As has been extremely well-documented by now, this whole technology thing is very much a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing that we can easily communicate with friends and family across the world, mobilize around social change, watch a cute cat video, find the perfect vegan chili recipe, and stream decades deep music catalogs at the touch of a screen; and it’s a curse that our brains—so much slower to evolve than the pace of modern information technology—are now essentially activated 24/7 by the world outside, restless in every sense of the word. Like most people, we’ve given this problem a decent amount of though and recently I personally stumbled across a small fix of sorts that I wanted to share.

But let’s back up.

Exactly two weeks back, we celebrated the birth of our first child…. To be totally clear, this is a real human baby I’m speaking of, not some kind of trope or analog to a creative project we’ve ‘given birth to’ at the agency.

It’s awesome, speaking literally—the experience has left both of us completely full of awe in almost every way imaginable; awe at the life that we created that’s somehow a synthesis of the two of us; awe at the human body and its many beyond-comprehension miracles of physics; awe at the future that’s unfolding before us every minute we spend with this little boy; awe at the sheer lack of sleep inherent in caring for a tiny human in these first few weeks.

I get that this is a seminal, rather earth-shattering life moment for us that I’m essentially confining to a small mention in what, by comparison, is a trivial piece, but I mention it mainly to set up the premise here. Suffice to say on the bigger picture, though—we’re elated.

Back to the crux of the smaller picture though, as a matter of habit, I always used to switch my iPhone to Do Not Disturb mode before going to sleep at night. For anyone who doesn’t already know, Do Not Disturb mode is a feature Apple added to iOS back in 2012 that effectively silences all notifications on your iPhone or iPad. Notifications still come through—you see them on your lock screen or anywhere else you’d normally find them once you activate the device—you’re just not disturbed by vibrations or audible pings for the notifications when Do Not Disturb is activated unless you’re currently using your activated device. Via your the settings menu, you can fine-tune the mode, allowing calls to come through from groups in your contacts, ‘favorites’, and anyone who calls repeatedly, scheduling it to automatically turn the mode on and off during the day, auto-activating it when you’re driving, and more (it really is super-handy; thanks Apple).

When it became clear that Katie was going into labor those two weeks back, it was roughly 430AM and—without getting too far into the weeds on this—things moved quickly. All went really well, but the next thing we knew, it was a few hours later and we were bonding with our son as all other thoughts fell away, distant and trite by comparison. A couple days later, once we were home and settled, I realized I’d never turned off the Do Not Disturb mode on my phone. More importantly, I realized that having left it in that mode had allowed me to focus on the here-and-now in a very here-and-now time. Cut to today, two weeks later, and I consider myself a DND convert (and yes, I’m also a longtime Dungeons and Dragons aficionado, but that’s a topic for another day; I’m talking Do Not Disturb here).

Many a piece has examined the myriad side effects of the fast-paced, hi-tech information age most of us now call home—fewer than two years back, WNYC aired an amazing interactive week-long series called Infomagical that we to this day consider transformative; and just last week, Morning Edition featured a piece comparing modern humans with smart phones to Pavlov’s dogs (yes, we do listen to a lot of NPR; thanks public radio).

Many of these pieces come to a similar conclusion—cutting back on or turning off notifications altogether is highly effective in the war we’re all waging to retain our own sanity and maintain focus amidst the non-stop stream of information. But sometimes you want to know if someone’s messaged you via Instagram or Tweeted about your company or texted you about meeting up later…you just don’t want those many pieces of information interrupting your every day on a regular basis and firing off synapses in your brain willy nilly.

For me, I’ve found that keeping the notifications I find useful still active but keeping on Do Not Disturb mode strikes the perfect balance—instead of being in a constant reactive state, picking up my phone every time it buzzes, literally multiple times a minute sometimes, I’m choosing to access the information from green-lit sources when I want to enter an information-receiving mode, ideally when I can give that information my full attention, not mid-conversation or -activity. So when I feel like I can make time for things not already in my zone immediate attention, I pick up my phone, activate, and see what’s going on in the world.

For instance, this morning I found a pause in my activity (making coffee), looked down, activated my phone, and saw that there had been two small earthquakes in the greater Los Angeles area and a Twitter account I follow had posted a new video—important, maybe; stop-what-you’re-doing-important, no way. Which seems to be the way most things go when it comes to outside information, I think.

Yes, I may be roughly five or six deep on the ever-growing list of inane-things-our-president-said by the time I activate my phone; yes, I’ll miss your call or text and have to get back to you later; yes, I’ll likely be late to the game on whatever the news of the day is, but I bet I’ll be more engaged the next time we’re together and talking in real life. And my guess and my hope is that this behavior will carry over into my interactions with my son, who I’m only just getting to know but will always be more important to me than the cutest cat video.

To a certain extent, frequency of use of the term ‘wunderkind‘ has to be directly proportional to the age of the writer, right? Though if that hypothesis were indeed true, this writer would certainly use it a lot more. So fuck it.

Sweden’s Carl Garsbo—better known by his stage-/recording name, Kasbo—is kinda young, sure, but that’s a relatively minor fact when set in relief to the vast, atmospheric, cinematic music he crates. His debut full-length, Places We Don’t Know, is due out stateside March 23rd and we wanted to take the opportunity to talk with him about his influences, what it’s like to write with someone else’s voice in mind, and Smeagol, obvs.

raven + crow: Alright, first off, thanks for taking the time to talk. We really like what we’ve heard from you so far and were curious to learn more about you. How long have you been making music?

Carl Garsbo (AKA Kasbo): Of course! Thanks for having me. I’ve been producing since like 2012, I believe. But I’ve played guitar for probably 12 years, and was making 2-note-blink-182-inspired melodies since back then.

Ah—you’ve come a long way then. Influences are tricky to talk about, but since you already kicked it off with the grandfathers of pop-punk, what’s some music that you feel inform your sound? Or who do you admire, musically?

I feel Frank Ocean might be my main one. His album Blonde is such an incredible journey in terms of soundscape. I love songwriting, chords, melodies, but I think what separates artists are mainly soundscapes, and in that, Blonde is masterful (obviously so is the writing). He puts you in so many different moods, places, time periods, without necessarily using conventional samples, like having chirping birds to make the listener feel like they’re in a forest. Like, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s easy. Frank Ocean can put you in places with a synth and a chord progression. To me, that is magic, and it’s definitely something I strive to achieve with my music.

