Toon Tunes: Ralph Wiggum

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This summer as I battle an unusually long stretch of anxiety, I've turned to my coping mechanism - hours of cartoons. I've returned back to The Simpsons, and immediately identified with the lovable, lost spirit of Ralph Wiggum. The poor guy just wants to be loved, understood, to have someone who will listen to him talk endlessly about his cat or join him in eating glue and grass uninterrupted. Who among us hasn't felt that same way at one point? Anyways, this mix is a collection of songs about Lisa Simpson's rejection and early-era Ralph's secret desire to be understood and loved.

video: "Ready For The Magic" - Honeyblood

Honeyblood makes a most triumphant return with the kicking, totally electric "Ready For The Magic." It's the first single from Babes Never Die out 11/4 on Fat Cat, and its bewitching video perfectly captures their often gnarly and magical music with a group of badass girls taking over the countryside. "Ready For The Magic" is the band's way of kicking down your door and announcing their arrival. Honeyblood is back and we can't wait for more.

My Rad Rock Diary: Fear Of Men

words & illustrations: Sydne Wheeler Larsen

I associate Fear of Men’s latest album, Fall Forever with loss. My first full-listen was while watching the sunset over Manhattan from a Brooklyn beach. The sky streaked with purple, the waves washed away the consciousness of daylight, as I considered erasure: What if we could erase the memory of people we loved who had hurt us? 

Meanwhile, Fear of Men’s song, “Erase (Aubade)” whispered away in my ears. The lyrics hold in opposition the fondness of remembering “the hell that we made”, and the ability to let go of the weight of remembrance: “I erase these things / I don’t need what I left behind.” This tipping point of being broken by others and rebuilding is a precarious psychological tension sustained throughout the album. As Jess Weiss phrases it, the narrative is “partly letting things out, and it’s partly trying to feed back to yourself what you think you should hear”. 

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Fall Forever is an album about love, but the lens through which it is viewed is cerebral, paired with more mechanical production. “The emotional themes were dependency, vulnerability – but strength in overcoming that and trying to just take control of things. The idea of falling in love or falling apart was the crux of the thing. Trying to find beauty in sadness and trying to make it into something," Weiss said. 

The album depicts the human ruins left behind by relationships, allowing us into the conscience of someone else. The fadeout of the final track, “Onsra”, leaves the listener adrift as the keystone album lyric “fall forever/ fall together” repeats. As Weiss explains, "It feels like that world is still going on without you. You kind of dipped into someone’s brain. Then the world moves on apart from that but it’s kind of like its own world that you can imagine carrying on existing.”


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Band members, Weiss and Dan Falvey met me backstage at Bowery Ballroom before their first headlining NYC show.

Syd: One of the themes that people are pulling from your album is love, that’s come through pretty loud. But another one I pulled out is psychology. Was that an angle as well? I mainly was thinking of the clinical psychology areas of trauma, sanity, disassociation (with lyrics like being able to “shed” your body). 

Jess: At the time of writing the record, I started training to be a counselor because I'm really interested in the area of psychoanalysis and things like that,and I have an art degree. So this was a way I could start moving in that direction

I was interested in talking therapies. I started a course and it brought up all these - it made me very introspective about myself whereas the point of me doing it was that I wanted to try and do something that was less focused on myself and [rather] helping other people.

The way that you learn to become a therapist or a counselor is by talking about yourself, and that just made me fall apart a bit, and so it’s not something that I’m ready to pursue at the moment.

Again, trauma and sanity and how you keep yourself together and manage to make things, and how you just think about yourself as a whole, they’re ongoing themes of contemplation.

When you read something that you really relate to, you hang on to it. There was a reading about trauma that I did a few years ago – Elizabeth Costello, which is a J.M. Coetzee novel. There’s a character in that who is raped and she chooses to hold the trauma within herself. Her power, and her way of taking control of it is by not talking about it. She’s not in denial about it, but she says she holds it inside her like a stone egg. I like that. That became a really powerful image to me about how to reclaim some traumatic incident.

In the song “Trauma” I was thinking about it as reclaiming trauma as a badge of honor that you’re not trying to hide. So it is a different approach than that. Reading these little nuggets kind of stick in your head and you build your own view of how you want to explain things to the world through songs.

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Syd: Does that tie into the album artwork as well?

Jess: There were various things that attracted us to that statue. The way it was cropped, and the way that we could make it metallic – it kind of felt quite timeless. We wanted to in some ways dislocate it from the context of classical art and the actual myth.

