Rebekah Rolland Makes MAGNET A Mix Tape

Rebekah Rolland’s debut album, Seed And Silo, came out last year via Sky Island, and a lot of the stimulus for the LP came from the Tucson, Ariz., singer/songwriter’s residency with the National Parks Service and what she took away from it. Seed And Silo is also inspired by issues Rolland wants to bring attention to, such as women’s rights and immigration. In honor of her first solo release, MAGNET asked the Run Boy Run member to put together a mix tape for MAGNET.

Patty Griffin “Chief”
I got hooked on this record when I was 13 and loved this song in particular. I like that she writes about and from the perspective of the quiet and oppressed and repressed and lonely, and that her songs often focus on the intimate experiences of these individuals (“Making Pies” and “Top Of The World” are similar to “Chief” in this way). It makes for sad music, but it’s, nonetheless, a satisfying sort of reckoning. Her experimentation with point-of-view in this way has long been a source of inspiration for me.

Iron & Wine “Cinder And Smoke”
I hope that this is based on or inspired by William Faulkner’s Barn Burning, but I can’t be sure. In any case, it takes me to a very similar place, and I like the two of them for similar reasons. Sam Beam often writes in a Faulkner-esque stream-of-consciousness style, establishing setting and mood through a string of images–some of them commonplace, some jarring, some beautiful. I like this impressionistic mode of storytelling, and it’s had a huge influence on my own writing.

I’m With Her “Pangaea”
This is my favorite song on I’m With Her’s recent record. I like the way the melody bounces across the guitar part like a skipping stone. The song is about distance and loneliness, and the image of the earth shifting and the continents suddenly becoming scattered across the ocean is the image at the heart of it. This idea is underscored musically by two disparate female voices (most noteworthy on the chorus) and the sparse instrumental arrangement. It’s all just so innovative and striking, and I could listen to it again and again. The music these ladies are making is total magic.

Sufjan Stevens “Death With Dignity”
This song absolutely shatters me into a million pieces. His melodies are so beautiful, and this one just floats through the air like the spirit that it refers to throughout the song. Like Iron & Wine, I’m always struck by the way he tells a story purely through imagery. Who or what he’s writing about isn’t always clear, but the meaning and sentiment behind each song is unmistakable. I also appreciate how adeptly he treats darker subject matter, like depression and illness and suicide. The complicated feelings and effects of loss are felt so deeply without explicit mention of the tragedy behind them (title of the song aside). You’re gently led into a state of uncertainty and mourning and reluctant optimism along with the narrator who is coping with this loss. It’s beautifully written and executed. And (side note) another parallel to Iron & Wine: I love a good haunting, multilayered, drawn-out vocal outro.

Cat Stevens “The Wind”
A mere 1:42, this song always goes by too quickly. Cat is contagiously sunny somehow, and the world could always use greater doses of that, I feel. The lyrics are vivid and kind of outlandish, and the melody complements that in a really delightful way, mirroring the movement of the narrator on the wind, across the devil’s lake and to the setting sun and onward.

Grateful Dead “Friend Of The Devil”
You have to appreciate the extent to which these guys walked the edge, both musically and lyrically. This whole song, simple as it is, has a certain edge and rawness and subtle tone of defiance that I really love. Also, it’s arguably one of the all-round best choruses ever written.

Nickel Creek “Seven Wonders”
Nickel Creek was a huge influence when I first started playing acoustic music. I was a kid at the time, and my first time seeing them was, arguably, the initial spark that sent me running in this direction. I saw them for the second time when I was a teenager on their release tour for this record. I latched onto this song then, and I still revisit it quite a bit. Musically, it just feels so essentially Nickel Creek with the distinct interaction of the mandolin and guitar and Sara’s fiddle part wafting above them, and the vocal-layering at the end bringing it home. It’s a very familiar and comforting sound to me.

