“‘I could never be vegan, I love cheese too much’ said every vegan before going vegan.”

True, it’s a cliché + tired meme at this point, but one that rings true for us here. Cheese—or more accurately, our love of it—was something that stood in the way of us moving from vegetarian to a totally animal-free, cruelty-free lifestyle for years. And this was in the 90s, mind you, when your vegan cheese alternatives numbered in the ones, roughly (props to you, Tofutti Slices, you bright orange, rubbery, maybe-only-edible-in-the-most-technical-of-senses things, you).

Now it’s 2019 and we’ve come a long way, baby, both in the store-bought realm and in the home-cooking one. A recipe that ties the two together well in our minds is one we’ve been pulling out of our party bag of tricks a lot lately—vegan quest, a creamy, rich, cheesy dip that highlights the bold flavors of roasted chilis + tomatoes and has roots in thew Southwest; most notably, Austin, Texas. At a glance, it might seem like an intimidating recipe, but once you get the cashew cream base down, the rest of the recipe comes together pretty easily and quickly.

Here’s what you need:

Homemade Cashew Cream (from roughly 1.5 cups of soaked raw cashew pieces; see below for instructions and additional ingredients)
7 oz. Follow Your Heart American Style Slices
4 tbsp. Miyoko’s Cultured Vegan Butter (our local Trader Joe’s carries this at about half the price of most other places somehow FYI)
4 Large Fresh Anaheim/New Mexico Green Chilis
3 Serrano Peppers
1 Jalapeño Pepper
3 Roma or Large Other Ripe Tomatoes

4 Large Cloves of Garlic
(uncut, unpeeled)
Juice from 1/2 Lemon
Sea Salt (to taste)
A Few Dashes of Your Favorite Hot Sauce
Water (to thin when necessary)
Garnishes: your favorite store-bought or homemade salsa, chopped cilantro leaves, sliced jalapeño

As mentioned, the base of this our everyday homemade cashew cream—something that’s really pretty easy to make if you’ve got a decent blender and something that’s a super-versatile kitchen staple for us. The cream’s appeared on these pages a few times before, and we walk through the basics of how to make it with our recipe for fresh pasta, but, basically, it’s a matter of soaking a cup or two of raw cashews in water overnight and blending until excessively smooth with olive oil, a touch of sesame oil, a heaping helping of nutritional yeast, a couple cloves of raw garlic, a drop or two of hickory smoke extract, a dash of sea salt, maybe a peeled, chopped shallot, and, ideally, some homemade brine and pickled cauliflower stem or something along those lines to give it some funk. That last bit is the ‘secret ingredient’ that really pulls the cream over the top in terms of taste. We simply salt a plate full of cut cauliflower stems and let them stand for anywhere from a few hours to overnight at room temperature. But this cashew cream ‘recipe’ is all about experimentation and evolution—it’s a little different for us every time and we tend to enjoy not having any hard + fast rules for portions so we can let the process and product grow and change over time or to meet particular cooking needs. Like a very rich taste? Add more olive oil. Like more of a sharp taste? More salt and maybe a little vinegar. Smoke? Add more…well, smoke (you can find liquid smoke in most grocery stores these days, usually near the barbecue sauce—look for the ones that are just water and smoke extract ideally). The end product should be something that’s really rich and creamy and very much crave-able.

Usually with our standard staple cashew cream, we try to keep it as thick as possible so we can use it in a wide range of ways, keeping it thick for a vegan crème fraîche; thinning it out a bit for something more cheese-sauce-like. In this case, since we’re cooking it with other ingredients afterwards, it doesn’t really matter how thick the cream is, so we added some water to the blending process, which makes it easier and quicker to get that smooth texture you’re looking for. The other difference here is that we added a little apple cider vinegar to give it a sharper kick and a fresh carrot cut into pieces to give it a richer color and a little more substance.

Once you have your cashew cream at a good place, pre-heat your broiler for a couple minutes and the place the peppers, tomatoes, and unpeeled garlic cloves on an un-oiled baking pan; then place the pan under your broiler, leaving it there for about five minutes, until the vegetables’ skins are blackened on one side. Take it out and flip everything over carefully with some tongs or super-calloused hands. In most cases, you can take the garlic out at this point as it’ll be pretty cooked through. Broil everything else flipped for another five minutes or so and then remove from heat. In our case, we actually used pretty firm, large, on-the-vine tomatoes, which took longer than the peppers, so we removed the peppers when they looked done and cooked the tomatoes longer on their own. You basically want to get both to a point where their skin is pretty black and pulling away from the flesh. Then let them sit until they’re cool to the touch and melt your vegan butter over low heat in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot. Once everything’s cool, peel the tomatoes, discard the skins, roughly chop and add to the pot once the butter’s fully melted. Same for the peppers, but you’ll also want to remove the seeds, which can be done easily by slicing long-ways and running under cold water (that’ll help any stubborn skins to come off too). The garlic is likely pretty liquified at this point, so you can probably just squeeze the insides into the pan and discard the papery skins.

Stir everything together and let it sauté for a few minutes on low heat, then carefully add what should be about 45-50 ounces of homemade cashew cream (about 3/4 of a blender container’s worth). Stir to mix everything together and then take your store-bought sliced vegan cheese and chop into small cubes. We specifically call out Follow Your Heart in the ingredients above because we like their company and products, but you can use anything similar, even blocks instead of sliced, sliced is just usually more available. The basic idea is you want to add some pre-made vegan cheese that’ll give the finished product a little more stretchiness and add to the nice, sharp flavor. Whatever you choose, add the chopped up cubes to the mixture along with squeezed lemon juice and stir to incorporate and allow it to start melting the cheese down.

