We previously introduced you to VanWyck with her haunting song “An Average Woman.” Her album of the same name isn’t out until later this month, but there’s no reason to sit in the silence until then. VanWyck pulled together some of her favorite songs for your immediate consumption—throw them in a playlist, add in “An Average Woman,” and put that thing on repeat until the LP comes. You’re welcome. Check out VanWyck’s MAGNET mix tape below.
Harry Belafonte, “Jamaica Farewell”
There wasn’t a lot of music in our house when I grew up. I think my parents had two records, maybe three. But my mother was always singing songs. And often those were Harry Belafonte songs. She had always been a phenomenal dancer, and I remember her dancing alone in the kitchen, singing these songs, swaying her hips. I think that was how I first enjoyed rhythms—together with these melodies filled with unrequited longing for different lands, forgotten islands, lost loves. We often moved when I was small, between different countries and different continents, so this feeling of having to leave things behind was always close by. Though I now realize it’s a song about loss, for me it was always the song that represented home.
Prince, “The Ladder”
I learned to play music through Prince—I trained as a classical pianist, but started figuring out his songs on the piano. I think “The Ladder” was the first song I could play. I spent a lot of time thinking about what that song meant, what is was about. And looked up the word “salvation” in the dictionary, I remember. The whole album Around The World In A Day was very inspirational to me. There’s such a richness in everything: the themes, the lyrics, the variety in songs. It had lust and sex and God and politics and colourful people whose hair on one side was swept back. It was a place that seemed so different from everything I knew, and I desperately wanted to get there.
Gillian Welch, “Tennessee”
I remember the time this album came out and all of my guitar friends were sharing stories about how they listened to it. One said he was housesitting an apartment in Rotterdam, a penthouse on the top floor of a high building overlooking the river and the harbour with a phenomenal sound system. He waited all day to for the sun to set and the city lights to come up, and then put on the album. Alone, with a glass of bourbon. And he still shone as he said, “Me and Gillian, alone, looking out over the river, one of the best moments in my life.” I understood then that I needed to find myself a good place to listen to this album. I kept putting it off, like something that’s too good to consume. Finally on a long drive to France, I let myself submerge into it. The monotony of the French autoroute, the kids sleeping in the back, and Gillian singing about going back to Tennessee—it was one of the happiest moments in my life. These are songs that latch onto your soul forever. Where you keep them safe, like precious gems.
Nick Drake, “River Man”
Sometimes you find songs that immediately spur you into writing something. It’s like you have to respond to it, you have to answer to them somehow. I had it strongly with this song. I was discussing string arrangements with someone who let me listen to this one as an example, and I was transcended in a way. It’s like the strings move on their own rhythm through the song, becoming the river itself, bending and twisting and slowly flowing along. I wrote “Red River Girl” partly as a response to it. It’s one of the songs on my upcoming album that I am happiest about. Especially because Reyer Zwart wrote such a wonderful string arrangement for it, which also bends and flows and twists, but in a darker way.
Laura Marling, “Made By Maid”
“How come the papers aren’t filled with articles about this amazing talent?” I wondered when I first heard Laura Marling. I think she’s singlehandedly surpassing the legacies of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell put together. I am really confident that 20 years from now she will have built up an amazing body of work. We were here to witness its fruition. It feels like a privilege.
Jara, “Lost Your Number”
It’s not often that you walk into a tiny bar and are completely blown away by the artist performing on the small dark stage in the back, but with Jara I totally was. There’s this cafe in Amsterdam called De Koe (Yes, that’s “The Cow”), where there are open-mic nights and I happened to walk in once and heard her sing this song. It felt like an instant classic to me. This video is of her performing it at a house concert with Sofar Sounds in Amsterdam, also showing some great footage of the Amsterdam canals, which is where I live. The song has not been put out yet; up to now she has only put out an EP, but I hope she gets the chance to soon.
Leonard Cohen, “Treaty”
For me, a lot of things start and end with Leonard Cohen. Days, for instance, funerals sometimes, a few love affairs, learning how to write songs, finding out more about the meaning of existence. He’s an endless source of inspiration in so many ways—his harmonies, his humor, his humbleness and gentleness, and the way he kept at it. I think that would be my ultimate goal to release a record at 82. In an article in The New York Times Magazine, Wyatt Mason wrote this beautiful interpretation of the last interview with Cohen. It has come to mean a lot to me: “At critical moments, from our depths, out of an impulse not for glory, not for wealth, not for fame, not for power, but out of an appetite to serve—serve something larger than ourselves, however one might define it—the emergency inside us finally speaks.”