Dan: When I first saw the image, to me it spoke to what I felt were the two main themes [of the album]: a struggle to be independent – to be yourself and that to be enough. But also dependent…

Jess: It’s passion and violence and sensuality. It’s someone’s grip. It just felt right. 

Syd: When you put something out as art, it kind of makes a statement even when you’re not trying to. So some of the things that you’re saying, it’s balancing the strength/weakness dichotomy. I don’t know if people have been trying to read that through a feminist lens? 

Jess: I’m very happy to be read through a feminist lens. I want everyone to be strong and empowered and equal and things…

Syd: But the reality is that there’s this struggle of weakness. And being in relationships…it sucks; people do give you trauma. It’s so hard to be feminist and be real sometimes.

Jess: I feel like that’s also just a human quality, having both sides. I know a lot of men who are very vulnerable as well in relationships. Anyone can feel at the mercy of someone that they love and at the same time empowered by that love. It’s just a very mixed up thing. Love is just a scary thing: that you’re giving someone this power over you; so you’ve given it to them, but then they…I don’t know. 

Dan: I think what you were saying the other day about [how] women who write about their own experiences are seen through a different lens maybe than men are. I though that was quite interesting.

Jess: I’ve been writing this piece about how writing about yourself affects your life. One of the points in it is about [when] a woman writes about emotional things [the response is], ‘Oh it’s just their personal confession’. But for men – it’s generally taken to be this more profound statement on humanity in general and things like that. 

It’s just a thought that I like. I like the idea that it can be read both ways as both something personal and also asking questions about people in general. I think inevitably, it definitely comes from a personal perspective. 

All the reading and things that I do feeds into stuff. Not everything that I write is…some things are just what’s happened to me and some things are wider than that.

Dan: It’s interesting for me. With the lyrics, I get more of an appreciation of them. I’ve been reading them and listening to them as we play. It’s quite interesting to see all this from your perspective.

Syd: Jess, so you write the lyrics. As you play it live, Dan, do you seem to pull different things at different shows, where something else makes sense on a different night?

Dan: Definitely, sometimes I do. It's weird because obviously we spent a lot of time together in practice. We spent a year making this record. Sometimes I’ll be playing live and Ill be like, ‘Oh I know what that means!’. But it still might not even be that really. It kind of strikes you because I’ve watched different aspects of Jess’s life as she talks about it, and it’s interesting to see how that comes out in her lyrics.

Syd: Do you have that too, Jess? Where you’re singing it live and also reacting to the memories you’re having?

Jess: I don’t know, I’m very in the moment when I’m performing it. I’m thinking about the meaning but I almost feel in a sort of hazy trance. Onstage is not really the time of deeper thinking for me, but definitely talking it over with the people who have inspired the songs, or reading how people have interpreted things, that can definitely tell me more about myself than I knew I was letting on.


I wonder how much control we actually have in our experience of relationships, but we instead choose to create a reality in which we are “broken”, vulnerable to others, or powerless. (Or maybe something else.) That the fear we have isn’t always about others wounding us, but rather, hurting ourselves. 

If I’d written this feature on a different day, I would have told you about the fun I had at Bowery, but I wrote this today, and this is how I see things.

Maybe another day I’ll have the frame of mind to feel power over the relationships I choose to have. In fact, I am the one with the proverbial pen. Weiss is the one with the microphone and the guitar. This is the power we wield when we are not afraid.

additional editing & art direction: Jess Kessler Cavaluzzi

mp3: "Steeping" - Dogbreth

Photo: Stillman Busselle

Photo: Stillman Busselle

On their previous single from Second Home, Dogbreth riled us up, and for "Steeping," they slow it down, even adding a little saxophone. The things we want most in life may not come with the immediacy we expect, and Dogbreth compares that waiting game to a "Steeping" tea bag. "My hope is the longer it takes/the stronger that I'll be/cause when I finally reach your mouth/I'll wanna wake you warmly." There's a sincerity and romanticism to the single, the idea that waiting sucks, and watching the tea darken to signal it's ready for consumption may take a little time, but on the other side of it is something totally glorious to enjoy.

The album drops in August on Asian Man Records.

video premiere: "Family" - Gold Light

Gold Light will take to the road with Grace Joyner in support of their recently released Hearts and Plugs album Visions, and ahead of that tour we're proud to premiere the video for single "Family." It's a glorious video treatment with a montage of clips that encapsulate the freedom and golden hour that is the summer season. And with the warmth of vocalist Joe Chang, it feels like spending the season with a long lost friend, revisiting the best of adventures together.

