2012Candy - April At Last

Background: John Seeger was definitely born a musician. Learning, practicing and mastering guitar was as much an everyday occupation to him as speaking Japanese and Spanish fluently, obtaining his black belt in karate, creating and building his successful NYC-based construction company, raising his 19 year old daughter and tending to his home and family. It may have seemed at times, even to John, that music was just another one of his passions and thirsts. Except that this one was impossible to quench.

John sets the bar high in every aspect of his life, music is no exception. Over 15 songs on his roster to date, all written over the past year, John’s songs are like paintings, a depiction of life’s tales in each one. The mixture of his musical style is as diverse as the man. Sometimes bluesy with a hint of funk, sometimes pop or folk rock, always about a love lost or soon to be found, relationships and friends, but mainly about a man’s journey to find and keep his heart’s desire. Not as easy as it sounds…The range of John’s technical guitar qualities knows no boundaries: classical, Spanish, electric, acoustic, blues. You name it, John plays it.

Inspired by a multitude of other bands since his teens, of course, by infinitely talented musicians over the years, indeed, by his own journey and love of the art of music, John Seeger has come to realize that it had to be done. He had to let it go, let it happen and see where it will take him. Just as obvious as ink on a blank piece of paper, John’s songwriting has been crafted into the pieces of life, which define him.

His live performances in NYC have recently given him proof (that he has been striving for) that there is an ever-growing receptive audience out there, loving his music. Just as much as he is loving his and his band,Wa2C’s, performances. A new chapter in his life begins.

The Candy Opinion: Concise, rhythmic, and delivered with passion, this is a good example of John Seeger. Solid vocals duel with his phenomenally good guitar playing.
Web: Official HERE. Listen: She's Gonna Be Mine. (mp3).
Background: Listening to the sounds of singer-songwriter Markeisha Ensley is like indulging in a rich, flourless chocolate cake while drinking a well-aged, red wine. She combines piano- playing flair with smooth soul, her mellifluous voice soaring over unforgettable melodies. Originally from Aurora, Colorado, she is the winner of the 2011 Abe Olman Scholarship Award for Excellence in Songwriting from the Songwriters Hall of Fame/Songwriters Guild of America, with previous recipients including John Legend. A cross between Alicia Keys and Anita Baker, Markeisha strikes an uplifting groove and graces the stage with a powerful, undeniable presence.

Markeisha mixes a unique blend of Motown doo-wop harmonies, pop melodies and gospel singing on her new EP, Talk to Me, a sultry selection of up-tempos and ballads on love. Smooth and sexy, the 5 songs were written by the singer as reflection on her recent travels to France and the Caribbean. “It was my first time traveling abroad and I was so affected and inspired by the French culture, people, and of course, the food,” she laughs. Recorded with her band in New York at Flux Studios (Mick Jagger, Jennifer Lopez, Babyface), the EP is produced by up-and-coming producer, David Amber, and was released on Valentine’s Day, 2012.

As a child, Markeisha began her love affair with music when singing in her hometown Baptist church choir. While gospel music laid the foundation, she was also heavily influenced by her parents’ record collection with Aretha, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Carole King and Linda Ronstadt on heavy rotation. Markeisha studied piano and began writing poetry while in high school, but it was the many nights spent writing songs in the school’s practice rooms while attending New York University that sent Markeisha down the road to singer-songwriter land. “I developed my own sanctuary and no matter what was going on in my life, I could sit behind a piano and sing and know everything was alright."

Since releasing her debut album, Ready, in 2006, Markeisha has received numerous awards and honors. Two songs from that cd, “The Strangest Thing” and “Loving You”, received an Honorable Mention in the Billboard World Songwriting Contest. Markeisha was also recognized by BMI/Songwriters Association of Washington, where she was asked to perform at the Smithsonian Museum alongside legendary Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier (“Stop! In the Name of Love”). She has toured throughout the country, appeared on “Showtime at the Apollo”, and recently completed a residency performing in St. Barth’s.

Now based in NYC, Markeisha is also a proud member of LIFEBeat’s Hearts and Voices Program, bringing the healing power of music to people living with HIV/AIDS. She is currently planning her 2012 summer US tour.

