Even before we got into this COVID mess, Andy Shauf was bending our ear with those “grab a cold can” blues. The Saskatchewan raised artist—who pens and then executes yarns through quavered enunciation over freaky folk, ’70s AOR arrangements and chamber pop—maneuvered that small-town charm into the barroom anecdotes of Neon Skyline, achieving critical acclaim, despite his tour being stalled.
So as a means of saying “don’t forget me, mid-year people,” Shauf presents “Judy” b/w “Jeremy’s Wedding,” two b-sides from the Neon Skyline vault. Shauf explains: “They fit a little bit outside the timeline, as I was trying to keep everything to a single night. They were also slightly different arrangement wise, so I decided that they might be best released together, apart from the album.” True. They don’t meld with the 24-hours-in-song narrative MacGuffin, but we get more Shauf magic: sullen tones, additional fuzzy libation anchored tales with extended Schleprock brogue. Being dumbfounded never hit so calmly, even if you can’t make out all the words through that heavy Saskatchewan stop and go intonation, answering his own questions mid-verse. We get it. Life ruminations, no matter how quirky and personal, have no particular album length.
Neon Skyline, released at the beginning of 2020 and which remains one of the year’s best, is a follow-up to Shauf’s début solo project The Party from four years ago. The interconnected moments, flashbacks to different times, all written, performed, arranged, and produced by Shauf (the collection was pared down from 50 songs he wrote over the past 18 months) struck a chord so deep. It’s the kind of work that motivates someone to take a beat, absorb these missed opportunities, and be present for the somber. Never have I ever wanted so much to acknowledge the unease of a poor situation reader.
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to Treble since 2018. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in The Wire, 48 Hills, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK and Drowned In Sound.