Andy Shauf - Darker Days
Record Label: P Is for Panda
Release Date: May 19th, 2009
Using the word "brilliant" to describe Andy Shauf's new album, Darker Days, is not only an injustice to him, but to every stronger word that's ever earned the right to describe an album of this caliber. While this adjective does describe Darker Days, I'm afraid that it doesn't quite convey the exact amount of respect this album deserves. To say the least, in a year teeming with prestigious releases, Andy Shauf's debut album easily competes with, if not beats, almost all of them.
Darker Days has struck a delicate balance between catchiness and quality. Most artists seem to struggle with this, sacrificing one in pursuit of the other, creating tunes that are either too superfluous or too dense. Shauf, however, has managed to maintain a level of respect while making an album that is purely infectious through it's use of simple, yet eloquent songs. Tracks like "You Remind Me" are catchy and heartwarming, while the more somber numbers, such as "Give Me Words," are emotive and simply stunning. His lyrics, which are often down to earth, convey his emotion excellently. My personal favorites stem from "Give Me Words" and read: "Don't give me wrong or right, just walk me home tonight. We'll find the little things so dark beyond our sight. The dark, the darker days, that never go away." Lyrics like these are commonplace throughout the album, though the themes vary. While they never hit quite as hard out of context, Shauf's quiet and emotion-laden delivery really drives them home.
The intimate nature of this album stems from quite a few factors, including the simple and charming instrumentation, as well as Shauf's relatable lyrics. Only half of this album is translated sonically; it's the emotive quality of each of these tracks that has such a huge impact. While "You Remind Me" may have an infectious vocal melody and excellent harmonica backing, it's the fact that I'm forced to smile the whole way through that causes me to keep running back to it. The same goes for "Were You In Love With Me"; while it's musically pleasing, it's the somber mood that prevails and makes it so attractive. The addition of different instrumentation helps this, with harmonicas, banjos, and a variety of other instruments lending their hand in creative varied and layered atmospheres.
Despite the varied nature of the album, the whole thing sounds cohesive and expertly orchestrated. It's an album for any occasion, whether it's a warm, spring day and I'm feeling jubilant, or a cold night, feeling the day's absence, Darker Days fits the mood. There hasn't been a moment yet that this album hasn't fit in one way or another. Through each listen, I'm enchanted again and again; there's not a moment of the album that deserves skipping, and as hyperbolic as my language may seem, I assure you it's not.
It's no surprise that Shauf was one of the first new artists signed to the newly created P Is for Panda label. With the right audience, he has the ability to help this charitable organization succeed. If people were aware of him, I almost guarantee Shauf could be a well respected, as well as much enjoyed, artist. I could write compliment after compliment for thousands of words about this album, but I still probably wouldn't do it justice. Instead, you should listen for yourself. The title Darker Days isn't an omen, and in fact, as long as I have the promise that Andy Shauf will continue creating albums, I think the days ahead are likely to be a little brighter.