Live & Alive with Angela Saini’s uplifting, sweet sweet sounds @ The Cameron House

 

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Angela Saini

Angela Saini threw a big party at The Cameron House on Thursday night—and everyone was invited! Saini launched her Live and Alive CD to a standing room only crowd in the back room of the Toronto music venue; the album went global on Friday.

Singer songwriter Paul Lamarche opened, treating the packed house to an acoustic set of his mellow, country-infused sounds. With notes of romance and melancholy, Lamarche took us from the wistful, nostalgia of “Ferris Wheel” to the more funkified “Make It Good” and a fun cover of Toto’s “Africa,” which included some audience participation. Closing with “All the Way” at the piano, Lamarche showcased his remarkable vocal range, especially in the upper register. Keep an eye out for Lamarche.

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Paul Lamarche

Live and Alive happened part by chance, part by design. Saini joined forces with Eric Stecki, who recorded her gigs at The Mod Club and The Drake Hotel; tracks were subsequently mixed by Ian Bodzasi and mastered by Harry Hess. Saini’s band includes Francois Martin (guitar/background vocals), Jeff Scale (bass) and David Sufrin (drums), who joined her onstage on Thursday night at the launch.

An engaging, sometimes cheeky, and always inclusive performer, Saini performed a mix of songs from the record, along with some brand spankin’ new tunes, giving us a sneak peek at what’s to come along with the fan favourites, in a combo acoustic/full band set (reflecting the recordings on the CD).

Saini’s pop sound is a soulful mix of of fierce and fragile. The lyrics are reflective and positive, even when calling out bad behaviour (“Sweet Sweet Mouth”) and, above all, tell us that it’s never too late to turn things around and make a new start (“U Turn,” “Here I Go Again” and “Living on the Bright Side”). Live and Alive also includes poignant, tender songs of love and connection, including connection to oneself (“Stay Here with Me,” “Something Like I’m Beautiful” and “Dear Diary”).

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Jeff Scale, David Sufrin, Angela Saini & Francois Martin

“U Turn” is one of my personal faves; turns out, it’s a fave of Lamarche’s too. And the whole audience was invited to sing along—and did, with great delight—on “Living on the Bright Side.” Saini’s encore, new song “Black Sheep,” shouts out not giving any effs about what other people think.

Awesome and uplifting, sweet sweet sounds at Angela Saini’s Live and Alive CD launch. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for Angela Saini.

In the meantime, check out Saini’s video for “Here I Go Again”:

 

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Melanie Peterson’s Anywhere From Here a heartfelt, beautiful mix of playful, introspective & melancholy

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Melanie Peterson – photo by Bri-anne Swan

Saskatoon-born, Toronto-based singer/songwriter/actress Melanie Peterson celebrated the launch of her new CD Anywhere From Here at The Piston last night, with guest artist Bri-Anne Swan opening the festivities. And what a celebration it was!

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Bri-anne Swan

Swan opened with a short solo acoustic set of mostly original songs, opening with a gorgeous interpretation of Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind.” Featuring crystal clear vocals, with a subtle haunting, wistful quality, Swan’s lyrical storytelling includes hints of folk – her latest CD Letters Home also includes a Lightfoot cover of “Now and Then” – and country (opening track “Have You Seen My Ghost”). Her sounds conjure up images of windswept, lonesome plains, big skies and misty, strange forests. Give her a listen/look-see on her YouTube channel. Bri-anne Swan is also the cover designer/photographer for Anywhere From Here.

Then, the main event. I first met Melanie Peterson about two years ago, when she was performing in a line-up of amazing, talented women at ovarian cancer fundraiser She’s Listening II, and I interviewed her last year. Peterson has been described as Mary Poppins with a broken heart. The songwriting is genuine and self-aware, and there is a positive tone even in the heartbreak. In fact, the progression of the songs on Anywhere From Here – which Peterson and her band played from top to bottom – reads like the life of a romantic relationship. From the initial magic sparks in “Truth Talking” and “Fallback Plan,” to words of warning “Where There’s Smoke (Lust Ain’t Love),” to the devil may care of “Just the Right Amount of Wrong,” and into the stall in “Holding Pattern” and when it’s over in “I Miss You Already” – she’s got all the feels. There are also lovely expressions of gratitude here (“A Path Laid Out Like Gold,” featuring backing vocals by Kasandra Sharpe) and love that’s so good (“A Gift” – the CD’s title comes from these lyrics).