Well-put. Can you talk a little bit about your writing process? Do your songs start with snippets of melody or do you start with beats first usually? What happens when you sit down to write a song?

I usually find samples the most inspiring. Like I said, I feel soundscape is a majority of what sets an artist aside. Like HOW a melody is played or delivered rather than the notes it’s playing. So for me, I find a lot of key parts of a song rely on the samples I use and how I use them, so a lot of the time I start with a sample. That’s how I get something that sounds completely unique to me.

And, technically speaking, what are you using when you do so—do you start with a guitar? Or keys? Or are you looping on an app or in some software you like to work with?

For most of the album it was mostly written on keys and then I added things like guitar. Now I’m writing more with a guitar from the start. It’s fun ’cause it’s easier to find more unconventional and interesting chord progression. A lot of the time spent making chords and melodies, it’s a lot of muscle memory involved, so you end up writing similar things. I like to start every session with a new tuning, so I even if I wanted to play the same thing over again I couldn’t.

Interesting approach. How does the collaborative aspect work with you and vocalists? Are you usually sending scratch tracks for them to build off or something?

Yeah, I usually have songs I think would fit a certain singer and I’ll send them stuff and see if anything inspires them, if it does, they start writing a demo track. After that, there’s usually some going back and forth before there’s a finished product.

And how do you decide who you want to work with on a particular song?

Usually, it’s very apparent to me what I want the song to be and therefore what type of voice/writing/melody’s I’d want to achieve that.

I know you’ve played out a good bit, opening for Glass Animals and the like (which must have been awesome)—what were the challenges in bringing music that’s largely composed electronically—on keys and keyboards—to the live setting? That seems like something that could throw a lot of electronic producers and home-recorders for a loop.

It’s definitely tricky. There’s a balance there. It needs to be fun for me and needs to be fun for the audience. If I’m sitting down playing a keyboard that might be fun for me, but it’s not too interactive, not too interesting to look at someone’s hands (usually at a distance) move slightly. I try to take parts that carry the key role of the specific songs and play them in the best manner, whether it be drums, vocal chops, or guitar parts. It’s definitely tricky when you’re by yourself but it’s a fun challenge.

I’ve talked to other musicians in Scandinavian countries—mainly Iceland—who contribute their country’s musical and creative productivity to long, dark, cold winters when there’s basically nothing else to do other than hang out and create art. Would you say that’s the case in Sweden? You guys have produced some of our favorite musicians.

That’s exactly the case—haha. Whenever it comes up in a discussion when I’m with other Swedish musicians we always half-joke about how it’s so dark and depressing outside, so it inspires us to sit inside and write emotional melodies. I find it easier working here than in LA for example.

Yeah, Lykke Li literally lives up the street from us in sunny Los Angeles and I’m like “I’m jazzed you’re here and loving life…but you were kinda a lot more productive when you lived in Sweden and I really miss all that music, so.”

Haha—yep. I think also ’cause Sweden can be more boring; like in LA it’s like, “Hey do you wanna go to this rooftop bungee jump party that George Clooney invited me to, also Salt Bae is in charge of the BBQ”, there’s a lot of distractions. In Sweden, it’s easier to stay focused and lose yourself in your work, for better and for worse. It’s also easier to kind of separate myself from the “scene” and do my own thing when I’m here in Gothenburg cause literally no one here is doing the type of music I do.

SALT BAE! You’re ruining LA’s music and arts scene! And, to be fair, I do think Ms. Li has a new album coming out soon.

After all of these singles, we finally got an album announcement from you a few weeks back—congrats, that’s so exciting. What compelled you to work towards the more traditional wholistic release of a full-length than, say, doing singles whenever the mode strikes?

Thank you! I think the idea of not having every song sounding like a single. With an album, you have more freedom to move along the whole creative spectrum. If I were to release a 40-second song of ambient noise and some distant pad playing as a single people would be like “What the fuck?” but in an album, I can do that.

Totally true. Can you talk about the album cover at all (below)? What’s going on there? We’re intrigued.

It’s a cover I made together with Anders Brasch Willumsen, an incredible designer. We wanted to achieve the sense of wonders of the world, and surrealism from within a safe, somewhat sterile place. Which is why there’s a cloud randomly floating in this room. It’s supposed to mirror the album concept, which is about romanticising the naiveté of youth and beauty of it.

Likewise, the visuals for “Bleed It Out”—the single you released with Nea a little while back—are very cool. Who did those and what’s going on there?

This guy Andreas Barden made them. When briefing him, there wasn’t really a specific direction I wanted to take, I wanted to keep the hyperrealism vibe of my artwork and felt he’d do a great job. The goal was to have a visual that matched the energy and fit the aesthetic to further the idea of the song. I think he nailed it.

Yeah, totally agree. It’s very much a visual realization of the music in a way. Switching topics a bit, I’m wondering if you ever get annoyed at people focusing on your age in the media? I feel like every time I hear someone introducing, like, Declan McKenna, for instance, it’s always about how young he is and how much he’s done so far, which I get, but he’s also just a really great musician regardless of his age. I feel like, if I were him…or you, that’d get under my skin sometimes.

I honestly don’t really think about it. I feel like there are so many super young producers out there that are doing bigger things than I am so I feel a lot of people are getting used to the fact that there’s no age tied to ideas and creativity.

Fair enough. I know you played stateside a decent amount last fall, but looks like you’re touring here again this spring and summer—are you excited to come back?

Extremely. Especially cause I’ll be playing my entire album out for the first time. That’s gonna be really cool.

Yeah, we’d love to see you when you’re in LA—the Teragram’s a great space. The name, Kasbo—some kind of rough combination of the phonetics of your first and last names or does that come from somewhere else?

Yeah kind of, it’s more from my last name only. In school people called me Garsbo, which kind of got more and more extreme, kind of like how Smeagol slowly morphed into Gollum over time, Garsbo morphed into Kasbo (apologies for the reference, I just finished rewatching The Lord Of The Rings trilogy).

Oh, sir, you never have to apologize to me for a Lord of the Rings reference. Ever. Thanks for taking the time to talk, and take off that ring for god’s sake!

You can pre-order Kasbo’s debut full-length via iTunes, listen to tracks from it on his site, and hear that and more (like a shit-ton of awesome remixes he did, many with free downloads) on SoundCloud; find tour information on his site and Facebook page.