The Candy Opinion: If you are going to sing over a backing track that could have been performed for The Supreme's circa 1966 then you had better be extremely talented. Markeisha makes light work of it, with feisty powerful vocals that add to the soundtrack, go check her out some more!  
Web: Official HERE. Listen: Still Yours. (mp3).
Background: Berlin-based duo It's A Musical has released the first single and title track from its sophomore LP, For Years And Years, slated for an April 10th release with Morr Music. Comprised of Ella Blixt aka Bobby Blumm and Robert Kretzschmar, the duo wrote the new batch of songs together and recruited Norman Nitzsche (The Whitest Boy Alive) to help with the mixing stage. Their two voices are heard in unison as they uniquely layer the vocals both in verse and chorus throughout the album and in the 'For Years and Years' single.

Following the band's The Music Makes Me Sick debut LP, the tracks on the latest output have a certain DIY feel to them, a vibe that makes the listener forget that both Blixt and Kretzschmar are actually trained multi-instrumentalists (Kretzschmar also plays drums for Masha Qrella, and Blixt recently worked with Peaches). The song "Cleverness" is built from vibraphone sounds, organs, and drum rolls (just like in "Fish Song"), and "One Million People" is a catchy piano pop gem that owes as much to Carole King as it does to labelmate Masha Qrella. Furthermore, both members of It's A Musical help organize special rock camps for young teenage girls, all about keeping the original Riot-Grrrl vibe alive.

The Candy Opinion: Reminds me a little of St Etienne, however with quite differing vocal harmonies. Whatever the comparisons this is a really good song that stands on it's own merit.
Web: Official HERE. Listen: For Years and Years. (mp3).
Background: After five years as a band, encompassing five EPs and two albums, Kent-based six-piece Tom Williams & the Boat might appear fully-formed but, with the release of their second album, Teenage Blood, they’re only just beginning to reveal their true colours.

Tom Williams & the Boat have created an album that embraces both their roots and cements a new chapter in the band’s history. The independent release (Teenage Blood is a co-release between Moshi Moshi and Wire Boat), interaction with fans and Tom’s intuitive storytelling reflect what’s come to be expected of the band, but in a new-found love of classic pop structures and dark, heartbreaking narrative styles, there’s something entirely different about the album’s approach. Tom, when talking about those who inspire him says that he’s stayed ‘respectful of great songwriting, but [wants] to make something just as good’, and it’s that confidence which permeates Teenage Blood. Tom Williams & the Boat aren’t just a band who want to emulate their heroes any more – they want to match them without undermining their own history or the independence of thought and spirit they cherish, and with Teenage Blood, they might have done just that.

The Candy Opinion: Kent, England - wind the clock back forty plus years and you had the 'Canterbury sound'. This most definitely is not that, it's powerful, immediate and hopefully will travel well across the Atlantic for the USA to enjoy!
Web: Official HERE. Listen: Teenage Blood. (player only).
Background: Fronted by Joel Piedt, and featuring Rob Polischuck, Malee Bringardner, Patrick Chin, Erich von Hinken, and Landon Lee, Florida-based dream-pop/folk outfit Carrousel deliver nine beautifully crafted, symphonic dream-pop/folk songs on their debut, 27 rue de mi'chelle, set for release May 1, 2012.

Piedt graduated college in May 2009, statistically the worst year to graduate in fifty years, and packed his bags, turning down a lucrative job offer, as he set out for Tallahassee, Florida to meet up with a friend to make a record.  The result is 27 rue de mi'chelle, an album that plays out like a musical novella, telling the story of self-loathing, regret, loss, sorrow, and ultimately acceptance.

The story behind the record isn't new; Piedt was heartbroken, having lost his love, Michelle, the protagonist of what would become the album.  But, even though the story isn't new, Carrousel takes a daunting approach to it, twisting and turning it into their own.

Recorded over many late-nights, what was meant to be a four-month project became a two and a half year saga, with each passing month finding a new world unfolding, each song becoming it's own grand scheme within a larger story, it's own space within the world. Piedt's idea to piecemeal the songs together was heavily inspired by Brian Wilson's Pet Sounds and the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" single.

