The noticeable warmth that emanates from Night Moves’ second album, Pennied Days, belies the band’s roots in humid Minnesota. After all, a constant climate fit for walking around half-naked is one reason the Beach Boys wished they all could be California girls and not Minnesota girls. Pennied Days is an album in the shadow of its influences, but Night Moves show moments of sparkle on this folk-rock trip.
Things begin uneventfully. Synth keys churning out a chasing rhythm, with an undercurrent of Berlin’s Take My Breath Away, while the androgynous vocals of singer and guitarist John Pelant prick your eardrums on Carl Sagan. The mood doesn’t change on the next track, or the would-be hauler’s anthem, Leave Your Light On, where Pelant’s mirroring of Bono – in intonation and lyrical sentiment – is uncanny.
These folk-rock tracks lack colour, leaving you cruising highways of samey scenery, laid years before by the likes of The Byrds and Leon Russell. Border on Border, with its splashes of bright percussion and tropical guitar riffs, is what kicks the whole record into gears and finally sets it off for a breezy summertime getaway.
Later tracks rumble further into the house of psych folk, and Pelant and bassist Micky Alfano gain feel like they are at the wheel. The sweet refrain of Kind Luck’s outro is not unlike an early noughties Stereophonics track, while members look to have taken cues from psych-rock leaders Tame Impala for Staurolite Stroll. The twinkling of a country song inverted by psych closes the album more satisfyingly than the beginning would have you expect.
Every great road trip has that period of near-endless kineticism, where time simply slips away as you lose yourself to the highway and the jet of your speeding vehicle. For Night Moves that moment is Hiding in the Melody: seven-and-a-half minutes of woozy, psychedelia that rescues Pennied Days from becoming a pleasant, but unremarkable, tour. In many ways, this moment sums up the album itself. Night Moves narrowly escape the shadow of the bands they have learned from with this album. But mirroring, even when they are as warm and summery as this, will only take them so far.