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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.