At times, the protagonist of Andy Shauf‘s new album Norm might strike you as a charming, shambling sort of fellow. Norm likes getting high, he watches The Price Is Right, he’s been known to lock his keys in his car, and he seems excited when Halloween is coming up. Those moments all seem innocuous enough, and it’s certainly easy to get lost in just how flat-out gorgeous the songs on this record are. But listening carefully, it starts to become clear that there’s something a whole lot more sinister going on here.
There’s a lot to process and ponder. Andy gives you just enough detail that you can begin to put the plot’s puzzle pieces together, but he also masterfully maintains a great deal of space in this story. It’s a space where your imagination can wander, where you might find yourself reflecting on some big questions, and which becomes increasingly unsettling as the album unfolds.
Andy’s previous album-length narratives like The Party and The Neon Skyline have garnered him JUNO Award nominations, and landed him on the short list for the Polaris Music Prize. And although this is another beautiful-sounding, long-playing yarn, well, he’s going in a dramatically different and darker direction with Norm. It’s a bit like a chilling, slow-paced novel; or a sinister movie; or a true crime podcast that involves divine intervention. It’s certainly an album like no other.
Norm was released February 10, 2023, via Anti- and Arts & Crafts. Originally from Estevan, Saskatchewan, Andy Shauf returned to the Canadian prairies in March of 2023 as part of an international album release tour. While preparing to play a big concert hall show at The Winspear Centre, he generously made space in his busy schedule to spend some time at CKUA’s Edmonton studios—and he brought his guitar!
In this episode, he shares intimate solo acoustic performances of two songs from Norm: “Halloween Store” and the album’s title track. And in a wide-ranging conversation, he tells us all about the record. He relates how a scrapped disco album was part of the process; the way a borrowed synthesizer reinvigorated his songwriting, and fired his imagination for this project; what it’s like to have gone from playing small clubs to concert halls in the matter of a few years; why a pop-up Halloween store in Regina, Saskatchewan, holds such special fascination for him; and how he considers himself a storyteller who happens to use music as his medium.
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