This is too good.

In this day and age, 90s band reunions are a dime-a-dozen; some are great to see and welcome, some are…not so much—seminal shoegazers Slowdive register for me as the very much former. We caught them at the Ace in downtown Los Angeles in 2014 and the show they put on was beautiful; nostalgic, yes, but, above all else, beautiful.

What’s not a dime-a-dozen, though, are reunions that result in new music; rarer still—reunions that result in good new music that isn’t just an uninventive regurgitation of music made 20+ years back. But last week, Slowdive released their first new song in 22 years and it is both excellent and forward-looking. The trademark swirling wall of noise and soft, melodic vocals are there, but the song sounds of the now as much as it does of our collective youths; there’s innovation and newness there and it all adds up to great new music.

As the band wrote when they release the track:

“When the band decided to get back together in 2014 we really wanted to make new music. It’s taken us a whole load of shows and a few false starts to get to that point, but it’s with pride and a certain trepidation we unleash “Star Roving”. We really hope folks enjoy it, it’s part of a bunch of new tracks we’ve been working on and it feels as fun, and as relevant playing together now as it did when we first started.”

Give it a listen and keep your fingers crossed for more.

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When the band decided to get back together in 2014 we really wanted to make new music.

A few months back, we were listening to KCRW‘s, Good Food, as we’re wont to do when we’re able to make the time on the weekends. If you don’t know the program, it’s a weekly culinary show that covers pretty much anything involving food—restaurant reviews, cookbooks, baking, farmers market finds, larger food trends, fair wages in food services; anything and everything interesting in the food world. It’s usually a pretty great listen; sometimes not the most-vegan-friendly, but, this being southern California, on the other side of the coin, also often super-vegan-friendly and more often than not, very vegetable-centric.

So, anyway, a few months back, we were sipping coffee on the front porch and their sandwich episode dropped. As usual, it covered an array of subjects within the show theme and featured a number of guests—bread-baking 101 with the owner of our favorite local mill; a super-charming British guy talking British sandwiches (spoiler: he adorably calls them ‘sarnies’); LA’s golden boy Jonathan Gold reviewing a great bar up from our studio, Everson Royce—but the segment that caught our ears was one with Tyler Kord, owner of No. 7 Sub, a sub shop in NYC that we’d never heard of before.

The shop, like the show, is not vegan, but has a clean love of vegetables, throwing many of their sandwiches into the vegetarian and/or vegan-ize-able categories. One such sandwich—No. 7 Sub’s Broccoli Classic—left us salivating and champing at the bit to make it ourselves.

I thought I’d just wing it, but, lo and behold, I happened across the recipe on an old WNYC post. Though it’s technically taken from a limited edition, 48-page cookbook Kord published around the time of that original WNYC post, the chef, restauranteur, and author also now has a fabulously named cookbook new cookbook out now—A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches.

The original recipe linked to above is vegetarian already, so it was just a matter of subbing the mayo + feta; after which, we ended up with one of the messiest, most craveable sandwiches we’d ever made (note: we used ciabatta rolls; guessing using actual sub rolls might be a good deal less messy; …additional note: you might be tempted to skip the most intimidating component—the lychee muchin (pictured, right)—but don’t, it’s easier than it sounds and makes the sandwich).

Makes 2 large, messy sandwiches

1 can pitted lychees (available at Asian markets—we got ours in Thai Town), drained and quartered

1 garlic clove, minced

One 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced

1 medium shallot, finely chopped

A few drops of sesame oil

1 tablespoon sugar

2 small dried chiles, chopped (from Kord: “I prefer tien tsin chiles, available at Asian markets, or chiles de arbol, available at Mexican markets, but a teaspoon of red chile flakes will work”; we used dried, bright red Korean chili flakes)

1 cup white vinegar

2 scallions, thinly sliced on a bias

2 soft Italian sub rolls, split lengthwise or 2 large ciabatta rolls

4 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise

1 pound broccolini (we used flowering broccoli, which is perfect in southern California right now)

4 ounces ricotta salata, shredded (about 1 cup)

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

1/2 cup fried shallots (the Vietnamese ones found at Asian markets, but any fried onions, store-bought or homemade, will do)

In a mixing bowl, combine the lychees, garlic, ginger, shallot, sesame oil, sugar, chiles, vinegar and scallions. Let sit for at least an hour.

In an oven preheated to 375 degrees, toast the sub rolls and reheat the broccoli if necessary.

Spread 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise on each of the sub rolls, then use tongs to stuff the rolls with broccoli. Top each sandwich with a little bit of the lychee muchin, followed by the ricotta salata, pine nuts, and fried shallots. Serve.

From Tyler Kord’s cookbook, Broccoli, available from Short Stack Editions.

Belatedly wishing everyone a warm holiday season, happy new year, and a peaceful day of remembrance on the one year anniversary of David Bowie’s death. It still stings.

