Arda & The Stolen Moon – Minutes Into Years – Album Review
Wow! First impressions! First thing I saw was the cost on the ‘Super Ltd Edition’ and the fact that Arda & The Stolen Moon have already impressively sold half of the stock on this particular version, which retails at €75…and I tried as hard as I could to think of a time where I’d ever spent that kinda dough on an album & came up short for any answers! Maybe I’m cheaper than I previous thought. That being said…obviously the people out there see/hear the value in the incredible art that comes along with the new ‘Super Ltd. Edition’ of the record Minutes Into Years – hard not to expect something amazing when you spot something like this before even pushing play! Great to see people supporting what is clearly art to Arda though – I think that’s beyond awesomeness.
Really interesting backstory when it comes down to the story of Arda & The Stolen Moon and how it all began. If you read the words of producer Robert Camassa on her official site…you’ll read that she’d nearly been passed over completely by him, saved only by an impression made in the final three songs of a demo record that were an indication of where she was at currently with her writing…essentially the three newest tunes. And of course…as producers tend to do…instantly began to change the course of direction for Arda through conversations over coffee and ironing out what the perceived flaws were and how to battle them. Generally speaking, I’m about 1000x more confident in an artist’s natural instincts than I am about a producer’s assessment…an artist’s job is to be unique whereas a producer’s role is to make the record, songs and performances sound great…but that definitely doesn’t contain a clause that protects the artist from having their uniqueness crushed out of them during the process. I haven’t heard Arda’s old material or music…so it’s impossible for me to say what the results of this particular collaborative effort truly achieved in terms of changing her style, approach or sound…but I like what I hear and do feel like what they’ve accomplished here must have satisfied both sides with the end results. More than anything…I appreciated the fact that Arda has this honesty from Robert directly on her main website for all to see…it lets us in on the fact that there’s been much doubt around the music beforehand, but also tells us that if it’s been refreshed, re-written and EXISTS here today on Minutes Into Years…that her time must truly be now and she must really be ready – doesn’t it?
“Who Am I Kidding?” begins the experience into the record…and it met with a bit of mixed results for myself personally. What I liked was the earnest & honest sound to Arda’s vocals…even though I feel like there’s still a bit of power & energy missing, I also feel like that’s a natural thing that occurs on almost every debut album I can think of somewhere along the lines. Nothing wrong with room for improvement when you show the potential to achieve that…and what I found most fascinating about “Who Am I Kidding?” was actually behind the music itself…in the background. Have a listen to the backing-vocals from Arda…they’re mixed quite low into the song overall – but you can hear that she’s RIGHT where she wants to be with that tone, sound & confidence…the power and ability is completely revealed there. In that respect, it does kind of impact the main vocals in the sense that you want more of that wild & confident approach to appear throughout the vocals we hear, but this particular track hints at what could be more than immediately delivers. I like the verse and how we get to hear Arda’s approach to the vocals…I felt like the mix on the chorus was missing a bit of the sparkle that you can hear in the instrumental sections and the low-tones of Arda’s voice were on-point, just needing a bit more enthusiasm & energy to match the music. I also knew that in hearing clearly what she’s capable of in the background vocals that I’d be listening closely for THAT version of Arda to grace the main vocals somewhere on this album…if she’s that capable and that extraordinary…well…then that’s what I want to hear!
I felt like we got a better performance from those main vocals on “You’re Not You Lately,” in addition to a stronger song/melody-line overall. Good combination of ideas in the music and the instrumentation really make for a satisfying listen on this second-tune…and yeah…for me this was almost night & day by comparison; this is a well-realized melody and it’s performed strongly. I felt like we got about 10% more from Arda’s vocals on “You’re Not You Lately” – but still yet to hear her embrace the power we know she has from the backing layers of the opening track…but the gentleness of “You’re Not You Lately” also calls for a more subtle performance. Definitely single potential here on this song however…the rhythm & melody of the music is inviting and the sound is tender & gentle…some of those subdued tones and bending lyrics from Arda also sound fantastic in the verses she sings. In a strong representation of her songwriting, the vocals and music shine on an equal parity…both elements have strong moments in the spotlight on “You’re Not You Lately.”
