If your music library is in need of inspiration or updating, lend an ear to Andy Shauf’s new “Neon Skyline.”

The Toronto-based singer-songwriter released soft rock “Skyline” in January. It’s scored him rave reviews from Paste, Stereogum, NPR and Pop Matters.

It’s a brilliantly executed concept album about an evening’s adventures with Shauf, best friend Charlie and Shauf’s ex-girlfriend, Judy. There’s also Claire and a bartender named Rose, and it all takes place at a bar called The Skyline.

Given we’re all in some form of lockdown these days, the setting alone seems likely to garner him new fans.

An upbeat title track sets the stage for what’s to come:

Neon Skyline

About the artist

From Saskatchewan, Andy Shauf released his debut “Darker Days” album in 2009. Then came two EP’s – “Waiting for the Sun to Leave” and “Sam Jones Feeds His Demons.”

“Bearer of Bad News” arrived in 2012, and Shauf signed with Arts & Crafts Productions in 2015. He toured Europe as opening act for the Lumineers in 2016, releasing “The Party” in May of that year.

It’s not easy to categorize his music genre, but pop-rock or folk-pop probably suffice. A modern-day Paul Simon is another apt descriptor.

Natural storyteller

Shauf wrote, arranged, produced and performed (guitar, piano, woodwinds) every song on “Neon Skyline.” A natural storyteller, his forte’ as a musician lies in an ability to craft clever, original arrangements that draw us in. He also has a penchant for writing lyrics that capture – and charmingly magnify – life’s little moments.

Take “Dust Kids” from “Skyline,” for example. Here, Shauf chronicles a seemingly casual conversation about young children remembering past lives.

Opening lines: “Charlie asks me if I believe in reincarnation / I say, no, but please go on.” We’re hooked.

On pensive “Living Room,” he’s got us eavesdropping on a painful, thought-provoking conversation that suddenly becomes too private. And on captivating “Clove Cigarette,” Shauf delicately nurses his broken heart without becoming too morose. His “Thirteen Hours” with its touches of jazz is another highlight.

There isn’t a bad track on the album, but melodically cheerful “Things I Do” might take the prize. “Things I Do” is currently on our playlist.

“Why do I do / The things I do / When I know I am losing you?” repeats a lilting refrain.We understand.

Who among has never hung on to a relationship just a little too long?

Things I Do

Notably, the songs on “Skyline” were chosen from a total of 50 tracks Shauf wrote over the course of a year. When all’s said and done, what makes “Neon Skyline” so fine is Shauf’s ability to hone in on the little things…those small moments that make up the human experience.

Whether it’s “I looked in my frig / It was a dark scene, so I buttered some bread,” or “Come to The Skyline / I’ll be washing my sins away,” we can relate.

One for your collection

“Neon Skyline” is a most welcome addition to the music scene as we await much brighter days. Highly recommended!

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Shauf played Portland’s Revolution Hall in February…let’s hope he’ll come back soon.

Meanwhile, you can find his music on iTunes, and on his website.

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Cynthia Orlando
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