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Melanie Peterson

Peterson’s sounds feature folk, pop (including a kicky Beatles-inspired riff in “Fallback Plan”) and country, with some reggae flavour (“Truth Talking”) – delivered with lovely, lilting vocals and sweet harmonies. Joining Peterson (guitar, lead vocals) last night – and also playing on Anywhere From Here: Mitch Girio (guitar, backing vocals and producer – he also produced Swan’s Letters Home), Pete Lambert (drums, violin, backing vocals) and Peter Collins (bass, backing vocals). By the time they got up to play their set, the room was packed with enthusiastic friends, family and fans – so much so that the crowd coaxed three encore songs, including “Cinema Girl” (my request – thanks again, guys!) and “Unbreakable,” from Peterson’s Unbreakable CD.

Melanie Peterson’s Anywhere From Here is a heartfelt, beautiful mix of playful, introspective and melancholy. Wrap your ears around it soon.

You can keep up with Peterson on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Soundcloud, among other platforms – see her website for all the platforms.

Here’s the poppy, fun the video for “Fallback Plan”:

Department of corrections: The song “Just the Right Amount of Wrong” was originally written as “Just the Right Side of Wrong” – that has been corrected and the link to the video has also been added.

 

 

Heart, soul & raw passion in Shikha’s meditative, rhythmic Coconut Mantra EP

DSCN2067 smIt was a celebration of music with friends, family and fellow musicians at C’est What? on Friday night, with the launch party of Shikha’s EP Coconut Mantra.

Opening act Custom Tease (Celebration Army frontman Oliver Pigott and Danka Scepanovic) brought some soul-infused, bluesy, rootsy goodness featuring originals with poetic, evocative – at times fierce – lyrics. And they threw in a sultry cover of “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” for good measure. Sounds include hints of Motown and Kate Bush, executed with sharp harmonies.

Shikha, the main event of the evening, featured Shikha Sehgal on vocals and banjulele (a four-stringed banjo/ukulele hybrid instrument), accompanied by Hugh Wilson (of Big Name Actors) on bass and Troy Larabie (of Celebration Army) on drum box. A passionate performer, Shikha brings it with heart and soul, and genuine feels. The vocals are delivered raw, with heart-on-sleeve intensity – and the lyrics are soulful, meditative and rhythmic (“Sing Baby Sing”), with hints of reggae (“Can I Hold You?”), blues and pop. The result is a seductive sound that features an earnest, sometimes melancholy, and powerful (“I Am Woman”) resonance.Check out the official video for “Sing Baby Sing,” one of the first songs Shikha ever wrote:

You can keep up with Shikha on Twitter, Facebook and on her YouTube channel.
In the meantime, check out some pix I took of the evening’s music festivities:

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Rockin’ out with Supertash & guest Kat Leonard @ Breakdown EP launch party

unnamedIt was a super fantastic night of music, friends and celebration at 3030 Dundas West last night, with two reasons to party: Supertash launching her Breakdown EP and Kat Leonard’s birthday (with Leonard performing as the opening act)!

Leonard treated us to a sneak peek of her new solo show in progress My Selfie, a comedic, frank and thought-provoking piece on positive self/body image. More than just an ode to body parts, this is a singing, dancing, storytelling trip in and around the external self – and we are all so much more than the sum of those parts. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for future performances of My Selfie.

Supertash (aka Natasha Jolly) and band rocked our world with tunes from Breakdown, as well as some selections from her last record Before the World Ends. Featuring kick-ass vocals, outstanding musicianship and passionate lyrics – especially on the title track and “Serial Killer” (Supertash’s ode to Dexter) – as well as some soulful, keyboard-driven pop (“Control Freak,” which brings to mind the sounds of Sade), Breakdown is full of heart and edge. Joining Supertash onstage last night were: Frank Bartoletti (lead guitar), Dave Carreiro (bass), Rick Carreiro (drums) and Toad (keys/guitar/back-up vox).

You can check out Supertash’s music on Soundcloud and iTunes, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Here’s a little taste of Breakdown – “Serial Killer”:

And here are some pix from last night’s music/birthday bash extravaganza:

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Dance all night to Mip Power Trio sophomore album Half Pint Full Heart

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Mip Power Trio – photo by Paul Taborovsky

Had the great pleasure of wrapping my ears around a preview stream of Mip Power Trio’s sophomore album Half Pint Full Heart this past week – in advance of their CD launch party this Friday, February 27 at the Bovine Sex Club.

Mip Power Trio is: Mip (songwriting/lead vocals/guitar), Greg Kowalczyk (bass/back-up vocals) and Shane MacPherson (drums/back-up vocals). Following up on their debut record Haggard and Bedraggled (2012), the band joined forces with producer/engineer Ian McGettigan to create 11 tracks of rootsy rockin’ goodness on Half Pint Full Heart.

“Breakthrough” kicks of the record, with rockin’ beats, the chorus bringing a kicky retro vibe with a kick-ass plea “my knuckles are getting sore knocking against your invisible door” –  Mip’s gutsy vocals reminiscent of Gwen Stefani in No Doubt’s “Sunday Morning.”