Let’s take the losses and turmoil of 2016 as a call to wholeheartedly enjoy and appreciate those we do have in our lives, be them creatively gifted entertainers, true friends, or both. Let’s also take it as a call to action.

Pictured, our yearly holiday/new year cards, designed by us and letterpress printed. You can listen to the song referenced here in our piece on the top ten records of 2016.

We’re handing the reins of our journal over to Jessica Ramsey of Los Angeles’ Moon Honey—one of our favorite bands in town—as she interviews and is interviewed by members of WARGIRL and Sugar Candy Mountain. The bands are playing a free show together at the Echo tonight along with Winter and Magic Wands.

Jess speaks with Ash Reiter of Sugar Candy Mountain (below, right):

Jess: First – we’re so saddened by the latest happenings in Oakland (your home base) concerning the Ghost Ship fire and send our condolences to those affected. In the midst of tragedy and anxiety over safe and affordable housing, what would you say has been a source of comfort or strength for the Bay Area artist community? Do you have any advice concerning self-care or how we should treat fellow artists at this time?

Ash: We find strength in each other. We take care of each other in the ways we can. We get together for Friends Giving and eat way too much bread pudding and laugh way too much. We go for winter hikes in Tilden and walk around with 5 pounds of mud caked to each foot discussing our futures. We go to each others shows and find ourselves in awe. My take away from this year has been to spend more time with the people you love, they are the only thing to precious to lose.

Jess: Have the events of 2016 shaken or detoured your current artistic course and/or musical direction following the release of your most recent album 666?

Ash: 2016 was a very ambitious for us as a band. We spent much of the year touring and recording our own music and helping record a couple albums for friends The Blank Tapes and fpodbpod. We also moved away to Joshua Tree from Oakland where we had lived for the past years. This was partly in response to the Bay Area housing crisis- at the time we still had reasonable rent but there seemed to be an incredible pressure on the city as it tried to absorb influx of new residents and exodus of many longtime natives. Oakland hardly felt like my city anymore. With 2016 now behind us we look forward to finishing a couple new album this year and touring Europe this spring.

Jess: Do you think artists have a responsibility to help shape the culture of modern America, and can we positively affect culture without being directly political—simply by expressing ourselves in our purest, most free form?

Ash: I believe the personal is political. As artists we may have more opportunities to call attention to issues and rally people to action, but we certainly have the power to move people towards feeling. I think that’s the only responsibility of an artist is to inspire people to feel more deeply- whether it be a feeling of peace or restless, heartbreak or ecstasy, rage or grace. Coming closer to our emotions allows us to reach a higher plane of self-knowledge. Understanding our inner landscape gives us better grounding to grasp the world around us.

Ash: Sometimes I have difficulty finding the right words for a song. Do you have somewhere specific you turn when you are having trouble with lyrics?

Jess: I have difficulty too! I try to turn back to my journals—moments when I’m very emotional and childish and let large amounts of words spill out without judgement or form. I take a big chunk later and try to whittle them down like a sculpture to a more styled and meditated form. I get to erase most of the embarrassing parts.

Ash: I like to think about different sorts of albums I plan to record and then begin writing the songs with specific reference points in mind. This can mean be attracted to a particular tone, wanting to emulate a specific singer, bring in an unusual instrument or play a certain genre of music. Together all these things give me a vision for a cohesive album. That said can you describe a future album you would like to make?

Jess: We do have visions of what our future music sounds like that usually get extremely derailed! For the album we are currently finishing, we became obsessed with replicating the recklessness of the Rolling Stones, the darkness of Bowie’s Low, and the mysticism of Alice Coltrane’s Journey in Satchidananda. I’m glad we had those things there for a healthy guideline when our canoe traveled too far down the neurotic creek. Longterm we’re aiming to make big points in simple words.

Ash: What music would you like to have at your funeral? (Mine is The Velvet Underground)

Jess: Andrew inserts: “I would like Are You Experienced or a traditional jazz funeral playing as everyone gets naked and speaks in tongues. Afterwards have my guitars and body thrown into the Caribbean Sea so I can introduce pentatonic riffs to the angel fish.”

I personally would like a mix tape beginning with “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria” from Sound of Music, with entries by Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone and John Lennon. I’m thinking I’d like to be buried with a fig tree, just for the gross dare factor of someone eating my figs.

——

Jess speaks with Matthew Wignall of WARGIRL:

Jess: I understand via search engine that you’re the artist responsible for the pregnancy and birth of WARGIRL—an artist of all mediums who wrote, produced and engineered the tracks as well as filmed and edited the “People” music video, made the album art, and hand-assembled vinyl art packages for release. Please correct me if I’m wrong! I appreciate the colossal amount of effort that must have gone into the project, and I think that effort combined with a wonderful cast of musicians really paid off in an undiluted, soulful, analog aesthetic. In a modern musical landscape dominated by streaming services and DAW plug-ins, why is it important to you guys to make the human hand evident in your work?

