horns, organs and such, the best moments took place with that less-is-more setting. The music is far from being simple however; pure acoustic gems like "Blue In Yr Eye" had me aching for a one-woman show at some dive bar, with only a few people in the audience to embrace her musical brilliance.

The set had a few surprising curveballs thrown in, as there were at least three new songs played -- the names escape me -- while the last pre-encore song was the brilliant single "Skinny Boy". Minutes later, Millan re-appeared for an encore that included "He Brings Out The Whiskey In Me" as well as a hauntingly stunning cover of Death Cab’s "I Will Follow You Into The Dark", which would raise the hair on the back of one’s neck.

Now although I love Millan and her solo outfit, I couldn’t get the same wonderful feeling after listening to Set Yourself On Fire or Heart, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a different kind of sentiment, one that’s more laid-back in a certain contrast. These are songs that showcase Millan’s more fragile, nostalgic side, which doesn’t beat around the bush like many Stars songs do (although we love them for it). Her acoustic guitar may not have the intensity of the bass n’ keys of a song like "Elevator Love Letter", but still her divine narratives more than make up for a lack of slick synths and Pro Tools-inspired magic.

Keep in mind, there is usually a lot of hype surrounding solo projects, which usually fail to impress. Noteworthy examples of this would have to be Billy Corgan, Thom Yorke, and Emily Haines. All three were pretty big disappointments, whereas Millan holds steady on her own, whether you knew Stars beforehand or not.


[Tune in to The Lonesome Strangers every Wednesday from 3pm to 5pm.]

- Mike Bresciani

Posted: February 19th, 2007 - CJLO.com


"Such pretty Darling Arms"

True, Darling Arms -- known to her friends and family as Christina Frances -- may not wander far from the usual mopey-girl-with-a-guitar template. But, as All The Ghosts shows, there's not much point in wandering when you do something extremely well.

Or, at least, there's no point in wandering when you're still on your debut EP. If All The Ghosts were, say, Frances' seventh album, there might be reason to grumble -- though even then, if this were a full-length full of songs like "Concept Car", she'd still have a voice and melodies that were far better than the vast majority of her peers. Given that this is her first set of solo songs, there's plenty here worth hearing, and all of it suggests she may be one to watch. Epic tracks like "Beluga", "A Fish Hook A Cat Eye" and "The Hero" all suggest that Frances has an embitious side yearning to break out, and that as Darling Arms becomes less a solo, post-band-break-up outing (Frances was formerly in Montreal's One Candle Power) and more of a collaborative effort, she may be able to surround herself with people with whom she'll be able to more fully express her artistic vision.

True, that's just a nicer way of saying that All The Ghosts is more about the artist's potential than the artist's actual output. But if Darling Arms ever fulfill that potential, they'll certainly be a band to watch. - iheartmusic.net


Discography

All the ghosts e.p (Blue Skies Turn Black - BSTB 12)

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Bio

I was always musical. I sang in choirs when I was a kid. I got my dad to teach me how to play the only 3 chords he knew on guitar (AKA Mr. Tambourine man) when I was 10 and within a few weeks came up with as many configurations as I could based on those chords, composing my own songs. I enrolled myself into guitar lessons but could never wrap my head around music theory; it always felt too dry and/or revealing. 15 years later, and several attempts at music theory courses, I still play everything by ear.

When I was 14 I sang in a 77’s-type punk band called SALAD DAYS that sounded similar to VICE SQUAD, Dead Kennedy's, Circle Jerks, etc. The band lasted about 2 years and we played a lot of shows. At that point I was probably the youngest kid in the Montreal music scene. I had very supportive parents - my dad worked at a print shop and made me a fake I.D. so I could get into bars, my mom would come to watch me play, hanging out with Paul Gott (from RIPCORDZ), CORPUSSE, and the other people who were around at that time.

When that was over I went back to writing songs in my bedroom. I got my hands on a 4 track and barely left the house in favor of staying home and making awkward and spontaneous recordings. At that point I became musically introverted and petrified of live performance. When I was about 19 I let my guard down and put a bunch of my songs on the Internet under the (now embarrassing) moniker “Chrissy’s Pillow”
I somehow managed to get a little fan base going. People would write me from all over the world, I was getting played on radio stations, written about in zines and would get royalty checks from mp3.com. At this point I also attempted to teach myself how to the play the cello by renting one for about as year. I would record cello tracks onto my songs and knew that I wanted to find orchestral musicians to play along with me.

When I was 21 I formed ONE CANDLE POWER after placing an ad for a cellist in the local classifieds. Although One Candle Power never had a cellist, it did have an upright bass player (Dave Castagner) for about the first year and a half of its existence. OCP was active from Jan 2001 – November 2004. We played a ton of shows, released 3 cds and booked a handful of tours all DIY. I wrote the vast majority of songs for OCP and was the only original member of the band towards the end. After the upright bass left the band changed direction quite a bit, becoming much louder, screamy and angular. The band ended when Andre Guerette (AIDS WOLF) left. He told me he always felt like he was getting in my way of making more beautiful/quiet music and I harbored resentment towards him for quite some time. By that point the band had become so far removed from what I set out for it to be, so I decided to call it a day.

I went through a horrible depression where I didn’t touch my guitar or think about making music for many months. I found myself back at square 1, slowly beginning to compose again, rebuilding the same building and tracing the same roots as I have always traced. At this point I also started working on SHARINGSHARINGSHARING, a mp3 mash-up filesharing performance (www.sharingsharingsharing.com)

A friend of mine named Stephen Guidry (THE CASETTES) was driving down to Louisiana in June 2006 and offered to take me with him. I head down to his place in DC and we took off for about a month. His band was in the process of recording their album and when we got back in DC he asked me to record some backing vocals for them. The vocals were all being recorded at singer/guitarist Shelby Cinca’s (FRODUS, FRANTIC MANTIS, DECAHEIDRON) so I went over and did some recording and he loved my vocals. I had bought myself a train ticket to get back to Montreal and was supposed to be leaving the next morning but he begged me to stay and record more. So I made a deal with him that I would cancel my train ticket and stay for another week if he also recorded some of my songs in exchange. He agreed and also suggested that we do some of my recording at the DISCHORD HOUSE since they had nice hardwood floors. I did all my guitar tracks at DISCHORD and then my vocals in Shelby’s bedroom. Then he invited Tom Bernath (also in the Casettes) over to add some upright bass on a few of the songs.

I came back to Montreal and put together my backing band, comprised of a pianist, violinist, bassist and drummer (still no cellist.) I waited 8 months for Shelby to finish mixing my ep. and in that time sold a bunch of handmade/unmixed ones at shows.

Currently my music is categorically singer-songwriter folkish stuff with an occasional country-tinge. The guitar is sparse and minimal, the vocals offering the most dynamic change. Comparisons can be drawn to Cat Power, Low, Azure Ray (but with more urgency and range on vocals.)

Some influences are: Ted Leo, Neutral Milk Hotel, Dirty Three, Buffy Ste. Marie, Leonard Cohen, Bonnie Prince Billy, Songs:Ohia, Loretta Lynn. Neil Young, Arab Strap, Nick