In 2004, Youth Group released Skeleton Jar, an album that reflects its environment and its immediate landscape. It’s an album that can be classified as uniquely – and, in parts, unmistakably – Sydney.
For frontman Toby Martin’s second solo album, one could easily reach for the same category. Rather than Petersham rooftops and city-bound buses, however, Martin finds himself in the outer western area of Bankstown. Originally visiting the area for a theatre project, he found himself entirely immersed in its stories, its residents and the scenery.
Care of his masterful storytelling, as well a phenomenally talented array of locals and perhaps Australia’s finest drummer in Bree van Reyk, Martin draws listeners directly to the very streets of this town – round and round, up and down. There’s chilling racial tension in ‘Olive Tree’, shocking realisations in ‘Correctional Facility’ and a pure, radiant joy to ‘Spring Feeling’.
Martin’s unfurling of this private universe and his immaculately detailed character development not only makes for extensive and in-depth listening, but an easy frontrunner for album of the year at such an early stage.
Northam Avenue is Martin’s finest album since Skeleton Jar – a resplendent, inspired release that celebrates both breathtaking songwriting and Bankstown’s unsung heroes.
Northam Avenue is out now through Ivy League.