Matt: While the band was started by me, it is very much of a collaboration. Many of us have been making music together for years and we all have this sort of broke down, duct tape, hissy analog aesthetic. I make records for other bands and have an analog recording studio so that makes for a great focal point for us creatively. Without the ladies we would be nothing. There really is something to the woman’s touch idea, so any idea I come up with and start to execute it’s always, how do I get the girls to make this cooler. They are all so insanely talented. Everyone sucks at texting and social media and everyone makes art so I think we all just more or less found each other, and we enjoy creative irregularities, accidents, distortions, individuality. It’s not so much that it is important to us, it’s all we know. We are lucky to have ended up all together.

Jess: The lyrics, “People are you living? / Get together now,” feel just as relevant today as they would have in the 60’s and 70’s. The Aretha nodding to Rhianna vocals with Jessica Rabbit appeal are the creamy peanut butter to the vintage jelly instrumentals of maximum vibe. Who wrote the lyrics, and do you find it at all uncanny that they were intuitively written before an extremely divisive election? Or do they simply reflect a political reality you were already in tune with long before America woke up to an enormous hang-over and new President Elect? I recently came across a quote by R.M. Koster which reads: “An artist predicts the future because, unlike others, he knows the present.” Can we expect to find more healing balm for our many political scabs inside the full length record?

Matt: That song was one of our first but it sets the tone of what we are about. Music and all art are things that bring people together, and hopefully, say something that causes some kind of change in an individual or group. When you listen to third world music, especially in Africa in the 60s and 70s, it is the voice of the people. It is progressive experimental folk music, taking what they grew up with and combining it with things they were hearing out of England or America. You can see this in most heavily oppressed cultures, the perspective is one of people unifying over common frustration or desperation. When it comes to our music we honestly don’t overthink it, this is our perspective and it comes out naturally. A good example, our percussionist was born in Ecuador and came to America with his mother at a very young age. I’ve been playing with him in bands since he was 13. He has spent more than 20 years trying to get legal residency. He has a college degree, he makes the world sound better as a musician, and he’s about the best person you’d ever want to know. Then you got Trump talking about mass illegal deportation. It’s easy to hold up a criminal and say this guy should be deported, but what about all the amazing people who were brought here by their parents and have nothing back where they came from?And how broken is our system that people like this cannot get residency when playing by the rules for decades? What about militarized police on private native land over Christmas? What about years of Bush wars sustained and sometimes elevated by Obama? I hate getting preachy but come on, there’s so much frustrating stuff going on that we can’t help but say something about it and hopefully make it positive. This older generation of political sellouts will die off sooner than later with their GMO heavy diets, and how will the next generation change things? We want to encourage people to make things better. Music is an amazing tool to do this. Protest can be positive.

Matt: So I’m really tripping out on the music you all make, I’m totally fascinated by the singing, the lyrics, really the whole package. There’s obviously prog rock influences, and probably theatre…I’m wondering how a band from Baton Rouge, Louisiana got here musically… Baton Rouge to someone from LA seems like Pirates of the Caribbean, I think of that part of the country as a kind of magical place with all the music and history and culture, tell me about how that culture and music and art shaped you into the unique performers you are now.

Jess: Aw shucks! It’s a bit more Pirates of the Caribbean than you might suppose, since our guitarist and composer Andrew grew up in Grand Cayman, a small island in the Caribbean. He moved to Baton Rouge with his father at age 13 out of excitement for American culture. His father, Frank Martin, is an outrageous music collector and raised Andrew on prog. As a child Andrew remembers lullaby night drives on which his dad blared King Crimson, Yes, Mahavishnu Orchestra, etc. Louisiana was a bit of a foreign place to him, but one in which he delightfully discovered troves of extremely talented musicians to collaborate with.

I grew up with more of a Christian church background. My first experience of playing music was when I joined the middle school worship team. My teens were spent in the swamp of St. Gabriel next door to Alligator Bayou. There’s a soggy, humid, mosquito driven depression that maybe unscrews our caps a little—just enough to make Louisiana the expressively flamboyant way that it is. I idolized New Orleans’ light hearted attitude, as well as respected the heavy history and voodoo spirit. When I finally became involved in the music scene, we wanted to explore new territory. We gave our best go as angsty young ones to stay away from every form of live music we were used to hearing in New Orleans: jazz, blues, Afro-Cuban, Cajun, Zydeco, folk, gospel. The appreciation never went away, though, and I do think these influences are finally leaking out our bathroom faucet. There are elements of Caribbean, horn jazz ensembles, twang, and whoopin’ and hollerin’. We’ve evolved into a Mardi Gras parade.

