Toon Tunes: Raven

curated by Mo Wilson

Dark times call for darker heroes, so what better time to inject some Raven vibes in your life. For those of you who don’t know, Raven is the sarcastic telekinetic witch from Teen Titans. The show was an update of the Titan comic series, where Robin (Batman’s twink sidekick) lead his own team of super heroes. The early 2000s-era cartoon recast the team as teenagers and gave the show a healthy dash of slapstick humor. Raven was the wry, Daria-like calm the center of the storm, but beneath her icy demeanor there was a history of trauma. Her father was a giant red demon who tried to end the world one season, and gave her a damming prophecy along with passing along his powers to her. These powers were what made her a superhero, but if she ever lost the tight lid she kept on her emotions she would lose control of them to terrifying results. Despite evil comes so naturally to her, she works hard to be a force of good. As Albus Dumbledore said” We must choose between doing what is right, and doing what is easy,” and Raven lives out that inspiring quote.

To capture her essence, I used a lot on new-wave and synth heavy songs with dark witchy vibes, as well as capturing the turmoil of her fighting against the shadow of her father. The first song is of course the Daria theme, because for most Teen Titan’s run Raven was the quintessential snarky intellectual running low on patience. Put this mix on when you’re feeling annoyed at the world and want to inject some quiet bad-assery into your day.

mp3: "Cry Later" - Hater

The pieces of Hater's latest single come together like a golden-hued kaleidoscope. Their indie-pop is always stunning, and "Cry Later" is no exception - its dusty, rough-edged heart holding the secrets to something's finality. The careful and compelling vocals of Caroline Landhal weave a dazzling path through the jangle of instrumentals, leading you through nearly three minutes of pure bliss. Their debut LP You Tried is out in March on PNKSLM Recordings.

mp3: "Grudge" - Slingshot Dakota

Last year Slingshot Dakota released the incredible album Break, and are following it up with a 7" titled Broken featuring two previously unreleased singles. The first of those singles is "Grudge," a powerful, moving declaration that decries the disbelief and struggles experienced because of gender. Calamitous, but steady instrumentals back the vocals of Carly Commando, the anger and continued struggles to "keep my head above water," evident in a growing, roaring conclusion. At a time when so many are fighting to make their voices heard, "Grudge" is the reminder we need that all is not lost. As Commando explained, 

“I wrote "Grudge" as an ode to all of my experiences in which I have been written off, ignored, spoken over, steamrolled and treated unfairly because of my gender. This song is a way to share this anger with others who feel alienated, whether it's in their music communities or elsewhere, so that we realize we aren't alone. I've learned to cut toxic people out of my life and to spend less energy on situations that make me unhappy, but I am still constantly battling inequality in the scene I spend most of my time in. This song means as much to me now as it did when I wrote it.”

mp3: "Daisy" - Ohyeahsumi

GoldFlakePaint premiered this stunner of a single from the latest signees to Sports Day Records - Ohyeahsumi. The LA-based twins will release an EP at the end of the month and ahead of that shared "Daisy" - a completely fantastical few minutes that enlivens the sprinkle of fairy dust and magic that seems to cover the city of Angels. Warping you into a trance with delicate, husky vocals and subtle instrumentals, "Daisy" is the absolute essence of a city in the wee hours of the night - utterly still and unassuming, but beneath the surface of starlit darkness is lurking beauty. 

mp3: "Tilt-A-Whirl" - Alyeska

Every summer, the fair would pull into my small town. For one week I could flock to an open field and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of a summer outdoors. Alyeska captures this feeling on the new single "Tilt-A-Whirl", part of their Crush EP out March 3. Airy and breezy like a late summer evening, Alyeska's Alaska Reid explained to Stereogum that the track is an ode to her owm small county fair. Like the ride this track takes its namesake from, "Tilt-A-Whirl" encourages you to step aboard, swirling and sweeping you into Reid's daydreams and memories, instrumentals and vocals passing by ever so quickly. When it's over you may feel a bit unsteady and a little dazzled, but the draw to ride it again remains. 

mp3 premiere: "Total Animal Soup" - Good Doom

words: Kat Harding

Ahead of his latest album, Good Doom aka Anthony Schurbon has graced us with a brand new single, “Total Animal Soup.” The Minneapolis-based artist creates warm, glitchy soundscapes, that draw you in and cover you in comforting sound. His album New Shapes For You, is slated for a March 10 release on the ever-interesting Forged Artifacts label. The cheerful succulents gracing the cover the cover of this tape are a clue to the pleasant and happy tunes inside;

The song adds layer upon layer of chilled-out beats, pulling you into a trance, ensuring you’ll be nodding your head and moving your body. A dark and whispered chorus of “rock and roll, rock and roll,” runs through the song, a cheeky comment lobbed over electronic music, but it is rock and roll. There’s hardly any rules or conventions when it comes to rock and roll anymore and Good Doom is just making good music.

Listen to this song when it is sunny, and you’re driving down the road with your windows down and your best shades on. The upbeat and slightly mysterious instrumentals could just be the soundtrack to one of the best days of your life.

