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Andy Shauf - Norm (Album Review)

Monday, 20 February 2023 Written by Craig Howieson

Photo: Angela Lewis

It's well known that there is a bar in Boston where everybody knows your name, and it seems appropriate that Andy Shauf’s latest record ‘Norm’ shares its name with one of the most recognisable characters from the iconic sitcom Cheers.

After all, this is the man who, on 2020’s ‘The Neon Skyline’, captured the essence of the local speakeasy and its ability to provide both a backdrop and portal into a myriad of lives better than almost anyone who has tried before. A master of penning semi-autobiographical lyrics that give glimpses of the inane minutiae of everyday life, as well as its major moments, Shauf has a way of allowing you to not only follow  his footsteps, but inherit his world.

‘Norm’ marks a departure from what has come before, though, as Shauf’s lyrics become looser and more open to interpretation. Rather than eavesdropping over beers in a booth, it is hazy and hard to pin down, like viewing the world from a deck after a jug of margaritas. 

Narrative threads are started and then dropped, only to resurface again as if to make sure you are paying attention. Musically, too, it is a shift. With less to latch onto and more to get lost in, his punchy melodies and direct guitar work give way to lounging jazz and stoned R&B. 

On a surface level, it is an easy listen. But it is a record that is unlikely to pass you by. Shauf’s voice is a pure delight, yet whenever things start to sound a little too pleasant that they threaten to lose their edge you are wrongfooted by a stray image or unexpected turn of phrase. 

There is something amiss with the faces that appear and then fade throughout the album; a hint of underlying deviance that settles after repeated listens. Halloween Store, the closest relative to anything from ‘The Neon Skyline’, is disrupted by wobbly synths that leave an unnerving mark. On Long Throw, perhaps the album's sweetest-sounding moment, you can’t help but wonder how healthy the protagonist's obsession with the arrival of a party guest is. “Checking over and over,” Shauf sings. “Wondering when you will arrive.”

Shauf is an intriguing songwriter who writes genuinely interesting songs. But there is more to him than that. Far from being literary exercises, on ‘Norm’ he teams intellect with a musical palette to match, and creates another, slightly wonkier, world for us to walk around in. 

Andy Shauf Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat May 27 2023 - BRIGHTON Old Market
Mon May 29 2023 - LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
Tue May 30 2023 - GLASGOW Queen Margaret Union
Thu June 01 2023 - LONDON Hackney Empire
Fri June 02 2023 - MANCHESTER New Century
Sat June 03 2023 - BRISTOL Trinity Centre

Compare & Buy Andy Shauf Tickets at Stereoboard.com.


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