The Road Trip with Nightly

By Martha Kowalski

One late night when I was working on homework and deliberating the inevitable possibility of an all-nighter, I heard a song on the radio during a new music hour. It would be the first and the last time I heard it on air – not consistent with the trends of Top 40 songs these days to be considered popular or gain many requests. Nevertheless, something about it felt almost magical: lyrics that fit so perfectly into each other that I could predict the next line without ever hearing the song before in my life, and a melody that enchanted me with its captivating guitar sequence and steady drums layered under silky vocals. As the last measures faded out, I listened desperately to hear the host announce the song title one more time, and I quickly scribbled down “the movies by nightly” in the upper corner of my notebook.

A hybrid style of The Midnight and The 1975 and similar in sound to THE WLDLFE, cousins Jonathan Capeci and Joey Beretta along with drummer Nick Sainato make up the alt-pop indie band Nightly and have recently released the alt EP of their 2020 album night, love you. The four tracks of the EP feature stripped-down or acoustic versions of their previous songs, and while technically not new music, I see this release as a chance to appreciate the evolution of the band through the years – tracking their progression from their first songs of witty wordplay and versatile lyrics to their current songs that they’ve refined melodically and deeply enhanced poetically.

While the band had recorded several previous songs, Nightly’s first true release came in 2018 with The Sound of Your Voice, which really begins their musical journey. In this first era of their artistic existence, Nightly’s songs concentrate more on the lyrical content – and quite impressively so. The repetition in “Phantom” imitates an echo, and I appreciate the satisfying fact that the title “The Sound of Your Voice” is the first line of lyrics in this electric neon song so that it fully embraces the ghostly, invisible nature of a lost love that still haunts you. Some songs are simple and straightforward – “Miss You Like Hell” is pretty self-explanatory – but others give you that “a-ha” moment when you catch the double meaning – particularly clever in this is the way the lyrics “still think about you” transform into the title “S.T.A.Y.” With their rhyming song structure and thoughtful compositions, Nightly’s style at this point could be best characterized by a youthful burst into the alt-pop realm, though still a little bit boy band-ish in their more upbeat tracks. Yet, the mild ballad with strong vocals “Younger” predicted the alt-pop indie direction the band would eventually develop and follow.

With this general direction set, Talk You Down marks the transition in the band’s music, diverging from simply good songs with themes of love or heartbreak and jumping into more complex and intricate storylines in the tracks – more introspective and reflective that comes with maturity and the age of being “Twenty Something.” I would never say any Nightly song is superficial or flat, but Talk You Down brings a narrative into the band’s music that wasn’t quite there yet in The Sound of Your Voice. Building on their lyrical skills, “Say Anything Else” rambles around with the verses to convey the hesitation of a relationship you know is breaking apart but you want to fill the conversation with excuses and small talk to avoid bringing it up. Also, similarly to “The sound of your voice” making an appearance in “Phantom,” “Talk you down” comes up in “Twenty Something,” a song which may very well be Nightly’s signature as much as their less-than-three heart icon. Beautiful and wistful like a wilting white rose and resembling The 1975’s “Somebody Else,” this song is simply amazing in its lyrical content and subtly powerful guitar riffs, and the high, airy vocals at the close of the track make something move in my very soul. The melodies throughout Talk You Down take on varying degrees of a dreamy ‘90s pop flavor with most songs actually being rather energetic, but “Twenty Something” by itself adds a note of wistfulness to the entire release – a taste of nostalgia lingering in the songs, a slight bittersweetness ironically like “Black Coffee.” It feels like reminiscing – like meeting with an old friend you haven’t seen in ages, sitting on the bleachers of your high school football field and catching up on the happenings of your lives while you were apart, excited to reconnect but also missing those you had to be there moments that you can’t recreate or re-describe. The fleeting feeling works perfectly in this sophomore single because it nicely parallels Nightly’s own story: a short but vital middle step between The Sound of Your Voice and their next release of a full-length album.

A combination of the hazy twilight indie mood of Talk You Down with the bouncier alt-pop of The Sound of Your Voice leads to the album night, love you which captures everything about Nightly: their lovely lyrics, their meaningful music and their self-described style as “songs to drive to,” which kicks off with the first track rightly titled “the car.” This album is so fluid, so complete – the melodies melting into each other with short interludes acting like intros and outros to transition between individual tracks. Once again, the storybook lyrics combined with the harmonious fusion of guitar and drums create a gorgeous depth to each song that carries through the entire album – so simple but with so much complexity and intimacy, whether through the little sass in “you should probably hang up” or the personal “older.” Relatable, reflective, and thoughtful, some highlight tracks include “lose a friend” and “time online,” but while I like each of the songs on this album, the one song I absolutely must mention is “the movies.”

Words cannot describe how much I love this song, but I’ll try anyway. As my 47-hour long playlist can prove, I rarely have a favorite song, but “the movies” is exactly that. From the moment I heard it, I knew that this song was everything: fragile and flawless lyrics, soft but dynamic vocals – sung either by Nightly alone or in collaboration with Charli Adams on the second verse – that capture the raw emotion of the song and an overall ethereal desperate beauty.

Finally, I arrive at what prompted me to write this piece: the alt EP of night, love you, taking “not like you,” “so sly,” “summer” and “older” from the album and jazzing them up a little by simplifying them down. While I’m generally not impressed with artists releasing acoustic versions of their existing songs and find them rather anticlimactic and lackluster, this alt EP adds another dimension to Nightly’s music – recreating the four songs in a new way that further enhances the layers of possible emotions in the tracks. The original “not like you” and “so sly” are bouncy and a little sassy, not letting a relationship you know will end badly get to your heart, but the stripped-down and alternative versions tell a story more contemplative of what could have been, while “summer” and “older” highlight the vocal performances in their respective acoustic versions that let the emotions already in the songs shine through even more. Instead of recording a completely new album, I would say that this alt EP better showcases Nightly’s ability to create different moods through their already existing songs and speaks to their musical maturity and their artistic angle.

With their alt EP resembling “Younger,” Nightly comes full circle in their alt-pop indie style on a whole road trip through their history, from the starting point of The Sound of Your Voice, through the twists and turns of Talk You Down and night, love you, eventually arriving at the alt EP of the album. But this is not yet the final destination but rather just a landmark, as I’m sure we still have miles to go with Nightly – with their “songs to drive to” playing the whole way. <3