Matt: Jess, your vocals are so unique, and I think the lyrics are very original, I’ve listened to “Life Has No Meaning” 3 times this morning by the way. I would love to hear about your perspective on singing, what inspired you to experiment and find your own voice, and how your singing fits into the musical ideas you are projecting.

Jess: Thank you – I appreciate the open ears. To our readers, “Life Has No Meaning” has a positive message (I think), so no one worry if Matt has offed himself after a morning meditation. My inspiration to start singing was that of FOMO, or fear of missing out. Two wonderful musicians (Andrew and our former drummer Jermaine Butler) asked me if I’d like to sing in a band and I said no, I couldn’t. I was in college for fine art and had extreme stage fright. After a week it began to dawn on me that the proposal may have been the only opportunity in this lifetime I would be asked to join a touring rock&roll band. I realized I had no other choice than to try out immediately. Since then it has completely absorbed my life, and I am just as happy writing music as I am painting, as I am singing, as I am performing. My approach to it is therapeutic: how do I feel, how would I put that in words, how would I put that in melody, how would I put that in picture? Singing was wildly experimental, untrained, and not very comfortable to listen to for the first few years, then I met some beautiful women trained in opera and soul music who took me under their wing. I still feel highly untrained but at least the magic of music has stuck around for me.

Matt: Lastly do you like Scott Walker? I feel you like you would. He’s the best.

Jess: Listening now for the first time. Like an upbeat Bill Callahan in a Broadway show! Thank you for the intro. Wow this is really creepy. I’m into it and will have to fully explore what this person is.

We find strength in each other. We take care of each other in the ways we can.... My take away from this year has been to spend more time with the people you love, they are the only thing to precious to lose.
Ash of Sugar Candy Mountain

At this point, the whole ‘2016 is the worst year ever’ thing is basically white noise. But it’s also 100% true.

Wednesday, the day after Carrie Fisher’s death, we walked down to the Arclight to see the new Star Wars movie and emerged to find out that Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds, had died a day after her daughter. This in the same week Geroge Michael died suddenly; in the same year we lost Bowie, Prince, Cohen, Jones, Phife Dawg, and countless other iconic entertainers and public figures and waking up with New York Times alerts on your phone has become an anxiety-ridden death watch every morning. All of this on top ofa political victory many of us naïvely considered unthinkable that seems to threaten many ideals we hold dear.

At best, this year shined a light on mortality and what’s truly important in our lives; at worst, it’s the end of the fucking world.

Let’s hope (and, hyperbole aside for a second, truly work) for the latter. Truly sorrowful losses aside, it has been a great year for record releases, with some huge names giving us what may prove to be seminal albums and many a great record from relative newcomers.

Below are our picks for the best records of 2016. Narrowing these down this busy year for music was a pretty harrowing task and, even as we type this, there are still a few in this top ten that we’re on the verge of swapping out with someone from our long list of runners up; chief among them, the beautiful new symphonic disco turn from Kishi BashiSonderlust, Utopia Defeated, the debut LP from Australian singer-songwriter D.D Dumbo (AKA Oliver Perry), and Solange‘s sprawling, intimate-yet-far-reaching debut, A Seat at the Table. On top of those three, we also saw a subtly beautiful record from New York’s Hannah Epperson, a great sophomore release from Jessica Dobson’s band, Deep Sea Divers, a solid, straight up rock record from Brooklyn’s Bird of Youth, a great, glitchy album from Seattle’s Shaprece, a surprise for us in the form of a country album we loved from Nashville’s Margo Price (see her live if you get a chance), the new one from Sweden’s Little Children (who we interviewed last month), and more.

But on to our top ten, listed below in order of release date along with a playlist of some of our favorite songs from these favorite albums…and starting with the most heart-breaking of them all:

david-bowie-blackstar

1. David Bowie . Blackstar . ISO Records/Columbia Records
As with many all over the world, the death of David Bowie hit us really fucking hard. It coming a mere three days before my own fortieth birthday was, personably, an especially sobering, rattling experience. We grew up with his music and, again, like many others, looked up to him as the creative genius he was. But to have gone out on this note, with an album that’s not only forward-looking and beautifully innovative but also one that’s peppered with themes that, now, in hindsight, speak eerily to his own imminent demise is such a graceful, truly stunning gift to us all. To this day, nearly a year after his death, thinking too much it or writing too much about it (like now) makes me tear up. But he left us with a wonderful album; honestly one of his best.

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2. Anderson .Paak . Malibu . Steel Wool/OBE/Art Club/EMPIRE
I’d written this back in march, when he blew up SXSW, but the way we first heard Anderson .Paak was through a Lyft driver we had in February, who just happened to be Paak’s keyboard player. Since, the talented multi-instrumentalist and southern Californian has enjoyed much-deserved praise—the songwriting on his debut album is clever, quick, and impossibly catchy and if the world has any sense (up for debate given recent events), he’ll be recognized for what he is: one of the best new musicians and songwriters of our time.

