Norfolk & Western Press



Muzzle of Bees Interview

San Diego Reader

“Norfolk & Western is creating something new and perhaps more honest than what revivalists do.”

Tucson Weekly

“All in all, The Unsung Colony is a small chamber-folk-pop stunner, all busy arrangements that service the songs rather than distract from them…In an age of iPods–that is, favoring songs instead of albums–The Unsung Colony is a reminder that some collections of songs are best listened to from start to finish, as a complete work of art, which this album certainly is.”

Pittsburg City Paper

“The Unsung Colony is far more interesting than its production history. While traversing miraculous soundscapes, the album has a narrative focus on tiny, inter-personal threads that tie into a frayed historical context and push its story beyond the confines of a “period piece.”

Badger Herald

“Much like their buddies The Decemberists, Norfolk & Western pulls everything off without a hitch. Instead of coming off as cornballs, this septet has created the perfect album for this month. Its bittersweet lyrics and melancholy melodies echo the mood of a crisp, overcast November day, whether you’re watching dead leaves swirl on the street or holed up in your room under a blanket.”

On Milwaukie

“Their ambitious arrangements make use of the banjo, an accordian, string quartet, vibraphone, pedal steel, trumpet, and saw among the standards like guitar and drum set….At the end of the album I was pleased, but couldn’t help but wonder what I had missed; there are so many gems quietly nestled in the musical staff on which they were conceived. I wanted to immediately give it another spin.”

Time Out Chicago

“It’s not hard to fall for this Oregon ensemble’s scruffy, lilting chamber sound—partly because the music never settles into any single convention. “

Kiki’s Magical (show review)

“It was instantly winning and charming music, and I didn’t hesitate to buy their most recent release The Unsung Colony after the show. Good stuff.”

New City Chicago

“Portland’s lush and delicate Norfolk & Western–which features Decemberists ex-drummer Rachel Blumberg–creates introspective, gentle piano and clean guitar-driven indie pop.”

Isthmus

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Performer Magazine

Deseret Morning News

Arizona Star

Tucson Weekly


 

ALL MUSIC

The Unsung Colony begins and ends with the sound of film threading through a projector — a perfect effect to bookend songs that play out like scenes from old home movies and carry commensurate emotional weight. The record’s wistful melodies breathe life into memories whose fading edges belie their power over us, and the narratives give voice to characters too reserved or thoughtful to be heard above the narcissistic rabble that dominates modern culture. It may strike some as quaint to consider the power of memory and history in this age of instant analysis, but this is no nostalgia act. Norfolk & Western may incorporate gramophones and banjos into their music, quote the Beatles and prefer to tour by train, but The Unsung Colony’s message couldn’t be timelier: understanding only comes through genuine reflection.

Will anyone hear or heed the message? Let’s hope so, because The Unsung Colony’s myriad subtle strengths add up to something quite grand and beautiful. This sonic gem builds on the more assured full-band sound Adam Selzer’s been assembling since Norfolk & Western’s humble beginning as his solo project in 1998. Working with the same ten-piece band that graced their excellent EP, A Gilded Age, Norfolk & Western don’t so much expand their audio palette as polish it to a brilliant sheen. The Unsung Colony isn’t a concept record, but so solid thematically and musically that it transcends the pitfalls that typify that genre — much like a collection of great short stories can feel as coherent as a novel. Even the sequencing suggests everything is where it should be, with songs that couldn’t fit together better in any other configuration. The instrumental smorgasbord never feels tacked-on or flashy, as each glittering detail serves both the songs and the stories, from the 30 seconds of muted trumpet playing “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” at the end of “The Shortest Stare” to the ukulele that drives “The New Rise of Labor.”

The songs show off Norfolk & Western’s sonic diversity by recalling current like-minded peers or directly quoting from the band’s favored predecessors. It’s an approach that bears out The Unsung Colony’s thematic contention by uniting past and present. Opening with elegant piano chords, “The Longest Stare” surges forward behind Selzer’s shimmering guitar and Rachel Blumberg’s marching snare until it reaches the bridge and breaks into squalls of controlled feedback. It’s a contrast that Norfolk & Western use judiciously to create tension throughout the record. The song emerges at the next verse with a Mellotron quote from the opening of the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever,” then regains momentum for a swelling crescendo reminiscent of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” from Abbey Road. It’s a memorable outro, built on ascending guitar lines, full-bodied cello and viola bows, and a synth wash that trails along like an eraser until the song suddenly vanishes mid-measure. The band then plunges into an up-tempo “The Shortest Stare,” with Selzer reflecting on how much even casual glances can reveal: “We were both reading Leviathan/Not necessarily your best seller,” he sings in a voice that sounds like an American version of Mojave 3′s Neil Halstead. Selzer’s guitar again alternates between warm octaves and summer storms of feedback, but the loping meter and vibraphone echo the high-plains drama of Pinetop Seven or Calexico (whose Joey Burns appeared on Norfolk & Western’s previous full-length, 2003′s Dusk in Cold Parlors). “Drifter” shares a similar dusky patina, with Peter Broderick’s elaborate string arrangements augmented by yearning pedal steel lines.

But the record’s sonic influences extend beyond than that. “Barrels on Fire” is chamber pop at its best, the string quartet buttressing the voices of Selzer and Blumberg, whose gossamer harmonies are among Norfolk & Western’s most effective traits. “How to Reel In” is a Sufjan Stevens-like lament that features only Broderick’s banjo, saw and violin as the trellis for Selzer’s coming-of-age tale. Subtlety may be one of their strengths, but they’re also capable of raw power. The guitar tempest that opens “The New Rise of Labor” thunders out of the gate like a lost track from M. Ward’s Post-War — it’s not a leap to imagine, since Norfolk & Western are the back-up band for Ward in the studio and on his recent tours. “Arrangements Made,” which suggests that air travel is simply lugging your metaphoric baggage around and not really traveling at all, begins with the sort of synth-soundscape and piano mix found on Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, before trumpet heralds and Blumberg’s timpani and cymbal crashes return the song to more organic roots. The influence of Blumberg’s old band can be heard on “Banish All Rock,” a stomping gypsy waltz that sounds like the Decemberists and Tom Waits tossed into a blender. An exotic foreign feel also colors the records’ two instrumentals: “Rehearsing La Dolce Vita” is a solo accordion interlude you’d hear at the Trevi Fountain in Rome, while “Atgetz Waltz” is a between-the-wars, Left Bank dance that erupts into full-orchestra serenade with glockenspiel, saw, euphonium, trumpets, mandolin, marimba and accordion creating a melodious racket. Before the record ends with the muted reprise of the opening cut, Selzer ties together all of the themes on”From the Interest of Few.” Over a gentle, vibes- and pedal steel-driven gait, Selzer compares his father’s stories from the late ’60s with the modern Bush II era, lamenting the current lack of a “common cry” and the media’s Orwellian role in marginalizing voices that might otherwise be raised together in protest. “We’re caught in a trap that leads us toward the TV telling our story,” Selzer sighs, ending with a thought many Americans may have considered as they’ve been pushed to the sidelines, “What if we were born overseas.”

