Norfolk and Western have reached maturity with their fourth proper album Dusk in Cold Parlours. Band leader Adam Selzer's unaffected, soft tenor may recall a reedy Dean Wareham (Luna), or Ira Kaplan (Yo La Tengo). His vocals are half spoken, half sung over dazzling acoustic arrangements enhanced with piano, pedal steel, optigan, orchastra bells, and tasteful percussion provided by part-time Decemberists drummer extraordinaire Rachel Blumberg. In the past Selzer's idiosyncratic lyrics have been largely overshadowed by the band's distinctly compelling arrangements. Here, his stream-of-conscious sensibility is more linear, if not narrative, and will be printed (for the first time) in the liner notes.
Recorded at Selzer's own legendary Type Foundry studio, and Tucson's Wavelab, this album documents the apex of Norfolk and Western's studio work. Contributors include Calexico's Joey Burns, M. Ward, and Craig Shumacher.
Despite it's polar opposite title, Dusk in Cold Parlours delivers in a way that Yo La Tengo's Summer Sun left wanting. Like Ira and Georgia Kaplan, the beating heart of Norfolk and Western is the living partnership of Selzer and Blumberg, whose voices and musicianship dovetail with a canny tenderness. This surprisingly formal collection of songs retains that rare ruminative quality; intimate, close, and warmed by fire, which makes it so satisfying, and in the end, addictive. Dusk in Cold Parlours is by far the most pop-leaning album of the four, but it retains the band's unique mélange of Americana, folk, and indie rock, that have made the them a live favorite.