It might seem odd or overly precious to fixate on a corn chip, but there’s something to be said for the perfection of the simplest of things in our diets, especially those things that hold up other foods (literally in this case). And for anyone who hasn’t had Chicas chips, take it on good authority that they’re really, really good.

Doing some light research online, we couldn’t find out a ton about the company beyond your standard About web page, but were intrigued by some of the messaging on the packaging and what exactly makes them so very good. So we reached out to the Southern California company that makes the chips, Arboleda Foods, to find out more. We ending up talking with their head of marketing + design and daughter of company owners, Sarah Chaidez (below, first row, far left), about the origins of the family-run business, what it means to be an immigrant-run business that bills itself as ‘proudly American’ in the current socio-political environment, and why we can’t stop eating these chips. Seriously. Can’t stop.

raven + crow: So, first thing’s first—we love your chips and salsa. We’re honestly pretty obsessed with the chips especially at this point. I think we’re mainly interested in finding out a little more about the history of the company and how it came to be—can you tell us a little about how it all started?

Sarah Chaidez: We started in 2010 selling a homemade salsa at several So-Cal Farmers Markets. The recipe originated from the owner Irlanda Montes’ mother. The salsa was so good that it needed good chips to sample it with. Fortunately for us, none of the chips Irlanda found in markets got of her approval so she decided to make her own. To her surprise, people started requesting the chips and she started getting up at 5am to make a few batches before heading to the farmer’s markets. The chips started to become so popular that she soon had to rent a small commercial kitchen to be able to produce them.

That’s awesome. Like I said, we LOVE the chips, so it makes sense. Cool to see such a direct supply-and-demand relationship though. Was food culture a really big part of Irlanda’s upbringing?

Yes, she was born in Ecuador. During her upbringing she saw her father and mother go to the open air market every day to buy fresh ingredients for their daily meals. When she came to the United States, she continued the tradition of having fresh cooked meals daily. Good homemade food was always on the menu and it always brought the family together.

That’s something that I feel like has only recently again become more common in our post-war culture and upbringings here in the States even though it’s so deeply rooted in so many other cultures. The salsa really is great too, but what do you think it is about the chips that make people love them so much?

The salsa that we have right now is a new recipe originating from the original. The original recipe had to be refrigerated and we needed a shelf-stable salsa to be able to place it along the chips. On the other hand, we have kept the original recipe for our chips from the beginning. What makes them great is not only the recipe, but the process of how they are made. Chicas™ recipe is not a common chip recipe. Therefore, the process of making them and frying them is different than what you see out there. Also, we added the uniqueness of rice bran oil which makes the chips lighter, fresher, and healthier.

What goes into making the chips, in terms of ingredient sourcing and then actually producing them?

We make sure that our ingredients come from very reliable companies. They work hand-in-hand with our needs and the needs of our customers. We believe it is not just the ingredients that make the chip, but the time and labor it takes to make them. The process itself is similar to most other chips, but we proudly can say that we put lots of love and care into their production. The biggest difference is that some of the processes is done by hand to keep the unique flavor and texture of our chip.

Why do you all use rice bran oil? Is that a family tradition or something more born from recipe testing?

We did very extensive research about all types of different oils. We found out about rice bran oil having lots of health benefits and having a high smoke point. This made it a perfect match for our chip. Even though this oil is more complicated to get and more expensive, we definitely wanted to add some good-for-you ingredients into our chips.

Yeah, we had no idea we loved rice bran oil so much. Who knew? Can you tell us about the name, Chicas—‘girls’ in Spanish—is that a reflection in the people that run the company?

When we had just started the company, Irlanda’s sisters came along to help. They spent endless hours in the commercial kitchen frying. This was new to them since they all worked in office environments before, but this became a time of bonding and laughter. Traditionally in South America, instead of calling each other by name, they would all call each other ‘Chica’, which means girl in Spanish. With Irlanda and her three sisters in the kitchen, you can imagine this word was used a lot. At that time the chips were called Arboleda Chips, named after the company. Eventually Irlanda’s sisters moved on to do other things, but Irlanda never forgot those times she spent with her sisters. Later on we wanted a simpler and catchier name. So, in honor of her sisters, Irlanda named them Chicas Chips.

I know you’ve said that the company started out and remains very much a family endeavor—can you tell us a little more about that?

When the company first started in 2010, Ray and Irlanda invited various family members to help including her mom, brothers, sisters, a sister-in-law, nieces, nephews, son and daughters. Time passed where many came and went, but to this day it is still a family business. Ray and Irlanda, as husband and wife (above, first row, middle), are heads of the business, and their two daughters—myself and my sister, Nastassia (above, first row, far right)—handle marketing, accounting, and purchasing.

Very cool. You all are based out of Harbor City, right? Is most everyone at the company Los Angeles natives?

