Saturday, December 8, 2012

Night Moves and the New Soul-Country (Rock-Folk-Electro?)

Prom Sawyer joined the writers of Bochi Crew on Thursday night to see Night Moves in Des Moines. The Minneapolis trio is on a whirlwind Midwestern tour, playing trucker bars and hipster hangouts nightly for a week and a half. We joined the small crowd that managed to intercept them at the Vaudeville Mews for a forty-minute set.

I don't know for sure if Night Moves took their name in homage to Bob Seger's 1976 hit. Their sound is distinct, but I can't quite pin a label on it. At once melodic and grungy, Night Moves borrows their structure from country, rock, even folk. The soaring falsetto vocals reminisce of MGMT's best work, while the semi-hollow strumming and slide guitar place the band firmly among the growing crowd of recent young acts to commandeer country - think of a Midwestern Futurebirds or Alabama Shakes.

Yet there is an unmistakeable soul at work here - something deeper and less formulaic than Night Moves' clever reapplication of influences would suggest. This, to me, is the earnest, honest - and self-aware - sound of post-recession America, nostalgic for a place it has not yet left. Just listen to the wailing on those descending chords in Night Moves, over the down-on-the-farm harmonica:

"When are you coming home? 'Cause I'll be around, for the weekend through..."

I do not read too much into the band when I write that they evoke to me F. Scott Fitzgerald's concluding line to This Side of Paradise: "'I know myself,' he cried, 'but that is all.'" Check out their new release "Colored Emotions."