Cover with a heavy lid and cook on low until the store-bought cheese is melted, uncovering and stirring to make sure everything’s incorporating together well and the bottom’s not beginning to burn. With the thickness and texture of this queso, you’ll most likely be able to keep it on low the whole times you’re cooking it. If it seems too cool to melt the added cheese though, turn your heat up appropriately, just keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn’t start bubbling too much. If the queso starts to get too thick or the bottom’s starting to burn despite stirring and scraping, just add some water gradually to thin it back out; once the cheese is melted, you can just cook off the water to get it to your desired, thick and creamy consistency. Then salt and add any desired hot sauce to taste. If there’s not enough of a cheesy taste for you, try adding some more nutritional yeast and/or more store-bought cheese. Once you dip a chip in and like what you taste, you’re done.

Yeehaw! Enjoy, pardner!

Hello, New Year, how are you?

What’s that? Still terribly fucked worldwide? Eh, what can you do other than forge ahead. Here’s to working to make the world a better place, fine music to set the mood to doing so, and fine wine to celebrate.

To that penultimate point, a new artist that’s got us excited for the wealth of creative expression sure to come our way in twenty nineteen is NYC-based newcomer Margaret Sohn, AKA Miss Grit. She’s just released her debut EP—which you can stream in its entirety below—and we thought we’d take the opportunity to find out more about Ms. Sohn, her skilled feline engineer, and the ideas behind the songs that make up Talk Talk.

raven + crow: So, first off, formalities out of the way—is Miss Grit you/are you Miss Grit or is that more a moniker for the band? Or is it like with PJ Harvey, where she kinda wanted the freedom of flexibility to have it be either or both depending on the project?

Margaret Sohn: Yeah more like a PJ Harvey or St. Vincent. I’m a little shy, so I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily something for me to hide behind, but definitely a character that I wanted to take on its own persona and one that I’m able to work creatively behind without all of my stresses and insecurities getting in the way as it would have if I presented myself as Margaret to the world.

Where does the name come from?

I am so glad you asked.

We love name stories.

Well, all my life I’ve been given about a million nicknames. “Margaret” has a plethora of versions, and I’ve been called about all the ones you can think of multiple times. But one that really was the most creative and has not been thought of by anyone since was from my childhood friend and next door neighbor, Charlie. He called me “Grit”. My dad got wind that he called me that and latched onto it right away and has also been calling me “Grit Dog” since then. He likes to make songs up about the name as well and sing them around the house when I’m home. So I picked this name for this project because it means one thing to me, but means something totally different to other people. And I liked that fact a lot because I could get behind both the noun “grit” as well as the personal meaning it has to me.

We promise to chant ‘GRIT DOG! GRIT DOG! GRIT DOG!’ at your first Los Angeles show.

So, I read that the EP started as demos you recorded in your dorm room and was finished or fully came into being at your friend’s home studio “with his cat Anton.” First off, these final songs sound very un-demo-y—what were your priorities in building them out into fully finished songs? And how integral was this cat in the process? I assume very.

First of all, this record could not have been possible without Anton, the engineering cat master. He is wise beyond his years and elevated these tracks with his grace and knack for analog synths. But as far as the demos go, I don’t think anything from those made it onto the actual EP, but it really was my first time writing fully fledged songs. I thought they were crap at first, and even was hesitant to ask Charles (Anton’s owner) to help me with them because I wasn’t sure if they were worth digging into further. But those demos are what gave me the ability to write music. I was so scared to for so long in fear of writing something bad, but I’ve really mastered the art of vomiting my ideas into an ugly, ugly Pro Tools session and then redoing it 5 times until it’s decent enough for human ears to handle.

Well we’re happy you persevered—the EP’s wonderful. One of the things that appeals to us so much about the four songs that make it up is how well they combine very melodic guitars + electronics/keys in really cohesive, beautiful ways—you hear that often enough, but not necessarily done this well. How’s that broken down in terms of who’s writing and playing what? Is it mostly you or is this more of a collaborative process.

I wrote and played all of the guitar and synth parts on this record (with the exception of Charles’ exceptional performance of pressing the hold button on his Juno to arpeggiate through ‘Talk Talk’). The writing of these two instruments together is quite imperative to me. I’ve been playing guitar for 15 years so I naturally start writing songs centered around it. But I only bought my first synth, a Korg MS-20, a year ago. And I think that was the key weapon I needed in order for me to actually start liking the music I was writing. I’ve always had this deep admiration for all the sounds bands like LCD Soundsystem create, and was so jealous because I couldn’t make those sounds on my guitar. So once I got a synth in my hands, I found that missing piece in my music that made it all click.

Is there a theme or common chord that runs through the songs for you and does the song/EP title play into that?

I like to think of my EP in two parts. The first being about people talking about nothing too much, and me wanting all the noise of misleading things to go away. The second half being about the inaccurate portrayal of love by pop culture, and my own personal faults in past relationships due to those portrayals. I feel both parts have a similar theme of weird societal norms that people follow that eventually led to some downfall of mine.

That’s interesting. Can you talk specifically to the lyrics for “Dry My Love”? As a longtime vegan, the ‘Don’t let me eat meat’ line caught my ear.

At first I wrote that as a joke lyric, but it made it onto the final take. I am definitely not a vegetarian (Korean BBQ is my weakness), but I know I should be because the meat industry is villainous and all that stuff. That first chunk of lyrics is kind of like me asking for help from my weaknesses that include all or nothing ways of thinking, or straying from myself in relationships, or eating meat when I know I shouldn’t be. BUT I would like to happily say my New Year’s resolution is to eat meat no more than once a month.