Regardless of how a song made its way to our ears, we’re always intrigued to find out more about the artist or artists behind it, especially when that song strikes us as especially original or memorable, as is very much the case with Sidney Gish’s “Persephone”—featured on this month’s mixtape—and, in fact, her entire new album, the beautifully inventive + sharp-witted No Dogs Allowed, released December 31st last year. We talked recently with the Boston-based musician and full-time student in an effort to find out more about her background in music, her influences, and her self-made album covers (and the awesome cat one one of them).

raven + crow: Alright first off, thanks for taking the time to talk. I have to admit, until we heard a couple songs from No Dogs Allowed on our local station, KCRW, we weren’t familiar with you or your music, but you seem to have been doing this a while, yeah?

Sidney Gish: Yeah! I’ve been messing around in garageband for a couple years but only started posting stuff on Bandcamp in 2015.

I know you study music business at Northeastern, but what brought you to music and performing in the first place?

I loved listening to music and was curious about writing it. I thought up melodies for a long time and started sharing my ideas more when I got to high school.

Looking at the album liner notes, it reads like you played all the instruments yourself—is that the case? That’s truly impressive, just listening to the whole thing start-to-finish.

Thanks! And yes, everything on the record was played by me. A lot of it is MIDI instruments that I wrote the parts for rather than actual physical instruments.

No less impressive. Is your ideal to focus on writing and performing as an artist or do you have an actual interest in the technical or recording end of things too, or even the business or management end of things?

I’m interested in the whole picture, really. Just seeing what I can do and playing around with whatever makes sense. Writing is my favorite part, since it’s just fun to do. I like learning about recording styles as well, and deciding instrumentation for songs is something I love doing. Performing is fun a lot of the time, but I often get nervous or worried that I’m coming off the wrong way due to being too anxious.

Yeah, that can be really nerve-racking, even after years of performing out—every show’s so different. So, question—you go to school in Boston but you’re based in or from NYC? I couldn’t quite tell from a quick look at your socials.

I go to school in Boston, and, since I’m at Northeastern, we have the co-op program, in which you work full-time for a few individual semesters as an undergrad. So I moved to NYC for my job spring semester, before I go back to Boston for my 4th year classes this fall. I’m here temporarily, until June!

Ah, enjoy—New York’s one of our favorite places on Earth. What do you think of the local music scenes in New York vs Boston? Are they both pretty supportive still?

I haven’t gotten involved in the NYC music scene really, since I just got here. I’m typing this on the way to my first show this year at Brooklyn Bazaar, which is exciting!

The Boston music scene is definitely supportive and I’ve met a lot of friends through playing shows together or attending ones around the area.

That’s good to hear. And, yeah, the Brooklyn Bazaar’s a great time—hope you enjoy. Wondering what your song-writing process is like. Your lyrics are so front-and-center and memorable, my assumption would be that those come first and you build the songs around them, but I’m also often very, very incorrect.

Thanks! I write melodies first usually, and then figure out what words would go with them. I have a lot of words that don’t match any melodies that I could use for something else eventually.

Backup lyrics. That’s handy. Way back when, I, along with many others, was obsessed with Liz Phair’s debut, Exile in Guyville. I totally don’t like playing the comparison game with artists, but your lyrics and cadence and style and just the raw genuine feel to the song-writing make me think of that album so much. Are you a fan of it/her at all or am I just way off-base (see early note about being very incorrect often)?

Yes, I like that album! I had been listening to a few Liz Phair songs this past year but didn’t listen to Exile in Guyville in full until recently.

Alright, so somewhat on-base—I’ll take it. Who are some artists that inspire or inform your song-writing then?

I really like of Montreal, their songs are really interesting to listen to. I was also really into Regina Spektor and Vampire Weekend when I was growing up (and still to this day.) I also got into Dismemberment Plan last year and I think their writing is really great.

Oh, shit—not to name-drop, but our old band played with those guys! So awesome you found them; they’re truly one of the most under-rated bands I know—so unique. Besides just really loving the new album, one of the main reasons I wanted to talk with was to ask about the album covers—do you do those?

Yes! I like making collages.

Awesome. I’m totally into them. Can you talk about the idea behind the cover for the new album? What’s going on there?

It’s a guy walking a dog copy of himself, which was an idea I had after seeing a similar image. It’s just, like, dumb and fun to make. Originally the guy on the left was gonna be pointing at a sign that said “No Dogs Allowed,” and they’d be on a street corner or something, but I ended up putting them on a blank background instead.

And why the toolbar from…what, is that like an old version of Corel Draw?

It’s an MS Paint toolbar. I had them walking around this blank world, and decided it should be a Paint project instead of, like, a void.

Fucking love that. Any reference to MS Paint is a winner in my book. And who’s the cat on Ed Buys Houses? That guy looks wise and awesome.

That’s my cat Schrödy, short for Schrödinger!

Excellent. Getting back to dogs, though, can you explain the title? I know that’s a line in “Rat of the City” but can you break it down more for us or explain the idea behind it or “Rat”?

I thought it just sounded like a title I was into. I actually like dogs, I just kept having ideas for collages/images surrounding a “No Dogs Allowed” sign. I ended up not even using a sign in the art, but I kept the title anyway. I had the album title before I wrote “Rat of the City” and I was like “oh cool it rhymes.”

It looks like you released No Dogs Allowed on New Year’s Eve last month. And the final track is called “New Recording 180 (New Year’s Eve)”. You didn’t actually record that on the night you released the album did you?

I did! It was the last thing I recorded. I then did really rough mastering, went to my friend’s NYE party, finished the art there, and posted it on Bandcamp at his house.

That’s awesome. Another case solved by Raven + Crow Detective agency!

I see you’re playing and played a lot around New York and Boston—any plans to head west any time soon?

Not yet but maybe sometime this year!

Cool—definitely let us know when you do! And thanks again for talking and thank you so much for this album—it’s truly excellent.

And thank you for listening!

You can listen to No Dogs Allowed above and on Sidney’s Bandcamp page, where you can also purchase the record along with Sidney’s other two releases. Keep an eye on that page and her Facebook page for tour announcements.

Photo of the artist by Hester Konrad.

What is it about February and new music?

