Andy Shauf’s latest album evokes a 70s sound you long to hear on a jukebox in your local dive bar.
Three years have passed since I first heard Andy Shauf’s (then new) record “The Party.” A concept album where each song explored people attending a house party. I loved this album and played it for everyone who would listen. To say I’ve been anxiously awaiting his follow-up is an understatement. Expectations can be an exciting but dangerous thing though, and I’ve been let down by my share of favorite artists over the years. Thankfully, “The Neon Skyline” takes the baton from “The Party” and delivers!
The first song and album title track starts with a soft groove, led by the rhythm section (can you call it a section if one guy plays everything by himself?). Combining his clear-toned guitar and falsetto-harmonized vocals, the song is familiar to anyone who has heard Paul Simon’s treble and reverb soaked greatest hits. Once you’ve pushed the door open, you’ll be lost in this world he has created. Employing either acoustic guitar or clean electric as root for the songs, you’ll hear marimba type synths, horns, tambourines and gentle snares keeping time.
Such perfectly manicured songs can be so easy to listen to, you may overlook how superb the lyrics are. Shauf’s pleasant, mellow voice has similarities with Cass McCombs, Paul Simon and Conor O’Brien (Villagers). His lyrics are intelligent without being unnecessarily highbrow sophisticated or exclusive. He sings as effortlessly as he strums his guitar. His voice is poised and confident yet vulnerable, rather than brash or boastful.
Characters who reside in his songs are far from perfect specimens of our human tribe but, relatable distillations of troubled souls we all know. His characters similarly share dualities: introverted yet exuberant, lonely but romantic, friendly while still detached. Everything sonically and verbally is soft and velvety like a glass of Dubonnet or sherry. My personal favorite line comes in “Try Again:” “Somewhere between drunkenness and chivalry.” A place I seem to dwell in too often.
2020 may have just begun, but I may have a contender for album of the year.