Eliot-Sumner-Information

3. Eliot Sumner . Information . Island Records
After a string of singles and EPs, England’s Eliot Sumner finally graced us with a full length album. Yes, Sting’s is Sumner’s father and yes, Sumner and band sound like a timely, updated version of the Police, but only the latter should matter. We’ve been lucky enough to catch Eliot Sumner live twice in Los Angeles and highly recommend everyone do the same if they get a chance—they play an energetic, super-tight set and it’s a gift to see them in small venues while you can.

liima-ii

4. LiimaII . 4AD
One of my all-time favorite bands is Copenhagen’s Efterklang. I was first introduced to them by NYC’s Other Music (RIP and, again, fuck you 2016) and, since the band’s inception, they shifted and evolved their sound from choral glitch-electronica to symphonic pop to experimental field recordings and I’ve sincerely loved everything they’ve done. Now, the Danish trio have graduated to opera-writing and, as they employ that band name for the high art foray, they embarked on a more pop-centric (but still very experimental) project with percussionist Tatu Rönkkö under the monicker Liima. The album is sometimes tender, sometimes harsh, but always weird and beautiful.

beyonce-lemonade

5. Beyoncé . Lemonade . Parkwood Entertainment
At first, it struck us as really weird to include someone as huge as Beyoncé on our best of list, and not just because she chose to glorify the killing and skinning of animals for their fur on her album cover (not pictured here; couldn’t bring ourselves to show that on these pages in this context). But not only is the album full of excellent songs start-to-finish, it was also executed stunningly. As we’d written previously, Queen Bee partnered up with HBO to debut the limited release of her visual album—a stream of 12 videos for the 12 tracks on the album strung together by a continuous narrative—pairing it with a free preview weekend of HBO. Doing so, Beyoncé skillfully stepped out of the cultural white noise and grabbed our oh-so scattered attention in this attention deficit disorder digital age. We sat transfixed as the story of Lemonade unfurled before aurally and visually and it was wonderful, both in terms of art and marketing. And to not include it on this list just because it’s not indie would be a severe oversight in our opinion and change the nature of the list itself. After all, this isn’t the best of independent music, it’s the best albums in our opinion. We just happen to usually gravitate towards more independent, smaller bands and albums. But it’s not like bands like Radiohead, for instance, are really indie or ‘alternative’ anymore. Speaking of:

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6. Radiohead . A Moon Shaped Pool . XL Recordings
I’ve loved Radiohead since the day I bought the cassette of OK Computer in a small record store in downtown Poznań, Poland (I only had an 80s-style tape-playing boom box at the time). Sure, the first two, more alt-rock albums were great and very of the times, but OK had the band boldly stepping out into weirdness, experimenting with their sound and setting them off on a path of individuality that they haven’t shied away form since. Now, with their ninth studio album, the band sounds just as relevant and ground-breaking as even. A Moon Shaped Pool moves from edgy to forlorn and back again with the artistry and grace only Radiohead could muster.

local-natives-sunlit-youth

7.  Local Natives . Sunlit Youth . Loma Vista
LA’s Local Natives first came on the scene back in 2009 with their debut, Gorilla Manor, a self-funded album named after the house the band-members all shared in the OC and where most of it was recorded. The record followed in the wake of bands like Fleet Foxes and the birth (or re-birth) of the folksy-dudes-making-folksy-melodies-together sound. And it was good. But not great. But with their sophomore release four years later, the band truly struck out on their own and found their sound, as they say, and it resulted in one of our favorite albums of that year. Likewise, this year, Sunlit Youth expands the band’s sound even more, making the album a solid pick for this year’s best of.

boxed-in-melt

8. Boxed InMelt . Boxed In/Nettwerk
With the last year’s debut from England’s Boxed In and frontman Oli Bayston, we were presented with what seems a near perfect album from a near perfect band. Described by Bayston as the analog, full-band manifestation of an electronic album, the songs are full of quick, highly active melodies and rhythms that are fully wrought in their presentation and thoughtful song-writing. The quick follow-up this year with their sophomore album is just as good if not better. Love this band and everything they touch.

FLOCK-OF-DIMES_If-you-see-me-say-yes

9. Flock of Dimes . If You See Me, Say Yes . Partisan Records
I first saw Jenn Wasner’s band, Wye Oak, at small, sadly now defunct club on the Williamsburg waterfront that is now the headquarters of Vice Media (RIP Glasslands Gallery). I have no idea what Wasner’s plans are for Wye Oak’s future, but her new solo project, Flock of Dimes, picks up right where the band left off with their last proper studio album, 2014’s Shriek (this year’s Tween was an accumulation of pre-recorded tracks that didn’t make previous albums). When Wye Oak first started moving into the realm of more electronics, less analog guitar + drums, we weren’t immediate fans, but Shriek and, now, If You See Me, are beautifully, skillfully written records that don’t limit Wasner (and with Wye Oak, partner Andy Stack) to shallow electronic-based sounds that can’t provide the needed depth and strong base to support Wasner’s powerful voice. We’re excited to see what’s to come from the Baltimore native with this move to a new creative outlet and, with it, a physical move down to Durham, North Carolina (home to Sylvan Esso, a favorite of ours and friend of Wasner).

