Monday, March 14, 2016

Listen: Andy Shauf - "The Magician"

photo by Geoff Fitzgerald
Though I had seen his name around a couple times, it wasn't until I had met a member of his backing band (then on tour with Teen Daze) that I sought out the music of Saskatchewan singer/songwriter Andy Shauf and discovered it was right up my alley. Shauf is a talented multi-instrumentalist, providing all of the instrumentals from guitar, drums, bass to piano and clarinet on his records and last year's The Bearer of Bad News reveals Shauf as an equally gifted songwriter with a knack for musical worldbuilding and imaginative narratives in the vein of Randy Newman or Harry Nilsson.

"The Magician", the first single from his upcoming ANTI- Records debut The Party, is pretty much all the proof you need that Shauf is the real deal. While The Bearer of Bad News was written more or less over a period of 5 years with Shauf narrowing down the 11 song tracklist from 100 songs, Shauf approached the The Party differently - writing and rewriting a set of 15 and selecting 10 for the record and abandoning his original plan to record with a band abroad in favor of in studio in his native Regina where he played and recorded everything himself with the exception of the strings.

"The Magician" is a bit of soft focus pop rock that somehow manages to pack together a hell of a lot in compositionally without feeling overstuffed - a pensive piano with the metered consistency of a ticking clock, underlying understated guitar, and soaring clarinet lines and ornamental string flourishes. And yet much like his lyricism, it's manages to handle everything with a tight precision that feels effortless sleek. Little words and phrases turn "The Magician" into a fascinating character study perhaps as direct result of Shauf's lyrical economy. Shauf is not a verbose songwriter, and does an impressive amount of heavy lifting through efficiency. "Just a shaking hand without a concrete plan" Shauf croons and it's pretty much the most revealing tidbit he offers about the song's focal point and the only one he really repeats as it functions as the de facto chorus alongside a stream of poppy "do"'s. "The Magician" is an absolutely spellbinding pop gem that manages to captivate from it's very first melody and leaves you wanting to know and experience more. That bodes incredibly well for the rest of Shauf's narrative collection The Party.

Andy Shauf's The Party in out May 20th on ANTI- worldwide and on Arts & Crafts in Canada.

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