Andy Shauf | Norm | ANTI-

Review: Andy Shauf – Norm

National Music Reviews

Andy Shauf

Street: 02.10
Andy Shauf = Elliott Smith + Chris Staples

Andy Shauf is the music world’s Wes Anderson. Shauf’s work is rich in imagery and lucid enough to send you to a different and odd world. Every time I find myself there, I picture the scenes he describes in an awkward, stunning manner. Norm is no exception—it was an experience I wish I could go back and have again for the first time.

On the first listen, I was given the chance to look over a lyric sheet and a bio, both of which I set aside. I submerged myself into Shauf’s signature, fever-dream style, enjoying new versions of the synth tunes and sweet clarinet harmonies that captured my attention years ago. About halfway through, I started to catch wind of some unsettling lyrics and remembered that Shauf doesn’t just have great clarinet lines and trademark, cool-guy vocals: He’s also a brilliant concept album artist. The bashful instruments tell a slow-moving story, zooming into small moments and giving their own rhetoric to the unfolding scene of events. I was reminded of the capacity Shauf has to tell an invasively chilling story. 

On my second listen, I pulled up the lyric sheet. This time, I was launched into a level of entertainment my attention span doesn’t usually have the time for anymore. I became enthralled in decoding the lyric sheet, figuring out who the characters could possibly be and feeling completely shocked at the events that transpired. Each track is a chapter of the same story from the perspective of one of the characters, both lyrically and sonically. I resisted the urge to read the lyrics ahead of the next track, forcing myself to dwell on each song as Shauf delicately sings them. 

It’s a story involving a stalker, eerie phone calls, obsession, astral projection and much more between the lines. It wasn’t until the third or fourth listen that I had completely decoded who the characters were. I listened again, finally understanding the thriller in full. I was able to hear nods in the music and fully experience the story for the first time, appreciating how effortlessly Shauf sings each line and perfectly delivers it like a line of prose while also being singable. I basked in the sound of the classic jazz piano, humble clarinets and emotional strings. They all played like a soundtrack to the story, never letting you know what you shouldn’t know yet and slowly inducing oddity and ambitious anxiety. 

If I could give one piece of advice to listeners, it would be to treat Norm as if it were a movie release you don’t want spoiled. Finding art like this is too valuable for someone on the internet to ruin the experience. Be careful what you Google until you’ve had your priceless experience with this profusely extravagant work. –Mary Culbertson

Read more reviews of records out on ANTI- here:
Review: The Drums – Brutalism
Review: Cass McCombs – Mangy Love