Moonstone City is an immense collection of songs and stories from artist and songwriter Geraldine Png. It’s truly unlike anything you’ll have heard in recent years, and just barely lands in time to be classed as an album – by this I mean, there are moments when it really feels like an intense piece of musical theatre. It’s a real experience, from start to finish, and what’s even more interesting about it is that the whole thing is a concept album – it’s an extended and rather detailed expression of experience, from a time of struggle – a journey through the artist’s personal troubles with alcoholism, a detrimental lifestyle, and ultimately recovery.
The great news is that at no point does it fall victim to the overly personal and far too removed category of singer-songwriter storytelling. Occasionally you get an album or track that is so very personal and inaccessible that it really feels like it should have been a diary entry and not so much shared with a multitude of strangers. Moonstone City is something else entirely. Geraldine Png welcomes you into her world with open arms. The thought that has gone into every musical and lyrical moment is sublime, the artistic expression throughout is thoroughly engaging and captivating, and at no point is there any feeling of cliché or repetition or boredom approaching. It’s fascinating, and hugely worth taking the time out to listen to.
The fact is, we could talk about this album till the sun goes down, we could write out every lyric for you, we could even embed a track from it (which we have, at the bottom) but the only way you can really experience and start to understand this concept and this album as a whole – is to head over and Listen. You have to be a part of it to really take it in. Background story aside for a second, the music itself is dramatic and stylish and powerful, packed full of smooth riffs and melodies, stocked up with intriguing lyrics and clever lines. It’s a musical journey of consistently epic proportions. It’s 26 songs, indeed, plus musical narration, much longer than the average album – but it’s entirely accessible. There have been many albums in the past that have played out well into their twentieth song and beyond, often in the case of hip-hop albums, so if you take nothing else from that you’ll know at least that many a story will be told during your experience of this collection.
Geraldine’s personal narration appears intermittently throughout the album, her voice is soft and expressive, a fantastic teller of stories, and perhaps more importantly for a musical album – the soundscape behind each tale is phenomenal. The work that has gone into these musical moments of art is sensational. You can really feel the drama and the emotion as you listen. And the tracks feel good, in the way that a string of Michael Jackson albums feels good to listen to, and can be played one after the other after the other, those rockier tracks, those soulful moments of dancing and dreaming – these songs have the same sort of feeling to them. Sometimes it feels like today, sometimes it feels like the 80’s, sometimes it feels like some other time and place entirely – to listen is to take part in the adventure, and at no point is there any complacency or predictability.
Put the concept to one side again, and what’s left is a brilliant collection of electronica meets rock and soul music; bursting with melodies, vocal style, instrumental experimentation, and big bass-heavy beats that soak up your sorrows and lead you dance driven and starry eyed into the weekend.
There’s really nothing to dislike about this project, it’s fantastic, a strong example of skill and effort and drive to really just put out what your soul and your heart have craved for you to make. It’s cool, and memorable, and really quite inspiring. Not least of all it has to be said that Geraldine’s voice is so striking and stylish, that even if there were no meaning at all to the songs, which, fortunately, there categorically is, this would still be a smooth and catchy collection of tracks to bang out through the speakers whenever you’re feeling a little beneath yourself.
The more you listen to this project the more involved you’ll feel. It becomes familiar, comforting, nostalgic even, towards the end. The style and presentation is so unusual, so operatic yet entirely within reach of any and every listener. There are indeed some real moments of manic climactic urgency, where the music and the vocals sort of build and build and crash into each other, but what’s great about that is that it brilliantly represents the artist’s personal journey through struggle, alcoholism – the ups that quickly spiral and crash and collide into downs; the music is so very on point, so artistically appropriate. It’s fascinating, and utterly impressive, more so the further into the project you delve. There’s no distinct genre, there’s no particularly striking melody that you would come away with – I mean, there are plenty of melodies, plenty of blissful musical moments, but they are all as valuable as each other – there is no single track that stands out or shines more brightly than the rest. You can clearly see that distinction between singer and artist, and Geraldine Png is undoubtedly an experienced and skillful example of the latter.
Even when you take away the music and the lyrics and the narration, you’re still left with these epic oceans of ambiance, these atmospheric soundscapes, which in themselves just wrap their sounds and their precise moments around you and block out all the external noise from the world. It’s so unusual to have so many different elements present within what is essentially a collection of songs – songs which are usually written, performed, and recorded, with no further artistic thought involved or interpreted within. But in this case, there is layer upon layer of meaning and expression. You really get a sense of the immense effect these times had on the life of the artist, and the whole era really sinks in deeper and deeper as you listen – you go from knowing nothing about her, to feeling almost exactly what it must have been like, and all the while still having quite simply listened to a brilliant collection of classic sounding yet stylish music.
It’s a win-win record of depth and musical beauty. At times rhythmic and smooth, other times poetic and deep, occasionally quite haunting, occasionally quite optimistic, hopeful, loving – the music is vast and varied and consistently expressive. There is so much to take in, but it’s more than worth the effort to press play and give it a go. To my knowledge, there’s really no other project around that is quite like this.