It’s often said of esoteric records that each listen reveals more. But if ever a recording that didn’t require a PhD in musicology could be said to continually surprise a listener, this is it. The Unsung Colony is painstakingly crafted but also elegantly simple, as familiar and welcoming as it is new and exhilarating. And that makes it one of the most rewarding listens of this or any year.

 

SONGS ILLINOIS

The new record, The Unsung Colony, is due out on Oct. 24. The songs I’ve heard (especially “Arrangements Made”) lean more toward experimental soundscapes than the eclectic folk-rock of their earlier work. You’ll be hearing more about this band as other blogs begin to cover them and their national tour begins in early November (you can also see Rachel and Adam in the band backing up M. Ward this Fall)

SAN DIEGO CITY BEAT

Goes Well With: The Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens,

Anybody who caught Norfolk and Western’s opening set for Pinback in April (and who managed to hear them over Kite Flying Society’s Kelly Duley’s jabber) found a new favorite dork-rock band to bookend their dog-eared Jonathan Foer books and rare Belle & Sebastian vinyl.

The Unsung Colony could be mistaken for conceptual and literary, but the Portland seven-piece (whose members moonlight with The Decemberists and M. Ward) have crafted a plaintive album of varying brands of pop that you don’t need an master’s in English to dissect. The words are stark, but the music switches from Parsons-inspired country (“Drifter”), power-pop (“The New Rise of Labor”), gypsy-folk (“Banish All Rock”) and even Coldplayish grandeur (“Arrangements Made”).

This gives the whole experience an uneven feel, but when it comes this easy, and goes down this smooth, why be so analytical?

 

CREATIVE LOAFING

The brainchild of Adam Selzer (Portland, Ore. producer, plus guitarist and bassist for M. Ward), Norfolk & Western now lists 10 members in the liner notes for album number four. Having played dates with the likes of The Decemberists and Sparklehorse, the band’s sound is easy to guess: brooding plunks on the piano, sumptuous strings and lovelorn vocals. The sound is wrapped around literate songwriting and understated sad-sack melodies. It’s a well-worn suit, but Norfolk’s wearin’ it well. 3 stars

TALL BUILDINGS SHAKE

Portland-based Norfolk & Western just released another full length, The Unsung Colony, building on their understated folk-rock sound. Featuring former and current members of fellow Portland-ites (how did Portland get to be the hippest town in the country all of a sudden?) The Decemberists, the band is a vehicle for Adam Selzer, who has also worked with what has to be the most talented man to come out of Portland, M. Ward. Norfolk & Western’s music contains the same reverence to history and storytelling as the two aforementioned artists. Maybe it’s the town’s proximity to the end of the Lewis and Clark trail or something. Don’t be fooled though, Selzer and Co. know how to use a studio and modern musical inventions – there is some interesting production on tracks like “Arrangements Made” and that cool ghostly wah instrument (EDIT: turns out that instrument is old school too) on standout track “How To Reel In.” Fans of down-trodden, orchestral Northwest indie rock will dig this.

 

 


 

 

PORTLAND TRIBUNE

It’s rare to encounter a record that keeps pulling you back in, revealing new layers every listen — but Norfolk & Western has created exactly that with its lovely new album, “A Gilded Age.” Listening to this is like sifting through a box of faded family photographs — there’s a sepia-tone beauty and smiling veneer that ultimately proves to be more of a brave face than the truth.

Upbeat numbers like “Gilded Age,” “Clyde & New Orleans” and “We Were All Saints” reveal themselves to be more bittersweet and tragic than they seem on first introduction, while the more melancholy tunes also reveal a greater depth of sadness upon repeated listens.

Unlike the reality of family history, Norfolk & Western has conveniently assembled the true stories behind the charming chamber-pop/old-fashioned-feeling indie rock into convenient liner notes. It’s there that you effectively go behind the scenes, gaining greater perspective into the sad characters that populate the record: the elderly couple whose porch is being demolished in the opening track, the arrogant diva of “Watching the Days Slowly Fade,” the boy so paralyzed by depression he can’t turn the handle to get out of his room in “Minor Daughter,” just to name a few.

Throughout the album’s eight tracks, distorted guitars are complemented by plucky banjo, the occasional touch of pedal steel, vibraphone, glockenspiel and ghostly viola. But it’s the closing track, “A Voice Through the Wall,” that’s the most haunting and affecting of all. The story of an isolated girl with a beautiful voice who occasionally sings but also tapes the narrator’s own songs through the wall, it features wonderful, low-key vocal interplay by primary vocalist Adam Selzer and drummer/multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Rachel Blumberg. It’s truly mesmerizing in its understatedness, especially when it fades slowly into a muted clutter of everyday background noises.

Reading the stories (more like “inspirational impressions”) in the liner notes adds illumination to the occasionally abstract lyrics and will keep you coming back, drawing you further in each time. It’s a remarkable album that gets better with every listen.

 

THE OREGONIAN

“A sepia-toned sound”

Adam Selzer is many things.

As a songwriter, singer and guitarist, he fronts Norfolk & Western, a Portland band that has forged a neo-traditional sound, which defies reasonable categorization. Along with his primary cohort, Rachel Blumberg, he rends thoughtful, artful music in myriad pastiches. He shapes these little works of fiction with plaintive vocals and a crew that adds violin, viola, banjo, hauntingly out-of-tune piano, accordion, cello, guitar, glockenspiel, even a musical saw.

At first blush, Selzer seems to have been born in the wrong century. With a penchant for parlor instruments, a proclivity for waltz time and a love of Victrolas, he’s a walking sepia-tone print in a world of Web-safe colors.

Then again, he feels no compunction about dropping a distorted and crushing electric-guitar bomb in the middle of a gentle, melodic genuflection. Selzer is also a producer, engineer and studio owner, manning the knobs at his Type Foundry Studio, which has helped create works by the Decemberists, M Ward (for whom the Selzer-Blumberg duo often serve as backup) and Laura Veirs.

With Selzer at the helm, the band, named for a Virginia rail line, has released an eight-song enhanced EP, “A Gilded Age,” which is as evocative and full of discovery as a box of attic photographs. Some serious layers of dust and time-worn nostalgia seem to coat what otherwise would be modern pop music.

More than anything, Selzer is an audio auteur. His visions are lush little gems that are aurally engaging. He gets big help from Blumberg, who has a soft touch with drums and voices. Additional shading comes from bassist Dave Depper (who also contributes some piano and organ), Amanda Lawrence’s romantico viola, multi-instrumentalist and found-sound shaper Tony Moreno, Cory Gray’s trumpet and Peter Broderick, who lends subtlety with violin, banjo and other instruments. The sounds they create are fresh, in a melancholy sort of way.

 

PACIFIC NORTHWEST ISLANDER

Norfolk & Western plays an antiquated style of music. Antiquated but not outdated. No, chief songwriter Adam Selzer’s songs about bygone eras couldn’t be more well-timed.

With the rising popularity of ‘indie-Americana’ (see the Decemberists, M.Ward), it seems clear that they are poised to expand on the groundwork laid by previous releases. They’ve been putting out records since 1998, though A Gilded Age finds the band in a state of appropriately deserved comeuppance.

