Norfolk & Western

A Collection of Norfolk & Western

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Though several musician friends add parts here and there (and three performances are in fact leftover tracks from his previous band Lincolner), A Collection Of is very much an Adam Selzer solo project and personal vision. He wrote all the songs and plays the majority of notes. The album was recorded piecemeal over a couple years, in a couple locations and with a variety of technology at hand, from a full 16-track studio to a beat-up thrift-store two-track in an empty apartment, so it is not surprising that it seems to hang together by a few rusty nails at best. And yet, no matter how precariously, hang together it indeed does, in the prettiest, most forlorn of ways. As one of its songs, "UK Humor," suggests both in sound and theme, the album is something like a Yankee counterpart to Belle & Sebastian, where the fey Anglo quiescence is replaced by a scruffy, bedraggled, windswept -- and quintessentially American -- wistfulness. Both are at once musically lugubrious and glimmering, and both seem as if they could be blown entirely away by a particularly muscular gust. At just under 30 minutes playing time in the era of the CD, A Collection Of is closer to an EP than a full-length record. This is a shortcoming perhaps. The songs, most of them sub-three minutes and a few not even a minute long, sometimes end abruptly before they can build up any momentum, or they wither away like half-forgotten memories. But this hardly seems a fault when in the process of listening. For one, the songs inch along with such beautiful, depressing gaits that they seem longer than they actually are. And their half-complete nature could be seen as an extension of the nostalgic, longing quality of the lyrics, and an embodiment of the antique yet timeless feel of the undertaking. The few longer songs -- "This Is What Really Happened," the Lincolner track "On Your Way to This" -- are wonderfully realized in such a way that suggested Norfolk & Western are capable of more extensive works, but what is here is quite lovely.

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