On paper Possible Selves is one of those acts that’s just too good to be true. Neil Williams is Possible Selves, singing and throwing down tracks featuring 18 different instruments over the course of this self-titled set of a dozen tunes. Not only is Williams incredibly versatile, but his work is referenced alongside that of Leonard Cohen, Sparklehorse (Mark Linkous) and Smog (Bill Callahan) – quite a nice set of peers to be hoisted amongst, indeed.
Now, it’s certainly not that the album doesn’t sound like the comparisons made, because there are a ton of similarities stylistically, musically and theoretically between Possible Selves and the aforementioned artists. Unfortunately for this CD, the quality of Williams’ work just doesn’t measure up.
Opener “I Don’t Need No Doctors” aspires to be a slo-core folk epic, though it gets wrapped up in an uninteresting trudge instead. Whereas some artists painfully drone on with twisted emotional wrenching, Williams pours out long-winded tracks like “Lights In Our Bodies,” “Nowhere Space” and “Three Birds” that drone, as well – just aimlessly and without purpose. The near six-minute “Faces” is slightly better in that the occasional rhythmic ‘fattening’ sounds good, though it feels more as if it’s done for ‘dramatic effect’ rather than feeling truly dramatic in any way. The sub-two minute “Takers” is about the best Possible Selves has to offer, layering cascading acoustic guitars, stomp percussion, accordion and slide parts on the opening, all of which disintegrates into a genuinely nice minute or so of front-porch-on-a-cabin sounding guitars and Williams’ voice.
The fact that 99% of the disc is courtesy of Williams’ performances alone is laudable, indeed. It’s obvious that he’s a talented soul, and the general vision of what he’s trying to do through the Possible Selves vehicle has merit to it. Here’s hoping he gets himself out of the drab quagmire he’s in for the band’s next record.