Release Date: May 20, 2016
Record label: Anti-
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Contrary to popular belief, filling a room with adults and alcohol does not a good time guarantee; there will always be the wallflower, someone whose night alcohol either ruined or cannot save, someone for whom a party is not quite the fun it promised. A girl looking down following her boyfriend's insensitivity; a boy finding the courage to tell someone he fancies him, only to find his feelings are unrequited; somebody boasting about all the "ones he's got on the side"; your own significant other, who you think you hear laughing behind a closed door — these are the people you'll meet on Andy Shauf's poignant third LP, The Party. Most of these songs are set at a house party, so though Shauf insists this isn't a concept record, there's at least a sense that they exist in the same world; you'll discover, for example, reoccurring characters, a technique Shauf has mastered since his last full-length release, The Bearer of Bad News.
Comparisons between musicians are blunt instruments. But if a more orchestral take on Elliott Smith appeals, Canadian troubadour Andy Shauf is a find. A singer-songwriter with a Beatles hang-up and a voice like sodden velvet, Shauf is on his second properly available album. The Party isn’t a concept album so much as a set of closely observed tracks linked by intersecting characters where Shauf replaces Smith’s more misanthropic tendencies with compassion and wry understatement.
By the time Andy Shauf's lonesome prairie pop debut, Bearer of Bad News, had reached the rest of the world, the Saskatchewan native had nearly completed recording his similarly intricate follow-up. After receiving a small-scale Canadian release in 2012, the album went on to make critical waves three years later thanks to a reissue by American indie Tender Loving Empire. Just over a year later comes The Party, another hyper-detailed set of literate indie pop songs produced and almost entirely performed by Shauf.
When it comes to songwriting, Canadian songwriter Andy Shauf is like a party host intent on finding the intricate stories behind the characters who stumble into his songs and soundtracking them in grand fashion. In some ways, he looks beyond the fun and games to discover complex characters with three dimensional thoughts and feelings rather than focusing on what’s on the surface. The first time I heard about Shauf, one of the most prominent descriptors was how much his delivery at times sounded like Elliott Smith (for example, on the track “Begin Again”).
Saskatchewan songwriter Andy Shauf has described the narrators of the 10 tracks on his second album as “awkward characters”. But while The Party isn’t a concept album, the selection of withering, shy, heartbroken people he depicts are never less than convincing. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’d want to hang out with them for anything like the duration of a whole album.
It was of some surprise to learn that the third record from Canadian crooner Andy Shauf was to be based on a party. It seemed misfitting, given the artist’s sombre style, and the concept in general a little clichéd. But then, Shauf has always had a way of portraying characters and telling their stories in the most delicate and piercing ways. In last year’s The Bearer of Bad News, he vignetted a collection of ominous, unfortunate folks living a cold, small-town life.