Andy Shauf - The Neon Skyline
Review by Helen Lister, Rough Trade Bristol
"The album is certainly full of the kind of carefully observed details that can only come from experience: the way a certain pack of cigarettes can transport you to another time and place, the relief of a cold drink at the end of a hard day and the sense of dread mixed with longing that comes from hearing an old lover is back in town."
Andy Shauf’s genius lies in his ability to spin a story. That was made clear after the release of 2016’s Party, which told the story of the same house party from the varying perspectives of its different guests with a carefully observed wit. His latest album The Neon Skyline (released January 24 via ANTI-) follows a similar premise: comprised of eleven carefully composed snapshots, it focuses on a local dive bar - the aforementioned “Neon Skyline” - and the regulars who frequent it.
Although the bar is fictional, Shauf has admitted that the album is largely inspired by his own experiences and was written during a time when he would often spend his evenings in his own local watering hole. The album is certainly full of the kind of carefully observed details that can only come from experience: the way a certain pack of cigarettes can transport you to another time and place, the relief of a cold drink at the end of a hard day and the sense of dread mixed with longing that comes from hearing an old lover is back in town. The arrangements are intentionally simple, with the majority of the album being composed and performed on guitar as opposed to Shauf’s traditional piano.
As usual he wrote, performed, arranged and produced every song on the album however, this time he consciously chose to create an album that could be performed almost entirely on guitar without the need to rely on additional and more complex arrangements to complete it. That being said, the jazzier Thirteen Hours is certainly one of the stand out tracks on the album and offers a break from the guitar-led simplicity of the rest of the record. The other stand out track Try Again is also notably more upbeat than the rest of the album, providing a welcome contrast to its melancholic theme.
It’s this honest simplicity that really allows the pure poetry of Shauf’s lyrics to come to the fore, and rightly so: it would be a crime to let the album pass you by without paying attention to the stories told. But hey, if you don’t fancy listening to an audiobook, don’t worry - Shauf has also succeeded in creating an album that one can simply enjoy bopping to. The Neon Skyline has plenty of layers to it then, and heralds good news for Shauf fans old and new.
Favourite Track: Thirteen Hours
Related Listening: Foxwarren - Foxwarren, dotmichaeldot.
Sounds Like: Canadian Bruce Springsteen. Sort of.
Buy Andy Shauf - The Neon Skyline on CD or vinyl at roughtrade.com.
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