"We were inspired by Brian Wilson's modular recording, so we attempted to piecemeal parts of songs together to give the album a certain feel," Piedt elaborates.  "As if the music were traveling through various times and places, different scenes. Different parts of songs were recorded sometimes months apart, and it's really fascinating to hear what that does to the feel of the music."

He pauses for a moment and then continues, "Honestly, we probably couldn't do it over exactly like we did even if we tried--but it worked. We pulled it off, and I absolutely love it - I love how it sounds, I love how it feels, and I love how it presents these songs." Another inspiration for the album is Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, where he describes his time spent with expatriates at 27 rue de Fleurus. "I found it all very beautiful and inspiring, a personal renaissance of sorts," Piedt says.  "Conveniently enough, the name Michelle was French.  So 27 rue de mi'chelle was born."

Taking in as much Romantic era as he could, Piedt submerged himself in Hector Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique," falling in love with the idea of impressionistic music; to him music that evoked strong images and feelings by way of recurring melodic themes. Taking the Romantic's lead, he wanted his album, 27 rue de mi'chelle, to tell an emotionally evocative story, unfolding one note at a time.

Referencing the jagged, piecemeal, and sewn-together quality of "Good Vibrations," Piedt set out to make a record that was professional but not polished, well-thought but never calculated, and improvised but not sloppy.  They spent hours finding the perfect sounds, but never at the cost of the emotion of the song.  They wanted each song to feel inspired, never strangled, as so often happens throughout a strenuous recording process. 

The outcome is something Piedt describes as "perfect imperfection." Now that the record is done and will soon be released, Piedt is happy to share the record with fans and soon-to-be fans alike. Piedt is now ready for his next challenge: pulling the songs off live for audiences across the U.S. The travels to 27 rue de mi'chelle were by no means easy, but they were cathartic, to say the least. And with new roads ahead of Carrousel, the catharsis will most certainly reach new heights.

The Candy Opinion: This is a lovely song. Somehow everything stands out, the vocals, the instruments, all mixed with a delicate touch that simply lifts your spirits.
Web: Reverb Nation HERE. Listen: "14". (mp3).
Background: Electrifying indie-rock group Hell&Lula is ready to take the West Coast by storm with their upcoming gigs as part of the Adrenaline Rush Tour starting April 4th in Flagstaff, Arizona and extending until late April. The four-piece fireball will share the stage with Fort Worth rock band, Sonar Lights. The bands will be hitting major cities such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland.

Although their music has the cohesiveness of a seasoned band, Hell&Lula was only formed two years ago. Programmer/writer/guitarist, Devon Culiner, and vocalist, MAK, met in 2009 during their collaboration on the song "Set The World on Fire," the first single off their debut EP Catch Up!!! Catch Up!!! They later teamed up with band mates Alex Vega (drums) and Russell Henson (bass/synths) to release Catch Up!!! Catch Up!!! and are currently finishing their second EP, Fermi's Paradox. Laced with catchy pop choruses, conceptual lyrics and captivating electro-dance beats, the band's music is proving to be a catapult for their budding buzz and popularity. Hell&Lula have toured the Southwestern U.S. twice, showcased at SXSW 2011, and played shows with the likes of well-known acts such as Friendly Fires, Foster the People, and Matt & Kim. Currently signed to MTV's HYPE Music, the band's catalog has been featured on several hit shows such as MTV's Jersey Shore, Real World and VH1's iHeartRadio Festival.

As if Hell&Lula's rock-star appeal was not enough to impress, they are also advocates of the Earth on a mission to reduce their carbon footprint. The environmental activists have recently converted their "Cool Bus" (the school bus they tour /live in) from running on diesel fuel to waste vegetable oil (WVO), thanks to recent contributions from fans as part of their Pledge Music Campaign. Restaurants along the West Coast will be donating their used veggie oil to Hell&Lula to support the cause. The band will also be selling whistles for Falling Whistles, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the war in the Congo. In addition to these efforts, the quartet is also reducing through their Recycled Merchandise Program, in which fans can purchase one-of-a-kind, eco-friendly items.

With an unforgiving energy and passion for their music, society and the environment, Hell&Lula are destined to win over dance floors and living rooms everywhere.

