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Solo LP excites Martin
Toby Martin. Picture: Supplied.

Toby Martin is walking around the Domain on a sunny Sydney morning. There's a lot of anticipation in his life - sure, he's put out albums before with Youth Group but today he is talking up the release of his first solo album, Love's Shadow.

"I am very excited," he admits. "I've put a few records out and I've been doing music for a while but I've been working on this for some time and I've put a lot into it. Some of the songs go back a fair way. It's kind of been a three-year process by now."

Youth Group are perhaps best known for their cover of Alphaville's Forever Young but were a band that constantly wrote endearing songs full of reflection and uplift. They played their last show in Brooklyn in 2009 after 13 years and four albums. Now, Martin has the word "debut" near his name once again.

"It does seem funny to have "debut" near my name but it does actually feel like that," Martin laughs.

"This record was really different in comparison to making a Youth Group record. I did feel, in a way, naive and vulnerable and not full of confidence. So it was like making my very first record, in a lot of ways."

While some lead singers would feel the need to release a solo album quickly in order to maintain career momentum, Martin took his time, gaining the kind of life experiences which, no doubt, would add some finesse to what he eventually created.

"I never felt that pressure to get out a solo record though I had wanted to do one under my own name for a while," he says. "Actually, it could have happened quicker. I was full of energy to do it at the end of 2009 but various things happened. I had a baby and went back and finished uni.

"There were other things I had to do but I always wanted to do this. I just wanted to give it a go."

The mostly piano-based album is an engaging release from the get-go, from the opener Nylex Nights, the moody Postcard From Surfers, the melodic delicacy of New York Misses You and the playful Happy Where I Am. The songs have different origins but they hold together lovingly.

"I go through patches of writing a lot and patches of barely writing a thing," Martin says. "I would say this record is a result of three very distinct patches of writing.

"The first was right after Youth Group finished our last record, The Night Is Ours. I kind of felt like one of those cartoon characters who climbs up a cliff and then keeps going. I kind of kept running and wrote a batch.

"Then I wrote another little batch in New York when Youth Group toured in 2009. Then another when we got back home.

"They all have their own particular thing due to the times they were written in but because of the way a record works you pick songs that work together and the production gives them a coherent flavour."

In the end it all rounds out nicely.

"It's funny what albums do to your life," Martin says.

"They make all my stories have this coherency and deliberateness that in real life they just don't. Of course, there were a few messes. It makes my past look weirdly complete."