Andy Shauf: Wilds
LP | CD | DL
Out 24th September 2021
Andy Shauf follows up last year’s Neon Skyline with an album of extras and extended scenes recorded at the same time.
Last year, just days after lockdown in my adopted Spain hit, an album landed in my letterbox completely unexpectedly. It provided the perfect distraction from the world outside and inside, a story to get lost in. The concept of Andy Shauf’s Neon Skyline beautifully told the story of the awkwardness of a past love re-entering one’s life, when the embers still burn and relight, unrequitedly. On that album, the protagonist agonised over past mistakes, stumbling through the encounter, navigating missteps. The tale engaged and dragged you into his world. His new record, Wilds, is a collection of songs recorded at the same time, like extended scenes and outtakes left on the cutting room floor to aid the flow of the original piece. It again opens up the same world as Neon Skyline, offering new vignettes to the story.
From the opening song, we know we’re back there. Simply titled Judy, the lost love of the original tale, it takes us back to our protagonist’s memories his past with her. The simple idea of daily shared experiences, in this case checking lottery numbers, lopes along on a wandering rhythm, Shauf’s wonderfully lilting double-tracked voice gliding over the top. It lies outside the narrative of Neon Skyline, which all takes place on a single night. The same is true for album closer, the beautifully plaintive Jeremy’s Wedding. The two songs, originally b-sides, bookend the album well conceptually. The first an expression of the enjoyment of the day-to-day with a loved one, the last a lament to what was lost.
The album is full of lush instrumentation, Shauf’s playing guiding the listener through his world. Jaywalking is a highlight, a further insight into the night where everything crashed down around our couple. Elsewhere, such as on Call, there’s the creeping loneliness that comes with the expectation that the front door will open once again, a familiar voice bringing comfort. It’s in his ability to put these experiences of all into words where he shines as a storyteller. The use of dialogue dropped into the stirring hush of the vocals is affecting, pulling you further in.
With the release of Wilds, Shauf may have closed the book on the characters he created on Neon Skyline. It’s a great companion to the original album, like a disc of extras for those who want to delve further into the lives of his nameless protagonist.
All words by Nathan Whittle. Find his Louder Than War archive here.