Having released two albums prior — Shine (2011) and Cut Flowers (2016) — along with an EP in 2019’s Blur, the Huntington Station, New York-born singer has extensive experience in writing relatable music for people to root themselves into, and Chiaroscuro is no different.
Written during the pandemic, this EP is a peephole of light in a dark corridor. About that time, she states, “Everyone was struggling with what it all meant, and we started to get these images from Italy of people in lockdown, and [they would] reach out to neighbors and folks on the streets by playing pots and pans or instruments or singing. I thought it was gorgeous and sad simultaneously, and that is why the album is called Chiaroscuro, which technically means the juxtaposition – often stark – of light against a dark background.”
“Liars” begins the EP with its message of seeking truth in a time where falsities are seemingly more abundant than ever. In Toth’s own words on the song, she says, “It relays how the truth has become flexible and malleable. To find the strength to see it all clearly you have to trust yourself and your own best instincts.” Toth’s multi-faceted vocals drive this tune, as she serenades with lines like, “Lie to me / So I just can’t see / Lie to me / Fooled that I am free.”
Sung primarily in Italian, “Con Te” proves to be the most touching of the six tracks.
Beginning with only her voice and a classical guitar, the song builds into heavy drum lines and swirling guitar solos. Written as a love letter to Italy during the pandemic, the song’s lyrics of “If I can’t go with you, then take all of my love,” are an interpretation of the strength Italian people developed in the lockdown of 2020. “This song is a meditation on that time and how I felt people would be feeling about not being able to see or go to their loved ones if they were sick… I suppose it is about the beauty and love that can come from pain and loss,” she notes.
The EP ends with a modern take on Johnny Cash’s “Don’t Go Near the Water.” She croons Cash’s traditional lyrics with her vibrant voice, filling the verses with her signature style and expertise. The cover acts as a bittersweet end to the EP’s homage to the trying times of the pandemic, sending the listener off with words of wisdom: “Don’t go near the water / ‘Cause the water isn’t water anymore.”
Chiaroscuro is pure persistence; persistence to find beauty amongst pain, persistence to seek truth, and persistence to love others despite distance. Toth’s cozy vocals and intricate lyricism shine through the heavy topics, soothing the listener as she captures one of the most sensitive and trying times in human history.
If this EP proves anything, it’s that Toth can find the light in darkness within her songwriting.