Andy Shauf’s ‘The Party‘ Album Review
Album available here: https://andyshauf.bandcamp.com/album/the-party and on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, your dad’s computer, etc.
Magic man Andy Shauf has grown his hair long and graced us with a micro-masterwork. His album, ‘The Party’ was released on May 20th, and serves as our sad bad-news-bearer’s way of celebrating the return of sunshine this season. Though the album is festively named, the content is not an optimistically romanticized Black Eyed Peas kind of party – no no no. Shauf instead makes us miss high school drama by weaving us through a web of depressive social circumstances – each track describes some rich vignette of a conversation or highlight of the party. Conceptually, there’s all the necessary ingredients for a good bag of Party-Mix : someone comes too early and makes the host nervous, Jimmy’s way too high again (poor Sherry), a confession of love, a near death, and maybe even some dancing if you stick around through all that other shit.
The composition, concept and aesthetic of this album are all complementary with each other and with Andy’s style. After his last album, Bearer of Bad News, Shauf wanted to make sure the new album had arrangements that were actually performable (Andy records by himself so he of course on the last album he ended up with 10 or so clarinet tracks per song). While the instrumentation on the new album is stripped down in a way, there is maybe even a more diverse set of timbres used – clarinet and sax and other winds, as well as some moody guitar tones and pianistic flourishes. The eclectic instrument usage perfectly paints the picture of plethora of people all perhaps (im)properly orchestrated about.
The vocal delivery of storyteller Shauf has always been unique, and he keeps his tantalizing tone for the new record. Everything is more or less plainly displayed, but as heavily nuanced as the relationships being destroyed at this house party. At times it might sound like Andy is just riffing on his own tropes, but his art is so amicable and the stories are so organic that it all just grows on you as you listen again and again. His vocal melodies are infinitely inspiringly innovative and chronically chromatically catchy – there are no unfulfilled filler flubs.
Highlight tracks initially have gotta be the two singles ‘The Magician’ and ‘The Worst in You’ for being so short-sweet-simple-sexy. Past those first couple listens, the stories really become the juice to suck out of this fruit. ‘Quite Like You’ is a great relatable party story of drunkenly trying to get with your friend’s girl, knowing she can do better than him (better meaning you right now [thx alcohol hormones]). ‘To You’ is where things start to get more heart-throbbing (spoiler, the party goes kind of downhill as the night goes on). On this track the somber song singer asks Jimmy outside to talk, and hesitantly confesses his affection for the stoner. Jimmy is much too guarded to take this love seriously, and our poor narrator back-pedals. The other guests aren’t doing too great either though – e.g. we shouldn’t have left ‘Alexander Alone,’ because he falls the fuck down and realizes ‘that hell is found inside of me and nothing else will set me free.’
The album ends on a chilling note with ‘Martha Sways.’ The music is slowish, and with a melancholy tone tells us to ‘dance to the radio while the devil takes control’ – let’s give in and indulge and yeah it’ll be heavy but there isn’t really a better option anyway, okay? Here, at the very end, both depression and passion are at their peaks – ‘and I wanna die… dancing in her eyes.’