N&W expand here on last year’s self-released If You Were Born Overseas with grace and moxie. The fiery, reworked version of the title track couldn’t have hit the nail on the head better. And the reinterpretation of “Porch Destination” as “Porch Destruction” adds new dimensions to a song already filled with wonderment.
Despite not being graced with perpetual name-dropping like some of their fellow Portlanders, Norfolk & Western are as good as the genre gets.

 

DENVER POST

When Norfolk & Western began its set at the Hi-Dive on Saturday with “Porch Destruction,” the first track on the Portland, Ore., band’s excellent debut, “A Gilded Age,” the crowd slowly shifted from the bar to the stage. And while that often happens, with PBR-swilling hipsters checking out the band for a few minutes before returning to their tap-side conversations, this time they stayed underneath the club’s modest light rig, intoxicated by a blend of $2 beers and the group’s solid countrypolitan music. The project is collaborative and expansive, but its seeds are in couple Adam Selzer and Rachel Blumberg. He sings and plays guitar; she drums and plays keyboards.

Saturday they were backed by a bass player, a Victrola gramophone and multi-instrumentalist Peter Broderick, who played nearly everything associated with chamber pop and countrypolitan music: violin, banjo, saw, mandolin, accordion and theremin. The band’s mix was perfect for the warm night (and ideal for headliners Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots too), but while the music was potent, there wasn’t enough of it. | Ricardo Baca

 

THE ONION AV CLUB

By Noel Murray
April 26th, 2006
While traditional country music contains traces of the “western” sound, a lot of alt-country shares an affinity with the southwestern. Veteran Arizona indie-rock act Calexico is a quintessential case in point, with its cinematic songs anchored in waltzes and marches—time signatures that leave open spaces for the band to fill with hanging sound. After a decade of quasi-experimental, largely instrumental albums, Calexico’s latest record, Garden Ruin, finds co-leaders Joey Burns and John Convertino focusing on multi-part rock songs like the album-opener “Cruel,” on which rising horns give way to mournful pedal steel, pizzicato strings, and distant background vocals. “Cruel” sounds like a mini-symphony, as do the fragile, faintly psychedelic “Panic Open String” and the post-Beatles singer-songwriter ballad “Lucky Dime.” The band even takes a break from making Americana sound exotic to venture overseas for “Nom De Plume,” which puts banjo and accordion behind whispered French. Apparently even Europe has lonely rooms with sympathetic acoustics.

Portland folk collective Norfolk & Western follows the lead of bands like Calexico and Red House Painters, setting leisurely paces and using offbeat instrumentation to create a tranquil mood. “Porch Destruction,” the first song on N&W’s EP A Gilded Age (which actually lasts as long as some full-length albums, though it only has eight tracks), sets the tone with its slow drift of strings and coda of distorted guitars and chimes. Bandleader Adam Selzer is making music for the happily immobile—the kind who can identify with song titles like “A Voice Through The Wall” and “Watch The Days Slowly Fade.” A Gilded Age is dedicated to reverberations and dimming colors, like a sunset in a windy desert.

 

BARS AND GUITARS

Long promised but slow to develop at long last is the post on Norfolk & Western’s EP A Gilded Age. Not that I thought you were waiting on pins and needles or anything but I like to keep my promises. Perhaps you heard Norfolk’s last album Dusk in Cold Parlors? That record was a quiet beautifully rendered set of acoustic americana with a dusty time’s passed me by feel. It fit a mood perfectly though you probably wouldn’t pick it as your dance partner. Norfolk consists of the startlingly good combination of Adam Selzer and Rachel Blumberg (she drummed for the Decemberists for awhile and if that ain’t indie cred what is?). His voice is steady and smooth thought relatively unremarkable, her’s is pretty and fills all the gaps in his. Norfolk and Western doesn’t by definition fall into the singer songwriter category but both Dusk… and A Gilde Age have the feel of projects driven by a vision that Selzer holds dear. It’s a unique sound Norfolk has created: a very moden interpretation of a very antique process. At least that’s how it wa, A Gilded Agte has turned many of my notions about Norfolk on their ear. While the new EP certainly bears many of the same marks as Dusk… such as Selzer’s clever lyrics and some interesting instrumentation, the band is clearly sleeping with their electic guitar, amp and effects peddles. A lot of the “dust” in the band’s sound has been swept away in favor of a more indie-rockin’ approach to the songs. I guess I’ll be totally non commital and say that this change in attitude is neither good nor bad, it just is. A Gilded Age’s “Porch Destruction” is an excellent example of the way the band bends their old stylistic tendencies (viola, clavinet) towards a more modern interpretation (the distortion laden guitar that fires up the 2nd half of the song).

The songs are still first rate and there are moments (particularly “There Are No Places Left For Us” and “Minor Daughter”) that reveal the band’s continuing fascination with creating an atmosphere that brings to mind a turn of the century steamboat house party adrift on the Mississippi. Except they’ve gone and electramocuted the boat and plugged in. You can’t begrudge a band some evolution and ultimately A Gilded Age works due to the strengths of Selzer’s songwriting. Quite first rate.

 

HARMONIUM
(4 OF 5 STARS)

Adam Selzer and Rachel Blumberg, the two principal players in Norfolk & Western, certainly keep busy. Selzer, the founder of the group, is currently playing bass for long time friend M. Ward. Blumberg was the drummer for the Decemberists for a few years and is currently also with M. Ward playing the drums as well. Not to mention the fact that she’s also a regularly working painter. Of course, other members are added and subtracted for touring purposes, but these two are always at the helm of the Portland, Oregon based group.
Norfolk & Western is actually a now defunct rail line that existed for well over 100 years. According to the biography on the band’s website the Selzer family worked on the rail line since forever, but it also claims that the couple rehearses in a railcar behind their house and only tours by train. For the more gullible of us, Selzer and Blumberg themselves have admitted most of this isn’t true.

True or not, the sound of Norfolk & Western certainly takes a nostalgic note or two from the whole idea. The music feels as if it’s delving into the great unknown, hopping on the rail and heading west, as if you don’t know where your going but it’s going to be better than here.

The connection to the Decemberists is sometimes a hard thought to ignore, not only because of the oft-shared member and location, but because of musical similarities. The title track, a slightly different version of which originally appeared on the tour CD If You Were Born Overseas, has distinct compositional similarities to that other, more famous Portland band. The flow of the narrative style writing combined with the slightly shrouded mid-tempo pace of drumming and banjo strums certainly feels familiar. Luckily the introduction of some reverberating electric guitar gives the track a crisp feel.

While this comparison isn’t wholly unfair, I don’t mean to over tout its significance as it rarely fits the bill as nicely as it does on the title track. In fact, A Gilded Age’s’s expansive, beautiful sound seems to be influenced by fuzzy alt-country and folk sounds at times (“A Gilded Age”) while at others it’s slow and fragile (“There Are No Places Left For Us”, “Minor Daughter”) or the almost-rock n roll of “Watch the Days Slowly Fade”. Whichever direction it goes, A Gilded Age always feels fresh and musically satisfying.