I’ll take it! So, I also read that you build guitar pedals and voice-activated light displays in all that spare time between recording EPs and taking classes at NYU? Any chance you’ll be bringing anything like that out on a tour or some live shows any time soon?

I actually spent a lot of the summer dreaming about building my own stage design with a lot of interactive lights and motor-controlled objects. Unfortunately, the dream requires a lot of time and money to do it right, but I’m hoping once I graduate or take some time off school I’ll be able to invest more time into those plans to make it a reality.

Well, we can’t wait to see where you go form here and we’ll keep an eye out for any tour announcements that might bring you to our neck of the woods.

What is it with yearly best-of lists coming out, like, a month before the year’s actually over? Yeah, we know, getting the drop on the competition is king with content these days, but things are getting a little ridiculous; Christmas music in October ridiculous.

That’s why we here at raven + crow studio wait until literally the last day of the year to release our yearly best albums list. Plus we’re, like, really busy these days, guys.

If there’s a common thread that runs through the lion’s share of this year’s list, it’s incredibly strong female voices—from Wye Oak to Middle Kids to Snail Mail to, honestly, most of these albums, the vocals, lyrics, themes, and, beyond that, the spirit and power of the individual singer-songwriter drive the music and define its path in the most compelling and moving way possible. Beyond that, as with years past, these are longford works of independent musicians who write without restraints and create albums of songs that tell a story with passion, beginning to end.

Also as with years past, this list is inherently flawed—we can never listen to everything that’s out there and, inevitably, every year, there’s that album we discover late in the game that would have been included if we’d known of it or maybe even just given it more of a listen. And this rather arbitrary cut-off of ten albums results in an even longer list of nearly-made-the-cuts, from Balún to Madeline Kenney to Twin Shadow to Young Fathers to Anderson.Paak + (Thomas) VILDE, both of whom very nearly made this final ten.

But in the end, we were awash in wonderful music this year; of it all, this is what found us and spoke to us most clearly and indelibly; we hope it does the same for you.

Hop Along | Bark Your Head Off, Dog | Saddle Creek
One of the great things about seeing shows in Los Angeles is that it’s still a place where you can catch up-and-coming bands at intimate spots, most often at The Echo in Echo Park. That’s where we caught three of the bands on this list as it happens, Hop Along being the first of those three. This band and their new album also exemplifies this common thread we mentioned—Frances Quinlan’s voice, in the literal and figurative sense, drives this band, their music, and this powerful album in the most compelling of ways.

Wye Oak | The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs | Merge Records Apr6
The duo Wye Oak is another band that we caught early in their career, back in New York at a small club that no longer exists for a festival that no longer exists, the CMJ Music Marathon, a wonderful, wandering, city-wide fest that we looked forward to every year. As it did then, Jenn Wasner’s song-writing, singing, and guitar-playing continues to ground this powerfully emotive band and this album is one of their most mature, layered, and fulfilling to listen to. They remain one of our longtime favorite bands.

Middle Kids | Lost Friends | Middle Kids/MK Recordings (self-released)
Another band we caught at an early Echo show, Sydney’s Middle Kids are a rock band build around the heart + soul of singer, song-writer, guitarist Hannah Joy and use the band’s songs as a medium to telegraph that heart + soul to the listener. Their long-anticipated debit full-length is everything it promised to be—heart-felt and emotional deep, building from sparse, quiet moments to rollicking rock in the blink of an eye and pulling you by the collar along for all of it.

 

Parquet CourtsWide Awake! | Rough Trade
NYC’s Parquet Courts somehow opened up a portal to an alternate dimension where smart, deadpan punk never died and they do it seemingly effortlessly. This is one of the most beautifully strange, diverse records we’ve heard but singer Andy Savage is the agent that binds it all together with his quick lyrics and piercingly flat delivery.

Snail Mail | Lush | Matador
On paper, Lush shouldn’t be one of our favorite albums of the year—it leans pretty heavily toward the 90s in sound and our assumption going in was that the whole thing would come off as a bit derivative for us. But—as the theme’s been thus far—front woman Lindsey Jordan invests herself into her singing, songwriting, and guitar-playing in the most intimate manner, making the songs on this album a diary of sorts that we get to glimpse upon in the most wonderful of ways. The band’s currently on tour with Parquet Courts as chance would have it and they’ll be playing the Novo downtown later next month. There’s no way that show won’t be amazing.

Bad Bad Hats | Lightning Round | Afternoon Records
Terrible band name? Maybe, but then again, look at Superchunk, Archers of Loaf, Minus the Bear and…well, the next band on this list. I’m sure there’s an excellent backstory (ask us the Minus the Bear one next time you see us). Bad Bad Hats’ new one is an album that snuck up on us. We’ve been fans of theirs since the beginning, but this album speaks to a skill and maturity we didn’t know they were capable of, but we clearly underestimated the Minneapolis trio—this album is full of pop gems and promises what should be a deeply affective career if there’s any justice in the world (…).

RubblebucketSun Machine | Grand Jury Music
Again, I’m sure there’s a great story. But, regardless, Brooklyn’s Rubblebucket is everything we hope pop music can become—weird, inventive, and unique; anything but duplicative or cookie-cutter. They deliver a sound with Sun Machine that’s something we’ve never heard before and it’s great (not, you know, ‘hey look how weird we’re being but this sounds terrible’).