April 4 - Hotel Monte Vista - Flagstaff, AZ
April 6 - Jumping Turtle - San Marcos, CA
April 7 - Cheetah's - Hollywood, CA
April 8 - Hemlock Tavern - San Francisco, CA
April 9 - Little Red Lion - Eureka, CA
April 10 - Ash Street Saloon - Portland, OR
April 11 - Glow Club - Bellingham, WA
April 12 - Studio Seven - Seattle, WA
April 14 - John's Alley - Moscow, ID

The Candy Opinion: Environmentally friendly band that knows how to party and dance, whats that all about? You can care about the planet and still enjoy yourself ??? Outrageous - this must be stopped!
Web: Official HERE. Listen: Set The World On Fire. (player only).
Background: Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real earned themselves a stellar 2011 with gigs nearly every night, spots on such mega-events as Farm Aid, Bridge School, and Stagecoach, national TV airtime on Letterman, Leno, and Kimmel, and rave reviews for two simple reasons: Great songs and even better live shows.

Now, they’ve found a way to bring that performance experience to their second full-length release, Wasted, both lyrically and musically. “Neil Young suggested that we record the album live in the studio in analog, which is something we didn’t do on the last record,” explains Lukas Nelson, who penned all of the tracks and produced the record with his band – Anthony LoGerfo (Drums), Tato Melgar (Percussion) and Corey McCormick (Bass) – and Jim “Moose” Brown. “It really added a lot of magnetism, energy, and that live feel, and a lot of warmth to it. I feel like this record sounds more like what you get when you see us perform.”

“This record was all about capturing a moment, and there are some special full moon moments that I think we captured on tape,” adds Nelson. The moments in particular that are captured on this record was the time on tour over the summer months during which Nelson wrote the album’s 14 songs in the back of the band’s tour bus.

“Wasted is a snapshot of this last summer on tour when I wrote most of this music,” he says. “It was the summer of debauchery. I was socializing a little too much and not really being true to myself. So the whole record was a snapshot of me making one of the many mistakes I’ll likely make throughout my life. There were a lot of pressures on the road and there are a lot of people who view touring as just one big party. I started staying out until 4 in the morning. It was like summer camp. It took a toll on me. I soon realized I wasn’t really being myself and I had a big wake-up call and it’s during that time that I wrote this record.”

But, Nelson is quick to add that Wasted is not just about a summer out of control; it’s about the idea of wasting your time, your life, your creativity, and reminding yourself to stay true to your values and ideals, and for Nelson and his band that’s always been about family, positivity, and spreading love and happiness to others. “There are a lot of definitions for the word wasted; it’s not a one dimensional record. It’s meant to be listened to and internalized. There is a lot of sentiments about missing loved ones and being on the road, and even some political and military hints in there,” he says of the lyrical matter.

Adds drummer Anthony LeGorfo: “It’s really a road record. We did 18 weeks straight on tour in the summer and that can kind of waste anyone. I think it’s also great to listen to while you’re driving down the road. And because Lukas wrote it at one time, I think this record is more cohesive than the last one. By being on the road together so long, we really improved as a band and got tighter and you hear that on this record. These songs are really jammy and fun to play live.”

“We have a lot of new instruments on there that we haven’t really used before, like the Wurlitzer, the Hammond B3 organ, Dobro, and lap steel guitar… That was Moose’s influence,” says Nelson. “Moose plays on all tracks and Cowboy Eddie Long (steel guitar) on most of them. We really extended the family beyond our core four on this record”. Along with Moose, Cowboy and the rest of the core that includes Percussionist Tato Melgar and Bassist Corey McCormick , the band also brought in Lukas’ sister Amy on two songs “Wasn’t That Great?” and “Can You Hear Me Love You?”

That said, at the core of Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real and Wasted is what their fans know and love best. Rock n Roll that speaks from the heart . “First and foremost we’re just people in a rock n roll band and this is a rock n roll record indicative of that,” adds LoGerfo.

The Candy Opinion: The son of a famous come legendary father, just gets on with it. Along side him are a superb band, great music, and real excitement. And with Neil Young as a 'mentor' I can't wait to see how this show unfolds over time. 
Web: Official HERE. Listen: Wasted. (mp3).
Background: Brandon McHose is one of those rare exceptions. Brandon McHose is a guitar wizard who coincidentally, is an exceptional singer/songwriter.

