When first listening to Andy Shauf’s, Bearer of Bad News album in 2015, I was instantly impressed and taken back to a similar feeling that I got when listening to some of Elliot Smith’s older pieces. Thankfully, Andy Shauf has blessed us once again in 2020 with, The Neon Skyline. Featuring playful lyrics that tell stories, soft melodies, and creative instrumental experimentation, it’s easy to like Andy Shauf.
We are thrown into the album with, Neon Skyline, which introduces a motif that Andy Shauf has used previously with his witty story telling abilities. Perhaps a homage to his earlier works, yet a frequent theme in the beauty of tribulation in life, no matter how simple. Neon Skyline (the album) follows a story over one night, much like, The Party as the main character goes out to a bar and hears that his ex will be present that night. Following both a spiral downwards filled with some hopeful memories and the thought of re-kindling what was lost, they eventually re-group, and later part ways. Andy Shauf seems to effectively communicate this point across the ever-present melancholy lyrics that paint a picture for us listeners with interesting characters. Like, The Party, there is clearly some appreciation of seemingly normal people spending their nights out, amidst a sea of what seems pleasant, only to be in a sea of regret. Or at the very least, understanding the depth or dreary-ness some may face when going out. Something about the familiarity in his lyrical story telling style that has successfully been presented in both, The Party and Neon Skyline respectively, are what makes listeners like myself resonate so deeply with the songs. Although I was a big fan of his following, Bearer of Bad News, I love to see artists grow and flourish with unique sound and style. That was present with Neon Skyline in the shift to a cheerier tune and talked about by Andy in his most recent Reddit AMA. With Neon Skyline, Andy Shauf has touched up on regret, joy, and many other feelings associated with a typical night out as we are painted a vivid picture of a relatable character that is just a normal person. With this said, some feelings that present themselves in the night out seem to have us in an emotional rollercoaster which is effectively backed by the increase in tempo with cheeriness, followed by slow and comforting melodies.
Although there is something to be said about the lyrics and story that “Neon Skyline” tells over the track list, the rhythmic style and melodies offer a calming background that can be appreciated by all, regardless of our focus lyrically. The now 32-year-old Andy Shauf is no stranger to musical experimentation, being a wide ranged musician having the ability to create complex compositions with an array of instruments. These instruments include piano, guitar, bass, drums and clarinet. Although experimenting with a wide variety of instruments, until 2006 he was in a Christian punk-pop band called, “Captain”. After parting ways, he released, Darker Days in 2009, and it was followed by numerous albums each having their own unique sounds and styles.
Andy Shauf Treefort 2017:
When first listening to, The Bearer of Bad News, I was looking for artists that hit lows like Elliot Smith and I found just that. With the story-telling abilities of that album I was immediately hooked on the artist and was beyond ecstatic when The Party came out. So much so that I decided to buy Treefort Music Festival tickets strictly for that reason. It also helped that The Growlers, Alvvays, and Mac Demarco (amongst many others) were going to be playing too. Andy’s show to me, however, was the most significant of the festival that year. The show was early in the day, so I dragged my friend and cousin along to listen to an artist that meant a lot to me and for the record, still does. Although not knowing who he was prior, both my cousin and my friend were impressed and calmed by the show that day. There is something quite special about the live performance of Andy Shauf, with the clarinets on stage, and production that sounds uniquely beautiful comparatively to the record. As you can see photographed above, here is Andy Shauf, prior to performing. He stared at me intensely with my film camera for 10-15 seconds, I wonder if he remembers that…
The album tells a story (chronologically) throughout the tracks, so first and foremost I recommend listening to it in its entirety. However, if you don’t have time then my recommended listens are given below.
Side Note: Catch some of us from KZUU at Treefort Music Festival 2020 with social media updates and interviews!
Recommended Listens: 5, 7 (Andy Shaufs Favorite), 9, 11