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Best tunes of 2020: #26 Andy Shauf “Try again”

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Andy Shauf is a Canadian indie singer/songwriter that was born and raised in the prairie province of Saskatchewan but later relocated to Toronto, Canada’s largest city. Depending on how you count them, he’s released between four and seven full-length albums and a handful of EPs between 2006 and 2021. I personally only really became aware of him after the release of his breakthrough album, 2016’s “The party”, when I saw him perform on the side stage at Ottawa’s City Folk festival in 2017 and was really impressed by the low key but sweet vibe of his set.

Much has been made of “The party” and the fact that it was a concept album, telling multiple stories surrounding the attendees of a house party. By Shauf’s own admission, the end result was a happy accident but for its follow up, he purposefully set out to create a fully realized narrative when he began work on it. “The neon skyline” is like a thematic sequel, its characters a little older (but perhaps not wiser), graduating from house party to dive bar, and the tone is purposefully lighter, with Shauf realizing that months of touring somber material can actually get you down.

The events of the album take place over the course of an evening at one of Shauf’s favourite local haunts in the Parkdale neighborhood of the ‘Big Smoke’* and the eleven tracks are culled from a purported fifty or so that he wrote during the sessions. Over the course of the album’s thirty-five minute duration, we meet the narrator and his friends and some bar regular passing acquaintances. Through conversational lyrics, we learn about a recent ex named Judy, our narrator’s thoughts on the relationship, and eventually, said ex turns up at “The neon skyline”.

“Try again” is track nine of eleven on the album and describes the awkwardness of meeting and conversing with this recent ex, the Judy that we hear tell of a few times during “The neon skyline”. Interestingly, this is the most upbeat track on the album, yet still lilting and light, a boppy and whimsical thing. Woodwinds and handclaps and plenty of fun, keeping at bay, for as long as possible, the unfortunate ending that we are certain has to come to pass.

“Somewhere between drunkenness and jealousy
I watch her talking to some old friend
What a reunion, he recognized her across the room
How many years could there be to catch up on?
And somewhere between drunkenness and honesty
I make a silent toast to the things that I do and don’t miss”

*Toronto really isn’t smoky. This is really just my tongue-in-cheek nickname for the city, playing upon many people’s vision of it.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2020 list, click here.

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Playlists

Playlist: New tunes from 2021, part four

Well, we made through another year. It’s New Years’s Eve, a mere handful of hours left of 2021. I would normally be all optimistic for the new year, but I can’t help but question if things will really get better with the turn of the calendar. I saw someone post a meme recently on social media somewheres that gloomily said: “That moment that you realize that 2022 is pronounced twenty twenty too.” I laughed out loud because it rang so true.

Still, traditions must be adhered to. The countdown will go on, resolutions will be made and broken, young lovers will kiss at midnight, sparkling wines will be uncorked and guzzled, and of course, I will post the final instalment of my annual four-part playlist sharing some of the new tunes released during the year. You are welcome to go back and revisit parts one, two, and three, which include songs from the first three quarters of the year. And this final playlist, twenty five songs, much like the previous three, collects the bangers from the last three months. However, since new releases are typically scant at this time of year (the calendar usually being more full of reissues and box sets for Christmas), I bolstered whatever spots remain with the b-sides, or tracks that just missed being included in the previous three parts.

As rough as the year has been personally and for all of us collectively, we’ve at least had some great music being created and released to keep us going. In some areas of the world, things began opening up in the fall and live shows were being held, a sort of tease and taste of how things can be if they ever return to normal, and then, Omricon swept in to remind us that this pandemic isn’t quite beaten yet.

But let’s focus, just for a few minutes, on the joy of music, shall we? Right then.

Highlights of this playlist’s last twenty-five songs include:

    • “Still the same” is infectious synth pop from the latest album by Princess Century, the solo project of Maya Postepski (ex of Austra and TR/ST)
    • Always whimsical and dreamy and mellow rocking, Luna frontman Dean Wareham delivers fun on “The past is our plaything” from his newest solo album
    • On “Dying in LA”, Canadian indie electronic rock band, Gold and Youth, channels OMD and Simple Minds for the soundtrack of the film that John Hughes never made
    • And speaking of 80s revival, Nation of Language do their best impression of New Order on “Across that fine line”
    • It’s almost sickening how Elbow keep continuing to make untouchable and beautiful music each and every album but songs like “Six words” draw me in every time
    • Departure Lounge came out of nowhere earlier this year to release their first album in two decades and songs like the jangly “Australia” show why more people should have missed them
    • And finally, “(We like to) Do it with the lights on” is just one of many reasons I’m glad that Nicholas Thoburn didn’t stop making music as Islands, as he had threatened back in 2016

For those who don’t use Spotify or if the embedded playlist below doesn’t work for you, here is the entire playlist as I’ve created it, complete with links to YouTube videos:

1. “Pool hopping” Illuminati Hotties (from the album Let me do one more)

2. “Human touch” Pond (from the album 9)

3. “Still the same” Princess Century (from the album s u r r e n d e r)

4. “Mid-century modern” Billy Bragg (from the album The million things that never happened)

5. “The past is our plaything” Dean Wareham (from the album I have nothing to say to the mayor of L.A.)

