Released: June 2015
After critical acclaim from the likes of Consequence of Sound, The Line of Best Fit and BBC Radio DJs Huw Stephens, Lauren Laverne and Gideon Coe, Andy Shauf promises a great deal as festival appearances around the UK await him this summer. His is a sound of warmth and emotion, one that finely tackles delicate themes with equally tender instrumentation and some stirring vocal performances. Perhaps a little directionless at times, The Bearer of Bad News struggles to say what it wants to as melodies become over used and tracks blur into one. However, this is often a powerful record that effortlessly channels acoustic singer-songwriter greats of recent years.
Shauf, yet another Canadian import to thrill British audiences as much as their American neighbours, wrote this record over the course of four years, and though this certainly feels like an album that has had time and dedication put into it, one can’t help but feel that something got a little lost in that process. Stunning melodies and a keen ear for perfect organic instrumentation prove Shauf to be a more than adequate musician, but it certainly feels like The Bearer of Bad News also bears the burden of ideas explored, edited and re-hashed time and time again.
There are few outstanding negative points on this LP, just the over looming feeling that a fresher, more spontaneous approach may have been necessary. Tracks like Lick Your Wounds and Jesus, She’s A Good Girl begin promisingly, enchanting melodies and interesting arrangements eventually rounding off into nothingness, as if the originality of it all has been worn down after years of supposed fine-tuning. Again, nothing stands out as truly terrible, it’s just that far too many tracks fail to build on their tantalising first thirty seconds or so.
It must be said, however, that in order to see the potential shown by these disappointing tracks, one has to have heard how well it can be done when Shauf’s ideas do come off. Hometown Hero and Drink My Rivers are sweetly melodic sound bites of acoustic pop that could fit right into a Badly Drawn Boy record or an early Paolo Nutini EP. Covered In Dust possesses a dark tension that is mirrored by later track Jenny Was A Clerk, which throws itself into the listener’s arms with its full arrangement, vocals and all, from the off, and doesn’t relent thereafter. Bland though some tracks may be, what cannot be said of this album is that it doesn’t have its hits.
A mashup of boring ballads and genuinely intriguing acoustic pop sounds, The Bearer of Bad News is by no means a perfect record, but a mile off being a poor one. Pretty middle of the road on all accounts, but with the odd dash of ingenuity and some stunning vocal excerpts from the instrumentally gifted Shauf, this record will definitely make do for easy listening on summer afternoons.