Pretty much! Irlanda came from Ecuador at the age of thirteen and Ray came from El Salvador at the age of six. Even though Irlanda kept a lot more of her Latin traditions, they both have embraced American cultures. Nastassia and I were born in the US and raised as LA natives. Our other employees are a mixed of Los Angeles natives and other immigrants from other Latin countries, like Mexico, Peru and Honduras.

On your chip bags, you have a graphic going across the top that reads ‘PROUDLY AMERICAN’—why was that important to put front-and-center for you all?

Ray and Irlanda are entrepreneurs. They have started different businesses in the past before becoming successful with Chicas™, and they are beyond thankful that America has given them the opportunity to do so. Where Chicas™ is now would not have been possible without all the opportunities that are given to us here in the states. We are proud to be here and proud to be able to give back by creating new jobs.

Do you feel like that sentiment has taken a different tone or is seen in a new light in what a lot of us see as a political and social climate that’s soundly anti-immigrant?

The political situation that is going on right now does not take away from the beauty this country represents. Throughout history there have been seasons of good and bad. There is a lot of negativity in our country today, but our focus is on the good of our country and the kindness of many Americans. We will continue doing our part to do the right thing and will continue to embrace our Proudly American representation.

Beautifully put. For the most part, has the experience of starting and running a business in Los Angeles been a good one? I mean, as a fellow small business owner, I know it’s tough, but seems like you all are doing really well.

Irlanda and Ray have had many ups-and-downs, especially since they started their business right after a very bad economic period. They are truly fighters, and the company has persevered even though many times they felt like giving it all up. The company is stable and growing now, but tough would be an understatement. It definitely takes everything you’ve got. We truly are fortunate to have a really good product that has kept our hopes high, and seeing the response we get from our customers gives us an eagerness to strive forward. We trust in God that soon we will be able to say that we are doing really well.

Likewise. We’ll do our part by buying as many chips as we can eat. Which is a lot, trust me. I have a kind of nerdy product packaging question—I know back in the day you did more of the traditional tie-closed bags for the chips, but now you have what I honestly have to say are the nicest chip bags; they open really easily and look really nice and non-crinkly after being opened. How did you manage that or who makes those for you, if you don’t mind me asking?

The reason we started with twisty-tie closed bags is because being a small company that was just starting, we only had the equipment and knowledge to seal them this way. To our surprise, people loved it! They felt like they were getting chips out of a home kitchen. The reason we upgraded is because as we grew we needed something more secure for shipping and food safety. The bags were now in store warehouses, exposed to cross contamination, or too easy to break open. At this point we needed to think of our customers and provide them with the same chip quality but better packaging. Ray, Irlanda, and I come from a graphic artist background, therefore we knew that presentation was essential, so we are proud of our creation in and out. In regards to the material, it has been a long journey to get the best film for our chips, making sure it is American-made. The company that makes our bags as well as our cardboard boxes are local family-owned business as we are.

Oh, cool—I had no idea the bags were American-made too. That’s great. Any future plans for expansion—either in terms of products beyond salsa and chips or into other markets—on the horizon?

We are striving for continued growth. We are working to get into new markets, expand our online store, and also expand into the food service industry. For now, we are just in the Southern California area, but soon we will be in some Northern California markets. With regards to other products, we are always fiddling with new recipes and products. But, as you can see, we have to be extremely happy with a product to be willing to put our effort into it. More than anything we want to provide our customers with lots of satisfaction that will keep them coming back for more.

Well we’re hooked.

If you’re interested in trying Chicas chips + salsa, check their locations page on their site for stores that carry them. Or just come to our house. We likely have a fresh bag.

All photos with the exception of the feature one courtesy of Arboleda Foods.

This is how it goes with us. As we near the end of the year, the lofty web-posting goals of monthly mixtapes coming out at the beginning of months slowly slips to the middle, then to the end as we get busier and busier with all the other, non-web-related things in life (which, happily, is many and much), to the point where we’re, for example, releasing the ‘August mixtape’ on the actual last day of August. But what can you do? Priorities are priorities and IRL > URL. Also, from what I’m told, no one really reads blogs anymore? Even blogs you call ‘web journals’ to sound more sophisticated?

So, mreh.

But music! Always music! ‘This month’s’ mixtape starts off with the new Robyn, because how could it not. And, maybe as a result, we have a bit of a Robyn feel weaving it’s way through a number of the subsequent tracks—the exciting new single from Christchurch’s Yumi Zouma; a new danceable track from London’s Millie Turner; and a somewhat more subdued song from an exciting, new-to-us artist out of Dublin, Sorcha Richardson.

Also on the new awesome artists front, we’ve got Melbourne’s Jordan Dennis, who gives us a nice, laid back late summer hit with “Crumbs”; Utah duo, Sego, who walks the line between drone core and catchy pop; Toronto’s Verzache, who’s cooking up some nice foot-tapping bedroom music up north; Brooklyn-Minneapolis duo Tiny Deaths, who we interviewed earlier this month; Richmond’s own Lucy Dacus, who Claire from Tiny Deaths turned us on to in said interview (typing this from Richmond, VA, for what it’s worth); a beautiful single from trio, DYAN, that seems to call just as many places home—Winnipeg x Los Angeles x Cincinnati; and a catchy, fun single from Your Smith (née Caroline Smith) out of Minneapolis.

