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Andy Shauf | The Neon Skyline

The Saskatchewan singer-songwriter's latest concept album is a modest masterwork.


“Few artists are storytellers as deft and disarmingly observational as Andy Shauf. The Toronto-based, Saskatchewan-raised musician’s songs unfold like short fiction: they’re densely layered with colorful characters and a rich emotional depth. On his new album The Neon Skyline, he sets a familiar scene of inviting a friend for beers on the opening title track: “I said, ‘Come to the Skyline, I’ll be washing my sins away.’ He just laughed, said ‘I’ll be late, you know how I can be.'” The LP’s 11 interconnected tracks follow a simple plot: the narrator goes to his neighborhood dive, finds out his ex is back in town, and she eventually shows up. While its overarching narrative is riveting, the real thrill of the album comes from how Shauf finds the humanity and humor in a typical night out and the ashes of a past relationship.”


We’ve all been there, man. You’ve got nothing to do, nowhere to go and nada in the fridge, so you call your buddy and meet at the pub where you all hang out. A few rounds later, that ex you’ve been thinking about — you know, the one you never quite got over — shows up out of the blue, and you’ve had just enough to drink to think maybe you could get back together, despite the way she treated you. Will you? Won’t you? And is this really enough storyline to carry a concept album? You’ll have to listen to Neon Skyline to answer the first two questions. As for the third: In the skilled, sensitive hands of Saskatchewan singer-songwriter Andy Shauf, it most assuredly is. The solo followup to his likeminded 2016 musical narrative and commercial breakthrough The Party, the intimate and compelling Neon Skyline (set in a real-life Toronto watering hole) unfurls gracefully and gradually, chronicling a night of boozy camaraderie, nostalgic yearning and romantic revelation that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever had to confront love vs. loneliness at last call. Fahioned from the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist’s bittersweet melodies, lazily drawled vocals and powerful mellow brand of orch-tinged folk-pop, this modest masterwork might be the most Canadian concept album ever. Or at least until Shauf writes one about going to the lake on the long weekend, hanging out in Timmy’s parking lot after hockey practice, or apologizing.

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