“Dear Lover” takes the music is a softer but jazzier direction…and the sound of it really works wonders here. Great acoustic melody with lead guitar and piano accompaniment…music-wise I felt like the crisp drum beat and loose feel to the rhythm really sounded great. I was a bit less sure of Arda’s choices here on “Dear Lover” as far as the vocals were concerned…she’s makes some good decisions for the flow…but in terms of hearing an artist feeling the vibe, moment and connection to the music, this tune seemed to be missing some of that. A little bit of that responsibility also falls to the production…I’m not just pointing the finger at Arda here, but also those behind the studio boards that have had much of these songs so far sounding as if they’re being mixed completely separately without really exploring how to find the balance required for both parts to sound amazing together…there’s room for that to improve as well. Guitar parts tend to steal the show on “Dear Lover” – the tones on those are absolutely spot-on; and overall I think there’s a good idea here on this tune…just needs a bit of tweaking to bring the distance between both the music and vocals more tightly together, in my opinion.
And not that the songs sound anything similar…but you might feel the same as I did about the main hook of the vocals on “Never Again” having much in common with how Courtney Taylor-Taylor works the vocal-melody on the Dandy Warhols hit “Bohemian Like You.” Again…for the record…entirely different overall styles and sounds…but I’d bet many of you hear what I hear in the melody of the vocal-hooks as it’s such a distinct & defined pattern. I had my wife even listen to this moment, just to confirm I wasn’t completely crazy or out of line…and we both came to the conclusion that while the vocal lines do possess massive similarities in certain spots – we both also acknowledged that the chances of this coming about anything other than by complete coincidence would be pretty slim. I don’t think that Arda is heading over to the Dandy Warhols of all bands to poach ideas from…pretty sure this is one of those times whereby what we hear happened naturally; similar ideas sometimes occur that way between unrelated artists and bands because what we hear in the writing simply stands out…sometimes we latch onto a similar melody-line through no fault of our own or ill intentions. “Never Again” regardless, ended up being an interesting song to listen to overall…I liked the gentle melody of the piano against the contrasting harshness of the feelings and emotions presented through the lyricism of this song. Detailing heartbreak, detailing the strength of conviction and a determination to not be wronged twice in one lifetime…lyrically it’s one of Arda & The Stolen Moon’s strongest tunes on Minutes Into Years.
Here it is though! “Grandma’s Minute” – Arda! What a beautiful song and melody! And really…I think she deserves a serious amount of credit for creating something incredibly special, intimate, personal and unique here. The performance almost sounds like a late-night recording where she was afraid to sing too loudly else she might wake up the neighbors…and the resulting hushed tones and sweet singing ends up really hitting the mark for sincerity squarely. A beautiful set of memories sweetly revealed…I like how the verses flow like free-flowing thoughts and don’t really subscribe to any particular one direction, but many. While that usually ends up resulting in a musical-trainwreck of a situation 9.9/10 – Arda keeps this one perfectly on track with a beautifully captivating performance in both the verse and chorus of “Grandma’s Minute.” The verse was great with its lyrical imagery amongst the strongest and most vivid that you’ll find on the record…but that chorus is absolutely magic all the way through. For myself personally…and I think many people out there…this will prove to be a song that really stands out for its exceptional melody and stunning approach; the guitars and melody in the music are ALMOST as gorgeous as the way that Arda sings this tune…ALMOST! Wonderful job on this song as far as I’m concerned…definitely a memorable highlight here.
I think Minutes Into Years really does pick up some noticeable steam around the time of “Never Again” & forward to secure a strong mid-section to the record with “Grandma’s Minute” and “Crazy Bridge” also pulling out impressive moments and melodies to be proud of. “Crazy Bridge” still utilizes the low-tones of Arda’s register throughout the verse, but this time around she’s contrasted those beautifully against the sound of the higher-up parts of her vocal register through the chorus. Truthfully…in more than half of the songs I hear from any artist or band, it’s usually easy to identify which part stands-out the most…and of course in 99% of cases it’s usually a chorus; what I liked most about “Crazy Bridge” was that there was no decision to make at all – both parts are completely strong on their own but this song really comes together to create the complete vision. By comparison to the comment I made on production early-on with “Dear Lover” were completely resolved and fixed by this point on Minutes Into Years – “Crazy Bridge” to me, was a perfect example of where Arda’s vocals sit best within the mix of the music…and chances are, it’s also because of that that we get the resulting golden performance as well. She sounds right in the moment and right into the music with “Crazy Bridge” and the strong connection between both is audibly tangible.
Now…it’s not her fault that I could comfortably glide through the rest of my years here on earth without having to encounter another ‘waltz’ in any way, shape or form…that’s on me. So all personal bias aside as best I can shove it – she’s done well here on the isolated & intimate tune she’s called “Dead End Waltz.” As far as her performance is concerned, it’s pretty much as flawless as it gets…she adds a hint of smokiness to her vocals on this track as well, which I think led to part of the magic of “Dead End Waltz.” Great narrative in the storyline for the song and once again really strong imagery in the words & lyrics that Arda’s written…lots of positives here really. Whether you enjoy a waltz personally…or if you’re more like myself and have had enough of them altogether over time…I didn’t really feel like it mattered much – I felt like Arda’s humble performance on this song really managed to pull me onto her side and I ended up really enjoying “Dead End Waltz.” Always good to be surprised by something musically…and one of the best ways that can happen is to recognize a style you might not necessarily look forward to, but that comes out winning like this track does.
