Vera Sola’s Playlist for Cold Mornings

The songwriter’s acid-Western second album, Peacemaker, arrives this week via City Slang.

Vera Sola’s Playlist for Cold Mornings

The songwriter’s acid-Western second album, Peacemaker, arrives this week via City Slang.

Words: Mike LeSuer

Photo: Wyndham Garnett

February 01, 2024

While the Spaghetti Western aesthetic was briefly mined in indie rock’s flower-crown era, it often felt like the depth of those bands’ understanding of the genre barely penetrated Leone’s Dollars Trilogy. It seems like a much-needed elucidation of that trope, then, to hear Vera Sola boldly lean into the sun-torched horns of Morricone’s epic scores on her widescreen sophomore album Peacemaker, as the project’s edges are all soaked in acid. Like the hero of Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain she embarks on a psychedelic journey over the record’s 11 tracks, frequently venturing into uncanny territory—“Get Wise” sounds like it belongs on Rain Dogs, while the blues guitar on “Hands” also mimics reggae’s staccato plucks.

It’s no surprise to learn that Sola’s knowledge of music far outside the realm of American popular culture is vast (to say nothing of her taste for fiction—she studied Russian lit at Harvard). Although she dips into the imagery of this country’s legendary past in her new release, her musical taste instead skews toward ranchera, flamenco, calypso, and various global takes on psychedelic jazz. And while the playlist she put together for us is meant to draw attention to her own music, the fairly arbitrary theme she chose to work with, “cold mornings—whether rainy, dew-set, fogged, or snow-driven”—indicates that her own listening habits are as broad as Peacemaker is aesthetically dialed-in.

“This is what’s going on in my house currently, as I shuffle around with a mug of hot whatever, feed my dog, stretch my body, and eventually start dancing,” Sola explains as she introduces the songs she’s compiled. “A lot of solo guitar tracks on here, unsung instrumentals. Starting low and slow and skewing melancholy, and picking up to a solid groove.”

Dive into the mix below, and pre-order Peacemaker before it drops tomorrow here.

Bonga, “Mona Ki Ngi Xica” 
Currently my favorite song. “Mona Ki Ngi Xica” is Angolan Kimbundu—roughly translated as “the child I leave behind.” An Angolan/Portuguese treasure, Bonga was a key figure in the resistance as Angolans pushed back against an oppressive colonial regime. He was charged with sedition and a warrant issued for his arrest as a direct result of the lyrics on the record this song comes from. It’s an F’ing gorgeous, incredibly moving, perfect record, in my opinion. Maybe sounds like a crazy thing to start the day with…not for me.

Chavela Vargas, “La Llorona”
Chavela is the coolest. Gender non-conforming badass, she dressed like a man and sang Mexican rancheras from a man’s perspective. Just google her. It’s worth it. She’s glorious. This song is gorgeous—devastating vocal delivery, wonderful guitar, iconic melody. Killer.

Hikaru Hayashi, “Thème de l’eau”
From the soundtrack to the Japanese film The Naked Island. I can feel rain sliding down the window when I hear it, snow gathering on a long-gone lawn. 

Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos, “Aurora En Pekin”
You’ll find a lot of these songs have a similar guitar thing happening. I have very specific taste when it comes to tone—watery, blurry, a little sleepy or hungover. And Ribot is the modern king of that. 

Os Tubarões, “Alto Cutelo”
A relatively new addition to my morning playlist. Cape Verde band from the ’70s. Just weird and cool.

Keletigui et ses Tambourinis, “Kadia Blues”
Orchestra out of Guinea, totally incredible rhythm section. Listen to the creep on that bassline. And the guitar sounds like it's being played underwater. I’ve been listening to this one on repeat for about a decade and it never gets old.

Frantz Casseus, “Suite No. 1: Yanvalloux”
Haitian-American guitarist and composer who actually taught Ribot way back. Gorgeous melancholia.

Atahualpa Yupanqui, “Los Ejes de Mi Carreta”
I just love his playing, his voice. 

Eddie Lang, “Prelude”
Ugh, a friend played me this recently and it totally flipped me out. Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C Sharp Minor as interpreted by OG jazz virtuoso Eddie Lang.

Gábor Szabó, “Three King Fishers”
I picked up this record (Bacchanal) on vinyl when I lived in New York over 10 years ago. The whole thing is wonderful. Szabo, the Hungarian great leading the way through Eastern psychedelic jazz with the absolute craziest percussion from legend Jim Keltner.

Sabicas, “Punta y Tacón”
A playlist of this sort would not be complete without some classic flamenco. Sabicas is one of the most wonderful to ever do it.

Tesfa-maryam Kidane, “Heywete”
Ethiopian jazz with a rad groove.

Orchestra Baobab, “Jin ma Jin ma”
One of my favorite bands of all time. If not listening to a playlist I usually just have their records on repeat. Time to begin moving the hips!

Calypso Rose, “Abatina”
And finish off with a supremely fun track from calypso queen Calypso Rose. Good luck getting the chorus out of your head.