Few new acts embody a fresh, modern take on Canadiana quite like Andy Shauf, legendary neo-folk artist and national treasure. Coming a year and a half after Shauf’s last album, Wilds, and a full seven since his critically acclaimed narrative masterpiece The Party, the Saskatchewanian sensation has arrived with his latest album: Norm.
To say Shauf’s style is unmistakable would be an understatement, and in this sense, Norm doesn’t deviate from the Andy we know and love. The moment he utters his first oddly-rounded vowel on the excellent opener “Wasted On You,” it’s clear that we’re in for yet another collection of expertly crafted, minimalist, melancholy jams. But rather than reiterating on his earlier success, Shauf completely transcends them with Norm, delivering a new sensation with staying power.
Sonically, Shauf has developed his sound greatly in certain areas. Simple acoustic guitar, tasteful wind sections, and sombre piano still reign supreme, but we also get warm, swelling synths, moody jazz drums, and new highs (literally and figuratively) from Shauf’s one-of-a-kind vocal delivery.
There’s no bad song on this album, but one that stands far above the others is “Halloween Store.” For an example of the satisfying strangeness that only Shauf can deliver, look no further than this surreal, funny ballad that smashes what we want and what we experience together, exploring longing and unrequited love at, presumably, inside a Spirit Halloween.
Each song off Norm offers new shapes of serenity, yet a gentle and unintrusive sadness permeates every bar. Shauf, known for his outstanding narrative approach to lyrics, has both expanded his focus to the greatest reaches of comprehension, while also delivering a more grounded, relatable story that anyone can connect to.
Norm is the story of, well, Norm, a lovesick loner longing for love. It sounds desperate, and perhaps it is. But thanks to Shauf’s seemingly effortless execution of these tracks, it all feels preordained—like the final chapter of the story is already written and patiently awaits us in some dusty drawer. This ties into the other big theme of Norm: an examination of faith, fate, and how they tie into our own little journeys through life’s winding paths.
This might read more like a book report than an album review—and that’s why Andy Shauf is so beloved, and what makes this album one of his best.
Duality runs amok on Norm, and goes to show that Shauf has so much more to share. Birds-eye-view meets an immutable personal perspective, colliding together into something like joy—happiness, in spite of it all.