bon-iver-22-a-million

10. Bon Iver22, A MillionJagjaguwar (9.30)
Finally, more beautiful weirdness, this time from Wisconsin darling Bon Iver (AKA Justin Vernon). Like most, our first exposure to Bon Iver was the breakout “Skinny Love,” a subtly magical song that was entrancing in its stripped away nakedness. Vernon’s sound on his first two albums largely followed suit in terms of style, focusing most often on acoustic guitar and the singer’s falsetto. This third album does anything but, taking that same falsetto, hacking it apart, and then stringing it all together again in bizarre digital and choral pulses of music. A lot of fans don’t like this turn, but we love it. As with the aforementioned OK Computer22, A Million is a bold step out into new territory for Vernon. Such a move can result in total garbage artistically, good intentions or not; in this case, it’s resulted in a weirdly bewitching musical masterpiece. Thematically, maybe it’s ravings of a borderline madman, maybe its a legitimate cry for help, maybe its just a songwriting stretch for new material, but, whatever it is, it’s Bon Iver’s best material to date and it has us excited for what’s to come.

In closing, thank you/fuck you, 2016.

2016: A terrible year filled with terrible loss but some wonderful music to get us through it.

We just added a new client to our online portfolio—The Animal Museum, non-profit that works to preserve, interpret, and share the legacy of animal protection in order to nature overall awareness about animals in society and empower change. The Museum was located in Hollywood when it first started up but recently opened up shop mere blocks north of our studio in Los Angeles’ Arts District.

We started working with The Animal Museum some six months back, when they were still operating under their old name, the National Museum of Animals and Society. Leading up to their move into a bigger space, the board members and museum founder wanted to take the organization to a higher level in terms of recognition and impact.

They approached our studio and we worked with them first through an organization renaming process and then through the logo development and branding process, resulting in this final mark and, now, many promotional and educational materials.

In partnership with Santa-Monica-based branded architecture firm March Studios, we’re currently working on the museum’s permanent exhibit, scheduled to be unveiled next spring.

You can read more in the brand section of our portfolio.

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This weekend, our neighborhood is playing host to a festive, holiday-ish community event, concert, and benefit for the Hollywood Orchard.

We created the artwork for the poster, are helping to organize the whole thing, and invited a few of our friends to play, including local favorites Moon Honey and Risa Rubin. It should be fun—if you’re in the area and up for some secular holiday cheer, neighborly merrymaking, and/or jubilant rabble rousing, come on by.

Details over at the event’s Facebook page.

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We first heard the music of Swedish band Little Children last summer and were immediately smitten. The songs are drenched in synths and hooky melodies, built on driving rhythms, and catchy as hell. Turns out, Little Children is the solo project of Stockholm-based singer, song-writer, and multi-instrumentalist Linus Lutti. After a string of singles and EPs over the years, Lutti’s released a new full-length titles f.f and it’s quickly become one of our favorite albums of the year. Lutti graciously made some time recently to talk with us about the new album and his musical career.

raven + crow: Alright, Linus, first off, thanks a lot for taking the time to talk. We’ve been listening to f.f pretty non-stop since it came out last month and are really into it. It strikes me as a pretty logical evolution for your music—you’ve always had a really breezy, driving sound; something that’s somehow tranquil and full of energy at the same time. Can you talk a little bit about what you were after with this new album or how you wanted it to be different from past work?

Linus Lutti: Thank you! Well I wanted it to be more (electric) guitar driven. I wanted to capture the core of the songs and instead of doing 20 synth overdubs, I wanted to try to keep it somewhat “clean.” Pretty much as it is recorded from the beginning; live with guitar, bass, drums, and vocals.

But I didn´t want to make it a “rock” album. I wanted to keep the “LC” feeling on everything, which I think we managed to do pretty well in the end.

Yeah, totally—that makes sense. So, I don’t really like to play the comparison game, but I know a lot of people are hearing similarities to the most recent War on Drugs, which I get, but I also know you’ve been playing this music for a while now and it goes much deeper than that. Can you talk a little bit about your influences? I know there was a childhood love of Bruce Springsteen that you’ve spoken of before. And I feel like Europe + ABBA are really the only Swedish bands I knew of in my childhood—was there a lot of looking to American music for inspiration for you?

I grew up with my father listening to Swedish progressive rock such as Träd Gräs och Stenar and Kebnekajse but also a lot of Neil Young and Bruce. That´s what I was brought up with. I can´t change that. And I´m glad it wasn´t ABBA in a way. I don’t think LC would have sounded the same then.

