Toby Martin is the enigmatic frontman for Sydney’s iconic Youth Group (whose last album ‘Australian Halloween’ was considered by me to be a highlight release of 2019), and he has become ensconced in the village of Slaithwaite in West Yorkshire with his young family. Whereas ‘Australian Halloween’ still bled the inner west of Sydney despite being written and recorded in his new hometown, the first single, ‘Linthwaite Houdini’, off Martin’s newly announced solo album ‘I Felt The Valley Lifting’, is infused with a sense of the Yorkshire dales with its gentle brass band undercurrents.
What remains a golden thread, however, is Martins delectable vocals and his ear for gentle sweeping melodies as well as his skills at evocative story telling. He says of the new single:
My friend Arthur told me the story of the Linthwaite Houdini one night as we walked across the moors to the pub,. He told me about the man who buried himself alive at the village fete and how it all went horribly wrong. ‘When did this happen?’ said I. ‘The 18th century?’ ‘No,’ said Arthur. ‘2015′. Something about the story really resonated with me more deeply: the ways in which people throw themselves into crazy projects and start to lose themselves in them. They become so taken up with them that they start to lose perspective. It seemed like a story I could relate to!
It is a beautiful tale of tilting at windmills and the romance of possibilities, and Martins delivery is nuanced and empathetic. The beautifully shot, sepia-tinged video accompanying the song captures the raw and visceral nature of the countryside and the landscapes of northern Britain: you can feel the chill winds and the inner warmth.
‘Linthwaite Houdini’ is out now through Ivy League Records and you can download/stream here.
‘I Felt The Valley Lifting’ is due for release on Friday, 10 September 2021, again through Ivy League Records, and you can pre-order here.
‘I Felt The Valley Lifting’ tracklisting:
- Strange Fish
- German Sea
- Dark Red Blood
- Town Gossip
- Linthwaite Houdini
- Bird Boy
- Buddleia and Vomit
- Pole Moor
Feature Photograph: Cameron Emerson-Elliott