Norfolk & Western

Dinero Severo

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Adam Selzer created Norfolk and Western as a solo project, but it has evolved into a solid trio with drummer/vocalist Rachel Blumberg and multi-instrumentalist/ vocalist Dave Depper helping to fill out Selzer's cheerless, introspective vision both musically and, on occasion, lyrically. Like the rest of their albums, Dinero Severo focuses on the moments in life when everything is in turmoil and nothing seems certain, even life itself. The vision here is unremittingly sad, and the downbeat music intensifies the feeling of loss, limitation, and impending emotional if not actual physical doom. Many of the songs eschew the usual verse/chorus composition of most pop songs for a linear structure that intensifies the feelings of anguish and alienation that Selzer has always explored. "Hiding Home" brings to mind work of the Band with its mellow, hushed vocal, cryptic lyrics, minimal piano, and lonesome harmonica accents. There is no place you can hide from the lies you tell yourself, even when you're home, Selzer sings, but this insight is not comforting. The Memphis R&B groove and linear structure of "Every Morning" look in on a man trying to come to terms with guilt and loss caused by the sudden death of his brother. Depper's slide guitar and the bright melody balance the tune between hope and despair. The title of "Whippoorwill Song" may sound hopeful, but it's another wrenching tale of loneliness. Selzer's distorted guitar is mixed down into an ominous pulse as he delivers a spoken word account of a man left alone with only a cassette recording of his former girlfriend's voice to keep him company. Selzer channels John Lennon on "Future Mother," a song that grapples with religion and mortality. His brittle, echo-drenched vocal and simple acoustic piano, and a simple backbeat mimic the primal sound of the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album. We also have young men facing death on the battlefield in "The Long Goodbye," lovers suffering in silence while pretending that all is well in "So That's How It Is," and life's most embarrassing moments on "Turkish Wine." Throughout the album, the emotional tension is implied by the contrast of Selzer's almost disembodied vocals and the aggressive sounds of his flailing, distorted guitar excursions. The album isn't exactly uplifting, but it deals with life's harsher moments with a bracing honesty that missing from most pop music.

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