From the start, the debut album of Reno heartthrobs, The Sextones, is lush and listenable with a definitive sound. “Moonlight Vision” was recorded at Prairie Sun Studios in Cotati by Matt Wright on 2-inch analog tape.
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“We wanted the album to have a timeless sound so we tried to record it the way our favorite classic albums were on a tape machine with vintage instruments and microphones and without the help of software,” says keyboardist Ryan Taylor. “Nearly everything was recorded over the course of five long days in the studio while the band stayed in a cabin on site.”
As the album kick off with the positive message of “Push on Through,” Alexander Korostinksy lays down the bass and the band builds up alongside horns into a tight soul-funk groove. Guitarist and lead singer Mark Sexton’s delivery contains a hint scratch of roughness in the voice that lends itself to some road-earned emotion. The trumpet and saxophone of Eric Johnson and Ben Ciaizza of The Umpires hit tight and sharp. The extended bridge drops into Sexton’s absolutely ripping guitar solo backed by sweet, fluid bass runs. It’s classic R&B soul music delivered with clarity and precision.
“We wanted the album to have a timeless sound so we tried to record it the way our favorite classic albums were.”
Next we have a couple of songs about love and heartbreak. “Drunk Off Your Love” features a tightly recorded Jamiroquai jam that works all the better because it doesn’t try too hard. The spacey loose digibeat used to set the tempo can be faintly heard on the intro if you listen closely enough. Before long this fades into “How Could I Have Known,” a slow burner with appealing guitar effects that puts Sexton’s range and falsetto on clear display. Now I’m settling in, to echoes of Ben Harper.
Then there’s “Analog Girl,” a clever idea that is merely passing the time. But this was the song that got stuck in my head. By the third listen through I was looking forward to this track more than any of the others. The swirling orchestral intro of “Home is You” leads into locked tight keys and guitar over the excellent background vocals of a 1950s Drifters sentiment and the perfect platform for Sexton’s falsetto wailing. Ryan Taylor delivers the classy Hammond B-3 introduction to “Goodbye Yesterday” whose break beat drumming, clean poppy vibe, ample space and catchy hook make it the most original sounding record on the album.
“Blame It on My Youth” is an upbeat energy riser with a message we can all relate to. That breaks down into the one-minute “I Still Care,” a nonmixed, lo-fi recording that sounds more like a demo or band practice until “Can’t Stop” gets us back into a solid groove. With drums and bass in the pocket, understated piano chops and a good amount of space, it’s one of the catchiest songs on the album, liberating space funk dance in a splendid collaborative performance.
Suddenly, title track “Moonlight Vision” proffers a hint of anger and Sexton releases another shred fest of deep hard funk comeback with a Chuck Norris vengeance.
“ ‘Moonlight Vision’ refers to a special boost of creativity that happens late at night after you should be asleep, possibly because of sleep deprivation,” says Taylor.
It’s the standout drumming of Daniel Weiss that holds it together in “The End,” a place where retro Curtis Mayfield atmosphere breaks down into seamless, unrecognizable vocal tones weaving around riffs, twirling and spinning into obscurity. | thesextonesmusic.com