Then back to some studio regulars and also from Minneapolis, trio Bad Bad Hats is back with what’s looking to be one of our favorite albums of the year so far; moving only slightly eastward, St. Paul’s Hippo Campus just released a promising, woozy new single from a forthcoming full-length; we’ve got a new single from Portland, Oregon’s Liyv, who we featured last year; and we have one of our favorites from Mitski‘s new one.

Enjoy the music and enjoy these last days of summer, friends.

The whole concept of the sophomore slump is a pretty cruel one—that you can never live up to that first creative exploit with your subsequent effort. Which is why it’s always so nice when the opposite happens, especially in music, when you can hear a band getting so much more comfortable with their sound that their collective voice comes through so much more clearly and confidently. That’s the case with Minneapolis-Brooklyn duo Tiny Deaths, composed of vocalist/song-writer Claire de Lune + producer/instrumentalist Grant Cutler. The new full length, Magic (out next month), pushes their creativity beyond the whispering wash of your traditional dream pop into a new, more decisive, more compelling realm of music.

We took some time to talk with Claire about the band and their forthcoming sophomore bump (likely would have gone with ‘trump’ had things panned out differently a couple years back).

raven + crow: So, first off, thanks for talking. We really like what we’ve heard from the new album so far. I feel like I’ve got my own opinions on this, but wondering how you feel like your sound has evolved since Elegies.

Claire de Lune: Thanks so much! This album means a lot to us. I think we’ve become comfortable enough with our sound that we’re able to push the boundaries a bit about what a tiny deaths song sounds like. Some of the songs on this album are a pretty big departure from the “dream-pop” label and I like that about it. We’re not scared to explore.

Yeah, we’re definitely hearing a lot more of you in these new songs, which I love. I feel like it reminds me of early noise pop vs later noise pop (e.g. Velocity Girl), where you can actually hear the settling into a sound and maturing in the music—it’s great. I’m wondering though—this shift in sound, is it something that came about pretty naturally for you both or was it something you more set out to do in deliberate manner?

I think it came about really naturally. We’ve been making music together for 5 + years now, and I think at first we were more conscious about trying to create a world for the sound to live in and to stay within that. Now that we’re sort of firmly living in that world it gives a lot more space to stretch that and the evolution sort of just happens over time. Also, lyrically I was super inspired by things that aren’t relationship-based for this record, so there aren’t as many “love” or “breakup” songs on it, whereas the last record was basically entirely a breakup record, an “elegy” to a relationship.

How do you all break down song-writing responsibilities between the two of you?

Grant makes the instrumentals and I write the lyrics and vocal melody.

You’re split geographically speaking, right? How does that affect your song-writing?

Grant moved to Brooklyn before we’d even officially become a band, and it’s really never been an issue. We just bounce ideas back and forth over email and when it comes time to track vocals, Grant is always in the studio with me. It’s still super collaborative, it’s just long distance.

Yeah, I heard an interview recently with a band we’ve long loved, Wye Oak, and they were talking about how used to living apart and writing in that manner they’ve gotten that, now that they live in the same place for the first time in a long time, they think they’re going to have to manufacture that distance to keep the song-writing strong. I could see how that’d really develop into a healthy creative pattern for two people, weirdly enough. So, I’ve always felt like it can be a challenge for some electronic bands—especially duos, where the responsibility is split between just two people—to create a compelling, engaging live show where it doesn’t just come off as someone singing over pre-recorded tracks. How do you all approach your live sets?

That’s actually something that’s always been important to me, because I feel like a lot of electronic based music is super boring live and you’re just distracted by the light show and I really didn’t want to be that band.

So true.

Grant actually doesn’t play live with me but I play with a group of really amazing live musicians for almost every show (I play solo, stripped down versions very rarely). I’d way rather invest resources in making the songs sound the best they possibly can than invest in some crazy light show or costumes or something like that. Music is #1, always.

Nice. Are you all planning to tour to support the album?

Yes!

We’ll be sure to keep an eye out for you when you’re in Los Angeles. Can you talk about the band name? I’m guessing it’s a reference to the French expression for an orgasm, but wondering what the story behind it is.

Yes, that’s what it’s referencing. I guess it’s not much of a story, I just thought the name was a perfect balance of sexy and sort of dark and macabre, which I feel like fits the vibe of the music pretty perfectly.

That balance, in general, is very French. And the new album title? Magic—is there a story behind that?

The name of the album comes from the title track, a song called “Magic”. It’s a song about being a youth during this crazy time in history, and the fear but also the freedom that comes with that. When I wrote that song I knew instantly that it was sort of the perfect mission statement for the album, which I really feel is at its heart, a growing pains, coming of age record. So it became the title.

