5 February 2020 | Blog

February 5 – February 11

Saskatchewan native Andy Shauf released his 5th solo album, Neon Skyline on the 24th of January through Anti- Records. A multi instrumentalist and master storyteller; Shauf has taken a decidedly Jazzier approach to his incredibly unique style of song writing and storytelling on his most recent release. It’s important to distinguish the character Shauf portrays from himself as he writes the content of his lyrics from neither a factual or fantastical place, and are instead stories he’s taken from his life and fabricated to a certain extent, in a recent AMA the artist did, he said: “They’re never 100% real life happenings, but they’re not really fully imagined either. Let’s say it’s a 50/50 tradeoff.”

Based on a Toronto Bar/Diner called The Skyline, the inspiration for the album came when Shauf was a regular at the aforementioned establishment. As myself can attest to, the longer you spend in a bar the more faces you’ll see and the more acquaintances you’ll get to know over the years, some long term, some merely temporary strangers. Like any good linear story, whether that be film or literature, the beginning handful of tracks serve as almost a prologue: introducing us to the setting and some of the characters such as Rose the bartender, Charlie, The Speakers’ good friend and Judy; The Speakers’ ex love.

The gorgeous and enthralling thing about Andy’s lyricism is how, all at once: it’s joyful, it’s despondent, it’s self affirming, it’s self deprecating and above all else, it’s whimsically familiar. All these elements together make for one of the strongest, most beautiful album experiences a person can have. As the album unfolds, it gradually becomes darker as we realise the idealised Judy isn’t as flawless as The Speaker makes out. The clarinet becomes increasingly worried, the subject matter, much like the characters night out; becomes drunker and hazier as mistakes continue to transpire.

By the time we’ve reached the albums middle point, Living Room, the characters are at their most intoxicated and the album starts unreeling it’s saddest moments. The following track Try Again is a marvellous juxtaposition as it has possibly the most upbeat instrumental on the entire album, while also providing some of the saddest lyrical content; the line: “Somewhere between drunkenness and charity, she puts her hand on the sleeve of my coat, and says ‘I’ve missed this’ and I say ‘I know I’ve missed you too’, she says ‘I was actually talking about your coat’” eloquently encapsulates the mood of almost the entire album.

The final 2 songs following this: Firetruck and Changer see The Speaker reminiscing with Judy, albeit negatively on the former: “A fire truck goes screaming by, and it reminds me of that night when you said that you were coming home and then I waited up ’til four in the morning, she says, ‘I remember, and why the fuck would this be a good time to bring that up?’”. While Changer is a gorgeous ballad that deals with the realisation that their relationship will never be the same again.

Neon Skyline is a beautiful story about love and the subsequent loss of said love. It’s a reminder that relationships end; and for good reason, but also that there’s more to life. Packaged neatly in a clarinet soaked, story driven work of art, Andy Shauf’s 5th studio album is a gorgeous sight to behold.