Practically speaking, much of it likely has to do with not wanting to get lost in the pre-holiday white noise and giving enough time to recover from the slackening of attention that follows, but it’s nice to think of it as the creativity of the year slowly coming out of hibernation, giving some gigantic bear yawn before bounding out into the world, renewed and ready to do it all again but better.

And this month’s mixtape reflects just that, featuring the return of some of our favorite artists—Merrill Garbus’ Tune-Yards, whose just-release fourth album stands as her poppiest and perhaps strongest to date; Canadian musician Cecil Frena, who previously performed under the moniker Born Gold, and, before that, Gobble Gobble, and of whom we are very fond; Danielle Johnson AKA Danz AKA Computer Magic with her sophomore full-length out later this month (though, to be fair, she’s put out 10+ EPs and singles collections in the US and in Japan out over the past eight years; we did a now-old interview with Danz that still holds up for the interested); Sydney’s Middle Kids, who will celebrate their debut full-length in May; Philly’s most excellent Hop Along, who have a new one coming out in April; and, maybe most exciting off all, the long-awaited return of Wye Oak, with whom we kick things off.

Ever being ones to push our musical universe outward, we’re also highlighting many a newcomer, including Cape Town’s Amy Ayanda; the solo project of Columbus, Ohio’s Frances Litterski, Effee; NYC electronic duo Satellite Mode; Berlin-based artist O-SHIN; Queen of Smooth, Wafia, who’s based either in Australia or up the street (as with most musicians these days); some highly emotive electronic music from two more Australians—What So Not (AKA Emoh Instead AKA Chris Emerson) featuring a favorite find of 2016, Sydney musician BUOY; Manchester four piece New Luna with something catchy and promising; the very excellent undergrad Sidney Gish (we’ve got an interview with her we just did and should be posting next week); and Dublin band Cloud Castle Lake, whom we were lucky enough to catch earlier this week with an intimate set at Hotel Cafe, during which time our minds were fucking blown.

Honestly, if at least one of these bands doesn’t end up being your new favorite, we’re terrible at our jobs…technically being running a creative agency, but, in this case, consider us your new music sherpas. Please enjoy.

Sunday morning, in the wake of the flood of activists and activated citizens that filled the streets of Los Angeles on this first anniversary of the Women’s March, KCRW DJ Anne Litt played a heretofore unknown to us song that seemed fittingly excellent; we felt the need to share.

The 1976 song—”Cashing In”—was written by Taiwo and Kehinde Lijadu, two Nigerian sisters who pushed the envelope, both musically and lyrically, tackling issues that were beyond progressive for their time, especially in 1970s Nigeria.

You can follow the Lijadu sisters, who have an actively run Facebook page, and explore their catalog via iTunes + order physical and digital releases through Knitting Factory Records.

We first wrote about our obsession with the music of Icelandic artist Sin Fang on these pages back in 2013. Sin Fang has long been associated with a favorite label of our’s, Morr Music, an independent label out of Berlin that specializes in nuanced electronic music and glitchy pop; in short, our bread and butter. We’ve been fans of Sin Fang—née Sindri Már Sigfússon—ever since. Early last year, Morr announced that Sindri would start collaborating on a monthly musical experiment with some good friends and fellow Icelanders—multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter Sóley and Örvar Smárason of the band, múm.

This month, the twelve songs the trio recorded and released for once a month in 2017 were put together and released as a new full-length—the appropriately named Team Dreams. We took the opportunity to talk again with Sindri (above, middle, upset) about the idea behind the band and process, what’s to come for them all, and (briefly) tourism in Iceland and how hard it is for foreign artists to tour the US.

raven + crow: So, last time we talked, way back in 2013, after Flowers but before Spaceland, you ended the interview saying that you’d hoped to do something more collaborative in the future. Is Team Dreams the realization of that hope?

Sindri Már Sigfússon: Yes that’s one of them. Since Flowers, I’ve worked on a lot of different stuff with different people. I think it’s good for people who do music on their own to collaborate; I get inspired by other people and everyone has their own way of doing things. Sometimes I’ve been working with someone and they have such a radically different method than me to get to a place that it astounds me. I think I’ve learned the most over the years from working with different people and adopting methods, climbing into their brain for a little when we work together.

I know Sóley played with you in Seabear and you all toured with múm in that band—is that how the three of you first met or does the friendship pre-date that tour?

I met Sóley when she joined Seabear, but i’ve known Örvar since before I started making music. He was friends with my friend’s older brother and we used to hang around them and they would allow us to come to their parties even though we were tiny teenagers. We’re all good friends. We also have kids at the same age that play together.

And how did the whole idea to collaborate on an album together first come about?

It was after I did Spaceland—it had taken a long time and I had made lots of different versions of each song and when it was finally finished I still had to wait a few months for it to come out. So I thought it would be a fun project to just make a song and release it straight away without having to change it a million times.

Right, to be clear, the songs on this album were recorded one-by-one, correct? A month or so at a time?

Yes—sometimes we had more time, sometimes we had almost no time and sometimes we were in three different continents so every song was a different process really.

What was the reason behind doing it that way?

Just to do something fun and spontanious and challange ourselves.

Cool. So where did everything end up being recorded?

We all have private studios of our own, so we mostly recorded in our own spaces and then I mixed the songs at my studio.

Home studio + long, cold winters = creative productivity. Got it. And did the song-writing take place when you all met up—virtually or in person— or did someone walk in with a partially written song?

Most of the time one of us had an idea or demo that we then all worked on.

That seems like a good path forward, especially given the talent in the room at any given moment. How did you see the song-writing and evolution of the work differ when you had these self-imposed breaks between creative meetings instead of writing and recording things all at once?

We talked a lot online, actually, even though we live very close. We all have our own studios that we work out of so we did a lot of the work over the net.

It’s like when I text my wife from the other room—sometimes it’s just easier, right? It might be hard to step out of your own mind here, but does Team Dreams sound to your ears like an album of singles or is it more cohesive than you expected going in?

I still havent listened to the whole album from start to finish, actually. I also find that you need to get at least two years away from an album to really hear it with fresh ears. I’m constantly working on music and it’s more of an impulse for me than a thought-out thing. I often listen back to stuff I’ve done and go “Ahh, okay, that’s what I was thinking about/going through back then.”

Totally makes sense. Looking back, though, does it seem like each one of you naturally took on certain roles in the song-writing and performing over time or in certain particular songs?

