The Bearer of Bad News
Until recently, Andy ShaufÂ had been hand-making all of his CDs. Paper and cardboard sewn together, printouts, labels. Over the last three years, Iâ€™ve had the pleasure of listening to most of his albums during car rides with a friend. They are especially endearing because you can always tell he recorded them himself. And then I open up the Bearer of Bad News â€œgatefold eco-caseâ€ to find foldout linear notes, aÂ chic layout for the lyricsâ€”jus- tified, non-lineated, sort of emphasizing the recurrence of dreams in the songsâ€”some good quality paper, and some really soft white-blue artwork.
Before you put the album on, know that nine- elevenths of the songs areÂ completely depressing. But also know itâ€™s weirdly easy goingâ€”your plain old ski lodge singer-songwriter tunesâ€”un- less youâ€™re savouring every lyric. The album has some of that hip instrumental noise. See â€œWendel Walkerâ€â€”melo- dramatic enough, and thenÂ he goes and adds some ofÂ said noise. You can tell Shaufâ€™s working his ass off, you can tell heâ€™s getting older, better at putting songs together for sure, getting a bit sadder. I think the track that gets you in all of Shaufâ€™s corners, if youâ€™re only going to listen to one, is â€œJesus Sheâ€™s a Good Girl,â€ and if youâ€™re going to listen to two, â€œYouâ€™re Out Wasting.â€
If you know people who like Shaufâ€™s stuff, youâ€™veÂ probably heard them com- pare him to Elliott Smithâ€”itâ€™s probably the only really apt comparison. Just add some amorphous Canadian-Midwest winters. It was pleasant seeing Shauf play through the album live with some of his Victoria friends. On stage, it really feels like heâ€™s channeling Smith from the dead. He could barely mus- ter the courage to say anything other than â€œThis is fun,â€ and â€œThanks for coming.â€ I loved that. It was endearing. â€“Benjamin Willems