You can get yourself all toasty and warm as you bop along with “Winter Scene” – and then with the roots guitar riff and alt country/rockabilly-infused storytelling in “Potential.” And Mip nails it when she describes the celebratory “Take Me Back” as “skaspel” – it’s a groovin’, movin’ blend of ska and gospel. The lyrics bring cool pop culture references (Springstein and artist/modern architecture pioneer Le Corbusier), and the arrangements offer some sweet surprises, like the circus-like beats on tracks like “Grown-up Games” and “Whiskey Ain’t Cheap,” and the haunting, atmospheric intro to the final track “Northern Lights.”

With tight musicianship, strong lead vocals and sweet harmonies driving the music, coupled with the band’s fun, casual party vibe, I dare you to not move your feet as you listen to Mip Power Trio’s Half Pint Full Heart. Like the Northern Lights, you can dance all night.

You can catch Mip Power Trio at their CD launch party for Half Pint Full Heart this Friday, February 27 at the Bovine Sex Club, where they’ll be joined by local bands Little Foot Long Foot, and Freeman Dre and the Kitchen Party. Check here for all the launch dates/locations around Southern Ontario and Quebec.

You can connect with Mip Power Trio on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and the band’s YouTube channel.

And if you’re like me and can’t make it out to the Half Pint Full Heart launch, check out this playlist of some of their vids, including “Northern Lights” and “Take Me Back” (both from Half Pint Full Heart) – and stay tuned to Mip Power Trio’s website/social media platforms for the opportunity to stream and download the record:

Sultry, soulful & rockin’ out – Jessica Speziale brings it all with Shine CD launch

20141122_204227An amazing night at The Duke Live last night for Jessica Speziale’s launch of her new CD Shine – produced by MC2 Records – and what a night! Red carpet, photo ops and a packed house – this event was a happenin’ place.

Opening band Andreas kicked off the night’s festivities with a bluesy, kick-ass rock set, perfectly priming the crowd for the main event and impressing big time.

From the opening chords, stepping out into the light and stage mist, Speziale had us. Pulling out all the stops, the band included a three-piece string section near the beginning of the set and a three-piece horn section towards the end. Sultry, soulful and rocking out with her band, Speziale is a commanding, yet playful, presence onstage. Well before her final song – the title track from the CD – and the encore (“Brace Yourself”), Speziale had folks up on their feet dancing.

Here are some snaps I took at last night’s launch:

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You can also follow Jessica Speziale on Facebook and Twitter – and check out her YouTube channel. In the meantime, check out the music vid for the CD’s title track “Shine”:

I HATE TODD brings high-energy, big fun & kickass sounds @ Horseshoe Tavern for The Moves – Pt. 1 CD launch

At long last, Toronto band I HATE TODD launched their debut CD The Moves Pt. 1 at the iconic Horseshoe Tavern last night – and what a big fun night of music and celebration it was! In addition to an outstanding performance from I HATE TODD, the evening’s festivities also included some truly kickass opening performances by bands Rotary Dial, Giraffe and Ginger Ale & the Monowhales.

The Moves Pt. 1 is a powerful, darkly whimsical and playful record. Full of eclectic sounds, there’s Brit pop-inspired harmonies on songs like “8 Bullets,” celtic-inspired violin strains on “Sweet Drinks and Supplements” and country fiddle sounds on “Still Got The Moves,” spoken performances on the goth-flavoured “Zombie Love” and alt rock “Holiday With No Rest,” plus virtuoso guitar riffs, and rocking out bass and percussion all around – all delivered with outstanding vocals and musicianship. Lyrics are inspired by modern-day events, everyday life moments and, of course, love. Charismatic front man Todd Preston is part pop idol/part shaman, making every song a performance piece, interacting with band mates and entrancing the audience, wrapping us into the music. With its six tight, head-bopping tracks, I dare you to listen to The Moves Pt. 1 and not be moved – physically and emotionally.

Here are some snaps I took of the evening’s music, friends and fun. In order of appearance: Rotary Dial, Giraffe, Wendy at the merch booth, Ginger Ale & the Monowhales, I HATE TODD:

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You can also find I HATE TODD on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

And if you haven’t seen it, you must check out I HATE TODD’s video for “Zombie Love.”

I HATE TODD is: Todd Preston (vocals/guitar), Nelson Sobral (guitar/vocals), Capucine Onn (violin/vocals), Kev Carney (bass/vocals) and Troy Larabie (percussion/vocals). The Moves Pt.1 was engineered by Jeff Elliott. Shouts to Todd’s mom Wendy for heading up the merch booth. Congrats to the band for an awesome debut record and launch event!