Born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, Brandon was introduced to the guitar by his Father, a once aspiring guitarist himself. Having access to the rich history of his Dad’s record collection, Brandon was exposed to legendary recording artists of all kinds, ranging from the Beatles, to the Stones, to The Who. This was a kid with outstanding skills in all that he chose to pursue including Track & Field, which culminated in a full scholarship to Drake University. It was at this point in his life that he came upon the realization that his true love and passion lied in music, and after conferring with his folks, left Drake. The family sought professional advice by taking up a meeting with the Assistant Chair of the Guitar Department at the famed and respected Berklee School of Music in Boston. Brandon auditioned for the professor whose professional opinion was, essentially, that the level of his skills and talents were far beyond that of a typical student and recommended that the best road for him to take, was to not spend four years in college, but rather to immediately embark upon a career in music. Brandon took the advice and chose the city of Austin, Texas as the ideal environment in which to hone his craft. During this time, Brandon built quite a name and following for himself playing the regional club circuit while recording two CDs.

After five years in Austin it became apparent that a move to a major market would provide the next calculated step in pursuit of a performing/recording career and Brandon chose to relocate to the vibrant city of Chicago. It is here that he can now continue to evolve as a guitarist, songwriter and recording artist engaging the services of some of the city’s finest studios, producers, engineers and musicians.

Brandon McHose is a bit of an anomaly, equally adept in finger-picking an acoustic guitar or in spanning the breadth and array of music in playing blistering rock, blues or jazz infused guitar, and/or everything in between. His songwriting style continues to evolve – combining sophisticated chords with perfectly placed bursts of brilliance on the guitar intertwined with undeniable vocal hooks. Brandon McHose, with all this talent will, in relatively short order, attain prominence and notoriety in Chicago and throughout the mid-west from fellow guitarists, fans, radio and record labels alike ultimately ‘making it’ on the national stage.

The Candy Opinion: Tend to agree that outstanding guitarists that are also at their best singing don't come along that often. Brandon also makes it all seem so easy which has put him firmly on our radar.
Web: Official HERE. Listen: Just Say When. (mp3).
Background: Drive down a barely noticed dirt road, in the shadow of Mt. Tamalpais or deep in the hills of gold rush country. Turn right at Granada, left when you hit Havana, and you’ll find there’s a party going on. There’s a bike-powered sound system, a friendly mosh pit, blasts of bright brass, skanking bass, flamenco flourishes, and a big slice of madness that’s simultaneously the musical cure for alienation and loss.

At the center is San Francisco’s LoCura, a band that crafts upbeat anthems and chronicles the round-trip travels of Latin and American sounds. Movement between continents informs the lush variety of LoCura’s tunes on Semilla Caminante (release: April 17, 2012), inspired by ida y vuelta, the notion in flamenco of musical forms that have traveled to the New World and returned transformed. “We mix everything from funk to son cubano into our own songs, to show how diverse our communities have become and to show the common roots these different styles have,” smiles LoCura singer Katalina Miletich. “Semilla Caminante, the idea of ‘traveling seed,’ is a reminder of this movement, this interchange, and of the creative resistance that continues to transform our lives and is tangible in our musical expressions.”

LoCura’s jubilant sound of resistance and restored connections will be traveling up the West Coast this spring, as the group embarks on its first major tour of the region. Cities include San Diego, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Sacramento.

April 18th- Santa Barbara @ Red's Bar
April 19th- San Diego @ the Kava Lounge w/ Quetzal Guerrero
April 20th- LA @ the Mint w/ Very Be Careful
April 21st- Fresno @ Audie's Olympic
April 22nd- Santa Cruz @ Moes Alley w/ Los Pinguos
April 27th- Oakland @ The New Parish w/ Bang Data
April 28th- Sebastopol @ Aubergine w/ Bang Data

The Candy Opinion: Biggest challenge having listened to the album, was what track to feature, so I chose Squatter's Song because it highlights a good number of facets from a band that has so much going on at any given time. Like this and you will love the rest!
Web: Official HERE. Listen: Squatter's Song. (player only).