Gillian Welch “Look At Miss Ohio”
I don’t know exactly who Miss Ohio is—she might, literally, be a pageant queen, she might not be. Regardless, I feel really sad for her. I like that Gillian Welch’s songs often have this effect, even though the narrator is, in a detached manner, just relaying basic and vague observations about a person or place or situation. It’s very reminiscent of old-time ballads, characterized by a dispassionate retelling of stories of love and loss and desperation. However, I would be grossly misguided if I ignored the music’s role in this, which, in classic Welch and David Rawlings form, is animated and poignant and wistful, and as integral to the storytelling as the lyrics are.

Chris Thile “Raining At Sunset”
I will always associate this song with a family trip to the north rim of the Grand Canyon one fall. The North Rim is more like Colorado than the rest of Arizona, and we were driving up there when all the leaves were changing, and we were listening to this record on repeat. My sister and I called the area along the rim the “Hobbit Forest” because of how lush and colorful it was (it’s a complete coincidence that the title of this album, Not All Who Wander Are Lost, is a reference to Lord Of The Rings). It’s a solid tune to begin with, but absolutely transcendent as a result of a powerhouse lineup of musicians (Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, Jerry Douglas, Bryan Sutton, to name a few).

Saint Slumber Makes MAGNET A Mix Tape

Self-described “all-American indie rock” band Saint Slumber just released the second EP in its three-part Youth// series, titled, fittingly enough, Youth//2. It comes on the heels of last year’s (you guessed it) Youth//1 and will be followed by next year’s (wait for it) Youth//3. (In the meantime, though, the Pennsylvania/Jersey quartet has a new single, “Fever,” an R&B tune made famous by the likes of Peggy Lee and, of course, Elvis Presley.) We asked Saint Slumber to make us a mix tape, and like the Youth// trilogy, it’s EP length, all the better to allow the listener to thoroughly digest each song. It’s a diverse collection with a common theme: the elements of songwriting.

“To put an interesting spin on the idea of the mix tape, I wanted to make a songwriter’s mix tape for MAGNET,” says frontman Josh Perna. “Here are five songs that encapsulate five different elements of songwriting that have impacted me and helped me hone my personal songwriting voice for Saint Slumber.”

Freelance Whales, “Starring” (Hook)
An amazing example of a band that dropped a masterpiece and was never seen again. Freelance Whales’ Weathervanes was a record that showed me how a full-length record could showcase the strength and consistency of a band’s unique sound. I remember being 17 when I first heard the chorus to “Starring,” and I was blown away: This was my first memory as a songwriter of hearing a chorus and being obsessed with how tight, catchy and minimal an idea could be. Ever since I’ve tried to employ the ideology of “less is more.”

Ben Howard, “I Forget Where We Were” (Story)
Lyrics in 2018 are inarguably marked with a serious trend in hyper-realism. While this can make for honest, visceral performances by vocalists, I need to often remind myself that there is a place for poetry and story in song; the easiest route in writing isn’t always the best. Ben Howard is an unbelievable lyricist, weaving amazingly rich story with a subtlety that might make you miss it the first few times. On “I Forget Where We Were” there is a wash of realism, present-tense storytelling and a scene set with beautiful, descriptive language. “Oh, your mariner’s mouth … the wounded with the wounder’s whip.” For those curious, Ben’s influence on me can’t be overstated.

Stromae “Tous Le Mêmes” (Production)
The moment a song leaves the realm of being sung a cappela and is officially captured, production impacts all music. The unsung, misunderstood lens through which all music is heard, production has as much to say about how your song sounds as the songwriting itself. Having an understanding of how production impacts your songwriting will help you better understand how to frame your own music. Stromae, the French pop star who handles a large portion of his own arrangement and production, does so much scene-setting on “Tous Le Mêmes”; the vintage horn and upright-bass samples are juxtaposed beautifully by the chopped-up vocals and modern synth kick. The end result is such a particular sound, blending old and new, that has nothing to do with the words he’s singing.