I´ve always been more interested in what comes from America and a take on traditional music. But I also have a strong “baggage” with Swedish/Scandinavian music thats sort of in my DNA, with somewhat darker melodies, and tranquil feel to it.

Psyched or not psyched about the just-announced ABBA reunion shows?

I didn’t know it was happening—are they all still alive?

I won’t tell them you asked that. Two of my favorite tracks on the album come back-to-back—“Chasing the Sun” with Anna Levander and “Tear Us Apart Again”. The former changes the dynamic of the song early on by opening up the drums and building a more recognizably live sound over a flatter or electronic drum line. I feel like this is something you do to great effect in your music, playing with the scope and expansiveness and dynamic of the sound to affect and engage your listeners. Why do you think those kind of musical shifts evoke such feelings in us?

What I first decided when we started recorded the album was that I wanted the songs to sound as good live as on record. I wanted to capture that live feeling in a sense. I also wanted the listener to engage and activly listen to the music. I always want something to happen in the songs and build them up all the time.

I know that you pursued a number of seemingly less creative, or at least less musical jobs and careers prior to this—bartender, therapist; was the move to make music a later in life thing for you? And what brought you to make the move?

Well, yeah sort of. The last ten years of my life, I always wanted to keep playing music and have less of a “regular” job, but it’s been really hard. I’ve been working different bars with fellow musicians from Fireside, Teddybears, etc who’ve been in the same situation as me. I came to a point when I decided that I wanted to focus 100% on the new songs and the new record and I knew I couldn’t have a regular job. I wanted to write and record this album with no outside interference.

Was that tough, making such a drastic change in your life?

No not really. I knew I had to do it. I was a bit nervous, though, but it all ended up really good.

What came first for you, the singing or the guitar-playing?

The singing….BUT when I write songs it’s always the guitar first though.

Is the musical community pretty supportive there? Did they make that easier at all?

Yeah I must say so. All of my friends (real friends) who are in the same situation as me are and have been really supportive. But people who are in the same situation as me, see me as a “competitor” and that sucks in a way. Stockholm is too small for having too many full time musicians…

Someone’s gotta make the Glogg, I guess. But, seriously, Sweden’s one of those countries that seems to produce a ton of really great bands + musicians—Lykke Li, Shout Out Louds, The Knife, Miike Snow, Peter Bjorn + John, El Perro del Mar, the new collaboration LIV, you—any idea why that might be? Is it the cold weather and seclusive winters that breeds that creativity or something?

Yeah. When we grew up we had free municipal music school that we could choose to be a part of. I never was though (but I’m not a great musician either). But all the best musicians in sweden went to those classes when they where kids.

Also we have such a good heritage with great swedish songwriters who we grew up with. And also the long winters…. You can’t do much else than to play music.

So cool that you all have those musical programs integrated like that though. Back to  you, I like the new album’s cover—the paint over the photo, and that symbol in the corner. Who made that? And where was the photo taken?

It was the great artist Gustaf Von Arbin who made this cover. We wanted it to be 50% 80’s druggy LA and a 50% North African feel to it. The photo is taken from Marracech.

And what does the album name mean, f.f?

That’s a well kept secret.

Fair enough. Though, if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say it might have something to do with your initials. Speaking of meaning, though, I get the desire to not just release and perform under your name as a solo artist, but where does the name Little Children come from?

It comes from one of my favorite songs with Ornette Coleman called “Little Children” who my father in law introduced me to.

Oh cool—totally not familiar with him, but I’ll check his stuff out. Any plans to tour soon for you?

Yeah, we are going to all the main Scandinavian cities this year and early next year. Hopefully we will come back to the U.S shortly!

Definitely. Will you be playing with a full band or more solo gigs?

Full band is what I prefer! I have som amazing musicians with me from bands like Dungen, El Perro Del Mar, and LIV.

Well definitely try to make it out to Los Angeles—we’d love to see you live.

Oh I’d love to come back soon!

I didn't know it was happening—are they all still alive?
Little Children's Linus Lutti on the pending ABBA reunion.

Taking a break from politics (and from taking a break), we’re releasing our November mixtape today—the last of new music for the year since next month’s mix will feature songs from our top albums of the year.

