Over the course of ten years and four albums in rock band Youth Group, singer and songwriter Toby Martin sometimes experimented with what might be termed ‘character’ songs: the interior thoughts of impressionistically-sketched protagonists.
His first solo album Love’s Shadow (released July 27, 2012) has been an opportunity to foreground this aspect of his writing. The songs on this album were written in various rooms in Sydney and New York and are imbued with a sense of place. The Gold Coast, Kings Cross, motel rooms, bedrooms, under Moreton Bay Figs, the view through apartment windows, airports, harbours at night. The characters who inhabit these places are invariably lost and lonely. Wounded by love, but, despite their better judgement, romantics.
These intimate stories have been given grandeur and dignity through the production and arrangements. The record was co-produced over many late nights by Toby’s long-time friend, Youth Group collaborator and musical genie Tim Kevin. Tim also did many of the string arrangements that lift up the songs. Sparse use of drums, piano and double bass flesh out the stories. The result is melancholy, sometimes sinister, sometimes darkly humorous, but never depressing.
Some of the special guest stars that appear on Love’s Shadow are Bree Van Reyk (of Holly Throsby’s band and Synergy) on drums, Amanda Brown (of Go-Betweens and Cleopatra Wong) on violin and oboe, Sarah Kelly (of theredsunband) on backing vocals, Matt Steffen (of Decoder Ring) on double bass and Cameron Emerson-Elliott (of Youth Group and Community Radio) on guitar.
Youth Group played their last show in Brooklyn in 2009. Since then Toby has played a handful of solo shows – a residency at Sydney’s Low Bar and New York’s The Living Room and as opener for Seeker Lover Keeper. These gigs have been places to try out these new songs in solo, bare bones style. Love’s Shadow is a result of several years of songwriting, recording and travel. It is a fresh start for Toby, a new place, but also draws on the confidence of several years playing music.
A brief refresher course on some of Toby’s past endeavours in these years are here laid out for your edification: Recording four albums with Youth Group: Urban & Eastern, Skeleton Jar, Casino Twilight Dogs, The Night Is Ours. A number one single ‘Forever Young’ on the ARIA Charts and an ARIA Award for Breakthrough Artist. International releases via the ANTI and World’s Fair labels and subsequent tours of the USA with Death Cab For Cutie, The Get Up Kids and many more on their own. Sold out Australian tours, plus handpicked national support slots with Coldplay, Kings Of Leon and Interpol. More recently, Toby has sung with legendary bands The Triffids and Glide on very special tribute shows.