Yeah, crazy times indeed, but they do tend to bring out the best of us at times, creatively—I feel like there’s a lot of that going on here. We always like to get an idea from bands we like of other bands they like since you’re out there playing shows and maybe hearing a lot of what we aren’t—who are some lesser-known or up-and-coming musicians you’re liking of late?

My friend Katy makes music under the name “Morly” and she’s so great, I’ve been listening to her music a lot.

I’m also really into this sort of crew of young women coming up and taking over indie right now. Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus. They’re all making really great music with really incredible lyrics.

I’d never heard Morly or Lucy Dacus, but they both sound great, thanks. And Julien Baker + Phoebe (fucking) Bridgers are superb. Awesome. Thanks again for talking and, again, love the new work.

Thanks so much! Thanks for chatting.

‘Eclectic’ is a word that’s thrown around when it comes to music, or, more accurately, collections of music. But this month’s mixtape strikes us as especially eclectic in earnest. Maybe it’s this unrelenting heat that’s effectively vaporized our brains and pushed our aesthetics to the outer boundaries or maybe independent music itself is changing, getting more diverse. Regardless, we have a pleasingly erratic, explosive-feeling mix for you this month, bookended by new music from midwestern brethren—Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Collections of Colonies of Bees + Minneapolis, Minnesota’s Poliça in collaboration with Berlin-based orchestral collective s t a r g a z e.

The remainder of the mix is largely new-to-us artists (which may owe something to the aforementioned diversity) with some beautifully hyper-melodic pop from Portland, Oregon’s Wild Ones; woozy, glitched-out electronics from multi-instrumentalist + multi-disciplinary artist Schaus (also out of PDX); catchy, earworm-y pop from South Australia’s MANE (née Paige Court); subtly swooning experimental dancehall from Canadian musician Lou Canon; Swedish indie pop from Malmö newcomers Hater; another earworm from KC’s Hembree; Boston teen sensation (just wrote those words) Clairo Cottrill with Reading producer SG Lewis; and Kalbells, the solo project of Rubblebucket singer and saxophonist Kalmia Traver.

Finally, we’ve got some welcome returns from Los Angeles’ own (by way of Chicago) Sudan Archives; Oxford electronic artist Chad Valley (née Hugo Manuel, frontman of Jonquil); the return of Lund, Sweden’s The Radio Dept.; and Melbourne’s golden boys, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever. And, while it’s not a return, we’re featuring a track from Lindsey Jordan’s Snail Mail, out of Baltimore, who’s new to the scene but sounds anything but, with addictive songs and a voice that’s beyond her 19 years—this is one of our favorite tracks amounts many on the band’s debut full-length, Lush.

Enjoy and stay cool.

This month’s mixtape brings you—as usual—a ton of new music that we’ve been enjoying in the studio, by artists new + old.

Welcome returning longtime studio favorites include the Brooklyn band with a funny name, Rubblebucket, who kick things off with the catchy, true-to-form lead single from their coming fifth full-length, Sun Machine, out in August; Swede, Victoria Bergsman, better known as Taken by Trees (and maybe even better known from Peter Bjorn and John’s 2006 hit “Young Folks”), who’s taken a welcome electronic-leaning turn with her new album, Yellow to Blue; French singer, songwriter, and superb dancer Christine and the Queens (AKA Héloïse Letissier), who seems to be shifting to moniker and public persona a bit to the simplified ‘Chris’ (and who has giant billboards in Times Square and down the street from us in Hollywood—bully to you, Chris!); SF electronic duo Cathedrals, who are back with a sultry new single, “Hits Me Like a Landslide”; Los Angeles’ own king of glitch, Mark Redito; and a band we’ve followed for a decade, Minneapolis-based (now) duo Now Now (né Now Now Every Children), who are back with their first new album in six years.

New (to us) artists include Richmond, Virginia’s very own Natalie Prass, who gives us an infectious, fun track from her just-released album The Future and the Past (check out the video below); Nashville-based Sophie Allison and her band/alter ego Soccer Mommy; two cousins from London who comprise Otzeki, a jagged, electronic pop duo; Singaporean singer-songwriter Linying; and a newly formed electronic LA trio we’re excited about, Overjoy.

Then we’ve got some other returning artists whose work we’ve featured in the past, including English electronic musician Sam Breathwick, who writes and performs under the collegiate name Vasser; Swedish songstress Matilda Mård, AKA  Many Voices Speak; NYC-based pop Aussie, Kate Kay Es; and London duo and crafters of addictive dance music, HONNE.

Enjoy! And, as always, if you want to hear past mixes, scroll back through these pages for 3+ years of music or visit and follow us via MixCloud.

Art—fern + adorable quilt of Japanese textiles made for us by good friends.

Let’s start out like this—we have no beef (hah) with jackfruit. It’s great.

When properly prepared, it’s a superb replacement for things like pulled pork when looking to eschew the animal from your diet but wanting that texture—the fact that it doesn’t have much taste by itself is a boon as, when rinsed and drained well, brined jackfruit soaks up most any flavor you pair with it. We’ve even lauded the tree-born tropical fruit (the largest in the world) on these very pages as far back as 2012; twice that year, actually (big year for jackfruit).

