Singer-songwriter Andy Shauf's music is observation, an artist trading in songs, stories and people. Performing out of Regina, Saskatchewan, he’s signed to Los Angeles imprint Anti- and uses his unique brand of indie – rock and pop to create music that communicates a cinematic experience. Stories are the theme, and Shauf is exchanging a look in the mirror for a look out the window, simultaneously finding their overlap. The window acts as a mirror, and empathy dictates finding a piece of yourself in others. Shauf’s creation and use of characters is almost literary, and will make your head bob.
His most recent album was a 2015 project called Bearer Of Bad News, a collection of songs-as-stories that was dour but not hopeless. The project’s philosophy would probably be that life is hard but people are too. Each song a separate tale, evidently narrowed down to 11 tracks from a pool of hundreds. Before Bearer Of Bad News, Shauf hadn’t released much since 2010. There’s a noticeable evolution in those 5 years.
That evolution is represented by a fuller sound moving away from the bedroom artist aesthetic. There’s an orchestral embodiment, at times bringing to mind a team 30 strong backing up his fables with every sort of instrument – I had forgotten what a bassoon sounds like. He enhances his music by committing to his template, using unofficial interludes that act as scene changes, for example. The stories inspect life at its least glamorous, directly and indirectly tackling fear, alcoholism, loneliness, etc. Like a truly good movie, Andy Shauf finds humanity in the mundane.
His new album was released today. It's titled The Party, and the previously mentioned evolution has continued. Like Bearer Of Bad News, the album is a collection of stories, but now with a center of gravity. The project’s name sets the scene, with each track covering a different party-goer's perspective. The first track of The Party (and the first preview of the album) is called “The Magician”, a phenomenal song that establishes tone in a big way. Traversing about every emotion there is, "The Magician" twists Shauf’s vocals and uses a pinch of distortion to amazing effect, conveying the ebb and flow of mood in incredible detail.
For that reason, The Party provides the perfect messy setting for Shauf, who can take the chaos and crashing of interpersonal relationships and find countless lanes of approach. You get some first-person perspective as well, Shauf taking the time to make mistakes on "Quite Like You" and let us in on them. Whether or not the attempt is completely autobiographical, it gives us a valued look at the man behind the characters. Sweeping but personal, The Party is something to get lost in.
It’s hard to leave the first few listens without wanting to know more about the curator of these rogues galleries and their inspirations. Who are the songs about, does Andy Shauf know these people? The answer is probably irrelevant. Keep listening and see where the story takes you.