The band that delivered my favorite album of 2013 returns and gives a huge middle finger to the concept of the sophomore slump. Night Moves first album was a brilliant breath of fresh air during an onslaught of hipster delicate geniuses, and three years later the band has delivered yet again. The new album is called Pennied Days and it’s an early contender for album of the year.
Formed in 2009 in the Twin Cities, Night Moves at its core is John Pelant and Micky Alfano who have been friends since high school. The story goes that the two bonded over a copy of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. That makes perfect sense as these two have a keen sense for writing songs that come across as clear and fresh similar to Harrison’s approach of writing. While Harrison’s songwriting was overshadowed by the dominance of John and Paul it took a while for Harrison’s first “real” solo record to find its proper place as a bonafide classic. The same could be said for Night Moves as the music community tunes in and discovers the brilliance of this band.
In this case, Pelant and Alfano have put together a very capable quintet for touring purposes which after seeing the show live is a definite upgrade to the trio which toured before. Night Moves music has so many opportunities for layers up layers and although I loved the sound as a trio, the two new members deliver a full on wall-o-sound that would make Phil Spector proud.
So what’s it sound like? That’s a tough question but if I had a gun to my head I would say it’s a mix of ’70s soul, a touch of light jazz, a bit of Boz Scaggs, and some seriously stellar vocals that could be called somewhere between Daryl Hall and Bono. Wrap that all up in an AM Radio sensibility and you have one of the most original and remarkable bands on the planet at the moment.
“I was spending my days going into my basement, being in the dark while it was sunny outside,” is how Pelant sums up the making of Pennied Days.
Standout tracks include “Border on Border” which the band played live back in 2013 and we had to wait an agonizing three years for the studio version (which is a stunner), and the lead “singles” if you will, “Carl Sagan” and Denise, “Don’t Wanna to See You Cry.” Then again, the entire record is brilliant and that’s coming during a time when albums are struggling to find a place anywhere other than a turntable for a manual listen. While Pennied Days is certainly worth that time and effort, it should also be celebrated equally in the digital space.