Feb 13, 2023
By Chris Thiessen
Assuming the voice of God is an intriguing move for an artist best known for writing deeply human characters experiencing life through deeply human settings from house parties to neighborhood bars. Yet, God’s is the first voice we hear on Canadian singer/songwriter Andy Shauf’s newest album, Norm. On the opening track, “Wasted On You,” we play fly on the wall to a celestial discussion between God the Father and Jesus—soundtracked by the dreamy synth twinkles, velvety major seven chords, and tender touches of piano and guitar Shauf employs to gorgeous, yet misleadingly soothing effect throughout the album—in which the two seem dismayed by humanity, wondering, “Was all my love wasted on you?”
Though God remains one of the main narrators of the album, the narrative is centered around its title character, an awkward stalker dressed up as a romantic in a way that has largely been norm-alized in film and culture (as Julie Beck has written for The Atlantic). We hear both Norm’s blindness to his own depravity and God’s call to repentance as Norm pursues a notably nameless, voiceless love interest—peering into her home (“You Didn’t See”), attending a film (“Paradise Cinema”), and finally kidnapping her at the Halloween store (“Sunset”). In the end, God, Norm, and a surprise third party to the love triangle with equally sinister intentions all end up dissatisfied, unable to find their love reflected back to them by the objects of their respective loves.
Shauf is asking bigger questions here—about love, about the divine, about culture’s view of both—and yet he doesn’t sacrifice his typically intimate mode. The storytelling is tight and riveting as ever, each song serving the greater narrative in its unique way. The same can be said for the musical performances (all done by Shauf). From the new emphasis on synthesizers on “Catch Your Eye” to the lilting falsetto of “Long Throw,” nothing feels wasted. (www.andyshauf.com)
Author rating: 7.5/10
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