6. “Aquamarine” Hand Habits (from the album Fun house)

7. “Bessie, did you make it?” Marissa Nadler (from the album The path of the clouds)

8. “Wasted” The War On Drugs (from the album I don’t live here anymore)

9. “Proud home” Lily Konigsberg (from the album Lily we need to talk)

10. “Miss Moon” Penelope Isles (from the album Which way to happy)

11. “Dying in LA” Gold & Youth (from the album Dream baby)

12. “Across that fine line” Nation Of Language (from the album A way forward)

13. “Turning green” Courtney Barnett (from the album Things take time, take time)

14. “It should have been fun” Pip Blom (from the album Welcome break)

15. “Royal morning blue” Damon Albarn (from the album The nearer the fountain, more pure the stream flows)

16. “Six words” Elbow (from the album Flying dream 1)

17. “Tell me tell me tell me” Rinse (from the EP Wherever I am)

18. “Australia” Departure Lounge (from the album Transmeridian)

19. “Too loud” Autogramm (from the album No rules)

20. “(We like to) Do it with the lights on” Islands (from the album Islomania)

21. “When I come around” Nap Eyes (from the EP Nap Eyes)

22. “When it breaks” Quivers (from the album Golden doubt)

23. “The right thing is hard to do” Lightning Bug (from the album A color of the sky)

24. “In the stone” The Goon Sax (from the album Mirror II)

25. “Jaywalker” Andy Shauf (from the album Wilds)

As always, wherever you are in the world, I hope you are safe, continue to be well, and well, enjoy the tunes.

If you’re interested in checking out any of the other playlists I’ve created and shared on these pages, you can peruse them here.

Categories
Playlists

Playlist: New tunes from 2020, part one

I can hardly believe that we’re already a third of the way through 2020 and at the same time, with everything going on, I find myself wondering how it’s only the end of April. Indeed, the picture above was taken at the end of February, a mere couple of weeks before we were all sent to our respective rooms to think about what we’ve done, and even that fun weekend spent with friends seems so long ago now.

I started doing these “New tunes of…” Spotify playlists last year, the plan being to post 25 new songs from the previous three months, four times during the year, to have 100 great songs in total. I was only semi-successful at this last year and this year has already gotten off to a rocky start, seeing as that I’m only getting around to sharing this first playlist 2 or 3 weeks later than I was hoping for. To try to make up for my shortcomings, though, I’ve linked each song in the list to its respective YouTube video, in addition to my usually routine of embedding the complete Spotify playlist at the end.

This first playlist for 2020 sees a handful of old and some recent favourites of mine but also a lot of new discoveries. Highlights for this quarter include these:

      • I’m not a fan of everything on Okay Kaya‘s art pop sophomore album but “Insert generic name” tickles my funny bone and has me humming along every time
      • “Try again”, a great track off Andy Shauf‘s latest concept album, “The neon skyline”: hilarious, endearing, and relatable to anyone who’s run into an ex while drinking
      • It’s been five years since Cornershop‘s last record and more than a decade since they released one that I’ve loved but the latest, “England is a garden”, is pretty amazing and opening track, “St Marie under canon”, has had me bopping for weeks
      • New Zealand singer/songwriter Nadia Reid has quite the voice and how could I not fall for “Oh Canada”, a song about how she would like visit to my home country
      • “Ella” is something akin to something Enya or Loreena McKennitt might’ve done, but definitely darker and more haunting, and it’s got me curious about Myrkur‘s (Amalie Bruun, ex of Ex Cops) previous work
      • Just when I’d completely written off Mr. Morrissey, he returns after many years of disappointing me with a new album full of bangers, of which “Jim Jim Falls” is just one
      • “Can’t do much” is the third single off the latest album by Katie Crutchfield, aka Waxahatchee, and sees her cheerfully paying tribute to some of her favourite female singer/songwriters

For those who don’t use Spotify or if the embedded playlist below doesn’t work for you, here is the entire playlist as I’ve created it:

1. “But you” Alexandra Savior (from the album The archer)

2. “Your light” The Big Moon (from the album Walking like we do)

3. “Everything else has gone wrong” Bombay Bicycle Club (from the album Everything else has gone wrong)

4. “Insert generic name” Okay Kaya (from the album Watch this liquid pour itself)

5. “Try again” Andy Shauf (from the album The neon skyline)

6. “Under glass” Wolf Parade (from the album Thin mind)

7. “I celebrate my fantasy” The Homesick (from the album The big exercise)

8. “Ms. California” Beach Bunny (from the album Honeymoon)

9. “I will not return as a tourist” Boniface (from the album Boniface)

10. “Baddies” Lanterns On The Lake (from the album Spook the herd)

11. “Everything has changed” Best Coast (from the album Always tomorrow)

12. “Alien with a sleep mask on” Ratboys (from the album Printer’s devil)

13. “Control” Brooke Bentham (from the album Everyday nothing)

14. “The main thing” Real Estate (from the album The main thing)

15. “Bloodstream” Soccer Mommy (from the album Color theory)

16. “Jack Parsons” Luke Haines & Peter Buck (from the album Beat poetry for survivalists)

17. “St Marie under canon” Cornershop (from the album England is a garden)

18. “Oh Canada” Nadia Reid (from the album Out of my province)

19. “Be your drug” Circa Waves (from the album Sad Happy)

20. “Give/take” Porridge Radio (from the album Every bad)

21. “Ego” Moaning (from the album Uneasy laughter)

22. “Ella” Myrkur (from the album Folkesange)

23. “Jim Jim Falls” Morrissey (from the album I am not a dog on a chain)

24. “Mark Zuckerberg” Nap Eyes (from the album Snapshot of a beginner)

25. “Can’t do much” Waxahatchee (from the album Saint Cloud)

Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are safe, continue to be well, and well, enjoy the tunes.

If you’re interested in checking out any of the other playlists I’ve created and shared on these pages, you can peruse them here.