By Liam Prost
There has always been something purely magnetic about Andy Shauf. Even before his breakout, The Bearer of Bad News, and his signing to Arts and Crafts and ANTI-Records, he had an illustrious early career crafting surprisingly adorable basement pop-folk. Bad News wasn’t where the brooding began, but it’s certainly his defining moment; a concise record which pairs Shauf’s round, slightly nasally vocal, with a now-signature heavily detuned guitar and clarinet. Shauf has ridden that record for all its worth, never losing momentum or buzz.
The Party has been festering in the background, an occasional new song permeating a set or cellphone clip on the Internet for a couple years now. As a result, a lot of the material on The Party isn’t exactly new. “Martha Sways” in particular has been floating in and out of sets since 2012. This doesn’t make for a disappointment however, the familiar songs feel comfortable, clean, and entirely contiguous with The Bearer of Bad News.
That said, the moments on the record that hit the hardest are the least familiar. Tracks like “Begin Again” and “Eyes of Them All” have a bounce and drive to them that feel fresh and even a little fun, although this is tempered by the consistently sour lyricism.
Like on his previous recordings, the vocals are often doubled, but more sparingly used for punctuation. The overdub also loosens during these moments, unsettling the lyrics to strong thematic effect. Lyricism and storytelling once again the centre-point of the record, this improved production strongly benefits the more strongly penned songs.
The Party presents itself as a conceptual record about parties, inebriation, and the loss and loneliness endemic in hollow social interaction, but it doesn’t commit hard enough to come across as gimmicky. Rather, the consistency of Shauf’s experiences at parties fleshes itself out strongly enough to be relatable. This is most evident on “Quite Like You,” wherein Shauf’s characteristic vulnerability breaks into a muted aggression, perfectly framed by his description of his own inebriation. Further, Shauf’s unending preoccupation with cigarettes mirrors the compulsion to break through the greater social strata to push to more intimate interactions, a side benefit to smoking that carries a pretty tangible appeal to introverts, even those who those who can’t stomach tobacco.
The Party is an extremely strong record for Shauf, thematically centered, beautiful, and as always, extremely charming.Andy Shauf, The Party