Andy Shauf: The Neon Skyline
On the title track of Andy Shauf’s new album The Neon Skyline, the Canadian singer-songwriter’s voice recalls the cadence and timbre of Paul Simon. Shauf is a similarly gifted, clever lyricist, just in a more low-key manner. The Neon Skyline is a concept album, but it’s a fairly straightforward, even mundane one: A guy goes to a bar, meets a friend, learns his ex-girlfriend is back in town and, eventually, she appears. Driven by jaunty acoustic guitars, jazzy interludes and woozy riffs, The Neon Skyline is a truly solo affair: Shauf wrote, performed and produced each song himself, retreating to a more insular approach after releasing an album with his band, Foxwarren, in 2018. There’s a conversational manner to the 11 tracks on The Neon Skyline , which is also the name of the bar the narrator frequents. (This is the type of establishment where bartender Rose “always knows just exactly what I need.”) It takes a strong lyricist to find compelling fodder in a phone call between friends about going to the bar: “I said, ‘Come to the Skyline, I’ll be washing my sins away,’” Shauf sings. “He just laughed; said, ‘I’ll be late, you know how I can be.’” The catchy “Clove Cigarette” explores how an object, a visual or even a smell can trigger a sense of nostalgia. By “Try Again,” the narrator is at a new bar with his ex, which prompts this exchange: “Somewhere between drunkenness and charity/ She puts her hand on the sleeve of my coat/ She says ‘I’ve missed this’/ I say, ‘I know, I’ve missed you too’/ She says, ‘I was actually talking about your coat.’” It’s just the kind of punchline that will make you want to go back to The Neon Skyline for another round.