I think it was 2017 when I came across Andy Shauf. Binging Canadian power pop dynamos Sloan, Shauf came up as a recommendation. The Saskatchewan-born Shauf’s music was this baroque pop singer/songwriter fare; sadsack tunes that borrowed from cats like Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, and early Rufus Wainwright.
Shauf grew up around lots of instruments as his parents owned a music store, and at an early age he played in a Christian band with mom and dad. By the time he was in his mid-20s he’d ventured into more personal writing on his own. He found his “sound” on the album The Bearer Of Bad News, but 2016s The Party was the one that hooked me. Piano, guitar, and clarinet came together with Shauf’s subtle, reedy vocals to create this singular, vulnerable record. His follow-up, 2020’s The Neon Skyline only solidified Shauf’s reputation as one of the best modern singer/songwriters you probably haven’t heard of.
With Norm, Andy Shauf gives fully into the melancholy and bittersweet with a record that sees the songwriter looking at love and obsession through the eyes of God. And a stalker named Norm.
Album opener “Wasted On You” sees a conversation between God and Son regarding their new religion called “Christianity”. The refrain is “Was all my love wasted on you?”, being the question our Maker asks us humans when they face Him on Judgement Day. Heady stuff for a pop rock album, but Shauf has a way of bringing the big questions down to earth. “Catch Your Eye” shuffles in a dreamy way, led by piano and Shauf’s subtle vocal delivery. It’s a such a beautiful track you don’t realize it’s a song about a guy stalking a girl.
There’s almost a tin pan alley feel to some of these songs. I could hear Tom Waits singing something like “Norm” or “All Of My Love”, while The Carpenters could have made “Sunset” or “Long Throw” a hit in 1970. One of my favorite tracks is “Halloween Store” with its vintage synths and driving rhythm. A stand out on an album filled with them.
Andy Shauf’s Norm is a fantastic album. It’s a lush record with melody and gorgeous arrangements throughout. But it’s also a smart, thoughtful, and deceptively dark when it wants to be. -J Hubner
4 thoughts on “Andy Shauf : Norm”
Haven’t gotten around to this one yet but I do enjoy me some Andy Shauf.
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I think you’ll enjoy it.
I wanted to like it more. I loved The Neon Skyline and my favourite thing he has done is the Foxwarren album. The Party was good too. I felt this album was maybe too caught up in the narrative and less in the music. Or I could be tiring a bit of his sound? A few songs stood out – Halloween store definitely one of them. Either way – happy you like it and I hope to catch him on his upcoming tour.
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I always forget about the Foxwarren record. Great one, that is. Norm doesn’t veer too off course from what came before, but I locked into it I suppose. Maybe what my ears needed.