 

Christine and the Queens | ChrisBecause Music
Our third and final ‘saw them when’ band on this list, we caught Héloïse Letissier at her first show in the US a couple years back at the aforementioned Echo. Even in those early days, Letissier put the performance itself front-and-center, stepping into this charismatic, crooning alternate persona and even bringing dancers with her to this small early show. Chris is a transformative masterpiece of work and, while we can’t wait to see where she goes from here, we’re also content to sit with this album for years. And don’t be intimidated by the track numbers on this one—it’s mostly one half English versions of the songs and then the second French, which, hats off for doing that, come to think of it.

Hippo Campus | Bambi | Grand Jury Music
As with Rubblebucket, St. Paul quintet Hippo Campus gives us a glimpse at what we want pop music to be, catchy and wildly compelling because of rather than in spite of the music’s intelligence, wit, and strangeness. Jake Luppen’s singing is every bit as quirky + glitchy as the instrumentation on this album and it works on every level.

Empress Of | Us | Terrible Records
Los Angeles native Lorely Rodriguez spent much of her musical career to date in New York, but now we’ve got her back and it’s a big win for our city—as Empress Of, she delivers unflinching, earnest commentary on life, both hers and ours; and with Us, she’s built out her sound and depth of songwriting in a way that both makes you hang on every word and tap your feet.

Growing up with a German grandmother who spent her youth and much of her adulthood in Deutschland, there were a few mainstay old world traditions that she made sure to integrate into my and my brother’s upbringing; the most memorable being her yearly holiday cookies—buttery crescents that she made shortly after Thanksgiving and then aged in cookie tins until Christmas. The ones that survived my grandfather’s diligent search-and-devour regimen in the intervening weeks—combatted by an equally diligent hand-swatting-and-scolding regimen by Mutti (German for mom—a moniker passed down to us by our dad)—were a childhood delicacy and something we looked forward to every year.

I’ve talked about these cookies for years, but never actually followed through and found a recipe that seemed right. Maybe it was the fact that we were having a child of our own and I subconsciously wanted to instill a similar fond memory and tradition in our son’s mind, but last year I finally buckled down and did it, reaching out to friends via socials to see if my description of the cookies rang a bell for anyone.

One of the hurdles in the past to finding an accurate recipe was the fact that everyone in my family called these butterhorns growing up. But if you look up German butterhorns, the recipes are way off—most use eggs and yeast, which I have no recollection of, and they’re flattened and rolled into layered crescent shapes, looking nothing like what I remember. But through the crowdsourcing magic of Facebook, I narrowed in on two recipes that seemed right—one an old Peace Corps friend found from the Ottawa-based food blog Plated Cravings for Vanillekipferl (vanilla crescents) and another from a friend’s old spiral-bound Emmanuel Lutheran cookbook (scanned + pictured below) for Kippfvln (Frisian or West Germanic for ’tilt’ or ‘crescent’). They’re also commonly called Mandelkipferl (almond crescent) or Mandelsichel (almond sickle), which makes a little more sense in our minds since the raw almond is really what gives these cookies their distinct, craveable flavor. We’ve read that the common crescent or sickle shape in European holiday baking is to pay homage to the citizens of Vienna who repelled soldiers from the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) when they played siege to the city in 1529AD.

I made both recipes and we ended up being a house somewhat divided on which was better—Katie preferred the Vanillekipferl from the Canadian blog (slightly more uniform in texture and consistency, maybe a little more vanilla-y); I preferred the Kippfvln (more almond-y and less uniform with the larger pieces of chopped nuts coating the cookies). But only slightly on both counts—they turned out pretty similarly and both are wonderful and very much in-line with what I remember.

Neither recipe mentions letting the cookies stand for weeks, so I’m not sure if that element’s something my grandmother added herself or it was maybe a larger geographical derivation in her part of Germany. Though I think the aging is less about fermentation (though Mutti did make a mean, embarrassingly stinky sauerkraut) and more about giving the very dry, crumbly dough time to absorb the moisture and sweetness of the powdered sugar that coats them. Or maybe it’s a trick of the mind—make these things once a year and tell everyone they have to wait three weeks to eat them and they’ll think they’re the best things in the world.

Regardless, they’re the best things in the world. And pretty easy to make. As with many simple recipes, the key is quality ingredients—key among them here, the butter. I urge you not to use your standard vegan supermarket butter or margarine. California-based vegan creamery Miyoko’s makes a vegan butter that’s worlds apart from the others in the field and will make all the difference in a butter-heavy recipe like this. And they’re much more available these days, in both health food stores/Whole Foods and in mainstream supermarkets in many cities. You can also order it directly from the company online. Other than that, we highly recommend using a good flour (we’re longtime King Arthur Flour fans, and they’re a B Corp, which is awesome).

The only other alteration I made was using the vanilla sugar from Plated Cravings‘ Vanillekipferl recipe in the recipe that appears above too, because why would you not? The stuff’s stellar.

Und Fröhliche Feiertage!

This month marks our penultimate mixtape of the year and our final regular fifteen-song mix, with the next being our ten-song mix highlighting our ten favorite albums of the year.

Traditionally, this time of year can be a little quiet on the new music front, with artists tending to want to wait until the new year for big releases. And indeed, we’re excited about more than a few full-lengths that have already been announced for January + February of 2019. But, be it the abandonment of album mentality by some newer artists or just the equivalent of family style dining in the music world, with people wanting to grab attention as soon and as often as they can, this month actually seems awash with excellent new music.

