Three albums in, Night Moves have truly hit their stride. 2012’s Colored Emotions was psych-country transmitted through Bob Seger; 2016 saw the release of Pennied Days, moving their sound into the realm of ‘70s AM radio (with the production to match). New album Can You Really Find Me (out now via Domino) is a confident step forward for the Minneapolis duo of John Pelant and Micky Alfano, augmented by live bandmates Mark Hanson and Chuck Murlowski. Beautifully produced by Spoon drummer Jim Eno, Can You Really Find Me is cosmic psychedelia tethered unmistakably to specific eras, but able to transcend its influences by virtue of its creators’ talents.
This is the sounds of ‘70s aided by 1980s production – think Fleetwood Mac via rich haziness of The War on Drugs. The former band looms especially large over the record; it’s impossible to listen to Night Moves without noting lead vocalist John Pelant’s Stevie Nicks-isms. The Fleetwood Mac comparisons don’t end there. Can You Really Find Me takes the records of their imperial period, leaves them out in the sun, and plays them back at the slightly wrong speed. This is a woozy, midtempo record filled with lush, distant sounds, like Twin Peaks’ depictions of ‘50s balladry through an ‘80s lens – partially truthful but half-remembered, slightly off-putting but pretty enough to not be questioned too deeply. It’s an album that feels uneasy and confident all at once, and its elements are always in their right place.
About that production – it is really, truly immaculate. But Can You Really Find Me is no one trick pony, augmented throughout by strong songwriting and playing. Opener “Mexico” hints at the band’s acid-flashback country past with pedal steel but sounds more like aforementioned War on Drugs (if they dropped their dual fascinations with Dire Straits and “Young Turks” and picked up tips from Tango in the Night’s production handbook) – there’s even a guitar solo borrowing Adam Granduciel’s unmistakable tone. “Saving the Dark” takes similar references but moves things a bit more uptempo; “Recollections” rides an insistent rhythm, rich synths, jangly guitars, and a distinctly nocturnal vibe into the summer night.
But Can You Really Find Me is not entirely straightforward. “Ribboned Skies” is perhaps the album’s most incongruous song, somehow melding Beachwood Sparks’ Laurel Canyon-openness with glam and Todd Rundgren at a piano. It shifts feel three different times, but it works, embracing the same light-headed tangibility of a Tame Impala song, mixed with hints of Ziggy Stardust theatricality. “Coconut Grove” feels like Ariel Pink minus ironic poses – it’s a synth-and-piano-driven number very distant and very ‘80s in its production.
The album is anchored by several strong songs that owe a debt to the Big Star and Todd Rundgren school of balladry. “Keep Me in Mind” is pure Big Star in acoustic mode, offering gorgeous harmonies with interesting psychedelic touches. “Angelina” sounds like a sun-warped tape of an Alex Chilton, Stevie Nicks, and Lindsay Buckingham collaboration – featuring synthesized strings and a laconic feel, it’s a beautiful song and performance. The title track is lush, hopeful-sounding (at odds with its lyrics) and deeply psychedelic, with a great slide guitar solo and vocal performance.
Can You Really Find Me is also hugely catchy. First single “Strands Align” takes cues from Foxygen but drops the ‘60s fetishizing and acerbic wit – an arpeggiated keyboard, pedal steel, and synth riffs add flourish around juicy hooks. “Waiting for the Symphony” feels like Hall & Oates (complete with keyboard twinkles) if the drums were recorded on a four-track recorder – it’s blue-eyed soul on downers, quietly funky and slightly drunk.
Sophisticated and energetic, nostalgic and modern – Can You Really Find Me is a great pop record that pulls off a difficult trick: it straddles the line between eras well enough to sound timeless. Anchored by great writing and skilled performances, Night Moves have created an addictive listen that confidently takes familiar influences somewhere new.
Words by Andrew Ledford