Norfolk and Western The Unsung Colony

Treading confidently in the deep footsteps of Wilco and Calexico, Portland’s Norfolk and Western are a collective of rotating members with connections to the Decemberists and M. Ward. On The Unsung Colony, band leaders Adam Selzer and Rachel Blumberg slather their indie folk compositions with thick globs of eccentric instrumentation. Viola, violin, banjo, saw and accordion take turns in the spotlight, stepping back occasionally for bursts of intense, distortion-laden guitar. Even the quieter moments hiss and sizzle with ambient noise — film threading into a projector, a trumpeter busking in a subway station, the creak of an old Victrola Gramophone. When they work, these extravagant layers of sound are enthralling. Some of the songs, though, beg for a little breathing room; delicate melodies are smothered by heavy arrangements, leaving them flattened and bruised. There are moments of brilliance here, but here’s hoping Norfolk and Western learn to step just a little more lightly the next time around. (Hush)