I’ve been following Andy Shauf for quite some time now and I’m always fascinated and surprised by how much I’m sucked into the worlds he creates. Starting with his previous albums The Party and The Bearer of Bad News, I was captured not only by his music, but by the characters he makes that inhabit some very real places and perspectives. A Canadian coming from small-town Saskatchewan and now living in Toronto, Andy always writes his songs from the places he has lived and people he has known. And with his new album, The Neon Skyline, things are no different.
The Neon Skyline is made up of eleven songs in which all the songs take place on the same night. In the album’s story, two friends meet at a bar and one realizes that his ex is back in town. From there, the narrator reflects on his past relationship with his ex, Judy, contemplating on their past, present, and potential future. Andy, who now lives in Toronto, wrote this album based on the very real Skyline Restaurant on Queen Street West which you can go and visit. And with Andy creating these incredibly rich and complex characters inhabiting this actual space, as a Torontonian, it really brings this album to life.
In songs like “Clove Cigarette” and “Things I Do,” Andy writes from the perspective of the narrator reminiscing on his past relationship. But even then, we don’t stick with the narrator for too long, as we jump around to different characters and see things from their perspectives. In “Living Room,” we hear a story from a friend of the narrator’s named Claire who talks about her past family trauma and her own relationship with her son. Using these characters, Andy is able to dive deeply and explore themes of nostalgia, regret, unresolved relationships, and change.
Throughout all of this, Andy creates melodies that help carry each message he delivers in his songs. “Try Again” is upbeat with bright guitars, clarinets (an Andy Shauf signature), and a marching drum beat, while in the beautifully heartbreaking “Firetruck,” Andy keeps it simple with the acoustic and a great guitar riff. Andy masterfully creates these melodies that suck us into this complex night, and honestly, it feels like watching a movie sometimes. An incredibly real movie that you can experience yourself just by going to the very same restaurant.
Honestly, all I can say is that this album is beautifully fascinating. Andy is a master at painting these thoroughly realistic scenes and emotions and it has been wonderful following his work these past couple years. Though all of his songs are emotionally universal, there’s something special in knowing that he writes grounded in Canadian places that we live in. And even in all the pain and regret that he sings about in these places, there is beauty in it all as well.
Standout Tracks: Where Are You Judy, Living Room, Try Again, Fire Truck, Changer