But that’s part of the problem—we’ve been eating jackfruit for a long time and we’re honestly a little sick of it; it doesn’t have much nutritional content, it comes canned in brine, which means a lot of sodium even after heavy rinsing, and if you do want to deal with a fresh jackfruit, you’re in for a daylong affair and a lot of hard work (and reportedly a possible kitchen remodel—they evidently often ooze latex-like sticky white goop when cut up).

But the other morning we were visiting the local mushroom vendor at our excellent neighborhood farmers market and noticed a sign next to the kind oyster mushrooms touting their versatility in animal meat replacement, specifically calling out that the fungi make for a great vegan pulled pork. And after some experimenting with recipes, we have to wholeheartedly agree—a single (roughly $6) giant mushroom stem hand-peels into excellent pork-like shreds and holds up much better than a lot of its mushroom friends, giving a nice, meaty texture, even after cooking for hours. Best yet, the inherent umami taste of the fresh mushroom plays well with savory, smokey flavors, giving you superb sandwich fixings and taco fillings with a pretty easy prep. And giving us native southerners a cruelty-free and much healthier way to enjoy some childhood classics.

Here’s what you need:
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced thinly
6 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, and cut into chunks
2 cups vegetable broth (we make our own, which sounds like a heavy lift, but once you’re in the habit, really isn’t and is highly recommended; if you’re not up for it though, go with low-sodium store-bought)
1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated cinnamon
1 large fresh king oyster mushroom stem, hand-peeled into long shreds
1 cup barbecue sauce (optional; homemade or store-bought)
olive oil

So, this is really easy. First off, we hear tell this works great in a slow cooker, but we don’t have one, so we do everything in a large, heavily lidded cast iron Dutch oven on medium-low heat in the oven (around 200°F) for four to six hours.

First, shred the mushroom—after washing, pat dry and then, by hand, start pinching ends and pulling up strands, peeling them back and off into shreds, kinda like those old mozzarella-like cheese sticks adults used to (maybe still do?) stick in kids’ lunches. Set aside in a dish and coat the shreds with a mix of the paprika, sugar, salt,cumin, and cinnamon. Now heat about two tablespoons of oil in the Dutch oven stove stop over high heat and the sliced onion and chucked up garlic in a fairly even layer; allow the onions and garlic to come to simmer and then top them with the mushroom, carefully following that up by pouring in your broth. Add the lid and bring to a boil (you’ll see steam forcing it’s way out); turn off the stovetop heat and place the Dutch oven in the non-Dutch, regular oven. Keep at around 200°F and cook until the mixture’s mostly absorbed by the mushroom, leaving it a little saucy and checking regularly to make sure it hasn’t dried out altogether (if it has, just add some water and cook a little longer).

That’s it. Now find some nice, soft hamburger buns or fresh tortillas and get to enjoying, animal-free.

We both came to really appreciate music in an age still dominated by full-length albums; an age of first cassette tapes, then CDs and then, when we hit college-age, vinyl, in its fledgling re-emergence.

So, yes, we’re rather old, but more to the point, we still often think of consuming music in doses akin to traditional album formats—10-15 songs, all tied together in some sort of theme, even if it’s just in the sense that it shows you a snapshot in time of a particular artist or artists and their work; side A, side B, with strong openers on each side and ending on something with a tone of finality and/or summation.

Whether it’s intentional or hard-wired, we often approach these mixtapes in the same way—this month, we start with one of two brand new and timely songs by one of our favorite bands, Braids, each of which tackles how we interact with each other in this digital age. In their own words:
“For those of u that have ever taken selfies, contorted ur body for selfies, pushed up ur breasts, hid ur breasts, hid ur ass, pushed up ur ass, exaggerated ur bulge, exaggerated ur collarbones, turned up the contrast, softened ur lines, been ghosted, ghosted, used tinder, failed at tinder, fallen down an instagram hole, deleted and downloaded it, deleted and downloaded it, deleted and downloaded it, wandered the drug store for clarity, thought hair dye could ease ur pain, at least for a couple days, and flipped the bird at 1 or all of these things – these songs are 4 u. We hope you can sing with them, scream with them, dance with them, laugh with them and dream of how u want to feel and deserve to feel. Take a moment for urself.”

In a kind of echo to that opener, we end the mix with the return of  Belgian musician, rapper, singer, and songwriter Stormae who gives us his first original material in five years, “Défiler”, about being left behind and having your head stuck in your phone and wondering maybe which is worse. Last month, Stormae’s label Mosaert presented its very first fashion show at Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche in Paris to mark the release of its latest collection, Capsule no 5“. Dubbed an “enhanced fashion show”, the whole thing combined movement and choreography by dancer and choreographer Marion Motin with an intricate set designed by Mosaert and Le Bon Marché’s creative teams and Stormae’s 9+ minute song setting the sonic backdrop. The video for the song, by Sacha Wiernik and Luc Junior Tam, captures the whole impressive event.