I do also like that she’s tried a variety of styles & sounds. While the reason for that can often be the ‘debut’ factor and still searching ultimately for the style/sound that works best for an artist – I think that Arda & The Stolen Moon actually seek out opportunities to try new things out of sheer enjoyment and the challenge of writing in different atmospheres. “Parallel Universe” takes the sound in a different direction once again, this time with more guitar-based ideas with a solid organ rocking the background to fill in the atmosphere. I think the mix really did well here once again…I love the production on the chorus and the added vocals that backup Arda’s voice. Great ideas that run in behind the main melody of this song…it’s a lot more aloof in its structure & assembly overall…but I felt like it still worked fairly well for Arda’s personal style.
“Dreams” was a bit more of a struggle for me…I naturally get my back-up against any lines I’ve heard more than a million times before…and ‘sticks and stones’ anything just tends to sound a little bit cliché and more than explored in songs before. So…as a songwriter…I think she takes a slight chance with opening up “Dreams” with a line that includes that…even if it was disguised by being further into the song, chances are I’d have still pointed that out…but leaving it so open at the beginning is definitely noticeable. I’ve run into moments like this with talented songwriters like Arda before…all I’d ever want to accomplish through my comments would be to put a permanent alarm of sorts into the back of their minds that tells them any time they’re writing words that have been written before to just want more out of themselves and their lyrics. Arda & The Stolen Moon have proven through countless moments on this record that lyrically, she can write with incredibly strong and unique imagery and absolutely does not need to resort to any kind of lines that might be perceived as gimmicky like the way that “Dreams” begins. There were a few lines afterwards as well with references to ‘spreading wings’ and ‘life being full of surprises’ that also felt like they subscribe to this same theory…it’s all assembled & structured well…I like the flow of the verse & chorus of “Dreams” but I absolutely felt like the focus into the lyrics of this track was noticeably different than what we’ve heard Arda to be capable of so far on the songs on Minutes Into Years. In my opinion…she’s much more imaginative and creative than she’s revealed herself to be on “Dreams” and she’s already shown, proven and sung the evidence of that on every track prior to this one, which makes it tough to absorb this song by the time it comes around at number nine on the record.
The longest track of the record also ends the adventure of Minutes Into Years; “Bad Things” gives you a lot to enjoy on a musical-level in the final moments of this album. Much of the final tune is left to the instrumentation…and considering that the vocal-structure was a bit on the wandering-side in search of where they fit into this song, I think it was a good call to let the music do most of the talking here at the end of “Bad Things.” The piano parts are really strong…great melody there and beautifully played – the opening moments of “Bad Things” are extremely inviting and I really liked the way that Arda came into the song at the beginning. There are moments as the song begins to disperse more energy that you can hear her struggling a bit to find the right energy and tone to match the music as it rises up…but the music provides the real redemption here. Arda departs from the vocals about halfway into “Bad Things” – the noticeably lower-mix on the volume of her parts here also indicates a bit less confidence on how they came out overall…and as a result personally I would have been a bit more on the fence of the inclusion of this final track onto this particular record. The fact is – the music becomes so strong as “Bad Things” plays on, that it certainly becomes a logical candidate as to how to end the album with real impact, even though the final impressions of Arda’s vocals might not end up being as strong as a result…but that’s of course, her choice and the way that she chose to end it.
It’s rare to find a record where you feel like the middle songs are the strongest. Most albums are so incredibly front-loaded or weighted with the strongest material at the very end – but truthfully, I thought Arda & The Stolen Moon gave us the most memorable moments within the mid-section of Minutes Into Years. Through those songs, I felt like we get a great glimpse of the artist she could potentially become over time & experience…I never did find the version of her that exists in the backup vocals of “Who Am I Kidding?” within the lead of any of the other songs either…and I really think she needs to go back and examine how strong, confident and REAL those moments were. I think once she breaks that final wall down to bring the confident way she sings backup vocals into her main performances…she could really set herself free to become the successful singer/songwriter she’s always sought out to become – the potential is certainly there.
Find out more about Arda & The Stolen Moon at the official homepage: http://www.ardaandthestolenmoon.com/
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