Starting with Melbourne electronic artist Alice Ivy and her sophisticated dance track “Chasing Stars” featuring Bertie Blackman. Then we have newcomer ford. (AKA Luc Bradford) out of Provo, Utah, who’s new album, (The) Evening comes to us via ODESZA‘s label Foreign Family Collective and is highly recommended for any fans of intricate, layered electronic music. The track we feature has Sarah Kinsley on vocals, but another couple from the album feature the subsequent artist on our mix, Durango, Colorado-based signer Sophie Meyers (who, awesomely enough, includes a PayPal link on her Soundcloud page—no beating around the bush with this one).

Then we’ve got a fun, addictive track from Brooklyn’s Anna Wise, featuring Jon Bap; the return of London’s biggest Missy Elliot fan, Georgia; edgy, rhythmic, almost industrial-sounding pop from Montreal’s Annie Sama; and then three in a row from fellow Angelenos—a darkly beautiful debut from Phoenix-born, LA-based Kailee Morgue; a new one from another Angeleno, Lawrence Rothman, who now has a new EP out; and a new single from one of our favorite singer-songwriters in town, Ella Vos.

We’ve also got some subtly beautiful work from London’s (Will) Westerman, who plays the Moroccan tomorrow night; one of our favorites from (Thomas) VILDE‘s most recent album, out of Stockholm/Melbourne; catchy electronic music from another all-caps-er from Melbourne, LANKS (AKA Will Cuming); a great song from Andy Shauf’s new collaborative effort with his childhood friends from Saskatchewan, Foxwarren; a sleepily beautiful song from singer-songwriter-actress Alison Sudol; and we end out with a sweeping, dramatic song from Norwegian singer-songwriter and producer, AURORA (Aksnes).

Enjoy!

At this point, it feels like we’ve been talking about mid-term elections since…well, basically November 9th, 2016 (for those of us who regained the ability to speak so soon after the previous evening’s general insanity). So in many ways it seems unreal that the big day is tomorrow. Unreal and scary—for many of us, it’ll likely be an awesome or awful day, if we’re erring on the side of hyperbolic dramatics (we usually do).

For those of us in California—the land of voter initiatives, ballot measures, and bond-driven, power-to-the-people-be-them-informed-or-not change—the 37 offices and 16 measures (the actual count in our district) we’re voting on can be totally overwhelming, especially when we’re choosing between two pretty progressive Democrats for US Senate and said measures involve complicated, longterm change with results that are difficult to predict at best.

Take Proposition 10, the statewide measure that attempts to address rent control—for one, the rent’s too damn high, as the various billboards and ads tell us. Who besides landlords would argue with that? But experts agree that allowing localities to provide and/or strengthen rent control doesn’t directly address the housing crisis which can only really be done by creating much more new affordable housing. And people who study rent control closely over time largely agree that rent control can actually increase gentrification as landlords tend to convert formerly rent controlled units to high income for-sale homes when the time eventually does come.

Or how about Proposition 12, widely billed and accepted as the measure to  prevent cruelty to farmed animals. You’d think, as longtime ethical vegans, we’d be all for that, but it’s actually much more complicated and convoluted than it seems. The measure is basically a follow-up to 2008’s Prop. 2, which was also billed as cruelty prevention measure and promised the banning of chicken cages in California by 2015 (which didn’t happen). But it was mired by lack of specific language (it vaguely requires caged egg-laying chickens be given enough room to stretch their wings) and a decent amount of controversy. In ways, this is an attempt to rectify the errors of that past work, but Prop. 12 is equally or maybe even more flawed according to some. It states that we’ll tentatively be cage-free by 2022, but the cage-free environments might be even worse for the lives of chickens (picture a dark warehouse, not a bucolic pasture—this is still factory farming, after all); the proposed protections for pigs and calves seem thin, at best; and some people in the animal rights community just feel that the whole thing is too permissive of a cruel, animal-centric diet.

So, shrug emoji, right?

Even though, often, the more we look into a particular measure or candidate, the more discouraged we get, we remain forever very, very, very pro-vote. Our vote is our voice and when we stay silent, we make the voices of those who don’t all the more loud and all the better heard, diluting our say in how we run this city, county, state, country, and how all that influences the rest of the world. And even with these very flawed measures, they can do some good, even when they’re far from perfect, especially when you look at California’s long history of legal influence on the rest of the country (we’re a house split on Prop. 12, to be honest, but trending towards the ‘it will hopefully do some good’ camp).

A couple of years back, then 1st Vice Chair of the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley and a self-described a progressive activist and proposition nerd, Damian Carroll, gave us a little guidance as then-still-new Californians in the form of propositional haikus. He’s doing the same again this year, which you can check out below. These are primarily for fun—some of these are in fact no-brainers for a lot of us but, again, most are pretty complicated and nuanced.

So we encourage everyone to check out a few of our favorite voters guides too, especially with the all-important local races, judges, sheriffs, and other elected officials that really set the day-to-day rules and directly affect so many citizens. And totally do the work and fill out your sample ballot beforehand and look into every single measure and candidate. Whether we think we should be deciding all these things or not as citizens, we are, and people fought and died for these votes (see above note about tendencies toward the dramatic, but true nonetheless). Let’s not just throw our hands up and say the system is broken, why bother; let’s use the tools we have now and work to improve them later.