No, it was just mixed but depended on each song, kind of. We’ve all done lots of music with other people and were all quite diplomatic so there was no problem if someone wanted something done differently or whatever. We just always tried to come to a conclusion we were all happy with.

We’re American—what is this word you use, “diplo-matic”?

Do you think this experience will change how you or Sóley or Orvar write or record music going forward?

I cant speak for them but, for me, I feel like I’m always changing ways of writing and working. I don’t think I could make music like I was doing 5 years ago anymore, for instance. So no, I don’t think so. I’m working on a Sin Fang album now that I started recording, like, 2 years ago.

Oh, that’s exciting. Am I correct in assuming you all are keeping your touring to Europe? I know it can be cost-prohibitive, but any plans to come stateside?

No plans for US at the moment, but we all really wanna go. Hopefully we can do it somehow this year. If a wealthy industrialist wants to sponsor a US tour for us, that would be great. For us to go play in the US, we would need three working visas—that’s like a few thousand dollars just to be able to play in the US; then it’s flights, car, gear, etc. It’s just not viable for band our size to go to America, I’m afraid. Sucks because I love playing/touring the US.

Yeah, WHY do we make it so fucking hard/expensive for artists to come here‽

This is wildly off-subject, but I feel like since last we talked, Iceland’s become this insanely popular tourist destination. I mean, it was always has been to some extent, but it seems to have really blown up, especially as far as Americans visiting—I think about half the people I know have been in the past four or so years. I’ve seen some things written about how all the tourists are kind of ruining Iceland in a way—have you seen any of that?

No, I like having more people around. There are more nice bars, restaurants, and the whole place feels a bit more metropolitan. The bad thing is greedy people push up the prices of everything and the average Icelandic person’s salary has not gone up.

Yeah, sounds pretty familiar. Not to pressure you or anything, but anything else you can tell us about the coming solo work?

I’m releasing a EP under my own name (Sindri Már Sigfússon) that’s some instrumental music real soon, and working on the new Sin Fang album that will probably come out late this year. Örvar has his first solo album coming out and Sóley is working on a new album as well.

All very exciting! Well thanks for making the time to talk, Sindri—love the album.

Thanks!

You can listen to and buy the new album Team Dreams via bandcamp (where the lion’s share of profits go to the artists), iTunes (where they don’t…but maybe you have an Apple gift card burning a hole in your iTunes account), and in local discerning record shops. Photo by Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir.

This month, I think a lot of us—ourselves included—are hoping for a good start to what will be a great year.

Well, it’s not really in our power to guarantee that, but we can promise a great start to this first mixtape of the year—a brand new song from none other than David Byrne.

It’s been a while since we’ve heard any new solo material from the ex-Talking Heads frontman, but he’s been far from idle. In addition to collaborating with artists such as Brian Eno and Annie Clark of St. Vincent over the years, writing his own musical, and popping up as a guest artist on myriad albums and performances, Byrne’s remained an outspoken and observant critic of art and popular culture, penning books, essays, and op/eds on everything from music theory to the death of creative culture in NYC. (He’s also a prolific mixtape contributor; in a time when we’re drastically cutting our email subscriptions, we highly recommend signing up of his newsletter; it’s solid.)

This new song is one that’s written with collaboration from Eno for Byrne’s coming solo album—American Utopia (out March 9)—and it’s a banger, as the kids say.

We’re following that one with another party-/protest-ready one from studio favorite Sylvan Esso—their just-released “PARAD(w/m)E” (…it’ll make sense when you hear it). Then “Midas” is one of many favorites off the wonderful debut by Leeds-based newcomers Noya Rao—well-worth checking out the full album from them though. Following that up with a couple nice thumping, dancey numbers from two Sydney-based musicians—Hayden James featuring GRAACE (also out of Sydney) and Basenji (not the dog) featuring Tkay Maidza (from Adelaide, which we hear is kinda near Sydney…meaning in Australia) before hitting a new one from experimental Philly band Palm and a track from a great EP by a new favorite, Gloucestershire duo Ardyn.

We’ve been pretty into New York trio Sunflower Bean since their 2016 debut, but, if their new single “I Was a Fool” is telling at all, we’re in for a much more mature, awesomely grooved out vibe from them that has us very jazzed for their follow-up in March. Following that up with two supergroups of sorts off of Berlin label Morr MusicSpirit Fest (comprising Japanese duo, Tenniscoats, and members of Notwist, Jam Money, and Joasihno) and Icelanders Sin Fang, Sóley & Örvar Smárason (more from them on these pages soon).

Then another favorite, Maggie Rogers, debuted a new single last fall that we’re just getting around to highlighting—as with everything she touches, it is gold. And we’ve got a great track from yet another Sydney band—electronic duo Chymes—before moving on to a brand new one from Brooklyn’s Chrome Sparks featuring Angelica Bess. Finishing up with a slow-burn beauty from Swedish wünderkind Kasbo and a song from an album that’s quickly becoming one of after-the-fact favorites from 2017—The Kid from Los Angeles’ own Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith; it’s weird and wonderful and kinda everything we love—another that’s well-worth a listen beginning to end.

Enjoy.

Here we go, 2018!

Continuing our self-imposed tradition of hand-illustrated, hand-lettered holiday cards at year’s end, we decided to honor the memory of Mr. Thomas Earl Petty, who touched countless lives, our own included.

Happy 2018, friends; let’s live with love above all and burn through the hate with action.

Here’s Tom’s final performance of “Wildflowers” at the Hollywood Bowl, just over the hill from our house, last September.

I met Tom Mullen years ago back in New York, through some random interactions that I honestly forget now, but that led to us talking about my old band, Speedwell (this is Troy writing, by the way). Searching back through old emails as I write this, I’m finding ones back and forth between us in the fall of 2011, shortly after Mullen had started an interview series that attempts to capture and record the mid 90s/early 2000 emo and post-hardcore scenes, largely in an effort to defend their legacy as they began to morph into something a lot of us hated—a very commercialized, highly-polished, and totally inauthentic version of themselves; something some of us termed ‘mall emo’ (props to Brian Minter—I think he’s the first I heard call it that).