“Clyde & New Orleans”, the album’s most accessible—and therefore in many a mind best—track is nearly a perfect pop song. The drumming nervously tiptoes toward the euphoric refrain when horns shout out loud and the male-female harmonies meld with the music like never before.

This album’s been given the distinction of an EP, but at 8 songs and over 30 minutes, it’s longer than some full-length releases and certainly full of enough amazing sound to be considered one. A Gilded Age never disappoints and is rewarding just by putting the album on play. Some listeners might not even be worthy of such a reward, so I’m here to remind you not to take it for granted.

 

COKE MACHINE GLOW

I’ve never been able to shake the railroad from my mind. In Pittsburgh, there is a huge railroad bridge that goes across the Parkway West, a disaster of a road that starts in downtown, travels through suburban hell, and eventually leads to the airport. I’d made that airport drive 1000 times before I left for good, and some of those trips were intense: the excitement of picking up an old friend, the thrill of leaving town, the sadness of saying goodbye to a lover, the joy of saying goodbye to a lover. And that bridge, with Norfolk & Western Railway Company bolted to the side, always seemed so damn symbolic. It blankly fit my mood: lonely, proud, tired, amibitious, scared.

But later on the drive, after the Fort Pitt tunnel, and still stuck in traffic, I would think of the bridge’s larger implications. It was a reminder of the prosperity and filth of the town’s steel heritage, a monument to the old dream of transcontinental travel, a symbol of an entire mode of transportation that didn’t quite catch on. It was a testament to the unfulfilled promise of the technology that would unite us all.

On A Gilded Age, Norfolk & Western have finally captured and realized the complications between the romanticized past and the dour present that they have never been able to reconcile on previous releases. Gaining confidence on every record since Rachel Blumberg joined the band, they have reached their peak on this longish EP, blending their art-folk-nostalgia with musical immediacy and relevant themes. Like the bridge that stretched over me, N&W can express both personal ruminations on relationships and the larger contexts of culture, music and history. Questions of technology, war, economics, and, of course, love (Blumberg and frontman Adam Selzer are dating) match with banjos and Theremins to create a Modern yet picturesque scene: a steam engine curling up a mountainside, perhaps.

This nostalgia, and Blumberg’s previous duties as the Decemberists’ drummer, make nods toward that band inevitable, and “Clyde in New Orleans” fits the bill, though Selzer’s vocals in “A Gilded Age” sound more Meloy-esque. Still, there are no pirates attacking A Gilded Age; the most obvious touchstones here are Hem’s nearly-flawless Rabbit Songs and Mercury Rev’s massively flawless Deserter’s Songs. The heart-wrenching country splendor of the former is all over “A Voice Through the Wall,” and the Victrola-sounding aging effects of the latter surface in almost every intro/outro, but most notably in “There Are No Places Left For Us,” an instrumental reminiscent of “I Collect Coins.”

The major flaw here, if you can call it that, is that the album’s two standout tracks are its first two, leaving the second half of the album to lose momentum, sputtering uphill (despite the hey-dig-that-guitar-sound punch of “We Were All Saints”). None of the second half is weak per se, but the opening tracks simply outshine. This is to be expected, I suppose, since they both appeared on last year’s tour-only If You Were Born Overseas, and have been played live for some time. Interestingly, this time around, they both benefit from completely opposite tweaks. “Porch Destruction” was a fine, short number that has been expanded into a moving orchestral ballad, stretched out in both the bridge and the ending to heighten the impact of the final lines, sung in perfect complement by Adam and Rachel: “I know how long it takes / but can you tell me where?” The title track is sped up just a bit, and the overdriven-as-shit guitar (the same one that will appear later on “Saints”) plays a more aggressive role in the opening seconds and chorus. Another gem is “Minor Daughter,” in which we are treated to a rare all female vocal performace.

A Gilded Age, while not necessarily laying new musical tracks, finally sees N&W live up to their heritage that includes work with both the Decemberists and M. Ward. Eliminating the weak spots from previous efforts and bringing in new instrumentation, N&F should enjoy this career high point, looking down on so many who are stuck in the traffic below.

 

YOU AINT NO PICASSO

Remember how heartbroken we all were when it was announced that Rachel Blumberg was leaving the Decemberists to focus on Norfolk and Western full-time? I think if we had had this song on that day, maybe it wouldn’t have hurt quite so bad.

As their name would imply, “A Gilded Age” has a good bit of folky twang to it. Even so, the steel guitars and banjos are matched by distorted guitars and pounding drums. Norfolk and Western might be the perfect fusion of the message of folk and the innate power of rock

 

SPOKANE 7

Disco-bluegrass-synth- country-accordion-pop?
That might be a fair description of Norfolk & Western’s music. Or at least enough to entice you to check it out. Norfolk & Western’s long-form EP “A Gilded Age” is challenging, but not so much that you choke trying to consume it. And the lyrics are catchy and smart enough to keep your attention between the sometimes colliding song dynamics.

When butter-thick guitar tramples sexy viola to make way for the trumpet’s charge and then finally settles, bandleader Adam Selzer reminds us, “It’s entertainment – that’s all we want.” Even amid sobering references to Hurricane Katrina and the Edgar Ray Killen trial, why not introduce this sonic strange brew with a trademark Victrola intro?

Selzer and partner Rachel Blumberg have played with some heavy hitters, as the backing band for M Ward, and Blumberg as the drummer for The Decemberists. Their own project, though, gives them the much deserved spotlight.

 

CHART ATTACK

History buffs, take note: Norfolk & Western will release an EP titled A Gilded Age on April 11 via Hush Records.

The Portland, Oregon duo consists of former Decemberists drummer Rachel Blumberg and her boyfriend, Type Foundry Recording Studio boss, Adam Selzer. A Gilded Age consists of eight-songs, two of which are re-recordings from last year’s self-released If You Were Born Overseas, and a video of the title track.
Blumberg left the Decemberists on friendly terms in January 2005 to concentrate on N&W, which until then was only a side project. Blumberg and Selzer are joined by a number of rotating instrumentalists when performing live. They incorporate nostalgic elements into their performances and recordings and are rumoured to be the only group on the rock circuit with a Victrola horn on board.

Norfolk & Western was the name of a Virginia rail line owned by Selzer’s great-grandfather that was active from 1888 until 1970. But even with that connection, it still seems somewhat odd that N&W rehearse in an original Norfolk & Western freight car. They also insist on touring exclusively by train, claiming that they’d lose their “eccentric appeal and enigmatic stage demeanor and free fall into the perils of mediocre indie acts” if they didn’t

 

DAILY CAMERA

In the wrong hands, the retro-Americana chamber-pop thing can get a little cutesy. And while Portland, Oregon’s Norfolk & Western have similarities to offenders such as the Decemberists (no surprise, as drummer Rachel Blumberg is a member of both bands), there’s enough edge to its songs to keep things interesting.

Songs such as “Porch Destruction” and the title track may feature violin, banjo and other tricks of the trade, but there’s also some distorted guitar and some interesting rhythmic starts and stops to breathe life into the music. Fans of Giant Sand, Lullaby for the Working Class or Songs: Ohia will find a lot to like about A Gilded Age.

