Vera Ellen

Pop CultureJune 1, 2024

‘Sounds like brushstrokes’: Vera Ellen’s perfect weekend playlist

Vera Ellen

Taite Music Prize winner Vera Ellen curates her perfect playlist for a weekend of painting in the sun. 

Vera Ellen has had a busy few weeks. First, she won the 2024  Taite Music Prize for her album Ideal Home Noise, which she describes as a “full circle moment” from her first experience attending the awards back in 2022. “I’d never been to any kind of awards show in my life so I was really nervous and I brought my entire family,” she laughs. “It was so fancy and professional and I just remember feeling really super out of my depth and super out of place.” 

Returning in 2024, it was a slightly different story. “It was really crazy going back this time,” she says. “I felt this real embrace from the New Zealand music community and it was just really nice.” A couple of days later she was back in Wellington and playing “the best gig of ever” to a room of kindy kids for the Little Gigs series on What Now? “There was this one kid in the front row picking his nose and yawning and we were just like ‘yeah, this is our favourite gig that we’ve played’.”

Then came the surprise release of her new EP Heartbreak for Jetlag. Written after she recently “got a bit dumped”, Ellen knows the perfect weekend setting to enjoy what RNZ called a “prickly, unpolished, and often heart-rending” collection of songs. “You are in bed, it is late at night. You’re like super cosy, you’ve got a hot water bottle. You’ve got like ambient red lighting, incense burning, maybe you’re journaling, or you’re just lying in bed looking up at the roof,” she says.

Although it may suit her newest music, Ellen’s favourite weekend activity couldn’t be further from late night red light wallowing. “My ideal weekend would be waking up early, doing some kind of yoga or a bit of stretching and making some coffee,” she explains. “And then I would sit outside, get all my little paints out and paint in the sun. That would be dreamy.” Inspired by her perfect weekend, we asked Ellen to curate the perfect accompanying playlist. 

Loren Connors – ‘Evangeline’

This is a little bit of experimental jazz that reminds me of having the sun on your face. It’s a really gentle opener to the playlist and it’s also quite joyous, which I like. All of those feelings evoke that theme of painting in the sun. 

Rachel Andie – ’Kabutomushi’ 

This is my friend Rachel. She’s amazing and this song sounds like brushstrokes to me, like, it’s so smooth and sensual and the vocal melodies reminds me of how it might feel to be a little bit of paint on a paintbrush. 

Chavela Vargas – ‘Amanecí en tus brazos’ 

I chose this one because it feels like you’re being transported to another place, which I think is another feeling that I love about painting.

Sibylle Baier – ‘Tonight’ 

This is one of my favourite songs. It’s quite melancholic and there’s some really nice lyrics there to reflect on. And I think sometimes when you’re having some weekend downtime, it’s nice to kind of ponder different things. It’s good food for thought.

Gregor – ‘The Rock (and the stars)’

I like how this song has a really long intro, and starts out really dreamy and ambient. But then this really nice beat comes in and this bassline that draws you into it really slowly, which I think is a nice pacing for a slower activity like painting. 

Nina Simone – ‘My Baby Just Cares for Me’

You gotta have Nina in there, classic. Nina is obviously the sun in my “painting in the sun” situation. It’s such a joyous song, the piano is so nice and like uppity and it’s so feelgood. 

The Marshmellow Kisses – ‘Dreaming is Fucking Right’

This a nice follow up from the Nina one where now you’re in a bit of a fun mood. The sun’s out, maybe you’re having a bit of a cigarette, maybe you’re sipping on your coffee, maybe you’re having a boogie. 

Carla Bruni – ‘Quelqu’un m’a dit’

Sometimes when songs are in different languages, it helps you dissociate a little bit. You’re not as fixated on the lyrics, which can help that feeling of being transported to another place, of dreaming and floating away a little bit. 

Franciouse Hardy – ‘It Hurts to Say Goodbye’

This one’s really cheeky and fun and another one to have a good little boogie to. I thought it was a nice way to start packing up the paintbrushes, we’re getting into dusk here. 

Hydroplane – ‘Completed Extract from the Previous 7”’ 

This is quite a vibe change but I think it’s a really good closer. We’re packing up and heading inside now with these really beautiful, dreamy guitars. A really nice one to totally zone out to as you finish your weekend painting session. 

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