Posted by: Necci – Feb 15, 2012
Candy Hearts - Everything's Amazing And Nobody's Happy (Kind Of Like Records)
Let me start out by saying that any band who name their album after a quote from the brilliant comedian Louis CK wins major points from me. Before I ever listened to this album, I was predisposed toward liking it. And yet, even though I'd had my expectations raised by the awesomeness of their album title, Everything's Amazing And Nobody's Happy still went above and beyond anything I'd foreseen from it. Candy Hearts write upbeat, catchy songs with incredible vocal melodies, and play them in the classic two-guitars/bass/drums rock n' roll format. They get lumped in with the pop-punk scene, perhaps due to the bands they tend to play with, but it seems to me like they have more in common with the female-fronted power-pop bands that came out of the indie scene in the mid-90s, such as Tsunami and Tiger Trap. Candy Hearts are just as adept at writing sugary bubblegum choruses as those bands were, and if Candy Hearts fit into the world of pop-punk pretty easily, it's due more to their no-frills instrumental configuration, and the fact that they keep tempos upbeat, than because they're writing songs with any real stereotypically punk toughness to them.
This is not intended to put them down, however--oh, far from it. The emphasis on tender, vulnerable emotions that is present in singer Mariel Loveland's lyrics throughout the album leads to some poignant moments, which serve to make the tunes on which they appear even more memorable. On "Good Enough," she begins with a verse about her shortcomings and the way they interfere with her attempts at a relationship. "You're always sort of mad at me, because I'm late for everything, and my socks don't match, and my hair is messy," she declares. In the song's short, two-line prechorus, she follows up that sentiment with the warning, "I know what you're saying before you do, that I'm not good enough for you." But then, as the chorus kicks in and the entire band moves into a higher, more upbeat register, she defiantly proclaims, "I'm good enough for me!" The song's contrast of a depressing situation with this fundamental assertion of healthy self-esteem is the kind of thing that anyone can appreciate.
"Good Enough" is only one of several songs on Everything's Amazing And Nobody's Happy that justifies its anthemic musical status with excellent lyrical content. "Jawbreaker" hits just as hard, with a chorus about listening to the legendary titular band "with my friends, with the windows down in the back of the van." This happy situation is contrasted with wistful thoughts about an ex, thoughts that Loveland sings about wanting to banish by having a good time with her friends, as the rest of the band blasts through a driving chorus that'll get stuck in your head all day. "Lighter Than Air" has a more wistful melody, which it pairs with equally wistful lyrics about a spontaneous crush developing randomly during an unplanned ride home from a show. The album's final song, the succinct "Everything's Alright," juxtaposes verses in which concerns and fears are expressed alongside potentially good feelings with a chorus that repeats the song's title. This actually provides a good summary for the themes of the album as a whole--regardless of how good or bad things might seem at any given point, on the whole, everything's going pretty well.
Perhaps this attempt to put a positive spin on the day-to-day realities of life was what led Candy Hearts to name their album after Louis CK's memorable rant on Conan O'Brien's show. CK's point was that people don't appreciate the good things that exist in their lives because as soon as they become accustomed to them, they feel entitled to them and begin taking them for granted. In many places on this album, Mariel Loveland makes a point of refusing to surrender to negativity and despair, to believe in herself and find a way to put a positive spin on less-than-perfect circumstances. Candy Hearts may or may not be a punk rock band in the generally understood sense--they often mix acoustic guitars into their sound, and there's nothing rough about Loveland's gorgeous vocals--but the defiant, positive spirit that is displayed throughout this album has the sincerity at its heart that is an essential ingredient of any punk band. That sincerity, as well as the undeniable level of talent that went into the songcraft on display here, make Everything's Amazing And Nobody's Happy an essential listen.
Candy Hearts will play at Kingdom (10 Walnut Alley, off 18th St. between Main and Franklin in Shockoe Bottom) on Thursday, February 16 with Man Overboard, Handguns, Seahaven, and Daytrader. Doors open at 6 PM, admission is $10.
Also, check out this acoustic demo of their song "I Want You" that Candy Hearts posted for free download on their Bandcamp!
By Andrew Necci