Here’s a list of our favorite voter guides, some of which rather objectively detail candidates’ views and platforms, some of which straight-up give their endorsements:

League of Women Voters’ Education Fund + Women’s March LA
Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project Los Angeles County
LA Forward (props. + measures only)
ACLU SoCal (props + measures only, partial)
Democratic Socialists of America—LA
Curbed LA
Paige Elkington/Westwood Westwood (who wins for best design; this one’s also great for the nonpartisan, yes/no offices)
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal’s Two Evils Guide (also great for the nonpartisan offices, with some nice, entertaining explanation on many and an award for Most Disingenuous Measure)

As per ushe (we’re assuming that’s how you spell an abbreviation of ‘usual’ but we could see it going a number of ways—uzsh? Yoosh? Something with an umlaut?)—anyway, as per üzsch, this month’s mixtape is pretty evenly split between new-to-us artists we’re excited to share for the first time and favorites who are back with notable new music.

In the former category, we’re starting with someone who’s new to us, but maybe not other listeners—Shungudzo, AKA Alexandra Govere, the Zimbabwe-born philanthropist, singer, songwriter, record producer, gymnast (1999 All-Africa Games), journalist, and reality television (Real World: San Diego, 2011), who, in addition to co-founding a non-profit that supports orphans living with AIDS, wrote a pretty excellent single, “Paper”, which both starts our mix out and can be heard in her pretty stellar video for the track below (directed by Carlo Corbellini). She’s pretty much the female version of that most interesting man in the world guy. Like the lion’s share of creatives in the US now, she currently lives in Los Angeles; that isn’t bragging on our parts, just cold science and astute observation, man.

Other, likely less accomplished new artists we’re featuring this mix include Sydney electronic artists Clypso; Liza Anne out of Georgia/Nashville, who gives us a catchy, rocking track with a sentiment with which I think most of us can identify; South Australia’s Heaps Good Friends, with a song about hugging; Leeds electronic pop duo Litany and then two more groups from across the pond, London electronic duo APRE and the sweeping, dramatic four piece Dahlia Sleeps, also out of London. Then closing things out, we’ve got a beautifully stripped down song by Graham Van Pelt (FKA Miracle Fortress) out of Toronto.

Returning favorites include Norwegian Angeleno Mr Little Jeans, who we interviewed a few years back; Art School Girlfriend (AKA Polly Mackey) out of the seaside town of Margate in southeast England; Melbourne duo Oh Pep! with some peppy pop; NYC via Columbia band Salt Cathedral; the always amazing Lorely Rodriguez, known more widely by the moniker Empress Of, who just moved from NYC to her native Los Angeles (told you); Stockholm trio Peter Bjorn and John, who are back with their eighth studio full-length; and badass English rapper Simbiatu “Simbi” Abisola Abiola Ajikawo, better known by her stage name Little Simz (“I’m Jay-Z on a bad day”).

Enjoy, and happy fall, y’all (currently mid-80s in LA, by the way).

Most sane people, I think it’s fair to say, love fall; anyone who doesn’t, I simply don’t trust (same goes for people who don’t love pickles, the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Kylie Minogue’s “Love at First Sight”). Fall in our old home of New York is a beautiful-yet-fleeting time, usually a week long, in terms of weather, at best; here in Los Angeles, it’s less established in terms of traditional timing (this week, mid-October, it’s regularly in the mid-80s), therefore even more important to replicate in other, more controllable facets of life, like, say, giant, heavily themed pumpkin patches.

Flash back to the fall of 2014—we’d just moved from Brookyln to Los Angeles and, being longtime samhainophiles (kind of a word), we sought the best of pumpkin patches in a town that we realized was equally samhainophilic. Our search brought us pretty definitively to Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch, a very well-curated patch in Beverly Hills (it’s since moved to Culver City) that verged on tiny Halloween-themed amusement park, with games, rides, way too many celebrities, set-decorator-caliber staging, and refreshments (we enjoyed the snow cones, as you can see). Oh, and pumpkins. One thing they didn’t have at the time—a petting zoo.

Cut to today—we have an adorable kid (no, it’s proven, we had him tested; also, see above) who we now want to introduce to the over-the-top LA pumpkin experience. But checking Mr. Bones’ Instagram feed, we learn that they now DO have a petting zoo. And that the celebrities seem to bring along professional photographers, makeup artists, and lighting crews, judging by the photos (ah, 2014 Instagram vs 2018 Instagram).

Our beef (pun kind of intended) with petting zoos? By and large, they’re sourced by meat and/or dairy farms, which we’re morally opposed to supporting, being longtime ethical vegans. But even more so in this particular context: How fucked up is it to take you kid—who you’re constantly exposing to these books and stories personifying animals and empathizing children with them from an early age—to meet, pet, appreciate, look in the eyes of all these real animals that are going straight to slaughter and/or cruel confinement as soon as this adorable pumpkin patch calls it a season? Very fucked up is the answer.

So we embarked on a mission to suss out the few area pumpkin patches and general purveyors of these emblematic autumnal gourds that don’t include amongst their attractions petting zoos, pony rides, pig races (no really), or anything else we felt unfair to our voiceless friends. We’re sharing our findings herein but if you’re reading this and have any additions or edits, let us know—this is far from an exhaustive list. And a huge thanks to Jordyn from PETA Kids who gave us so much initial information about some of these places when we reached out.

Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch, Culver City, CA
Oct5-30, Sun-Thu 9AM-8PM, Fri+Sat 9AM-9PM
I know, I know—they were the whole reason for this journey of animal-friendly pumpkin patch discovery in the first place.  But, turns out, while they do indeed feature a petting zoo this year, the company’s owner was raised vegetarian and they went out of their way to not source animals from a meat or dairy farm, instead tapping friends in Ventura who have a farm where the chicken, sheep, and goats roam free—”the ranch is essentially a sanctuary and they are basically family members of the people who own and operate the ranch,” they told us (you can see our full back-and-forth here). Some hardliners take the ‘animal use is animal abuse’ stance, but, for us, that’s pretty good and much more faithful to the whole animal-bonding idea behind these petting zoos.

