It is safe to say that Arda & The Stolen Moon make pop music. It is also safe to say that it is the sort of pop music which is all too rare these days. In fact, it is pop music that is so busy just being itself and having fun that it probably doesn’t even realise that it is pop music at all. Which is the best sort. If your idea of pop music is of a certain bag of sonic tricks, tried and tested musical templates and the promotion of style over substance then you won’t even recognise this as being in the same universe. You could almost say that this is too good to be simply labelled pop music.
And the main reason it stands out is the songwriting and Outsider in Perpetual Motion is an album full of not only great songs but highly original ones too. There is also a feeling of freedom that seems to come from not trying to conform to any one particular fad or fashion, of doing your own thing and, unrestricted by sonic boundaries and generic barricades, Arda & The Stolen Moon are free to find their touchstones and inspiration wherever they chose.
Emotional Hacking kicks things off in fine style, a pop-rock groover with a touch of Chrissie Hynde about it and setting a tone for having a great way with smart, humourous and socially conscious lyrics too. By the time you get to Signals, you find yourself in the realms of sweet, ambient indie and Wishing is a slice of understated folk which slowly gathers chiming guitar strands around it before exploding into a jagged, raw, edged and angular alt-rock crescendo.
Having proved that they can do sweet, understated, infectious and humourous, Upset The Apple Cart then also shows that poignant and powerful is also on the menu. An anthem urging women, and the world in general, to speak out on important issues, as uncomfortable as they might be, that turning a blind eye should never be an option, and it does so to a bluesy rocker where resonant and drifting guitars heighten the tension and underline the importance of the topics being discussed here.
The album rounds off with Fools & a Molina Moon, a gorgeous blend of rock guitar lines, hazy psychedelic-folk washes and Arda’s potent vocal deliveries, a slow-burning song rising from a mellow 60’s vibe into a blistering finale. By the time this final song gets the album over the line, you realise that what you have just experienced is something quite special.
What also makes the album work so well, is the arrangement and production. It is one thing to be able to write a great song, but there is an art to how you present that song to the best effect, something that these songs seem to be a masterclass in. As is the production of the album. Here the songs are built from only what they need to be with no room for any excess sound or filler playing to weigh them down, no room for showboating or ego and all of this is then given a gorgeous polish, just enough to make things sparkle but never so much that the process becomes a feature of the songs.
So, pop this may be, but it is pop like little else you will a have heard. Outsider in Perpetual Motion is the sound of people great at their job – writers, singers, instrumentalist, engineers – working in harmony and serving the songs themselves before all other considerations. It is mature pop, the antithesis of all that saccharine, dance routine driven, pop-pap that the mainstream is full of these days.
Pop it may be, but it is pop with a Phd!