Working through ideas for a new album, Andy Shauf had the simplest of intentions: to write a "normal" record. It might seem like an effortless endeavor for anyone else, but for someone like Shauf, who regularly dreams up concepts and characters, that self-restraint became its own challenge. Ultimately, he naturally stumbled upon another concept. Many questions arise from a title as uneventful as Norm.
Assuming the voice of God is an intriguing move for an artist best known for writing deeply human characters experiencing life through deeply human settings from house parties to neighborhood bars. Yet, God's is the first voice we hear on Canadian singer/songwriter Andy Shauf's newest album, Norm. On the opening track, "Wasted On You," we play fly on the wall to a celestial discussion between God the Father and Jesus--soundtracked by the dreamy synth twinkles, velvety major seven chords, and tender touches of piano and guitar Shauf employs to gorgeous, yet misleadingly soothing effect throughout the album--in which the two seem dismayed by humanity, wondering, "Was all my love wasted on you?" Though God remains one of the main narrators of the album, the narrative is centered around its title character, an awkward stalker dressed up as a romantic in a way that has largely been norm-alized in film and culture (as Julie Beck has written for The Atlantic).
Photo by Angela Lewis As with all of Andy Shauf's albums, Norm is the product of meticulous craftsmanship, Shauf playing all the instruments himself. He's no show-off, though; all the parts are executed in a languid, off-hand manner, as if he's just crawled out of bed and is lazily capturing his soft-focus dreams on tape. One fresh development here is that Shauf passed the songs to Neal Pogue (Outkast, Tyler the Creator) to be mixed.