SZA “Supermodel” (Honesty)
Simultaneously contradicting and fortifying the point I made with “Story,” lyrics only connect with people when they are communicating an inextricable truth. Whether that truth is told in a complicated and abstract story or in a completely literal statement, people want to hear and feel something real, and the easiest way to do that is to just sing from your gut about real things. On “Supermodel,” SZA sings an almost extemporaneous, stream-of-consciousness song about some real stuff, and it just bowls me over every time. “Why I can’t stay alone just by myself? Wish I was comfortable just with myself … But I need you.”

King Krule, “Easy Easy” (Voice)
The most important lesson I ever learned in songwriting was to embrace my voice. The voice is the only musical thing that you can’t fundamentally change through practice. You can become technically better at singing, but the voice you were born with is the voice you will be singing with. Some people were born with era-shifting, golden pipes, and the rest of us got whatever fate decided to throw at us. But I really believe anybody can sing an amazing song; they just have to find what their sound is meant to be. King Krule has such an iconic, left-of-center voice; it’s unapologetic, it’s raw, and it’s undeniably King Krule. That is what we all should be shooting for, as songwriters.

Harp Samuels Makes MAGNET A Mix Tape

Harp Samuels wears all the hats on forthcoming album Breathe (out September 14): singer, songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist. So we thought the Melbourne-born Samuels—who’s also a filmmaker and photographer—would be able to turn us on to some cool tunes. And we were right. You can do a lot worse than checking out his killer MAGNET mix tape right now.

Damien Rice, “Delicate”
Whatever I’m working on, I keep coming back to this song. The rawness, the storytelling, the delivery. It’s proof that there’s so much perfection inside imperfection. Damien Rice is one of the great troubadours, and he inspires me in the way that he boldly bares his soul. There’s no hindrance, shame or sense of consumerism in his music or approach to music. I draw from that and am grateful for him.

James Vincent McMorrow, “Red Dust”
I consider Post Tropical by James Vincent McMorow to be a perfect album. It has a beautiful and similar feel through the whole thing, ebbs and flows as one piece, but it still gives you the sense that each song is individual. When I stumbled upon this song years ago, I almost broke the “repeat” button. The melodic hook, “Sometimes my hands/They don’t feel like my own/I need someone to love/I need someone to hold,” wrecks me every time I hear it. Amazing vocals, too.

Asgier, “King And Cross”
I first heard this song on the radio, driving through Melbourne in peak-hour traffic. It’s refreshing, original, unique and totally thoughtful. This song means a lot to me because it reminds me to innovate and break the mold. The twisted harmonies and bizarre solos call me to mess with chords a little more and to be less conventional with harmonies and sounds.

Jónsi And Alex, “Happiness”
Recently, as I was mixing my upcoming album, I sat with my sound engineer in the SSL room of Sing Sing studios in Melbourne, and we blasted this track through the most incredible speakers to get in the mood of the song we were working on. It’s just sounds—sounds and nothing but. It simply is. It does what it wants. The dynamics are amazing. It’s the kinda thing you want to listen to when you want to feel but not think.

Sufjan Stevens, “Should Have Known Better”
I’m a massive Sufjan Stevens fan. This track, from his record Carrie And Lowell, set the tone for my debut album, Wanting. The simplicity and stripped-back nature of the song really grabs me. There’s this little instrumental part toward the end that I simply adore. Love the mix, the vocal performance and the flow.

Foy Vance, “Guiding Light”
I was introduced to Foy Vance by a couple of Irish lads who I was kicking it with the first time I ever visited California. I pretty much slammed his records and got stuck on this track. “The road is wide, waters run on either side/My shadow in the fading light, stretches out toward the night.” One of the most beautiful lyrics ever. This song is like an anthem for me.

Labrinth, “Jealous”
Man, this guy can sing. This song is new old school. They sure nailed this one. It was on mainstream radio in Australia, and people loved it. It’s dee and beautiful, and it desires to connect and succeeds. I especially love the bridge. As a musician who plays by ear, it’s exciting to hear something that you can’t instantly figure out.

The Last Dinosaur, “All My Faith”
This band is my latest musical crush. It’s simple and complicated at the same time. There are few words and many layers. The vocals are perfect, the mix is full, and it’s overall warm-and-cozy vibe takes you to a different place. I often read about tracks that I love, to find out what they’re about, but with “All My Faith,” I want it to remain a beautiful mystery.

