Every once in a blue moon you discover a song, a song that soars, recurring lyrically and musically in your subconscious. “Eleven Shades of Red” is that song for me right now and L.A.’s very own Samantha Tobey is the artist to inspire the spark of a song that has been burning inside of me since I received a copy of her moving debut EP.
Now, I have been accused in the not so distant past of closing myself off to new music. A few years back, Bob Dylan gave an interview in Rolling Stone where he stated, “I don’t know anybody who’s made a record that sounds decent in the past twenty years, really…” and talking about the industry’s complaint about downloading, “Well, why not? It ain’t worth nothing anyway.” At that time, I really agreed with him, compared to the music from past even looking back at the ’90s, the majority of the bands sans Radiohead and a handful of others had been largely forgettable.
The past year I have been falling in love with music again and discovering some new talent that would even make Bob Dylan smile. The sounds that I have been finding have proven Dylan’s quote to be horribly wrong. All you have to do is read your daily installment of Treble (shameless pat on the back), or visit one of my favorite sites, The Hype Machine, and you will see that new music is alive and beating stronger by the minute.
On a local level, there seems to be a modern resurgence in the Los Angeles music scene, and Samantha Tobey is on the cusp of being the breakout artist of 2008. And this is all thanks to a show that has been largely seen online, that being Quarterlife. My newest obsession, Quarterlife was created by Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick creators of three of my favorite shows Thirtysomething, My So-Called Life and Once and Again. Quarterlife follows the life of a group of twentysomething friends trying to find their space in this internet world of missed communications. The episode where I first heard Samantha’s song was part two of the pilot. At the end of the episode, Lisa the bartender stands up and sings “Eleven Shades of Red” in front of her bar and friends. It’s a huge scene for Lisa, this is the episode where she breaks out of her shell and shows her true self in the guise of Tobey’s song.
The thing I love about “Eleven Shades of Red” is Tobey’s universal message of trying to connect, which is why it’s a perfect song for Quarterlife. She sings “I wrote this song for you/ I don’t even know your name.” From the beginning, Samantha brings us in as if she’s singing directly to us. She personalizes the song by saying that she wrote the song for all of us. I love the lyrics, “I talk to myself/ stop stuttering/ you bring all this on yourself.” This is me, the stuttering recluse, she someone connected to how it feels to be in my uncomfortable skin when I have trouble speaking and become a stuttering recluse.
Everyone knows that I am a sucker for harmonies and Tobey delivers beautifully throughout her self titled EP. Listen to the harmonies on the elegant acoustic number “Running,” the perfect introduction to this artist, and produced magnificently at that. David Passerman, Timothy Hutton, Kevin Binova and Spanjew keep the focus on Tobey’s majestic voice throughout by not overpowering it with too much studio trickery. They enhance her voice by layering just the right instrumentation throughout her dynamic EP.
There seems to be a yearning throughout the lyrics of Tobey’s debut EP. You can hear the blissful power on songs like “12 O’clock.” Tobey’s song are neither too light nor too dark, she has the perfect blend of beautiful melancholy, especially on memorable closing track “Mumbling,” which is impressive for such a new and up and coming artist. Keep your eye on episodes of Quarterlife on NBC and listen for Samantha Tobey. When the show finally breaks, everyone, everywhere will know her name. You read it here first.
Jenny Owen Youngs – Batten the Hatches
Ani DiFranco – Not a Pretty Girl
Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope