Album Review: Toby Martin - Love’s Shadow

19 July 2012 | 4:46 pm | Ross Clelland

A subtle and utterly human record. Just excellent.

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It's a small injustice that Youth Group will probably be best remembered for a cover version that got them on American TV rather than Toby Martin's songcraft. Hopefully, Love's Shadow might adjust that balance somewhat.

Martin's voice remains an expressive thing, the catch and waver in it suiting the intimacies and doubts that colour many of these songs. They're often thought processes alone in a room, although the hum of inner-city traffic or neon may be in the background. Tim Kevin's warm and uncluttered co-production puts you there.

The shadow at the centre of this is a suite of songs as a long distance relationship is rekindled across The Curve Of The Earth, then fails, with the attendant regrets and self-flagellation that go with that, as he and New York Misses You.

Even through the hurt, it remains music with a quiet heart. That phrase also allows a Go-Betweens reference, for in various places there are wistful little asides through a song's conversation, or a stutter in the music that has a Forster-McLennan touch to it. Postcard From Surfers could easily be one of their flawed character studies, down to its literary roots coming from a Helen Garner short story.

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The touch is light, wistful in nostalgia. Although Martin does allow himself to question himself, Happy Where I Am smiling at his own ever-itchy feet, while The Monkees play the soundtrack. Or see The End Of The Affair, with its self-excusing near-confessional which might not quite believe its own argument. 

You'll probably find yourself or someone you know in its stories. It is naïve and knowing at once. A subtle and utterly human record. Just excellent.