James Rose Makes MAGNET A Mix Tape

Not only is James Rose a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, he also lives a pretty unique lifestyle. Rose is constantly searching for the meaning of life and is doing so through both music and travel. Right now, he’s decided to take a breather in L.A., performing and releasing the Lullabies To The Ocean EP. His songs find inspiration from the good stuff and would fit right in on a mix tape alongside former MAGNET covers stars like Elliott Smith, Ty Segall and Kurt Vile. Speaking of mix tapes: To get a good sense of other key influences, check out this excellent “blast from the past” one that Rose made for MAGNET.

John Lennon, “Jealous Guy”
This is the song that pretty much set it all up for me. It is part of my first memory on this planet. Or at least I think it is. I remember taking steps down a winding staircase with colorful murals of important people I had no concept of. The air became more damp the further I went, and this beautiful piano song was playing. I must have been about four years old, and it was during a trip to my mothers hometown of Liverpool. The staircase I was walking down was the replicated version of the original cavern where the Beatles would play. I remember walking through the dank cellar, feeling the cold, stone archways and looking up as it circled over my head. Walking up to the stage alone and being in awe was incredible, and I always feel that when I hear this song. It brings me complete musical satisfaction every time I hear it. It’s just one of the most gut-punching, beautiful and emotional songs ever written in my opinion. I think a lot of people share that same view.

Kinks, “Waterloo Sunset”
Ray Davies is one of my favorite songwriters of all time, and Dave Davies is definitely a favorite guitarist and singer. His guitar work and personal style is incredible. I absolutely love Ray’s dry wit and uniquely British writing style. The band’s focus on the British and European markets (due to the ban placed on them by the AFM) is also fascinating since they were originally inspired by the rhythm ‘n’ blues and music from the United States. “Waterloo Sunset” is such a thought-provoking and heart felt song for me. I was always fascinated with the Kinks music, and Dave’s legendary riffs and leads are just out of this world. The Kinks were vital in my curiosity for music and expanding my musical thought process. I love how Ray conveys emotion, and he’s very word-oriented in his writing. He has a real sense and intelligent aura within his songs filled with philosophical ideas, and I just love that kind of writing. Everything about this song is pure bliss.

Alex Chilton, “The EMI Song (Smile For Me)”
Another musical hero of mine is Alex Chilton. His career is probably the most unique and interesting to me of any musical artist that I listen to. He produced a couple of the Cramps records and was in Panther Burns. I mean, come on! This song is after the Box Tops during a solo phase before putting Big Star together with Chris Bell. He did a lot of mucking about in Ardent Studios and recorded all of these incredible songs that never saw the light of day until recently. He was such a unique individual with an incredible perspective on art and music. This particular song really gets to me. It’s just something about the arrangements and the combination of everything as it builds. How it all comes together toward the end and then drifts out again takes me to such a state of bliss that it’s hard to describe. I guess it’s just the rush that music gives you when something connects with the inner you and creates that intense feeling. The emotional connection that music graces us with is truly amazing. The power of music, new and old, continues to astonish me. Chilton was also a staple of the New Orleans music community and worked odd jobs all around the city. I spent 10 years there and always liked to think about that when I was doing the same thing, cleaning dishes in a Creole/French restaurant. Or maybe as I was sweeping slanted balconies of an old hotel, overlooking Toulouse Street in the French Quarter with a jazz quartet in the courtyard over.

Sparklehorse, “Hammering The Cramps”
There’s such a raw energy to this song, and it really gets me going. I was introduced to Sparklehorse by my good friend who’s been consistently showing me incredible music since fifth grade. I was going through a pretty difficult time, and Sparklehorse just got me through it like a race car with no brakes. Mark Linkous was an incredible visionary, and his sounds captured the sense of despair of certain emotions so well. It’s just very powerful songwriting, and the instrumentation is so unique and interesting. Some of his songs are rocking with an awesome grittiness that was strictly the sound of Sparklehorse. It was some kind of strange cryptic power that overcame the instruments and provided these beautiful songs hiding in the shadows. Truly astounding work. I enjoy driving down some lost highway blasting this one!

