- 10 Feb 23
Singer-songwriter wears heart on sleeve but sends listener to sleep.
Andy Shauf’s songwriting is all about small moments observed with a keen eye. The Canadian singer-songwriter first gained attention with 2016’s The Party. It was a collection of ballads that told the story of a party across the span of a single night. His talent for diaristic lyrics was again pressed into service with 2020’s The Neon Skyline. The album was about a guy who goes to a bar and bumps into an old girlfriend.
The low-key project might have passed unnoticed were it not for the fact that Barack Obama selected the title-track for his summer playlist. The “Obama effect” put the spotlight on Shauf. Since then, though, he has spoken about wanting to get away from the concept of songwriting as storytelling.
He started from a completely different perspective with Norm. Shauf imagined the record as a collection of surreal, David Lynch-style vignettes. As it took shape, though, he found the songs weaving together into a narrative. This time, however, he has declined to say outright what it’s about.
So what is it about? Without writing down all the lyrics and scrutinising them at length, it is difficult to say.
What is clear is that this is a collection of angsty ballads, distinguished by Shauf’s low-key melodies. And by a sweet singing voice that sounds like lo-fi figurehead Jim O’Rourke circa 1999. It isn’t unpleasant. Nor is it particularly impactful. The real story here is that Shauf has made an LP that aims for mysterious but has ended up as bland and impenetrable.
Listen: ‘Wasted On You’
Out now via Anti.
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