Night Moves new album, Can You Really Find Me, pulsates and glows with the same sublime energy that radiated from breakout single “Carl Sagan” in 2016, however in the intervening years, John Pelant and Micky Alfano have grown up. The songwriting, while still steeped in super-catchy, velvety riffs and pure pop glaze, feels more sophisticated and modern. Since the pair met in high school, awestruck by such ear-candy wizards as Brian Wilson, Todd Rundgren, Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham, they set off to craft their version of what sophisticated, emotional modern pop music can and should sound like. 2016’s Pennied Days was a breakthrough, and set a new bar for the members of Night Moves. After spending the subsequent two years on Can You Really Find Me, they’ve scaled new heights, where the sounds are still just as sweet, but now smarter, more evocative, and perfectly designed for a summer release.
So how did something that feels so warm and breezy – like the perfect summer soundtrack – emerge from the dead of a bleak and frigid Minneapolis winter? Pelant and Alfano sequestered themselves, dreaming their way out of the cold by writing songs like “Coconut Grove,” a whirly psychedelic love song, and “Ribboned Skies,” a blazing ode to guitars and syncopation. Minneapolis has always played a part in the creative process for these dyed-in-the-wool locals. Long heralded as local hot shots in the cold, desolate, land of Prince, Westerberg and Dylan, John and Micky have still never stopped working the grind; in donut shops, bakeries and restaurants, toiling to make ends meet yet trying find beauty in the mundanity, and in the tranquil midnights.
Pelant, as a writer, thrives in the gloom of isolation; a cold void, “I think it’s this type of environment that helps me feel focused. Zero distractions. Focused in a way where I can tap into certain emotions. I think some of the best music transports you to a place in time where your memories become potent visualizations. When writing closed off like this, you can see the images easily and your brain will pick the right chords and tones and guide you where you ought to go. I think being alone during that type of hibernation season is a great space in which to create.”
Once they emerged from their creative cocoon, it was down to the warmth and mythical allure of Austin, TX to bring the album to life. If Minneapolis was about hunkering down in cold isolation, Austin was about heat and life, working with producer Jim Eno (founding member and drummer of Spoon) out of Public Hi-Fi Studios, alongside live band members Mark Hanson and Chuck Murlowski, to record the ten tracks that make up Can You Really Find Me.
The tunefulness of this collection is not by accident. As Pelant deadpans, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could make a record that sounded like it has a lot of singles on it?” Whether it’s the infinitely hooky “Strands Align,” the up-tempo synth flourishes of “Recollections,” or the buttery soul of “Saving the Dark,” each song so adeptly sticks to the album premise of feeling “single-like” that you wonder how they will even choose any.
Reflecting once more on the new album, Pelant feels it functions in part as a rumination on aging; a period piece denoting his last 3 years, “I told myself at 18 I wanted to dedicate my 20’s to music and if nothing came of it, I would move on. So now closing out my 20’s, I feel there is still ground left to cover, I’m not quite satisfied yet. Our last album saw us hit a lot of hurdles; despite the successes we had, we parted ways with our management and lost a founding member of the band. While it’s proven to be a bumpy ride, I feel it just may be worth the trouble. I think I’m more comfortable now in my skin than I was at 24.”