Sonic Youth, “Kool Thing”
I’ve recently been putting on a lot of Sonic Youth, and it’s felt so right. It’s been too long since listening, and I have always been such a fan. The same friend I mentioned earlier turned me on to them when we were about 12 or 13, and I haven’t looked back since. I was already a pretty big Nirvana fan at the time, and when I heard Goo and Dirty for the first time, I nearly lost my mind as I passed into some other dimension. I love “Kool Thing” because it’s just such a killer song with a great kick, and apparently it’s about LL Cool J after Kim Gordon interviewed him for Spin. It seems like it was quite a strange and surreal interview! This one is always fun to rock out to. I love the strength in this song. Kim Gordon is a badass!

Neil Young, “Don’t Let It Bring You Down”
This awesome song is littered with a kind of cryptic hope with beautiful imagery painted with surrealism. I have always been a pretty big Neil fan, and my dad was, too. He would play “After The Gold Rush” and “Harvest” pretty heavily when I was growing up. Neil always had that kind of DIY aesthetic and has always been true to the overall feeling of the song. This one rolls along with jagged corners and the sweet smell of jasmine after a summer rain. My favorite time to listen to this is driving down a barren highway in the rain. Such an incredible feeling emits from this song that I just had to include it in my mix.

Zombies, “This Will Be Our Year”
This is such a great song. I love the Zombies so much, with their excellent baroque pop and brilliant songwriting. This is the song I put on to find a new hope in whatever situation may occur. I usually spin this one on New Year’s Eve, and it has such a lovely sense of doe-eyed optimism. This will be our year … finally! It’s been raining for so long, but now I can see the sun opening up through the clouds and this song is on full blast! I was inspired to write more piano-based songs after becoming obsessed with this album. There is something so magical about the production of this album. I believe it’s an Abbey Road record! The lyrics are so sweet and innocent. They nailed the feeling of seeing the light after a period of darkness and to embrace it with love. The Zombies will always be a favorite, and this record is most certainly a comfort record for me.

Stooges, “Gimmie Danger”
I couldn’t make this mix without including some of the Stooges! The sound and rawness this song brings is such an inspiration to my own music that I had to include it. It has such a pretty structure, but the production is such an intense rawness like sand in the eyes. I love that acoustic-guitar riff so much! It has a sense of calmness but is also set on a turbulent sea as your boat is rocking all over the place. It has that sense of danger, and Iggy stated that it’s about the challenge of being with someone with such a raw energy that nothing lacks excitement in the relationship. I love the fact that it has this really nasty acoustic guitar through it. Truly a bad-ass song!

T.Rex, “Cosmic Dancer”
As much as I love Marc Bolan’s electric boogaloo and glam-rocking songs, his quiet and mystical folk-like songs are equally as impressive and tantalizing. “Cosmic Dancer” immerses you in such a unique and surreal world among the stars of the distant galaxies. Bolan was the ultimate cosmic gypsy, and T.Rex was another standard in my family’s musical rotation. Tony Visconti’s string arrangements really made this number twinkle in the distance like a burning star. The lyrics really make me shiver, too, from lines like, “I danced myself into the tomb”—the imagery of that alone is quite a powerful thing. Needless to say, T.Rex always has a home in my record collection. I am also a huge sucker for backward guitar, and it’s all over the place on this number. Gotta love T.Rex!!

Elton John, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”
This is hands down one of my favorite songs of all time. I always put this on in times of darkness when I need to feel human again. It is my ultimate comfort song, and I can listen to this on repeat for hours. Elton John is a legend, of course, but his musical songwriting abilities are out of this world! The team dynamic with musician and incredible lyricist Bernie Taupin is quite an eclectic combination and one for the books. I just love the dwindling light of Sunset Blvd. imagery, the nostalgia and bittersweet romance captured in a certain way. This will always be one of those songs that stays by my side in times of darkness.