 

PREFIX

Step right up folks, the indie-folk scene is rolling into your town like those medicine-show carnivals of yore. Look across the hay-strewn lot: M. Ward is the snake-oil peddler; the Decemberists, the bearded lady; Devendra Banhart, the chicken-head-eating freak. What does that make Norfolk and Western? Judging from the band’s acclaimed fourth album, 2003′s Dusk in Cold Parlours, disc that crackled like an AM radio sending out sullen to precious songs, I would say the dynamic role of flea circus is most befitting.

Dusk in the Cold Parlours is widely considered the Portland, Oregon band’s best and most accessible release. And on the follow-up EP, A Guilded Age, accessibility is again the name of the game. Adam Selzer’s songwriting remains at the forefront, but this time it is more accompanied and arranged with more pop than fans might be used to. The EP’s best track is probably its most upbeat; “Clyde and New Orleans” is all aflutter with trumpets, keys and sweet girlie backing vocals from drummer Rachel Blumberg. Selzer’s words don’t get buried, though, and on “Clyde and New Orleans” he gets gonzo, blending current and past events with fiction, all in a pox on those who choose “God’s word” over reason. The release’s other stand out, “There Are No Places Left for Us,” is far from poppy. It uses a haunting sample from legendary bluesman Skip James as the only vocalizing in a dirge of viola, accordion and piano.

A Guilded Age is a strong proclamation from a band looking for elbow room in the suddenly mega-fashionable indie-folk scene. Selzer and Blumberg might lay the cutesy factor on a little thick at times, but their excellent musicianship and lyrical gifts make this a worthwhile EP.

 

URBAN POLLUTION

Somewhere between an EP and a full-length lies Norfolk and Western’s new eight track album A Gilded Age, which comes after the band’s tour-only release If You Were Born Overseas and 2004’s Dusk in Cold Parlors. Hailing from Portland, the most obvious similar band might be the Decemberists, but lead singer Adam Selzer and romantic interest Rachel Blumberg, the band’s only constant members, were making music long before Meloy formed the group, not to mention that Blumberg herself was a founding member in Meloy’s anachronistic folk rock band while still keeping up N&W duties.

Dusk was a mellow and tender collection of folk pop songs, while If You Were Born Overseas saw the group experimenting with more distortion and discord. A Gilded Age expands on these elements and showcases the band’s most rock oriented and fast paced songs to date. The liner notes nicely display the band’s attention to detail by including the impetus and background story for each song rather than lyrics.

Album opener “Porch Destruction” begins with soft and sad violins as electric guitar, drums, and bass wander in, finally coming together before the sea of sound parts to make way for Selzer’s voice. The violin drives the first verse of the song, staying mellow until the chorus, when a lightly plucked banjo comes in under a swelling and distorted electric guitar as Blumberg’s drums accentuate the 1-2, 1-2 of the instrumentation and vocal pattern. The music varies again in the next verse with soft rolling keys. This time as the chorus comes around the instrumentation falls away almost entirely as Selzer’s catchy vocals take center stage before the instruments explode into raucous discord.

The second and title track begins with an almost oriental sounding banjo and a danceable drum line, giving more and more credibility to the claim that Blumberg’s drumming is one of the group’s most valuable assets, just as it was in the Decemberists. It’s a poppy and infectious track that features some of the political ideas that the band has toyed with lately as evidenced in the line “I won’t watch the wars/ They’re easy to ignore.” The instrumentation builds to full on rock by the end of the song. Following track “Watch the Days Slowly Fade” mimics a similar pattern, but the addictive pure pop melody is worth noting.

Instrumental track “There Are No Places Left For Us” is probably the most unusual, featuring a haunting and wandering arrangement by Blumberg with vibraphone, pump organ, bells, and a credit in the liner notes to the “ghost of Skip James.” It serves as a detour from the three preceding rock numbers and is an enjoyable, though eerie, interlude. The music on “Minor Daughter” is also Blumberg’s, including the vocals, but applied to Selzer’s lyrics. It’s another mellow track, but very pleasant, with Blumberg’s vocals layered in plenty of reverb.

“Clyde in New Orleans” is based on the lead character’s perception of a Hurricane as an act of God due to his being convicted of a hate crime murder forty years after the act was committed. The song’s verses rock with a march-esqe 3-4 time signature not uncommon in N&W’s songs. The chorus is a welcome and surprising change as it channels 50′s pop with it’s high pitched, steady keys and the wah-wah of the brass. The song is definitely the epic of the record, falling in and out of distorted dissonance between verses and choruses.

“We Were All Saints” might be the most “normal” song of the collection, but with both Selzer and Blumberg’s vocals and catchy instrumentation and melodies, the song is more just a great example of the band’s cohesiveness when they aren’t experimenting with cacophonous sound. The band does eventually settle down in a return to earlier work on closer “A Voice Through the Wall,” which has one of the more tender storylines detailed in the liner notes; the track is driven by soft guitar and the hushed vocals of both Blumberg and Selzer.

In the end, you might be wondering why this long-time, relentless band from the Pacific Northwest hasn’t ever been given more attention. Each song has something intriguing and unique about it and the undeniably superb musicianship is laid atop well-crafted lyrics. These Portland troubadours have been putting out great music for years, but with A Gilded Age, they increase the accessibility of their songs without sacrificing the crucial details they’ve always possessed.

 


Yale Herald
Foxy Digitalis
Erasing Clouds
Stylus Magazine
Tiny Mix Tapes
Delusions of Adequacy
Indieworkshop
Pitchfork Media

“Dusk in Cold Parlours is the kind of album that rewards multiple listens, revealing details slowly but surely, and once it captures you, it’s hard to escape its grasp. But then, it’s hard to imagine why you’d want to.” -Pitchfork Media, 2004

“ There is an overarching visceral and sustaining appeal to this album.” -Pop Matters, 2004

“This album is brilliant. -Foxy Digitals, 2004

Absolutely beautiful and moving, at times soaring, at times hushed, Dusk is never what you’d expect. Perhaps the band’s most accessible album to date, this is a fantastic work” -Delusions of Aequacy, 2004

“Dusk is emotional and intense, but refuses to become the kind of album you can only listen to when depressed.” – Tiny Mix Tapes, 2004

“With the help of some big names (including Joey Burns and M. Ward), This fourth full-lenght album from the group hits a stride that pushes it into beautiful, assured territory.” -Almost Cool, 2004

“Dusk in Cold Parlours is very much an example of exceptional expression in song; and for those who do not reap the words of wisdom from renaissance men and high school wise guys determined to take a day off from school – you could very well miss it. -Sound the sirens passionate, melancholy, and inspired.” -Fakejazz, 2004

“Norfolk and Western have clearly poured their heart and soul into their fourth album, one of my favorites of 2003. -Tiny mix tapes Selzer has made an honest and clever album, broadening the parameters of his music, while moving closer to the sound of the Old West that inspired him in the first place.”

