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Andy Shauf - Wilds Music Album Reviews

Andy Shauf - Wilds Music Album Reviews
Because it’s not beholden to some overarching conceit, the latest album from the Toronto-based singer-songwriter sounds looser, a bit wilder, more lackadaisical in a sadsack sort of way.

Andy Shauf’s most recent records were concept albums about social anxiety, vividly conceived and self-contained. In 2016, the Saskatchewan-born, Toronto-based singer-songwriter released The Party, a collection of songs all set at the same get-together and filled with awkward encounters and bouts of crippling self-doubt. His follow-up, 2020’s The Neon Skyline, sat with the denizens of his favorite bar for one night, eavesdropping on their conversations and laughing at their tortured pick-up lines. Both have gained added poignancy now that such gatherings are much more fraught. Wilds, his surprise-released new album, was originally intended to take a similar shape: he wrote a handful of songs that followed the Skyline barflies forward a few years, just to see where their lives took them. He soon abandoned that idea and instead started writing about one character’s ex-girlfriend, a woman named Judy. But that longer character study got scrapped, too.

Wilds combines those two ideas into something that’s neither/nor. It’s not strictly a sequel, but it’s not completely unrelated either. It’s all part of the Andy Shauf Extended Universe. Despite such tortured origins, the album works surprisingly well. Because it’s beholden to no overarching conceit, the music sounds looser, a bit wilder, more lackadaisical in a sadsack sort of way, its arc less predetermined and its themes emerging more organically. By ceding control, Shauf allows the songs to wander wherever they want, paying their tab at the Skyline and heading out into the world.

Even as he extends his universe, he pares his songs down to their barest bones. Shauf has described it as a collection of demos, but that might actually be underselling it, because there’s as much wit in his playing as in his songwriting. Forgoing the lush sound of previous albums, Wilds is lovingly, wryly minimalist, and he arranges these instruments—most of which he played himself—as though blocking a short play with a small cast. An electric guitar punctuates his worries on “Call” with a single funereal strum, then disrupts “Green Glass” with a riff as unruly as a cowlick. And the rhythm section seems to be mocking him on “Jeremy’s Wedding (Wilds),” especially that “Walk On the Wild Side” bassline. It’s a fine setting for his distinctive voice, which chews on his consonants and wrings his syllables into unusual shapes.

Shauf can be clever, but like John Darnielle—another writer given to self-imposed songwriting conceits—he’s never merely clever. There’s always some dark fear or gnawing anxiety just under the surface of his songs. “Jaywalker” is like one of those gruesome old highway safety films, except the danger here is reckless moping rather than reckless driving. “Jaywalker with your head hung down, never saw it coming,” he sings over a marching beat, “it” being the car that slams into the protagonist who is so lost in his worries that he’s oblivious to oncoming traffic. He’s less concerned about the root of such melancholy and more interested in its effect in the real world. The humor underscores the pathos, and vice versa.

There’s a hint in the lyrics that the doomed jaywalker is actually Judy’s forlorn ex, the same guy who narrated “Where Are You Judy” on The Neon Skyline, and it’s not a stretch to think he’s nearly killed just as he’s leaving that bar. All of these songs and their wayward characters are connected, but you don’t have to be familiar with any of Shauf’s previous albums to find something relatable and powerful in these new songs. You don’t have to map out that social network to be struck by the desperation of the lotto-playing lovers on album opener “Wilds (Judy)” or by the sadness of the unanswered questions on album closer “Jeremy’s Wedding (Wilds).” At heart these are songs about living with the weight of sadness, about the accumulation of severed relationships and missed connections and regrets both big and small. Change all the names and the album can still hit you like a speeding car.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Andy Shauf - Wilds Music Album Reviews Andy Shauf - Wilds Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Friday, October 08, 2021 Rating: 5

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