Since Tom and I first met, his website and interview series has grown exponentially, as has his (now long) career in the music industry—Tom’s now a music industry executive at Atlantic and has spent time at Equal Vision, Vagrant, TVT, EMI, and Sony, where he was a 2016 Clio and Cannes Lions winner for his work with Bob Dylan. Yeah, that guy. But his passion has remained this strange, edgy scene we both grew up in, more or less, and it’s been a common thread that’s kept us in touch over the years. In addition to his site and interview series/podcast, Washed Up Emo, Tom created a popular emo-themed DJ night in NYC (the good, original one; not the bobo one) and started a pretty uncannily thorough search engine that answers the age-old question—Is This Band Emo? (sometimes with very entertaining results).

He’s also just published his first book, Anthology of Emo Volume 1—376 pages of band interviews, rare photographs, set lists, and more.

On the occasion of its release and the book party tomorrow night at one of our favorite places in Los Angeles, Donut Friend, we took a deep dive with Tom to talk music, and how Bernie Sanders’ wife changed his life as a youth.

raven + crow: Alright, Tom, so, first off, great to talk with you again—it’s been too long, man! I guess let’s start at the beginning—you’ve got a long, prestigious career in the music industry and you’ve clearly ‘paid your dues’, as they say, but what got you into the emo scene in the first place? What was the scene like where you grew up/went to school and what were some early bands—known or not—who pulled you into the scene?

Tom Mullen: Thanks Troy! I’ve definitely been in the music industry way too long, going on seventeen years in the professional world. A big part of my ability to stay relevant in the music industry is what I learned in the scenes growing up. I grew up in Vermont, a small state with no billboards and very few bands coming through. Thanks to Bernie Sanders’ wife, there was a teen center in Burlington, Vermont, which I lived about 40 minutes from and it had all these amazing punk, indie, hardcore, metal, and emo bands come through. They weren’t the biggest but to me, that was all that would tour that far up north. I would go see Only Living Witness, Tree, Sam Black Church, and others from Boston; bands from New York City that would trek up on their way to Montreal or on their way back from there. Burlington was so small that there was no arena, no big shows coming through, so the punk and hardcore scene to me seemed like the biggest thing in the world.

I was instantly perplexed and amazed by this underground scene that I had to dig and search for bands, labels, and scenes. I quickly developed an affinity for emo and all the bands. It was just another band on the hardcore bill so I was into all of it. I looked like a hardcore kid but listened to Karate and Snapcase. Vermont was limited due to their location and size so when I graduated high school, I knew I needed to get the fuck out to really get into the scene and see more bands. I went to school down in North Carolina, which was a culture shock for an East Coast kid. What it did have going for it were countless shows only 30 minutes away and cheap gas. After joining the radio station at the college on day two, I was off to the races calling labels, getting records in the mail, and trying to see as many shows as I could across North Carolina. One day it was Neurosis, or it was Bad Religion or it was A New Found Glory or Braid. I was taking it all in and I couldn’t get enough of it.

Ahhhhhhhh the 90s. As a quick sidenote and sign of the times, my 2017 MacBook just auto-corrected ‘emo’ to ‘emojified’, by the way.

Yes, a common issue with Apple devices. I’ve definitely asked my friends at Apple to fix that.

Get on it, Apple! So, do you feel like first-wave emo filled the same sort of role that, say, punk and new wave filled before, this sort of outsider role?

The first wave of emo, the late 80s/early 90s, was so all over the place that it was definitely an offshoot from the scenes of hardcore. The word itself derives from emotional hardcore, emo-core. So it was just different at the time and as you’d expect, hated as soon as the words were uttered in D.C.

Right, maybe we should back up for the uninitiated (and interested)—can do a quick breakdown on the various emo waves and history here?

This is heavily debated and argued about on Reddit, 4chan and wherever else people like to complain. I’ll caution that people describe these waves very differently. For myself, it’s the first wave of the D.C. bands like Rites of Spring, Embrace. The second wave of the late 90s, with The Promise Ring, Get Up Kids, Jimmy Eat World, etc. Third wave is the pop/hair metal era with Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, and Dashboard Confessional. The fourth wave is the emo revival with bands like Foxing, Hotelier, and Free Throw. Let the angry comments commence.

Yeah, that’s why we disabled commenting on these pages. Suck it, audience! This is a leading question, but how do you feel the internet and this instant information-/cultural-exchange via the web have changed such formative cultural/musical genres and experiences?

The internet is fleeting. It’s instant and there’s very little work to get something but harder to feel a deeper connection to something you took time to find online or in the real world. That’s what’s missing to me when I think about bands and music today. It’s a kid in a bedroom talking shit that would never say it at the show. Maybe back in the day, he’d be at the show and still not say it or quietly say it but today those words can be heard by anyone theoretically, so it’s a false sense of being a part of something. I think bands had more time to cultivate and really cut through, but in the same sense, someone posting a song could get huge and learn the ropes after getting that help early on that they may not have gotten. I love it all but think it’s dangerous to just be on the computer tweeting all day or commenting. Get outside, meet someone, learn something new, sit next to a human and interact.

I do think music is one of those area’s that so heavily affected by the proliferation of use of the web that it’s resulted in this flooding of information/sounds/bands, to the point that it’s impossible to really fully know the bands that make up a scene because the’re so legion now. It does actually make going out to shows and relying on good line-ups at venues one of the best ways to find new bands you might like.

Was that a motive for starting Washed Up Emo though—both the site and the interview series—sort of preserving this scene, what it evolved into, and what came from it?

The motive for the site was to exactly that. The podcast was an extension of the story to have it be evergreen. Someone listening today or 10 years from now will understand where Matt Pryor‘s headspace was and what he was into and why he was doing what he was doing with the music and the bands. It’s a life story I hoped would be something people would listen to and not just have it be the news of the day or two people trying to be funny with each other and a guest. I don’t care if anyone remembers me, I just want the stories to remain.

Your new book then—Anthology of Emo Volume 1—I assume that’s kind of the natural evolution of the interviews; what made you want to channel all of that material into book form?

The book felt like a natural way to bring something academic and serious to the genre. The genre is more than often a punchline for a publication/press outlet to crack a joke while praising a band. Emo is the comedy genre of the Oscars. No respect and always a joke. So having the book look academic—taking a serious approach it—was a huge motivation to making a book from the interviews.

And are these full transcribed interviews? Speaking from experience, I know those can really add up to a lot of text/pages.

Yes, they’re fully transcribed but I edited out a lot of the stupid shit I say and anything out of context. It wasn’t a lot and I left 95% of the interviews in. It was all about flow.

