In an age dominated by communication the regional aspect of music seems to have been lost. If you live in Pittsburgh, for example, you aren’t limited to what Pittsburgh has to offer or what national acts may be coming through. Steel City music lovers have equal access to bands from Austin, Nashville, Seattle, L.A., et al and because of this, influence has been spider-webbing across our gigantic nation–even the world. While this is certainly a positive thing as far as creativity is concerned there is a sense of nostalgia that is evoked when one thinks back to an era of regional music, where one could listen to a band and offer a relatively informed guess as to where that particular band hung their guitars; grunge hailed from the Pacific Northwest, punk from New York, blues from the Mississippi Delta, etc. Some bands, however, living up to post-modern nostalgic supremacy, find the influences rooted in their particular region and repackage it, offering a wide variety of influences typical of 21st century art, while maintaining an identity that gave their place something all its own. Such is the burgeoning Minneapolis act Night Moves.
To say that Night Moves plays a humble brand of mid-west country-rock is accurate. Semi-autobiographical lyrics are delivered on a wave of catchy, country melodies backed by bass, drums, and occasional keys. Front man John Pelant and guitar/keys player Mark Ritsema refrain from massive pedal boards so the songs are straight forward with little to no sonic change from beginning to end. This characteristic is appreciated from an audience perspective as dancers can dance from start to finish, shoe-gazers never feel jolted to focus elsewhere, and head-bobbers can, well you know, continue to bob their heads. It’s as if Night Moves takes their audience’s characteristics as seriously as they take their own. And audiences are showing their appreciation. Night Moves packed Shadow Lounge (with a little help from local openers Coastal Remedy), and it was a Tuesday. And it was about 4 degrees outside.
While Night Moves do maintain the Americana sound typical of other mid-western acts (think Blonde on Blonde era Dylan or early Wilco) that is not to say that Pelant and company shy away from other influences. The plunky, saloon style piano on “Colored Emotions,” the title track off of their debut album, is an obvious nod to “Ob-la-di-Ob-la-da” and shows the boldness of this young band as they dig to the foundations of modern rock, using what they find for themselves.
The cadence of the lyrics is another aspect which showcases this band’s eclectic taste harkening back to another Twin City native, Prince. Some have used this comparison to claim that Night Moves is the best thing to come out of Minneapolis since The Artist, but Colored Emotions is no Purple Rain and certainly leaves room for these young men to grow. But grow they will.
Night Moves is firmly dedicated to their craft and they have taken their newly found success on Domino Records in stride. Despite the cliché, it really is all about the music for them. They did, after all, spend two years making Colored Emotions, although this had more to do with studio disagreements than a lack of vision. When asked if the presence of a label made them nervous about future recordings and the limit to creative freedom, Pelant quickly responded, “we’re not going to let a producer tell us what we sound like.” Domino Records seems to trust their young act and released Colored Emotions with no interference.
With myriad influences, regional and otherwise, Night Moves can go anywhere. The vocal range of John Pelant and the precision with which he hits his notes could establish him as a very accomplished yodeler and it will be interesting to see such an attempt if they continue their country-twinged trajectory. Or perhaps they will more utilize the skill of their musicianship and fill out their sound with a more variant soundscape. Regardless of what they decide this band takes creativity seriously and will continue to impress audiences and listeners alike.
Categories: Concert Review