New Album Review

“Norm” by Andy Shauf Album Review

Andy Shauf is a Canadian singer, songwriter who is known for his storytelling-oriented discography.

In his past work he has fabricated a world of his own, following a list of different characters, social situations and stories. If you are interested in reading more about his past discography, read my Artist Profile of him.

His newest album “Norm” follows the morally questionable actions and intentions of Norm as his pursues his love.

As seen in some of his other releases, Andy Shauf ties in themes of high powers. Past releases such as “Satan” and “Alexander All Alone” have placed God and the devil as passive players in the stories of each character. However, in “Norm” this theme takes root at the core of the album.

Typically throughout Andy Shauf’s work each character has represented an internal struggle, memory of emotion within the singer songwriter himself.

When I attended Andy Shauf’s concert at the Cat’s Cradle early 2022, one of the fellow audience members yelled out between sets: “Who’s Judy?”, one of the most prominent characters in Andy’s past albums “Wilds” and “The Neon Skyline”. In response Andy replied simply with “Me”.

“Norm” takes a different approach. The story unfolds through the perspectives of Norm and God himself. In an interview with Vanity Fair Andy Shauf states:

“There’s multiple perspectives to the story. There’s the God perspective, there’s Norm, there’s another character. It’s a bit of a puzzle, but there’s still a lot of space in it where I don’t really spell out what happens. In the end, I think if you listen closely, you’re gonna get pretty close to an understanding. If you are purely listening to it for the enjoyment of the music, you’re not gonna catch any of that.”

One component I love about his music is the whimsical, indirect, mysterious nature of his lyrics. There are many interpretations to be made. “Norm” provides music that is deeply driven my storytelling with variety and mystery that begs for another listen.

Song and Lyric Highlights

“Norm”, the namesake track off the album is subtle, melodic, and introduces a new thematic boldness to his discography. Andy Shauf has so much control over his lyrics. He adds the perfect amount of description to create a vivid story without overwhelming the listener.

Particularly in the dialog between Norm and the Godlike voice in this track, there is so much beautiful subtly:

“And when the television’s silent
I speak into his dream
‘Stop these wicked ways
And I will lead you to
The promised land”

Following with “Halloween Store”, this song combines joyful pop with eerie illusion. Andy gives us some of his best lycris yet. Andy molds the awkwardness and minutia of daily life into compelling, graceful music:

“I wondered if I’d locked the house
Walked back and found that I hadn’t
But now my keys were in the car
Walked to the car, pulled the handle
And it snapped back, at least I’d locked one door”

This song is one of the best examples of character building within his discography. The back track gives the song such innocent optimism, but the lyrics and vocal work gives the song an underlying darkness. It is a great demonstration of Norm as a character and the world he lives in.

“Sunset” continues some of the innocence heard in “Halloween Store”, but slowly reveals the true intentions of Norm under a sweet and loving musical facade.

“You get quiet, you are scared
Just watching the sunset
And I’m letting you know
Just how long I’ve loved you for”

Each and every song off this album has such depth. If you are interested in learning more about some of Andy’s intentions and stories behind each track, Andy Shuaf had an interview with Sterogum that perfectly walks through each track.

I’m looking forward to hearing more from Andy Shauf. If you are interested in seeing him live, he will be touring to the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw, NC. Tickets and show information can be found here.

By Michelangelo

I'm also a DJ at WKNC and co-host Saloon Tunes every Friday morning 8 to 10am!