Photo: Ksenia Moore.

Irvine Railroad Park, Orange, CA
Sep15-Oct31, weekdays 10AM–5PM, weekends 8AM-6PM
The top feature photo was taken here this past weekend and, though it is indeed a hike from Los Angeles proper (about an hour and a half, depending on traffic and from where you’re coming), it’s pretty great. As the name implies, there’s a miniature railroad that runs around the park with narration that sheds light on some history of the park and surrounding area and some holiday-specific decor, in this case including a not-very-scary (in a good way for tiny kids) haunted tunnel the train runs through. The overall park theme is pretty old west, with wanted poster stands you can pose behind for photos, themed building facades, and even an area where kids can pan for gold and strike it rich! As mentioned above, we went on the weekend and it was indeed pretty packed, so be forewarned—expect crowds and a potentially full parking lot if you go on Saturday or Sunday. Their pumpkin selection (and photo ops) are pretty stellar though. The park is adjacent to the Orange County Zoo but is totally unaffiliated with it, so your dollar isn’t going to support them if zoo’s aren’t your things either (same goes for the pony rides which the zoo operates right next to the pumpkin patch).

Riley’s Farm, Oak Glen, CA
Oct1-30, weekdays 10AM-4PM, Saturday 9AM-4PM (closed Sundays)
Riley’s Farm is heretofore unknown to us working apple orchard + living history farm, featuring pick-your-own fruit, living history education, dinner theatre, group banquet facilities, and extended, historically-themed overnight stays. So, yeah, awesome. For any fellow east-coasters who grew up taking yearly field trips to Colonial Williamsburg, this sounds like our new local version. The farm let’s you hike out into their acres of pumpkin fields and pick your own or you can purchase pre-picked pumpkins (say that five times fast) in the farm store if you’re not looking to haul it all the way back. The farm does have some resident farm animals that they sometimes use in their public house in terms of dairy; other than that, we were told they just kind of hang out on the farm.

Your Local Farmers Market
If you’re not looking for a themed experience and are good without all the rides and games but still want something more locally minded, check your local farmers market—many vendors make an effort this time of year to bring their own locally grown pumpkins to market.

Like we said, if you’ve got more tips for us, let us know; otherwise, we hope this list helps you celebrate compassionately this autumn.

Like we mentioned at the open of our last mixtape, one of our favorite things about putting those together is having to push past what we already know and are exposed to in terms of music and seeking out the very new, things we’d almost certainly miss or never hear otherwise. Doing so results in some beautiful discoveries more often than not. With this most recent foray into the unknown, our big take-away was New Orleans band, People Museum, an experimental pop duo comprising producer/trombonist Jeremy Phipps + composer/singer Claire Givens. As we’d mentioned last month, we’d hoped to interview the band to find out more about them and were lucky enough to do so recently, talking about the band origins, the music scene in New Orleans, and more.

You can read the full interview below, stream their debut full-length here or via Spotify, and purchase the album via iTunes or your favorite discerning local record store. Photos by Daniel Grey.

raven + crow: Alright, first thing’s first—how’d you two meet and how did the band develop? Were you both in bands previously and already on the hunt for a new project or did this just naturally develop from an existing mutual friendship?

Claire Givens: We met at a spot in the French Quarter in New Orleans called Marigny Brasserie after a mutual friend suggested we would be good collaborators. Jeremy had just gotten back from living in Los Angeles for a few months pursuing a solo project and I had just come off of a music project that broke up pretty dramatically after 3 or 4 shows. I was definitely itching for a new musical partner. We went to our buddy’s house in the Treme the same day and started writing songs. We finished two complete songs and realized it was a perfect match. The music basically developed our friendship.

Are you both originally from New Orleans?

Claire: I am from North Louisiana, Monroe, which is basically the polar opposite of New Orleans culturally. Jeremy is from Uptown in New Orleans.

What’s the music scene like in and around New Orleans? I know a band from Baton Rouge (thought they’re here now—Moon Honey, do y’all know them? Nicest people in the world), but I can’t off the top of my head think of many bands from NO that don’t live very precisely in the jazz or swamp rock worlds.

Claire: I LOVE Moon Honey! They seem to be killing it in LA. The New Orleans music scene is really difficult to describe. Parts of it are the exactly the same way they’ve been for 50 years (Frenchmen street jazz/funk scene), but if you go downtown or to the Bywater, some pretty radical things are going on. We love what the Pink Room Project and people connected with them are doing. It’s a mix of house, hip-hop, and punk that is what New Orleans is to us in this moment. Nondi is also a very interesting performer who mixes meditation with R&B vocals. It’s a shame that a lot of great music and musicians here don’t get the credit they should because it isn’t what people expect or are trying to take away from New Orleans. They want a Disneyland experience.

Right, no, I can’t imagine a ton of people coming to New Orleans from the outside are looking for anything beyond the traditional or even cliché—New Orleans playing New Orleans. But I’d read that you all view the band as a kind of means to explore the sounds of future New Orleans—can you explain that a bit? What do you see as the future of New Orleans sound and music and even the arts there?

Jeremy Phipps: When I said future New Orleans I meant we’re taking elements involved in traditional New Orleans music like my primary instrument, trombone, but filtering it through effects.

