Personnel: John Pelant (vocals, guitar, harmonica, piano, keyboards); Mark Ritsema (guitar); Aaron Baum (piano, keyboards); Jared Isabella (drums).
Audio Mixer: John Agnello.
Recording information: Black Market, Minneapolis, MN; Russell Street Recording, Brooklyn, NY; Winterland Studios, Minneapolis, MN.
Full of cool, moody surfaces and pop melodies that sounded part mid-'70s, part present day, Night Moves' debut album, Colored Emotions, was one of the more pleasant surprises of 2012. While the vague country influences on Colored Emotions have faded somewhat, the group's second album, 2016's Pennied Days, finds Night Moves moving slowly but confidently forward from their early work. Anchored in the striking, elemental keyboard work of multi-instrumentalist John Pelant, Pennied Days is a bittersweet song cycle that suggests several lovelorn characters have moved to a midsized college town. Just as Colored Emotions indicated a Midwestern mindset behind the layers of vintage pop, Pennied Days seems to be dominated by heartbroken young men in a cool climate. Pelant's lead vocals work wonders in evoking this album's sense of time and place, sounding thoughtfully sad and quietly passionate throughout, and his guitar work is splendid. (He's in especially powerful form on the seven-and-a-half-minute epic "Hiding in the Melody.") The complicated emotions suit the tenor of the music to a T, and this is pretty/sad music in the great tradition of the Poppy Family and the Carpenters. However, it's livelier than either of those acts, and as much as Night Moves borrow from the past, this music has a sincerity and strength that's all its own. Pennied Days doesn't have a clear narrative, but the songs work as a set as well as they do individually, and the sequence is intelligent and favors the material. It's one thing to make a great debut album, and quite another to make an equally effective follow-up. Night Moves have done just that on Pennied Days, an indie pop marvel well worth your attention. ~ Mark Deming