Cape Cub Makes MAGNET A Mix Tape

Cape Cub is now officially a sloth, as one-man British bedroom recorder Chad Male has recruited four bandmates and released the “Moonglow” single. Male says Cape Cub was always intended to be a full-band project, which now allows Male to pursue his dream of rocking arenas like heroes the Killers, U2, Death Cake For Cutie and the Cure. But while the quintet is busy kicking it as a live band, the songs remain the major focus for Male. So we were curious what influenced his art, and thus we asked him to make MAGNET a mix tape. He compiled this awesome one for us, saying, “I tend to write songs with a landscape image in my mind. The best songs don’t just sound great and mean something, but they paint a picture, too. All the songs on this mix tape evoke a sense of nostalgia and mean something to me personally. Whether I was even born at the time of them being written or not, I can picture the moments and meanings behind them so vividly because of the textures that accompany them and the lyrics that carry them. They’re like watercolours to canvas.”

Enjoy the musical scenery.

Bruce Springsteen “My Hometown”
My parents divorced around the time I was born, and I saw my dad on weekends as a kid. We spent a lot of time together in his car driving around, visiting everywhere we could get to. Money was short, and he always used his imagination to come up with the most fun places to visit, but often the best times were spent in our hometown, Redcar. From the Italian ice cream shop, Pacittos, on the seafront, to the sand dunes on the Coast Road, to the skatepark on Majuba Road and the old library on Coatham Road. They were always incredibly fun, beautiful times. Things have changed a bit since then. The town has had the loss of its steelworks, and it’s had austerity and cuts, hitting it hard. I guess in Redcar we’ve got a British equivalent of Freehold or Asbury Park, N.J., with a potent mix of history and achievement, love and nostalgia, sadness and sorrow. Springsteen’s words echo my own in so many regards. Forever the line “Son, take a good look around, this is your hometown” will echo in my head.

Death Cab For Cutie “I Will Follow You Into The Dark”
This is Ben Gibbard, one of my favourite songwriters of all time, singing about death, the “afterlife” and what I read as struggling with the concept of faith. What if there really is nothing afterwards? It’s like, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be there soon and you won’t be on your own.’ You know one of them songs that, no matter how many times you’ve heard it, it moves you to stand still and completely pauses every thought that’s going through your head? That. It hugely influenced a Cape Cub song, ‘Swim,’ which I wrote and recorded in my mum’s loft at home on the coast. Visually, it represents a little light bulb, glowing and flickering in a dark room saying “everything’s gonna be OK.”

Phoebe Bridgers “Funeral”
This song is so real, yet so ethereal at the same time. It’s so deep, yet so light on its touch. It almost feels like a 3:52 snippet of a moment, a head space that carries so much weight. We’ve all been there when we’re in a dark place, and that kind of deep emotion can cripple you, when you get absolutely and completely lost within your thoughts. I probably don’t want to go too into it, as I don’t want to disseminate the song when you can take your own meaning from it, but if you listen to the lyrics—and it’s a song you’ll want to listen to on your own—you’ll know what I mean. Fair play to her for being so damn honest. It’s refreshing.

Billy Bragg “A New England”
“I saw two shooting stars last night/I wished on them, but they were only satellites/Is it wrong to wish on space hardware?” It’s a simple, astute and incredibly well-written portrait of love (or the want of). From “pushing prams” to “shooting stars,” he’s at one moment on the ground and in the next up in the universe. It’s this kind of songwriting that truly inspires me as a writer. So visually ambitious and down to earth at the same time.

Brandon Flowers “Between Me And You”
This song speaks for every man and woman out there, I think. Being in a relationship is damn hard when you’re trying to make ends meet and you’re trying to balance all these challenges that life throws at you, whilst fighting to be the best person you can be to that person who means the most to you. The lyrics “These hours I’m working ain’t nearly enough and sometimes its like a bullet came and blasted me right of out of the blue/But I’m doing my best to not let it get between me and you” just kill me. Brandon Flowers just knows how to write it, doesn’t he?