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mp3 premiere: "Magic Castle" - Meredith Meyer

Artwork: Meredith Meyer

Today we're excited to premiere "Magic Castle," the self-titled track from Meredith Meyer's upcoming EP. You may know Meyer from Young Unknowns, but this release is solely her own. "Magic Castle," is a romantic, dreamy declaration to "risk it all," making the most of the moments life has given us now. It's a more than suitable message as Meyer explains the otherworldly inspiration behind the single:

I wrote this song about 8 or so years ago, when I was slumming it in Los Angeles, after having an experience in the magician's dressing room at the Historic Brookledge Theatre.  There is a rich history to this place as it is considered the "original Magic Castle," a school for magicians and home to performers that is now part of Hollywood folklore. The dressing room at Brookledge is supposedly haunted by the spirits of magicians past. 
I performed there for a private party and had an odd experience in the dressing room where I felt like I encountered a ghost. One of the daughters of Milt Larsen asked me about it, and she told me she believed me. She asked me if I believed in magic. I have never forgotten that moment.  I wrote the song but never recorded it. Instead I put it in the bottom of a cardboard box along with the lyrics of dozens of other songs I have never recorded. 
A long time later when packing to move to New York, I found the lyrics in the box, and remembered the melody. I began to play it live at solo shows but never recorded it. But I couldn't get the melody off my mind. I've even had people hear it live and tell me they couldn't get the song out of their head; that it haunted them. I finally decided to record the song with a NY musician/ producer friend Matt Keating, and he loved it. We worked on the song in New York but for some reason it didn't feel 100% finished, so I finished recording it where the song began, in Los Angeles, during a visit to the musically rich Laurel Canyon. ( I recorded the rest at Canyon Hut with Tim Hutton, and I had Brandon White add some guitar to it. Then had my longtime producer and friend Bill Racine do the final mix). 
I feel like the song is a little bit prophetic, with everything that is happened in the world since it was written. The question of the song is, who do you choose to be? What kind of person are you going to be in your lifetime? I don't think there has ever been a more important time than now for us to ask ourselves that question.  Maybe the ghost back then saw into the future. Maybe he/she knew what we'd be going through today. Either way, here we are. 

mp3: "Total Body Erasure" - Izzy True

If you've ever combatted with a mental illness you know the desire that can often overtake you to just ditch all of those awful feelings. Even in our attempts to fight back against "a chemical makeup," we can't always have the control over our feelings or thoughts that we wish for. Izzy True is all too familiar with this, and in the single "Total Body Erasure," singer Isabel Reidy shares intimately of their journey to cathartically deal with mental illness. It's from the band's Nope LP out 8/5 on Don Giovanni Records. 

stream premiere: Honor Her - Shakusky

The message of Shakusky's Honor Her is one we firmly stand behind and are proud to present. Too Far Gone Records will release this new album on 7/21 and today we're bringing you the full stream. 

Here's what Kira Mattheson had to say about the release:

"Honor Her rejects predatory sexual behavior and the capitalism of cosmetic beauty. It asks women to cast off the figurative purity ring they have been coerced into wearing. Sonically, the album blends gentle, harmonic vocals with unexpected rhythmic transitions and textured heaviness.
Girls--these words are for you. I want you to hear this music. I want you to make your own music, or do whatever activity makes you feel empowered. And I want to talk to you about it! We can be friends, because the best resource we have is each other. Let's talk: mskiramattheson@gmail.com

podcast: The Grey Estates Podcast #6: Véronique Allaer & Kerstin Bladh (Leggy)

If you've read for The Grey Estates for any length of time you'll know that the members of Leggy are basically are best friends, with their garage pop making frequent appearances on the site. Today we're happy to welcome them back for episode #6 of our podcast! Don't forget to rate, review and subscribe! 

p.s. if you wish to make a donation to Erik Petersen's Memorial Fund, go here.

mp3 premiere: "We Real Cool" - Goldmines

Goldmines' recently released self-titled EP will receive the tape treatment through Dadstache Records in September. The tape will feature this bonus track, "We Real Cool," a completely reckless jam that's wild, free and features utterly roaring guitar lines. It's like you're finally on the other side of that party you so badly wanted to attend in high school, and it turns out it's really everything you dreamed.

p.s. I saw them open for The Coathangers & L.A. Witch last night, and this song live will totally slay you. 

Vocalist Mandy Look describes the track as,

"‘We Real Cool’ is a song adapted from the Gwendolyn Brooks poem sharing the same title. I read the poem and the song just immediately came out. I related heavily to this short poem, and I see it relating to many of my friends. It’s nihilistic, it’s facetious, it’s not seeing a future, it’s about living fast to die young, being tough, look at how cool we are. I just wanted it to rip."