The Bearer of Bad News
Until recently, Andy Shauf had been hand-making all of his CDs. Paper and cardboard sewn together, printouts, labels. Over the last three years, I’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 “gatefold eco-case” to find foldout linear notes, a chic layout for the lyrics—jus- tified, non-lineated, sort of emphasizing the recurrence of dreams in the songs—some good quality paper, and some really soft white-blue artwork.
Before you put the album on, know that nine- elevenths of the songs are completely depressing. But also know it’s weirdly easy going—your plain old ski lodge singer-songwriter tunes—un- less you’re savouring every lyric. The album has some of that hip instrumental noise. See “Wendel Walker”—melo- dramatic enough, and then he goes and adds some of said noise. You can tell Shauf’s working his ass off, you can tell he’s getting older, better at putting songs together for sure, getting a bit sadder. I think the track that gets you in all of Shauf’s corners, if you’re only going to listen to one, is “Jesus She’s a Good Girl,” and if you’re going to listen to two, “You’re Out Wasting.”
If you know people who like Shauf’s stuff, you’ve probably heard them com- pare him to Elliott Smith—it’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 he’s channeling Smith from the dead. He could barely mus- ter the courage to say anything other than “This is fun,” and “Thanks for coming.” I loved that. It was endearing. –Benjamin Willems