REVIEW: Night Moves’ debut full-length Colored Emotions

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In this age of hybridized genre tag mania (proto-post-stoner-jam-metalcore, anyone?), it’s become easy for bands to lay claim to invention by slapping synths, reverb, drum machines, etc., on top of blasé retreads of well-worn forms. Amid the innovation inflation, it can be hard for bands to gain recognition for actually merging disparate sounds in interesting ways.

So pay close attention to Colored Emotions, the debut full-length from Minneapolis rockers Night Moves. Whether it was the media, the P.R. people or the band themselves who decided to call this sound “psychedelic country”, these songs lend equal emphasis both to atmospheric layering and strong, emotive songwriting.

Clear-cut single “Country Queen” starts with a simple acoustic guitar figure that sits patiently under frontman John Pelant’s smooth, reverb-doused ode to a wounded yet resolute lady friend. When the rest of the band crashes in with a percussive, polyphonic squall, the song morphs into a blast of a showcase for Night Moves’ ability to stomp as well as they strum.

If Colored Emotions wants for anything, it’s not strong melodies. They often come in pairs, even triplets, as syrupy guitar and synth lines fill in the blanks Pelant leaves between phrases. Highlights “Horses” and “Only a Child” are impenetrable walls of musicality, every possible space filled sensibly instead of excessively.

The flip side of this coin, however, exposes the Color Emotions’ biggest weakness. Where many young groups are guilty of overindulgence, it’s when Night Moves scale things back that the record falters. Most notably, “Headlights” breaks free of its leash too often, wandering into desultory open-air jams in which no instrument takes a clear leadership role. Here, the “psych” element asserts itself too strongly, throwing the equation out of balance with an overabundance of texture that comes at songwriting’s expense (“Put Out Your Shoulder” also suffers markedly in this regard). While surely these moments were intended to be something like crescendos, the reality is more bland than bombastic.

Colored Emotions benefits from its debut status – where “failure to fulfill potential” might describe this album if it were third or fourth in the Night Moves canon, “promising” more than adequately stands in under the circumstances. There are many tantalizing displays of pop craft to be found here, and songs only ought to grow tighter as the band evolves. Assuming they proceed at even an average pace, Night Moves should remain more than worthy of a second look.

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