When Andy Shauf gained the attention of the public with his 2016 album, The Party, he was put on a pedestal, called a “gifted storyteller” who would reinvigorate the indie music scene with his blend of baroque pop and folk. His soothing voice even attracted the attention of Barack Obama, who once called the singer-songwriter one of his favourite artists. Not bad for a guy from small town Saskatchewan.
Now we have Norm, Shauf’s eighth album that continues his dive into narrative driven stories. He’s an elusive storyteller, one who only leaves breadcrumbs, offering a brief snapshot into the narrator’s points of view. For example, why is an unnamed character smiling at Norm (the narrator) through the windows of the “Halloween Store”? Why is there a sinister string section that sounds like something from a horror movie at the end of the track? We wait for an answer but never get one. It’s maddening but also purposeful. Shauf wants us to find the answers ourselves.
This is Norm’s halcyon world we’re hearing, from the perspective of his inner voices, other people he interacts with, or even from the melodies that appear throughout the album; like the brief fuzzy guitar line on “Daylight Daydreaming,” or the synthetic organs on “Don’t Let It Get To You.” It all sounds more refined than 2021s Wilds, sometimes on par with The Party, and just vague enough for the listener to make up their own interpretation.