Besides the interviews, what else is included in the book? Any favorite visuals?

Chris Barroner, who was in the band Ethel Meserve, helped a huge amount with flyers and photos for this book. Though my favorite has to be the photos of The Van Pelt. They’re fucking beautiful and it takes me back to the 90s whenever I look at them. The photos help break up the text and help someone realize the physical nature of the years when we would save things and not just scroll through our phones for that one photo we wanted to share with someone at the bar that one time. Ha!

Man. It’s seriously hard to have this conversation and not get nostalgic for simpler times. We’re old, dude.

I don’t know, though. Something tells me…can’t quite put my finger on what, but something tells me there might be more books to come…maybe even volumes. How did you choose what/who went into this first and what’s to come in the next volume(s)?

Yes, there will be more. It was all about whether the first one was successful and I wanted to do it again. The goal of this is not to make money, the goal is to make enough from each one to make the next. I just want the stories to be heard by as many people as possible. I’m doing this out of my own pocket with no publisher so I only have that motivation and no other person telling me to do it another way. I picked the first batch to showcase the depth of the genre across the eras and each volume will hopefully take that same approach. You may pick it up for Chris Carrabba but then learn about Christie Front Drive.

So love Christie Front Drive. Who did your book design, though? We really dig the typography, color way, size/format.

Jesse Reed did the design of the book. He’s a fucking genius and offered his time and support on how to make a book, which I had no clue about. It wouldn’t have happened without his help and I think he understood me completely after I spent a good fifteen minutes just spouting off about how I wanted it to look. He came back with comps of what the cover may look like and I was floored. It was exactly what was in my head.

I know it’s tough—akin to picking a favorite kid—but short of picking a favorite interview you’ve done over the years, can you call one out that was unexpectedly weirder or more interesting than you’d expected going in?

I, unfortunately, did Jon Bunch‘s last interview. Many know him from Sense Field but he was in countless bands and I was promoting one of them when we did the interview. Since the interviews are evergreen, I had the interview all edited up and found out that he had killed himself. I then had to go back and re-edit it because of things said about the future, meeting up, etc. It was heartbreaking and something I wasn’t happy about but I knew I had to do it. These were his last words about music and I had to do it justice. We ended up interviewing people at the benefit show a few months after and made an episode of all the fans, friends and band members talking about Jon. I had a tough time editing that and felt good after. I was giving this person the respect they deserved for their musical life. No matter what happened in their life and why they did what they did, I hope the music and his words live on.

God, I remember when you posted that. I never knew him, but by all accounts, he was a great guy. That was evident from afar by the outpouring of emotion and support after his death. It’s such a tragic, sad thing, but its also really heartwarming to see how his fans and friends and family have turned this tragedy into an effort to support his son too with the GoFundMe campaign.

I have no elegant way of segueing from that, but I am wondering if you have any thoughts on all these old bands reuniting now? It’s hardly a phenomenon unique to emo, but that scene has scene a lot of seminal (and less well-known) bands return of late.

Reunions are as old as time. I love tweeting out, no band breaks up. It’s so true. I mean, Jawbreaker is back. I love it when bands get together and play shows for someone that maybe wasn’t around to see them or was too young or just missed them because they weren’t in a big city then. If they’re doing it, most likely for money and to see their friends again, then hats off to them. If people show up, who cares. Shut up and play the hits.

Fair enough. Any favorites you’ve caught? I’ll say outta the gate that our mutual pick (between Katie and me) was the aforementioned Christie Front Drive at the Bell House some years back.

Christie Front Drive was fucking amazing. Eric Richter (of Christie Front Drive), featured in the first volume of the book, is responsible for so many bands connecting. He’s an unsung hero of the scene that deserves a lot more respect than he gets. It’s tough to say which ones over the years because I’ll inevitably forget one… If I had to choose right now… Refused, Boys Life, Mineral, American Football, Quicksand, and Texas is the Reason.

Totally solid picks. I wish I’d caught Mineral.

Not to seek out shade, but what’s your thought on new, younger bands coming out with sounds that are more-or-less mirroring what we heard in 90s emo?

What’s interesting is most bands don’t fucking realize it. They’re just making loud music and figuring it out. It just happens to sound like the 90s. Truthfully, some are referencing that era but most aren’t. They’re just in the basement figuring it out. That’s the beauty of music that I love and it always inspires me to answer an email to a band that sends me their site and asks me to listen. I have to because that next sound may be the next thing I get sent and I want to hear it and champion it. Music is still so important to me—all I want to do is share with someone that I heard something amazing and I have to share it. I just have to do it. So when I hear a band like Free Throw or Foxing or Hotelier, all I want to do is encourage them to make more music and to create more—to make that next great album regardless of the era. I think the kids have realized the earnestness of the 90s and skipped over the hair metal era of emo in the 00s. They saw how fleeting it was and superficial it was sounding. They went back to the drawing board and figured it out. I can’t wait to hear the next thing I click on or hear in a club…

That’s super-encouraging to hear and, yeah, I love that the ‘new’ emo sounds like what I’d consider to be the good stuff, not the ‘mall emo’.

Back to the book though, I know you’re doing your release at Donut Friend Thursday—any other book events planned around the country we can shout out?

Yes! We have another event in Brooklyn at Powerhouse Books in Dumbo on the 12th of January. An actual bookstore! Growing up, the bookstore was the toy store for me. It had every topic I could think of the shelves and I could peruse anything. Growing up, my dad would always let me run wild in the bookstore and I was able to figure out what I liked and disliked because of his encouragement to read. That’s still with me today. Unfortunately, my dad passed away in late 2016, but the thought of him seeing a book I made and then having an event at a bookstore, I know for a fact, he’s looking down smiling.

As for the NYC event, I’ll be selling the book and doing a little panel discussion/Q&A with Norman from Texas is the Reason, Chris from The Van Pelt and William from Rainer Maria. It should be fun and I can’t believe I get to do this.

Yeah, condolences again about your dad, Tom. Excited to see you again tomorrow at the event.

Speaking of Donut Friend, favorite donut there, either in name or culinary composition?

I love the Jimmy Eat Swirl and the Jets to Basil. Classics. Mark Trombino, a legend already, has made an amazing product and I’m so happy it’s successful.

Awesome, man. Thanks again for talking and see you Thursday.