And giving the spine to the mix (or kicking off the ‘second side’, whichever you prefer) is another significant return—that of longtime favorite Lykke Li.  The Swede-turned-Angeleno has teased a new album out June 8th—her first in four years—and, by the sound of this track and another she’s released, fellow fans will not be disappointed.

In-between those three musical pillars we have a dreamy new song from Nashville’s Bantug; the return of Sydney-born, Paris-based songwriter Jack Grace; and some dystopian hip hop from Chicago’s Air Credits (“music from the not too distant future, when the planet’s water supply has all but ceased, the landscape turning to desert, the desert turning to wasteland”), which features Show You Suck, who we featured a couple years back. Then we’ve got a string of AKAs that played SXSW this year—breezy hip hop, also from Chicago, from Knox Fortune (AKA Kevin Rhomberg); something a little jazzier from the always-impressive Cadence Weapon (AKA Toronto’s Roland “Rollie” Pemberton); and a beautiful  soundtrack for dreamily driving through the desert from Slisbee, Texas’ Lomelda (AKA Hannah Read).

We’ve also got the first new work from DJ/producer/mash-up-artist/musician Girl Talk, featuring Brooklyn’s Erick the Architect; a nice pick-me-up from Brooklyn’s Maria Usbeck; more melodic electronic music from France’s Kidswaste featuring DC’s Manila Killa; a bouncy sing-along from Sydney’s Alison Wonderland; a glitchy banger from Stockholm’s Baba Stiltz; and something a little more pop than noise from Meghan Remy’s U.S. Girls.

As always, enjoy.

Below, the aforementioned video/fashion show and the lovely cover art for Braids’ new split single, by photographer Melissa Gamache.

Two items of produce are at the peak of their growing season locally right now.

Okay, that’s not true—this is Southern California in April; like, a million things are at peak season right now. But for the purposes of this piece, we’re focusing on two of the one million—snap peas and green garlic.

Both vegetables have been at our favorite farmers’ market stands for the past month or so, but they’re each hitting their respective sweet spots just now. The former, snap peas (AKA sugar snap peas), usually have a pretty long growing season, but they’ve been especially delectable of late, hitting the pinnacle of their distinct earthy sweetness.

Green garlic—which is essentially just young garlic that retains its leafy green tops—by comparison, has a relatively short season before it becomes…well, garlic. As with other early harvest crops (think baby arugula), the taste is less pungent or spicy than it would be in its more mature form; which, in the case of garlic, creates a great opportunity for using it raw. And what better use for raw garlic than homemade pesto.

Your traditional pesto—or pesto alla genovese—at its most basic, consists of garlic, pine nuts, fresh basil leaves, coarse salt, Parmesan, pecorino, and olive oil, all ideally of the highest quality given that, essentially, you’re just blending everything up and serving it as is, so ingredients drive the taste.

In the case of this seasonal dairy-free variant, we’re using the brighter, less aggressive green garlic, obviously, subbing in the earthy sweetness of the snap peas for the distinct anise-esque basil taste, keeping the coarse salt + olive oil, using a vegan Parmesan, and then using pistachios instead of pine nuts, which retain the rich, fatty nut flavor, but give the pesto a slightly more buttery taste and fewer piney notes. Plus it makes the pesto that much more green in color.

For the pasta, we’ve talked through this before on these pages (specifically, here), but we’re huge fans of making fresh, vegan pasta at home—despite what you may think, it’s really easy once you get the hang of it and so beyond amazing in taste. Plus it’s just three ingredients—white flour, vegan egg replacement, and a dash of salt. That’s it. In the page referenced above, we grind flax seed and use that as an egg replacer and binder, but it’s since got even easier with Follow Your Heart’s Vegan Egg. When we’re making pasta for two, we essentially just measure out a half cup of flour, make the equivalent of one egg (2 TBSP + 1/2 cup of cold water), add a dash of salt, mix well, and then add flour as needed until the dough forms a ball that’s not too sticky. That’s it. Then we let it rest for a half hour and roll it out, adding more flour if it sticks to the rolling pin and keeping in mind that the more we roll it or knead the dough ball, the more the gluten activates and creates a nice, well-bound pasta dough. Then we cut as we like and boil til it floats. Again, the more you do it, the easier it gets and the more it’s second nature. And The Kitchen has a good post that walks you through the particulars too if you need more details. But you can also totally use any store-bought pasta with this recipe.

For the pesto though, here’s what you need:

Serves two, with a decent amount left over most likely
green garlic, one stalk
snap peas, 2 cups
in-shell pistachios, 1 cup (or equivalent shelled)
grated vegan Parmesan, 6 tbsp (we like Follow Your Heart’s or this nice homemade one from Minimalist Baker)
coarse sea salt, 2 dashes
extra virgin olive oil, 3 tbsp

First, trim the tips of the green leaves of the garlic and discard anything brown/tan or overly leathery and dry—you only want to use the supple green parts of the leaves and then the inside of the forming bulb, none of its bitter, fibrous matter; cut into 1″ pieces or so and set aside. Next, shell the pistachios, removing as much of the papery brown skins inside as you can without going crazy and using only the green meat. Now throw both ingredients into a decent blender along with your salt and vegan Parmesan and pulse until you have a nice, consistently coarse powder.