Pre-order the tape here.

album: Not Even Happiness - Julie Byrne

words: Jordan Gorsuch

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She was the single artificer of the world
In which she sang. And when she sang, the sea,
Whatever self it had, became the self
That was her song, for she was the maker
- Wallace Stevens, “The Idea of Order at Key West”

I’m not fond of the person I am when I am traveling. 

I like the results of traveling, I always cherish the memories – but when I’m in the moment, I feel a sense of unease. I don’t feel like myself. I feel different. I wonder if it’s because I feel a lack of anchor when I’m traveling - a lack of home. 

I can’t help myself when I feel a little jealous of free-spirits, people resembling plastic bags in the wind – ending up wherever the breeze settles them down. Julie Byrne is one of those people. A self-described nomad, Byrne has traveled all over the country and doesn’t plan on settling down anytime soon. Not Even Happiness is a travel album, a deeply-felt collection of songs that play out like vignettes, or small threads in a larger tapestry of life. These flashes of rural country sides and breathtaking vistas are varied but the eyes that take them in are the same, the hand that pens their effect is only but one, and the voice that shapes their influence is smoky and haunting; there’s only one Byrne. 

“Sleepwalker” finds Byrne quickly fingerpicking beautiful, serene chords with a hint of melancholy pervading the corners. Her father’s guitar (now passed onto her) joins her on a hypnotic duet of unfurling roads and wide-open expanses of wilderness. Her fingertips buzz as she reveals: “I crossed the country and I carried no key / Couldn’t I look up at the stars from anywhere / And sometimes I did, I felt ancient / But still I sought peace and it never came to me.” We’re not going to get any answers from Byrne, she’s in this with the rest of us. Always searching, always striving. 

“Colorado, Wyoming, Helena into the Evergreen…” Byrne sings on “Melting Grid,” “…Preserve my memory of the mystic west / As I lay no claim to the devotion I felt." Her fingerpicking gives way to soft strums and bright flutes that shine through the haze of reverb surrounding her weary voice.

Byrne masterfully blends folk with new age in simple, haunting compositions that shine brighter thanks to the understated subtly of the mix. Soft orchestral moments sweep in and out of the arrangements, samples of ocean waves enhance warm synths in the background, and keys emanate behind her misty contralto singing-range. Naturalistic imagery floods the stunning “Morning Dove,” Byrne’s guitar thumps with a memorable, stagnated guitar line. The bird enhances her reality with its soft tenor: “From your lips which splashed my dull house with music.” The bird’s music informs her perception of nature, as Byrne’s music impacts our own outlook. 

I might not feel like myself when I’m on the road, but Byrne helps me feel like I’m inching closer to accepting that my true home is wherever I wish it to be. The key can be found somewhere along the roads within. 

A Dream Come True: An Interivew with Meg Duffy (Hand Habits)

This month, a lifelong dream came true for Meg Duffy, the musical artist otherwise known as Hand Habits.

After five years of songwriting, Duffy released her debut full length - Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void) on Woodsist Records. The album is a strikingly intimate glance into Duffy’s past, tracing a move from the Catskills of New York to the bustle of Los Angeles and detailing the lessons she uncovered in music and in life along the way.

During a childhood in which she moved around a lot, Duffy sought an escape in music. Holed up in her bedroom, her guitar provided a constant source of comfort.

“Guitar was my excuse to be alone and to work on something,” she said. “It was an escape and while playing I could emote all the feelings that I had.”

She returned to her childhood escape repeatedly, even after graduating college, when she began picking up side jobs playing for other songwriters. 

Taking the stage with acts including Mega Bog and Kevin Morby, she was taken aback by their peformance, and saw firsthand how rewarding it was for artists to sing and write original material. The performances filled her with a sense of insecurity, leaving Duffy unable to envision her own future in songwriting.

But then, things in her life started to change and the stage she shared with others became a source of inspiration for material. 

“I first started writing songs about five years ago,” she said. “I was feeling all these emotions and I needed time for myself. I started writing the songs for Wildly Idle before I had ever thought about making a record.”

The record began taking shape in the Catskills, where a bulk of the material was written before its completion following her move to California. 

During the recording and production of the album she would leave often to go on tour. At first, she feared the frenetic schedule of touring would disrupt her “groove,” but the months she spent away from recording provided much needed perspective. 

“I would sit on these songs for a month and then go away and come back, and a lot of times I’d come up with a new idea” she said. “I learned a lot every time I went to do something on this record. I was making changes as I went along and kept very loose arrangements.” 

Mixing much of the album in the Los-Angeles “thin-walled” home she shared with three other roommates, Duffy immersed herself fully, drowning out the world around her. Some moments on the recording provide a glimpse into her world, and you can hear the sounds of her roommates through the walls  - the clink of dishes in the sink and padding of footsteps in the hall, all mixing with Duffy’s beautiful, and purposefully simple arrangements. 

After a lengthy period of being “immersed in other projects,” Duffy is empowered that her debut record is out and in the hands and lives of others. She's also overwhelmed with gratitude, acknowledging that this childhood dream come true is now a reality that every listener is contributing to.

“It’s like having an anonymous source of comfort that others can develop their own feelings to this record,” she said. “In a way it’s a preserving of my own emotions and now others can have their emotions to it and we’re creating this beautiful microcosm.”