If you’re an emo fan and in Los Angeles tomorrow (Thursday, Jan4), you’d be a fool not to come by Donut Friend in Highland Park from 7-9PM for some mingling, emo music, and excellent, post-hardcore donuts (most of which are vegan/vegan-ize-able, by the way).

Say what you will about 2017—It was the dumpster fire to end all dumpster fires; It was the emotional and cultural equivalent of a massive slap-to-the-face/sledgehammer-to-the-soul; It was a waking nightmare that continues to somehow get worse every fucking day but 2018 will be better right right RIGHT‽

Well. Anyway. Say what you will, but this year was a fantastic year for music. Film, writing, art-as-escape and -critical-change tool in general, yes very much, but here on these pages we’re focusing on 2017 in music; specifically, the year’s best albums.

Maybe it’s that aforementioned slap-to-the-face wake-up-call, but it seems like more artists are making more excellent work than ever and, as a result, our long list of top albums was longer than ever this year.

So many artists made albums in 2017 that we consider to be superb—Phoebe Bridgers, Broken Social Scene, Grizzly BearLawrence RothmanElla Vos, Shout Out Louds, Cymbals, and Baths, just to scratch the surface. And Sampha‘s debut full-length Process was a beautifully innovative masterpiece that very nearly bumped more than one album off this list, which isn’t much of a surprise given that artist’s talent and creativity. What was a surprise for us was the eventual omission of new albums from two of our all-time favorite artists—The National + Björk. We still hold both artists in very high esteem and truly love their music, but something about both respective releases just didn’t strike the chord they usually do with us; which is totally fine—it makes room for so much more new music, much of it from very new artists for us.

As with last year, we’re presenting this year’s top ten chronologically, in order of release date…which oddly resulted in a noticeably split-down-the-middle list of, first, bigger (or at least better known) releases followed by smaller, more independent releases, with three of our ten being self-released (granted, one of them’s LCD Soundsystem, but nonetheless).

This playlist is a mix between favorite songs from each of these favorite albums and ones that work together on the same playlist and in this self-imposed order of release date, so, enjoy—it is indeed made to be listened to as a whole—but we also encourage you to listen to each and every one of these ten albums—they’re, every one, beautiful beginning-to-end.

And happy fucking new year.

Kendrick LamarDAMN.Aftermath/Interscope
We’re guessing someone out there has a best-of 2017 list that doesn’t include this album, but if it exists, we haven’t seen it yet; and with good reason—DAMN. is razor-sharp smart, fucking catchy as hell, and demands to be listened to, word-for-word. And Lamar’s live show will blow up your brain.

Sylvan Esso • What NowLoma Vista
We love these guys. Not only do they create organic, well-written electronic music that puts song-writing, vocals, and lyrics front-and-center, they just seem like genuinely nice people. And, oh yeah, their music is the best. See above re: excellent shows that explode minds.

SZA • CtrlTop Dawg
Jersey’s SZA blind-sided us in the best way possible—we knew she was someone to watch after first hearing her single “Drew Barrymore” but we had no idea what an amazing piece of work she’d put together with Ctrl; astounding from track one to fourteen.

The War on Drugs • A Deeper UnderstandingAtlantic
We know full well there are haters out there, but we will defend this band and this album wholeheartedly as one of our favorites to our dyings days. Yes, A Deeper Understanding looks to music of years past, but it does it in a way to pushes forward into something new and—for us—genuinely endearing and innovative. We bought the album just before a trip back east and will forever associate with long drives through the weirdly beautiful swamps of southern North Carolina, which seems oddly fitting.

LCD Soundsystem • american dreamExcelsior Equity Management
Sonic Mastermind and King of Tonality James Murphy returns, and thank fucking god he has; this albums everything we want and need—the repetitive hooks that wedge their way into your subconscious, the monotonous talk-singing that approaches annoying and then pushes through into fundamentally real and undeniably beautiful, the tiny, weird little subtleties and shifts in sound that only someone with Murphy’s level of aural OCD would bother with; and all that while tackling aging and death and our socio-political climate. Thank god for James Murphy; more accurately, thank David Bowie.

Wild Cub • Closer Mom+Pop
Wild Cub frontman Keegan DeWitt jumped on our radar back in 2011, after we stumbled upon some of his excellent solo work and discovered we had some good friends in common. We were fans from the start and have seen incarnations of his bands nearly every year since; this new from his Nashville-based band seems to be striking the perfect balance, pulling from DeWitt’s distinct, deep past writing style and building it into  something new and stronger as a whole—perfect dancing-in-your-bedroom-pop.

Vilde • Study / DanceVILDE/self-released
Melbourne’s Vilde (AKA Thomas Vilde) is a totally random Soundcloud find for us, but one that strikes the perfect chord for us—glitchy, hyper melodic electronics melding with intimately weird vocals and distinct rhythms. We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: Melbourne’s electronic scene is blowingthefuckup—Vilde’s one of our favorite new artists jettisoning out of that explosion of creativity.

LuwtenLuwten • Double For Me/self-released
Amsterdam’s Luwten prove’s the perfect balance of analog and digital for us—singer-songwriter-y arrangements put to softly played, gently sung acoustics paired with beautifully explorative electronics and rhythms that step into something new altogether. Read our interview with frontwoman Tessa Douwstra from early this year, wherein we falsely accuse her band name of being intrinsically dishonest.

Hanne Hukkelberg • TrustPropeller
We generally avoid comparing artists, but this album filled a certain void left by the aforementioned Björk release this year—Norwegian musician Hanne Hukkelberg is weird in the most compelling way possible for us, pitch-blending vocals, glitchy electronics, elements of hip hop, and natural sounds into an unlikely amalgamation that we can’t stop listening to.

Liima1982City Slang
Liima is a band born of Mads Brauer, Casper Clausen, and Rasmus Stolberg of longtime favorite Danish trio Efterklang and Finnish percussionist Tatu Rönkkö. Efterklang has evolved from minimalist electronic musicians to choral folk group to high-art-opera-writers over the years (all incarnations well-worth checking out), but this newish incarnation of the group with Rönkkö delves into the hyper-melodic electronic, glancing back at the early eighties in style but morphing into something newly beautiful in form—these guys can do no wrong by us. And this track we feature is a great example of highlighting a song we love, but one that we primarily thinks fits this mix best—there are others that even more amazing. With this and all these albums, again, please listen to them all in full.

Thanks and, again, happy new year, all.