-INK 19

 


 

(Compiled by Matt Steele and John Askew at Film Guererro. Please visit filmg.com.)


all the walls are bare [adam selzer]


Norfolk & Western, the band behind last year’s rustic beauty Winter Farewell, is still a fully operational outfit, but main man Adam Selzer has decided to lose that moniker for his first solo album, thereby underlining the different approach he is taking this time around. Relying more expressively on the strength of his songwriting, there isn’t much of Norfolk & Western’s ambience-heavy production here. In fact, although Selzer runs his own Type Foundry studios, he opted out of using it, instead recording this on 8 tracks at home over a two-week period, playing all instruments himself. The result is a more conventional take on the sadcore-flavored alt-country that defines Selzer’s earlier work, yet it’s as arresting and intimate as ever.
All The Walls Are Bare is stripped to the bones, but never at the expense of detail or instrumental nuances. It is careful and dampened but hauntingly real as well. From the endearing, pained version of the Beatles’ “This Boy” to the drained, lovely tiredness of “All You Can Prepare” and closing with the wonderful “Privacy’s Disguise,” Selzer has made an honest and clever album, broadening the parameters of his music, while moving closer to the sound of the Old West that inspired him in the first place.
Stein Haukland, INK 19


Adam Selzer, a member of Portland’s Norfolk & Western, has recorded a simple and unpretentious collection of bedroom recordings. In addition to Norfolk & Western, Adam runs the Type Foundry Recording studio, but according to the press release he felt that to record this record there would afford “too many options.” Instead, he made the wise decision of going it alone on an 8 track.
Completely devoid of lush (or almost any) arrangements, Selzer’s tentative voice never has to strain over his softly picked folk and buckwheat field ditties. Whether it’s the slightly sweeping harmonica on “Gentrified” or the hesitant acoustic and banjo melody of the just long enough “Words Worth Believing,” Selzer’s craft is in top form. I must admit, upon first listen, this album struck me slightly as a plot I’ve seen time and again. After a few more listens, it becomes evident that while this territory is well trodden, there is some aspect of humanity and empathy in his music that stirs while it lulls. There are two covers on this set, the Beatles “This Boy” and fellow lo-fi Northwestern singer-songwriter Jeff London’s “Slowness.” Both are done with the same delicate touch that permeates the album. This touch seems to be found on much of the Film Guerrero catalog, a label that has graced us with other fine albums from The Graves, Tracker and Selzer’s full band, the aforementioned Norfolk & Western. Selzer continues the tradition of the West Point of indie-folk and gently knocks this wiffleball out of the park.
Jonah Flicker, LOST AT SEA


show review
Sparklehorse
support: Norfolk and Western
Manchester Academy 2
Wednesday 27th November
Tonight was a night that didn’t bode well. Not only was our venue going to be a seated one, but the band had a name that sound like a kids TV character. Yep, that’s right, Sparklehorse. Any fears were soon quashed after witnessing support band Norfolk and Western. Hailing from Oregon, are a band that are so polite they man their stand, thanking people for buying their album. The rush of sales is unsurprising after their set of simple folky country-ish songs with striking vocals. |OK, so they’re hardly rabble rousing, but tonight isn’t about that. There have to be quiet times for everyone, and Norfolk and Western make great background music. Backgrounds, or backdrops rather are something which Sparklehorse do well. Trailing their Sonic Cinema film and appropriate footage of skies and corn throughout adds a certain atmosphere to the gig, as does the vociferous applause and yells from the crowd. Any fears of dreary indie are waylaid from the first power unexpected power chord and Mark Linkous’ distorted vocals. They have a magical sound that is far louder than your average indie band with beats that Mr Scruff would be proud of. A run-through of their back catalogue includes ‘More Yellow Birds’ and ‘Hundreds of Sparrows’ (Is this guy related to Bill Oddie?), and they close with ‘Homecoming Queen’, which sees a mass singalong from the now standing audience. It’s nice to be surprised once in a while, and Sparklehorse turned out to be an interesting and indefinable act to experience.
Natalie Boxall, DRIPFED

 


{winter farewell}


Winter Farewell is certainly one of those records that grows on you, which might be something you can say for much of Film Guerrero’s catalog (see also Buellton, a decent band in their own right). I had heard a couple of songs by Norfolk and Western (let’s call them NandS for short) in the past, and they didn’t have any impact on me — not good, not bad, just there. So I wasn’t totally excited to listen to their CD. Even the first couple of listens just dwindled there in the background while I tooled around my house, doing whatever it is people do when they tool around their house. I was mentally preparing to write up a review about it being just OK, good background music and all that sort of drivel you might write when describing something mediocre. Then, like a punch in the ear, it grabbed me and hasn’t let go since. I’ve been listening to it multiple times a day — not because I’m doing a review and wanted to be informed, but because I really yearn to hear it.
The main force behind NandS is Adam Selzer, who runs a recording studio in Portland, Oregon by the name of Tape Foundry where the whole thing was recorded. He has also assembled a motley group to help him on the recording, and while I don’t want to run down the names of everyone, worth mentioning are Richard Buckner (who’s records are quite good, especially Since) helps out by singing back up on my favorite song on the album, “The Evergreen,” as well as Rachel Blumberg, who I do not know but has an amazing voice that I will be sure to be on the lookout for in the future. As for the sound…as with all great albums, every time I listen to the album I hear different things in it. If I had to give one overall impression and/or comparison, I would say take the sparse, mellow sound of Low, add in some country twang and a little bit of noise that might feel right at home on a Dirty Three album. I think the Low comparison is particularly fitting, as Adam’s voice sounds very much like Alan Sparhawk’s, and when Rachel is singing as well it really gives off a similar vibe to that of Mimi and Alan from Low. But what makes this album so great are the little things: the slide guitar and occasional harmonica make you feel as if you’re riding down a lonely highway late at night; the use of the optigon, vibraphone, and various radio samples, while not drawing too much attention to themselves individually, add to the overall pastiche of the work and give it that intangible something that adds just the right texture to the song.
We cannot hide you that we wait with more than febrility the new album of Norfolk and Western so much their preceding exit “{ centralia }” had made us capsize. We hold finally the object in the hands! Superb object besides, with a signed artwork of John King, the same one who deals with the small pockets of Mr. Ward. One looks at quickly made names of members which makes this time the group and one falls on Tony Moreno and Jordan Hudson (the rhythm section which accompanies Matt Ward in round), Jeff London (excel Portland cement folksinger), Richard Buckner, John Askew (thinking head of Tracker and the FILMguerrero label)… in short a casting of dream. And quality is well with go on these sixteen pieces where Adam Selzer and his troop continue to explore a folk atmospheric, filled at strong current-edge with ideas and instruments, which reveals, starting from rather simple melodies, of true splendours. Small warning: how all the discs of Norfolk and Western, it will take time to assemble the tracks between them and to really appreciate totality… the whole is thus not to be in a hurry!
Hinah- France