Now, trim the tips from the snap peas and cut into 1″ chunks. If you want to get really into it, you can also remove the stringy membranes from the peas too, but it’s not totally necessary as you’ll be blending this too in exactly one second. Throw those into the blender (see?) along with the olive oil and blend well, until you have a nice, well-mixed but still somewhat coarse pesto sauce. If you’re using it right away, great, do it; if not, refrigerate immediately so you keep as much of the fresh green look as you can.

To finish, we like to top with a few basil leaves and throw a little bit of Follow Your Heart’s other Parmesan on top, but, again, totally not necessary. What is necessary—fresh ingredients; so get to your local farmers market and give this a try (NYC/East Coast friends—give it a couple monthds, maybe).

Back in May of 2016, we were lucky enough to catch Peter Bjorn and John at one of our favorite, more intimate Los Angeles venues, the Echo. Opening up for them was an unknown-to-us solo act, Okay Kaya, AKA Norwegian singer-songwriter, Kaya Wilkins. It was one of those great moments when the opening act proves nearly as powerful and enjoyable as the band you originally came to see. Her set was stripped, emotional, and moving…until some drunk douche in the back heckled her for some reason. Well, if life were an 80s movie and she actually gave a fuck (which I highly doubt she does), said douche would get turned away the door at her coming, I presume to be sold-out shows in support of what could be one of the year’s best albums. We’re kicking this mixtape off with one of two singles from coming full-length, Both (we have a video for the other below because we love it so much).

What other sonic gems are we sharing this month? Glad you asked.

As always, Australia’s exploding music scene has bled into this mix, first with the straight-up pop danceability from Sydney’s Nicole Millar. Then we seem to have inadvertently lauded on-high our old home of Brooklyn with a  string of artists who are keeping it legit in the ‘borough of trees’—we’ve got some catchy glitch from solo project A Beacon School and Brooklyn-by-way-of-San-Juan Balun, some excellent, slightly less glitchy female-fronted electronic pop from Half Waif and Mothica; and some solid indie pop from four-piece Plastic Picnic. Then we’re getting back to our current home of Los Angeles with some experimental electronica from French-American artist, Sydney Wayser, better known by her stage name, CLARA-NOVA and taking a trip up to the great white north with Montreal’s Men I Trust, both new favorites in the studio.

Then, don’t shut this down before you give it a try, but we’ve got some witch hop (it’s a thing, I swear) from an artist we kind of inexplicably love, Scranton’s own Wicca Phase Springs Eternal. We’ve also got lovely new singles from the most excellent Londoner Nilüfer Yanya, Gothenburg’s Little Dragon, and one teaming Scottish electronic band CHVRCHES with The National‘s Matt Berninger.

And while we hate to play the comparison game, we’re ending things out with a track from Melbourne’s G Flip that has us wanting to dance around the bedroom like we’ve got old Robyn pumping out of shitty speakers at maximum volume with early aughts pre-caffeine-prohibition Sparks in-hand (our twenties were heady, orange-tinged days with little disposable income) before letting none other than Tracey Thorn drop the mic for us via a new collab with London electronic artist George Fitzgerald that’s co-writen with Oli Bayston, the frontman of one of our favorite bands, Boxed In.

That’s it! Enjoy!

And by way of follow up to the video below, you can donate to Planned Parenthood here.

The social media platform Facebook has come a long way since it first started in 2004. Back when we first joined up in 2007 amid a scant few friends at the time, I don’t think anyone could have predicted that the platform would grow to become one of the largest companies in the world with 2.2 billion monthly active users or that it could unite and incite movements for socio-political change halfway around the world or, I don’t know, be used as a tool by foreign powers to help seat a reality TV star and all-around awful human being to the highest office in our land.

Now, with CEO + founder Mark Zuckerberg testifying the Senate Judiciary Committee in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, at the very least, this should prove to be a major turning point, not just for Facebook, but for social media in general. The loss of data and, with it, trust, has pushed many of us to re-examine how we use the web, what we make public, and how we value our information. But, as many point out, Facebook isn’t alone in how they treat their users and monetize their information. Writer Louise Matsakis put it most eloquently for WIRED recently: “Facebook collects arguably the most private information, but plenty of other popular social networking apps like Snapchat and Twitter collect your data too. That’s their entire business model: When you’re not paying for a product, you are the product.

Even before all of the scandal, many within our own social circles seemed to be losing interest in Facebook and the like, for myriad reasons. But what many keep coming back to—ourselves included—was the now-Facebook-owned company, Instagram: What does all this mean for the much-beloved image-sharing platform?

