ALBUM REVIEW: Andy Shauf's 'The Party' personifies the introvert experience
With the mask of grand and beautiful instrumentations, Andy Shauf brings a surprisingly intimate yet objective commentary on the sweet, sad and romantic side of human interaction within a party setting. A concept album like none other in the recent years.
RELEASE DATE: 20 MAY 2016 GENRE : ALTERNATIVE / INDIE
In the social gathering that is the Party, one normally just enjoys oneself and wakes up the next day not remembering the details, but reminisce the rush and joy that happened the evening before. But not Andy. When someone as quiet as Mr. Shauf attends a party, you would expect just a miserable time, not socialising, and nothing of value would come out of the evening for him. But no, not for Andy.
A brutally objective and macro view of this interesting social phenomenon, The Party was an accidental and solemn concept album that captured sad, romantic little details that we normally forget from the night before. From the narrative that encapsulates the awkward and nerve-wrecking situation of getting mocked in an unfamiliar environment, to a love confession caused by suppressed affection and alcohol intoxication, Andy Shauf painted a graphic picture that’s close to home yet so foreign. An experience we all had, but couldn’t quite piece together how it went down.
I bumped into this album in a late afternoon, recovering from a light hangover myself. Not thinking much of it I just had it playing on the background as I cleaned up the mess I caused last night. But soon I found myself staring into the screen, putting on my headphones and listened it the whole way through. As he slowly unveils this dark, beautiful story between the characters in The Party, I found a piece of myself in almost every track.
The Magician was the perfect opening track. Grand string voicings, dark and spacious piano, and Andy swimming in between as he tells the story of a shy guy’s effort to not stand out throughout the night. And the grandness doesn’t stop as he trickles into Early to the Party and Twist Your Ankle, both seemingly telling a similar story of a shy narrator just trying to survive the night. And then there was (nothing) Quiet Like You. Probably my favourite track throughout the album, not simply just because of the change of pace, and the sweet, sweet instrumentation on this track, but again, the story behind it. Maybe it’s relatable, maybe I’m a closeted sadist, but I always loved unrequited love stories. And this is a really well written one. Won’t spoil too much, go experience it yourself. The album is filled with warm organic instrumentation, which is a staple of Andy throughout his discography. But this time round with a higher clarity and a better mixing job, which was one of my gripes with Andy’s previous works. Andy always had a knack in writing multiple voicings for different instrument, and it really shined this time round. Having the piano, strings and horns carrying an otherwise simple melody and groove really made a lot of the tracks on this album. The vocals on this album also had a significant improvement over his previous projects. Having this phase-y doubled vocals in the center, with occasional sweet harmonies really brought out another interesting side of his voice, like in the track Begin Again.
As the album picks up pace deep into the cut, you will still find unexpectedly dark lyrics still sitting on top of a cheery swinging tune, such as The Worst In You. And as things will slowly intensify down the tracklist, I found myself in many small auditory oasis as Andy cleverly slides in some interesting pauses and resolutions in unexpected spots; as if he’s letting you catch a small breather and have a little introspective moment before moving into another story in The Party.
My only gripe with the album is the closing track Martha Sways. While as a standalone track, it’s a nice quiet soothing track that highlights Andy’s peaceful voice and his calming guitar playing, in context of the album it really sounded it lacked something. It didn’t help that it sat right after a long pause of Alexander All Alone, which made it felt even more disconnected from the rest of the album. But I’m just nitpicking here.
I would have never expected such a sweet, dark, beautiful, fantasy like experience out of a retelling of something we don’t really think about a lot. But here it is, The Party, a story told by someone who never participated, but observed. Enjoy.
The Magician, Quite Like You, Begin Again WORST TRACK(S):
Martha Sways RATING:
4 / 5