It’s the middle of summer (not that we can feel it) and I’m listening to the sort of record that can be used for long winternights as the warmth that comes from this record is immenser than any heat. You see “Winter Farewell” is the latest work of Norfolk and Western, a project from songwriter Adam Selzer. Adam is the owner of a studio called Type Foundry Recording (in Portland) in where he already makes recordings for years and the last two years he made releases a bit everywhere (an album on Acuarela, a single on Dutch Courage Records) and this new one on the tiny (but fine) American Film Guerrero label. What is special about this record is that it is no longer a solo-project but all musicians who joined him on stage (at where he supported Songs:Ohia, Smog and Quasi) have been teamed up and the result of this cd is a sort of post-rock with minimalistic rock (from Neil Young to the later Talk Talk) and new country music (think Elliot Smith, Low or Bonnie Prince Billy). “Winter Farewell” is a very individual album and the beauty lies in the details (I have no idea how many instruments that are used on here but every 30 seconds it seems to chance though) and an album you’d better embrace.
DIDIER BECU


Norfolk and Western have carved out a sizeable following in the Northwest, with fans taken away by their combination of sparkling pop buried underneath soft folk, acoustic guitars and the occasional experimental noise-rock outburst. Winter Farewell finds the band in fine form, delivering a sonic, well-written album of folk-inspired music that, once explored beyond face value, will remain on your CD player for quite some time. From the viola introduction of “Sound West”, the loud outburst of “Slide”, the piano-centric instrumental “They Spoke of History”, and “The Evergreen” (which features Richard Buckner on backing vocals), Norfolk and Western are able to create a record that is as folk-y as it is experimental.
Fusing instrumentals with non-instrumentals, Norfolk and Western are all about the mood, getting it right, and putting you in it, as they play soft, eerie, chilling music that unfolds and unravels each time you play the album. I’ll give it an A-.
Alex Steininger, In Music We Trust


Fragile beauty on Norfolk and Western’s third regular release, a hushed quiet so intense that it shifts and become all-encompassing, drowning out the traffic outside your window by the sheer force of its stillness. Main man Adam Seizer sings with a whisper, paying attention to the details of the songs as they unfold, sharing with his fellow musicians a profound respect for the spaces in music, for the moments that arise in-between the actual striking of a chord or the brushing of a snare. Impressively conceived, improbably executed, this is too beautiful for words and a certain contender for folk album of the year.
INK 19


Winter Farewell is, in effect, the first genuine collective Norfolk and Western band effort, featuring mostly ensemble performances and production and at least a half-dozen co-writing credits. It is also every bit as strong as — in fact, even stronger than — Centralia. The album retains essentially the same template and basic sound as its predecessor. The resonant, organic production remains intact and it possesses and maintains the same beautifully somber mood. Winter Farewell, however, improves on previous efforts in several key ways. The and the album as a whole is more conceptually unified. Essentially folk-based, the majority of the music has the air of a vintage attic heirloom. Like the painted portraits of Civil War soldiers that decorate the CD package, it is often reminiscent, in an aural sense, of old sepia-toned photographs from an earlier era fixed into scrapbooks by yellowed tape. It seems to exist somewhere outside the constraints of time. Tony Moreno’s manipulated instruments and soundscapes and Raymond Richards’ breathing pedal steel runs give many of the songs their ghostly ambience, an impression of layers of dust, as if they have arisen from the ashes of field recordings, which isn’t entirely removed from the truth. Snippets of handheld recordings are indeed used, while lovely bits of banjo, dulcimer, mandolin, organ, harmonica, snare drum, and other assorted instruments dot the album and add to this rustic, aged atmosphere. If you were to listen only to the surface quality of Adam Selzer’s vocals (when, that is, they are even present), you might get the same impression. His singing, detached from the words, conveys a sense of desolation and displacement. But, though the lyrics and lyrical themes themselves are at times disembodied and dream-like, they are also personal, specific, and intimate, directing a thread of present-day themes through the songs. In any event, the writing is superb, and in any era, Winter Farewell is a glorious, hallucinatory piece of work.
Stanton Swihart, AMG EXPERT REVIEW 4 1/2 out of 5


Norfolk and Western have struck gold with their outstanding 3rd album, ‘A Winter Farewell’. Rootsy, folk rock with incredibly diverse instrumentation (pedal steel, vibraphone, effects) mixes up the guitar-bass-drums very nicely, while Adam Selzers’ haunting voice weaves in and around Norfolk and Western’s beautiful melodies. Recorded at Adams’ Type Foundry studio in Portland, the cohesive sound of the record is that of an album, not just a collection of songs. The band creates an atmosphere that is hard to ignore. A stark beauty flows through the music that sets it apart from a lot of the indie folk out now, and that simply stated makes this a great folk rock record.
Pennyblack Music UK


For its first two albums, ‘A Collection of’ (2000) and the following year’s widely acclaimed ‘Centralia’, Norfolk and Western was ostensibly the solo project of Adam Selzer, owner/operator of Portland’s Type Foundry Recording (M Ward, Tracker). On this third outing, Selzer welcomes the touring line-up into the studio the result being the warm, intimate, live feel of ‘Winter Farewell’. Dressed in exquisite artwork courtesy of John King (M Ward’s ‘End of Amnesia’), the record’s hushed intimacy is rarely broken (the squall of electric guitar on Slide (reprise) the exception) as melodies drift gently to the surface, drummer Rachel Blumberg’s occasional vocal harmonies (and effective lead vocal on Slide) a perfect counterpoint to Selzer’s delicate warble. On Hegira a Greg Weeks fragility is set against a Sparklehorse collage of lazy, string-enhanced, slo-core dreaminess; a barely audible Richard Buckner guests on The Evergreen, an M Ward-like mid-tempo country tune with banjo accompaniment and a Springsteen-esque harmonica wail, two highlights among many. On Local Posts and opener All The Towns Near Boston Norfolk and Western attain a Lullaby for the Working Class sense of ensemble playing, the latter also unexpectedly evoking a comparison to Art of Fighting’s slow-building majesty. Slowly unveiling hidden treasures with subsequent plays, ‘Winter Farewell’ paints with broader strokes than it initially suggests.
MD, Comes With A Smile – UK


Wie es der Bandname schon andeutet, bieten uns Norfolk and Western schöne Folksongs der besseren Art. Auf “Winter Farewell” gibt es keine lauten Töne oder wilde Ausbrüche, sondern nur sehr ruhige, melancholische und eindringliche Popsongs, die ich mit jedem Hören, mehr zu schätzen lerne. Hinter der Band verbirgt sich vor allem ein Mann und das ist Adam Selzer, der eigentlich alle Songs im Alleingang schreibt und dann im Studio verschiedene Musiker um sich reiht. Um mal wieder ein paar Vergleiche an den Mann zu bringen, würde ich Songs:Ohia, Ida oder Sparklehorse nennen, da auch sie diese introvertierte, schüchterne und deshalb umso charmantere Stimmung umgibt. Auch der Titel könnte nicht passender sein, denn die Songs eignen sich perfekt zu einem gemütlichen Winterabend mit einer Tasse Kaffe und einem Buch. Doch lassen sie einen auf den bald bevorstehenden Frühling und die ersten Sonnenstrahlen im Gesicht hoffen. Schöne Platte, die wesentlich mehr kann, als es zuerst den Anschein macht.
Matthias-Music-Scan-Germany