The mix features some really great songs from artists new and not-so-new to us, starting with a brilliant one from Brooklyn’s Computer Magic (AKA, Danielle “Danz” Johnson, whom we interviewed on these pages a little while back); a hot-off-the-presses track from indie-art-dance band Rubblebucket; a boisterous one from Portland, Oregon’s Y La Bamba; an awesomely glitchy entry from newcomer Shaprece; downtempo, moving, folky pop from Sweden’s Many Voices Speak; a highlight from the welcome, post-record-contract-trouble return of longtime favorite Matt Pond PA (really ancient interview we did with him here); some hazy dream pop from Canadian band Teen Daze; one of our favorite tracks from the new Kate Tempest (who does not pull punches, to say the least); keeping with Tempest’s anti-gentrification theme and Pond’s welcome return theme, New Zealand’s Cut Off Your Hands is back with the single, “Hate Somebody”; a quietly clever song from an artist we don’t know a ton about, Chicago’s Show You Suck (but c’mon, a dude who name-drops Purity Ring and Daria in the same song has gotta be cool, right?); a beautifully beat-driven, slow-burner from NYC’s Elliot Moss; a brand new one from another New Yorker—Theophilus London (featuring LA’s Ariel Pink); some solid indie-pop from Sweden’s Mary Onettes; more great Swedish music from the Falun band Francis; and, finally, an epic new track from Nick Murphy, FKA Chet Faker.

Enjoy!

Continuing the post-election series we started Monday where we ask friends of the studio and those whose opinions we respect, basically, what now? Rather than curl into the fetal position and sink into our dark place, how can we take this massive shift in culture and politics and make it into something good. Today’s piece is from a longtime friend and fellow Brooklynite in Los Angeles, Danielle Fee. Danielle works for a New-York-based arts agency and mother to one of the cutest kids ever (that’s our take on it, at least).

I woke up on November 8th to the sound of my daughter’s excitement to get out the door and to go vote. We had been talking a lot about the election and about why we were making the decisions we were making as a family. Her immediate takeaway from watching the news and debates with us was that Trump is “a jerk. He always interrupts Hillary.” I found her opinion to be a perfect encapsulation of my thoughts about Trump as well. As we got ready to go, we both dressed in white. I talked to her about the importance of wearing white to the polling place and how this honored the women who fought for the right to vote. As we arrived, we found long lines outside our polling place. My daughter showed unusual patience, reading her favorite DC Superhero Super Girls comic book as we waited. In the polling place in my neighborhood, enthusiasm was high despite the temporary inconveniences of malfunctioning voting machines and long lines. The poll worker who signed us in periodically broke out in song and general cheering. As I entered the voting booth with my daughter, I teared up as I cast a vote for what I expected to be the first female President of the United States. We were part of history and it left me breathless that I was sharing this with my daughter. I did not, and do not, take those moments from Election Day 2016 for granted.

And now?

I’m struggling to process the emotions this election has left me with. How is it possible to feel stunned, rage, despair, sadness, betrayal all at the same time, all so intensely and just a few hours after I was filled with such hope?

I’m grateful for all the think pieces (and even the not-so-thought-out reactive pieces) but it’s time for action. The WTF word bubble that’s been following me around is starting to disappear and I need to do something positive. Here’s a few ways I plan to do that.

Focus
The number and range of organizations that will need assistance is staggering. It’s honestly overwhelming. As adults, my husband and I have our own specific causes we support. But as a family we decided to focus on one particular area: empowering girls and women to have a voice. Running Start and She Should Run are two organizations we contributed to that inspire women to become political leaders.

Use My Voice
I will not normalize racism and misogyny. Complacency allowed many people in this country to legitimize hate when they chose to ignore Trump’s rhetoric. I have a responsibility to call out the “locker room talk” or “jokes,” to not ignore and brush off those remarks as just insensitive when I hear them from coworkers, friends and even extended family. I need to use my voice. Yes, it’s a small act. But it’s one that will hopefully open dialogue and lead to bigger acts.

Show Up
Most of all, I don’t want to forget that feeling of pride I had when voting. I’m taking my daughter to the Women’s March on Washington (in Los Angeles) not as a protest but to emphasize the positive for my daughter. I explained to her that we’re going so we can remind the next president that he needs to respect ALL the people in this country. I want to show her how proud I am of millions of women in this country and those who support women’s rights. Most of all, I want her to see the people behind the vote and that our responsibility to each other doesn’t end on Election Day.

Safety
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this past election year, it’s that maintaining a safe space for dialogue online is increasingly difficult. It’s bewildering how fast discourse can deteriorate into violent threats—usually seeped in racist and sexist language. Anonymous comments casually threaten sexual assault against those with different political opinions. It’s no wonder so many women joined secret Facebook groups so they could be included in the political conversation without fear of someone else’s high school acquaintance threatening to sexually assault them for their beliefs. These secret groups were formed out of fear, but I am grateful for them. And the positive take-away? I’m still working on that. But I’m inspired to do more to support legislation against online harassment and to call out this unacceptable behavior when I see it.

When my daughter is old enough to vote I want her to have multiple female leaders to look up to and I want her to be able to voice her opinion online and IRL without fear of violence. For now, she doesn’t know if I’m posting information online to support a cause or engaging in a dialogue on Facebook. She can only see my actions. It’s time for me to be an example she can actually see and hear.

When my daughter is old enough to vote I want her to have multiple female leaders to look up to and I want her to be able to voice her opinion online and IRL without fear of violence.
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