Written By: Ethan Griggs
My Music: ethangriggsmusic.virb.com
Remember those parties you went to while you were in high school? The ones where you knew what you were doing was illegal but you didn’t really care, or didn’t even really know what the consequences were? Were you the person who always showed up too early, or the person who always drank a little too much? Were you either standing in the corner sober as a brick or emerging out from every wall to talk shit about your best friend who was in the next room while you hit on his girlfriend? Andy Shauf can relate. The Canadian singer/songwriter and multi instrumentalist explores those classically awkward, drunk nights with people who may or may not be actual friends of yours on his debut album for the Arts and Crafts label, The Party.
The album, which was recorded and produced completely by Shauf (excepting strings recorded by his friend Colin Nealis), feels like a concept album, as it seems like the songs take place at an actual party with actual people that Shauf knows in the timespan of a single night – but Shauf’s website states differently: “The Party is not exactly a concept record, but it was a way for the singer-songwriter to get out of his own head. An after-party record, more like it. Or for the hangover the next day, when only Shauf’s songs can make any sense of the emotionally-charged scenarios that played out the night before. When The Party was over, Shauf had no regrets—even if its characters have more than a few.”
The Party is thirty-seven minutes of swaying soft rock, but don’t for one second mistake this music as boring and repetitive. Shauf creates beautiful sounding realms of sound, using strings, brass, spongy acoustic guitars, and an airtight rhythm section. While some songs remain drunkenly poetic and starry-eyed, others increase the tempo and showcase some of Shauf’s best moments as a songwriter and musician.
While the album can definitely be open to interpretation, it’s clear that Shauf had certain people in mind when writing this record. This album seems to be loosely based on a single night where Shauf was caught in a love triangle with his best friend and, you guessed it, his best friend’s girl. Jeremy and Sherry are in a fight and Shauf finds himself alone with Sherry in a room and rips his best friend for his attempts to “bring her down”. “Jimmy’s so stoned, I’d be surprised/If he saw the tears in Sherry’s eyes/She’s standing in the corner, staring at the floor/I wonder what the hell he did this time”, he describes on the standout track, “Quite Like You”, before he proceeds to tell Sherry alone that he thinks she deserves better – but then “Jimmy walks over and, to my surprise/ Sherry puts her arm around his side.
The album certainly has more fancy-free moments, though. It’s hard to tell exactly what the first track and the album’s lead single, “The Magician”, is about. Obviously, magic is a theme: Do you find/It gets a little easier each time you make it disappear/Oh fools, the magician bends the rules/As the crowd watches his every move”. It’s unclear, though, if this song relates to the underlying theme of the album. Regardless, as soon as you hear the “doo doo doo” of the chorus, then it doesn’t matter what the song is about. Andy Shauf has created a uniquely beautiful and honest work that any awkward, love-lusting young person can relate to on his first truly great album, The Party.