It wasn’t a concept I created in the beginning. It was a practical way of trying to fit inside the soundscape I created with synthesizers and other futuristic instruments.

I think the future of New Orleans art is building a bridge between tradition and progression. It’s inspiring some amazing art.

If your music is any indication, then definitely. How do you two break up song-writing tasks? Or is it different song to song? I know you’re primarily the singer, Claire, and, Jeremy, you play trombone, but there’s a lot more going on there song-to-song.

Jeremy: I usually make a full instrumental track and send it to Claire. She spends some time with it, writes the lyrics and melody, then when she tells me she’s ready I’d go to her house and record a demo. That was the process for the 9 songs on the album and all the other songs that didn’t make IDYTC.

There’s not much debate between us, she gave me the freedom to express myself and I gave her the freedom to express herself. We trust each other a lot.

That’s great. And I feel like that freedom plays out in the creativity shown in the songs too.

I don’t generally like to play the comparison game, but I did find it interesting to discover you toured with Rubblebucket, Jeremy—that’s honestly one of the only sonic parallels that I can think of for your particular sound. I feel like there is this shared approach to the song structure—layered, hyper-melodic, vocal-forward, beat-driven and even a little dance-y at times. All aspects of sound that draws me to both of your bands. Do you feel like that very general musical umbrella is some of what you’re exploring in terms of the future of pop music?

Jeremy: I’m a huge fan of Rubblebucket, so when I got the opportunity to tour with them I soaked in as much as I could. Alex Toth, their leader/trumpet player and Adam Dotson, their old trombonist, are big influences my horn playing. I don’t listen to many horn players so they are definitely the exception.

The album cover immediately brings to mind modern dance and movement to me—does anything like that enter your live shows ever?

Jeremy: I’m constantly dancing on stage. Our weird drum beats inspires the atypical movements.

And is it just you two on-stage for those or do you build out the band for live performances?

Jeremy: It’s a 3 piece live band at the moment. We have an amazing drummer and producer Aaron Boudreaux playing with us.

Any plans to tour out west? We’d love to see y’all live.

Jeremy: I lived in LA, Koreatown for awhile, so I’m dying to play a show in LA. We’re definitely wanting to go west early next year.

Oh, excellent. Finally, we love talking names—can you explain yours?

Jeremy: This is a funny story actually. When I lived in LA, way before People Museum started, a friend of mine brought me to stand outside the arena the VMAs was held in. Along with a couple thousand people you could watch the stars walk back and forth to their dressing rooms through a huge glass.

It’s a surreal and a bit invasive experience. Most of the stars would just ignore us but every now and then one would wave and everyone would cheer.

I felt pretty jaded from it until I saw Willow Smith wave at us! Hah! I love Willow Smith. After that I could see the appeal in it.

Anyway, I said to myself “this feels like a People Museum.” I wrote that name down and held on to it until I started this project with Claire a year later.

Yeah, I’ve never done that. Maybe I should. That place is right down the street, I think. What about the album title, I Dreamt You in Technicolor?

Claire : This came from one of our first songs we ever wrote together that we never released called “Technicolor Dream”. We decided to not include that song on the album, but we felt like “I Dreamt You in Technicolor” perfectly summed up this soundscape we made. It’s all this crazy dream, full of our memories and color and life.

Nice. Well thank you both for taking the time to talk and we’ll keep an eye out for a live show in 2019.

Every time we do one of these, we discover new future-favorite musicians. More than anything else, it’s the thing that keeps us doing these mixtapes year after year, pushing us past complacency and into creative experiences we likely wouldn’t otherwise have, both in terms of recorded music and live performances of artists we first discover and then share on these pages.

Last month, the big impact new artists for us were Your Smith and Sorcha Richardson; this month, New Orleans duo People Museum is our musical obsession, and we’re hoping to bring you an interview with them in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you an enjoy one of our favorite tracks form their new album on our mixtape and, if you like what you hear, give their entire debut a much-deserved full listen (not to be confused with these guys’ new album, which is also likely awesome).

Also in the exciting new-to-us realm, Tokyo/Berkley’s Curling, who self-describes as “Crosby, Stills, & Nash meets Cap’n Jazz” which is fucking amazing, like their track “Still Green”; Belgium’s Pale Grey, who plays some pretty catchy shit; Brooklyn trio Big Bliss, whose debut full-length both reaches back into new wave’s best and forward into new new wave’s best; new experimental cold wave (if you like waves and over-categorization of music) from Athens, Georgia’s Mothers; and English electronic duo Maribou State.

In the welcome return category, South African artist Petit Noir (AKA Yannick Ilunga) is back with a wonderful new EP; Gabrielle Smith (who we interviewed back in 2015) is back with the newly minted Gabby’s World; SoCal’s own Trevor and Tim from Tall Tales and the Silver Lining are back with an album as Parting Lines (Trevor’s another past interview subject); friends of the studio Moon Honey have a just-released album full of crazy-insane-prog-psych-rock-your-face-off-ness (video from the single we feature below); Bristol’s Elder Island are back with a very much smoothed-out, slick sound; Los Angeles’s own Viaa gives us some trademark hook-filled pop; more LA love—Kito teams up with New Zealand’s Broods for a lovely nuanced single; studio favorite Amber Bain out of Buckinghamshire, AKA The Japanese House, has a just-released single that’s kicking the mix off; and conversely, Toronto’s Lowell closes things out for us with a beautifully epic, danceable, anthemic track that we should all bounce around to and sing at the top of our lungs at least a few times this fall.

Enjoy, friends. And remember—love wins.