California-based creative digital marketer and longtime friend of raven + crow John Capone put a timely edge on the whole affair for us—”I feel like in the ether now is that people like Instagram and it’s generally evolved pretty well and not become a pile of flaming garbage like Facebook and Snapchat have recently,” John told us. “But the fear is there for users and marketers alike no matter what perspective you have. There’s only so much a user can do (especially with Snap where the developers ruined it) but I’ll always advocate for good citizenship when it comes to these communities.”

With that in mind, we reached out to some of our favorite Instagram users—artists and entrepreneurs who we think use the platform well—for advice on how to keep the ship afloat in this sea of uncertainty. How do we keep Instagram fun and—especially for fellow business-owners—valid in this climate?

The resulting common thread: be true to yourself, your brand, and your community.

Below, we’ve collected advice from friends and colleagues in our various communities on how best to keep it all from burning down. Click their IG banner image to visit their accounts (they’re all awesome). And the last bit of advice from Tomoko is short + succinct, but you really do need to see what she does with stories—magical stuff.

Stacy Michelson—artist, designer, lover-of-food, and real-life Energizer Bunny
IG is my favorite tool to use to connect with people and showcase my brand and what I do. It also gives me a chance to allow people to get to know ME. I don’t have a formula for posts, but I try and do 75% biz and 25% Stacy the person, so you feel like you get a sense of who creates this stuff. And I love stories. I love watching people’s stories and I love making them. I really feel like you can know someone better that you’ve never met with video. It’s their voice, their face, their humor, their life. I have been able to post the day-to-day silliness of my life and interests, like what i’m eating, cooking, and the silly songs I make up all day long. People seem to really like that and tell me often—in comments or in person at events—that my songs and general goofball-ness is a favorite part of their day. How cool is that? Hopefully that connection they feel with me turns into internet friend and then customer. AND I always try and reply to comments unless it’s mean, in which case I just swipe delete and forget it. No point in putting energy into that nonsense.

Jacky Wasserman of vegan apparel company beetxbeet
I think the best thing is to stay true to yourself and your brand. IG is a place that started as a way to connect with others, so just going back to those roots no matter how IG choses to change their algorithm etc is a good way to look at it—finding new ways to stay engaged and connected with your audience through the tools IG provides. We don’t know what kind of future IG has but, for now, taking advantage of the ways it can help connect you to others and market your brand is what we have to work with. If you are concerned about losing the platform, I’d say make sure to have your customers visiting your site often through blog posts and newsletters so there’s still a way to connect outside of the app.

Carolyn Suzuki—artist, illustrator, and princess of pattern
To be a part of a community, I think it’s important that you leave supportive comments for others, follow those who inspire you, and post and share your work on a consistent basis. I think the last point is probably the most important—you want people to know you’re out there doing the work and showing up everyday. Regardless of the quality of work, this commitment is what’s inspiring and I think other makers out there can feel that!

John Sepal—photographer and style documentarian behind Tokyo Camera Style
I honestly don’t care about analytics or numbers—my interest in IG is based on using it to share/celebrate a slice of photographic culture with anyone interested. The popularity tokyocamerastyle has gained is due to consistent content that is informative and positive. The fact that there’s a documentary angle is interesting—the cameras I post are ones I see out on the streets being used. Recently I’ve been expanding from just gear to my real interests—photo exhibitions and photobooks. I try to present things in a fair and clear manner and people respond to this authentic aspect. I don’t like accounts that re-gram other peoples’ pictures or request of cameras or bags to gain a following. That’s boring. Everything on TCS is original stuff that celebrates something that film photographers around the world can feel a part of.

Allison Sherman—sustainable fashion blogger
First, be thoughtful in the content you post. You don’t have to write something personal or even relevant every time you post a photo, but the image and visuals are very important—that’s what catches people’s eye! If it’s something you like but that doesn’t necessarily match your feed or vibe, post it on Instagram stories or post multiple photos and do a swipe to see more feature and have the first photo match your vibe. Similar editing style is also very aesthetically pleasing!

And check out the explore page or search relevant tags that you’re interested in. Often times you’ll stumble upon great accounts. Like their photos, comment, and/or follow them! Not sure of who to engage with to increase your following? Pick an account that you have similar content with or a similar account you aspire to be like and go and see who likes their photos. Choose those people to connect with!

Find an Instagram planning app that works for you! I use an app called PLANN. It helps me plan posts ahead of time and keep photos in the queue for me to post later. If stuff is in my camera roll, it often gets lost with all the other photos I take and it’s nice to have all the solid insta-worthy photos in one spot. I know there are many other apps like this, but PLANN was only a one time payment of under $7 and works pretty well! I had a free trial of another app that wanted me to pay monthly making it over $100 a year—yikes! Some Instagram planning/analytics apps are free but don’t have many features, so do a little research and find one that works for you!

Tomoko Imade Dyen—Japanese food ambassador and IG story savant 

Use stories to tell a story! It doesn’t have to be an epic, but do tell more than what you are doing.