Andy Shauf is a talented new singer/songwriter from Canada who is just releasing his debut album, Darker Days, tomorrow. Though he's fairly young (21), Shauf has been making music for some time, recording bedroom demos and hiding the majority of his songs from his friends and family - until recently. The new album is a collection of his favorite tunes written during that period of private recording sessions, re-imagined in the studio and presented as an engaging collection of pop-folk songs.
Shauf prefers the one-man-band approach, playing all of the instruments himself (guitar, bass, drums, banjo, etc) with only the occasional guest spot on backing vocals. The resulting sound is delicate and sparse throughout much of the record, like opener "For Your Heart," which relies on a joyful mix of guitar and light percussion, or the lovely "Crushes," which gets by on vocal harmony, guitar, and a touch of banjo. However, while Shauf generally keeps things uncluttered, he adds the appropriate flourishes to diversify and expand his simple pop style. "You Remind Me" includes some well-placed harmonica, "Gone" features gritty electric guitar, and "The Greatest Moments" rocks a funky bass line.
The album's title serves as something of a theme and is mentioned in at least half the tracks, though the material is often less dour than you might expect. It's an interesting and unusual way to keep a record cohesive, but Shauf makes it work here and the music flows smoothly from beginning to end. The first half of the album is the most enjoyable, when the tempo is more upbeat and the mood often lighter. Later, some drowsy folk numbers slow the momentum a bit too much, but the promise Andy Shauf shows on Darker Days is quite obvious. His ways with a hook and love of pop melodies makes him an artist to watch, so I recommend you get acquainted.
Check him out on MySpace or head over to P is for Panda where you can download the album for a measly five bucks.