“Norfolk and Western is nothing if not romantic. Their third full-length record, Winter Farewell, is heavenly, opening with a to-swoon-for song of viola lap steel that segues into the echoing notes of “Final Gratitude”.” That recording has the b’s Adam Selzer Rachel Blumberg harmonizing sweetly over a very quieted, minimal dose of molin banjo. Their country-influenced songs are delicately paced, careful, tender odes to great songwriting emotion that’s so heartfelt, you can’t argue against it. Truly an incredible b…Buy the record, too- it’s more accomplished than their last one, if you can believe that.”
The Mercury


The meaning of a record title seems easily misunderstood, but curious enough that the release from Portl, Oregon’s Norfolk and Western should be titled Winter Farewell. It seems appropriate that the first song’s title “All The Town’s Near Boston” should open what has been today’s accompanying soundtrack for a classic New Engl spring day complete with rom yard work, open-window breezes, Sunday afternoon beer, the early start of summer’s smoking grill. No, this isn’t an entirely feel-good album of summer songs S¹ this is more the type of musical reverie reserved for those guys with monikers like Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billie, Papa M, or Songs: Ohia. Add one Adam Selzer to that highbrow songwriter/singer list, for he is the man behind Winter Farewell two previous Norfolk and Western full-length releases titled A Collection Of Centralia. And like Oldham, Pajo, or Molina, Selzer has arranged a talented list of musicians to help him shape form songs that have campfire familiarity but are entirely detailed with string arrangements, pedal steel, found sounds, or banjo. Since he owns Type Foundry Recording, now in Portl, Oregon, this release’s liner notes an accompanying bio sheet give the listener little, recording “f.y.i’s” a declaration that the album was recorded on an analog 16-track 1″ tape machine. What are relatively minor details on paper are the major details to an album that has carefully observed song-craft. It also doesn’t hurt that the artwork Firefly Press packaging are the indie-guild markings of a limited edition release you’ll want to hang on to.
Following the album’s already mentioned opening song, “Final Gratitude” introduces us to the vocal accompaniment of Rachel Blumberg whose other talent for keeping rhythm on drums compliments other songs. “I’m so curious to see your reaction / placing all your faith inside your tiny apartment / waiting patiently for the promised enlargement,” sing Adam Rachel in unison. It’s so easy to fall for the boy/girl vocal, but a similar trap will capture the listener when they hear Richard Buckner offer up his voice alongside Adam’s in “The Evergreen.” Buckner’s voice works with harmonica, pedal steel, distorted guitar, somewhere Howe Gelb of Giant S has to be smiling. Offering even fuller arrangement in the fourth song “Local Posts,” Norfolk and Western is a vibraphone, guitar, drums, bass, banjo, pedal steel, cello assemblage of competent musicians spontaneously creating song.
The sun has set; the dishes are done; the beer is not yet gone; Norfolk and Western provide simple songs melodies for life’s easier moments.
Delusions of Adequacy


{centralia}


“Norfolk and Western seized upon and surpassed on the wonderful Centralia every good quality that creaked from their initial effort. Former one-man band Adam Selzer enlisted a consistent cadre of friends, and this “cast” was able to create a wholly realized album in a way that Selzer alone couldn’t on the intriguing but sketchy A Collection Of. Norfolk and Western is not quite yet a proper band here. Selzer still wrote all the tunes and played a roomful of instruments, including all of them on two songs (“My Ambiguity Frustrates” and “Her Fond Creation True,” though the former is really just a fragment). Matthew Ward (an excellent solo artist himself under the nom de troubadour M. Ward), however, is almost an equal partner in performance, and several other players make exquisite contributions, especially Amanda Lawrence, whose viola provides a poignant orchestral element to several songs (not least on the two most gorgeous, “The Absence of Photographs” and the breathtaking duet “Take Off Your Diamonds”). This is not to imply that Centralia is any less downbeat or bleak, because it continues to sustain both those moods. There is little doubt that N and W represents sad-sack, lonely music for those gray (or even darker) days of the soul. The album continued to employ tape machine snippets, recorded bits of cozy apartment assemblages, and objets d’lo-fi, in addition to extensive solo acoustic strumming and melancholy, Elliott Smith-like vocals just a decibel or two above a whisper. But these are all utilized in support of songs rather than as set-pieces themselves. And the production, while still frayed around the edges, is considerably more polished, giving the recording an extraordinarily warm and organic sound, full of added instrumental color and texture — subtle touches of organ, piano, and keyboard; bursts of harmonica; and spectral lap steel guitar rippling against drowsy soundscapes and tape loops like lazy Pacific waves. But above all, this is an extremely strong set of songs — folk songs transformed into shimmering epics juxtaposed against haunting, lustrous instrumentals — a frequently stunning progression in sustained temperament, tone, and consequence.”
Stanton Swihart, AMG EXPERT REVIEW


“Even with all this delicacy quiet this won’t just pass by unnoticed. It seeps onto your body, enveloping you in a gossamer blanket. This is a warm sparseness, as if touched by a fleeting desert breeze on a cold day.”
Laurence Arnold – Comes With A Smile (UK)
“{centralia}, Norfolk and Western ‘s second full length album, is constructed like a gift, wrapped meticulously in butcher paper hed over without pretense. The combination of nostalgia-invoking instruments (lap steel, acoustic guitar, harmonica) careful background noise, (wind or static sounds) is slightly bittersweet, in a way that can make your heart drop to your stomach. Vocalist Adam Selzer’s quiet voice is gorgeous; each audible breath consonant suggests an understing of the power of simplicity. Some songs sound as if they’re rolling out of a dusty Victorola, played on the back of a train after the Dust Bowl. Really, this album is beautifully crafted, written so thoughtfully, it’s like a very sweet gift best kept in your hope chest.”
Julianne Shepherd – The Portl Mercury


“Selzer bolsters Norfolk and Western ‘s more ephemeral acoustic meerings with atmospheric tape-recorded snipits, but eases off the effects when he happens on a country-rock riff that’s strong enough to carry him home.”
Mark Edwards – The Sunday London Times (UK)


“Lots of small things go on in the background, so please listen to this on headphones. Some of the beauty is in the sounds that fade away in the back of the songs.”
Mike Turner – The Bees Knees


“{centralia} requires at least a dozen listens before fully revealing itself. It may just be because it consists of tracks, which at first seem independent from one another, then end up fitting together perfectly. (The numerous changes in musicians instruments- guitars, dulcimer, lap steel, cello, piano, bass, drums, xylophone, harmonica- could provide an explanation fro that initial feeling of incoherence between the songs.) In short, Centralia is a marvelous piece of quiet elaborate folk music, an album that reveals a great deal of jewels.” >Eloïse Stéclebout Eric Bensel – Hinah (France)
“Sedated breathing instruments leaves you with something more than the sum of its parts.”
Rodney Gibbs – Splendid


“Portland recording ace Adam Selzer proves his mettle on the other side of the dials with this terribly gorgeous project, a thing of quiet beauty smoldering promise. Glimmering sheets of of guitar spill out of spare, desolate settings built on top pop foundations but bearing little resemblance to anything sugary or shallow…”
Zach Dundas Willamette Week

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