When it comes to studying the canon of rock and roll studio wizardry, John Pelant is a Ph.D. student. The myriad sonic details that separate merely good records from masterpieces — a specific Casio keyboard tone, a certain pitch on a drum-machine beat, the right amount of reverb — are the very particulars that Pelant revels in. He’s scrutinized some of the greats: Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney, Todd Rundgren… And he’s done his homework: when he talks about Lindsey Buckingham, he’d rather discuss that magical, lost Buckingham/Nicks LP rather than dwell on obvious touchstones like Rumours or Tusk. And while he’s more than happy to talk about Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, he’ll end up parsing the best take of “Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat” from that recent voluminous box set.
Of course, all of this will be obvious once you hear the new Night Moves album, Pennied Days. Because the 26-year-old Pelant isn’t just a student of studio-bound auteurs — he’s well on his way to becoming one himself.
Formed in 2009 in the Twin Cities, Night Moves is composed at its core of Pelant and his 28-year-old partner in crime, Micky Alfano. Friends since high school, their bond was solidified when Alfano lent Pelant his copy of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, a luminous classic of turn-the-page melancholy that echoes through Pennied Days. (Record geeks will recognize those glistening George Harrison guitar slides on stunning Pennied Days’s highlights such as “Hiding In The Melody” and “Leave Your Light On.”) Over time, Pelant and Alfano have broadened their scope to allow for a wide array of maverick influences, ranging from traditionalist heroes like Leon Russell and The Band to r’n’b originators Curtis Mayfield and Sly Stone to pre-punk experimentalists Suicide. (They also love Joe Walsh, like all right-thinking Americans.)
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