Andy Shauf Continues to Flex His Storytelling Strengths on 'Wilds'

BY Wesley McLeanPublished Sep 29, 2021

Andy Shauf crafted something incredibly special when he put together his 2020 release The Neon Skyline. The album was a tour-de-force for the Saskatchewan-born singer-songwriter, as he wrote, arranged and performed an album that felt more like he'd written, directed and starred in a movie. It was an incredibly cinematic offering that explored the complexities of human relationships and the emotions that go into and come out of them. Through that LP, Shauf created a vivid world with a colourful cast of characters and did so with an unrelenting charm that persisted through the story's highs and lows.

With Wilds, Shauf returns to the world he created with Skyline, delivering a selection of tracks recorded during that period that didn't make the cut, though this is far from being a B-sides or demos compilation. In fact, it's quite the opposite, as instead of feeling like a collection of deleted scenes from a movie, Wilds feels more like a proper spin-off series building on its foundation.

While the album doesn't share the same level of structured, deliberate storytelling that was present throughout the entirety of Skyline, it does a great job presenting an anthology of shorter stories that expand on the world established on that album. With recurring characters and further exploration of the relationship between Shauf's protagonist and his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend Judy, Wilds is a perfect companion piece to Skyline, and manages to be so without feeling too similar or derivative.

Wilds manages to deliver an experience that houses enough familiar faces and aspects to feel rewarding for returning fans but keeps the formula fresh enough for it to still feel new. This is due, in large part, to Shauf's brilliant songwriting and storytelling, as he once again showcases his innate ability to write these simple yet deeply affecting lyrics, putting the listener squarely in the protagonist's shoes and experiencing these tales right there with them.

On top of his prowess as a writer, how he delivers his lyrics and chooses to score them musically, perfectly captures the emotions that he is trying to relay. Moments like the sombre, stripped-back "Call" immediately grasp the listener as Shauf opens with the lines "I want to hear your voice call / down the empty street / telling me to wait up / telling me anything" over nothing but the soft strums of his acoustic guitar. In having his hand in all aspects of the creative process, he's able to present his stories in the most emotionally impactful and resonant way possible.

For an album comprised of songs that didn't make that cut when recording his previous project, Wilds feels incredibly well thought out and complete. It may lack the narrative strength and cohesion of The Neon Skyline, but that's about the only thing that's lacking in comparison. Shauf delivers a collection of tracks here that showcase exactly what made Skyline so incredible, and in turn, what makes him such a captivating artist. Between this album, Skyline and 2016's The Party, Shauf is on an impressive run, and it'll be interesting to see where he goes next.
(Arts & Crafts)

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