Tinashe wears cropped cotton vest by Calvin Klein Jeans; jeans by Levi's
Not many 21-year-olds can claim to have already put out three mixtapes, enjoyed a brief career in a girl group and scored a recurring role on Two and A Half Men, but LA R&B girl Tinashe can. Her fierce determination, business-like drive and her aptitude for slick beats layered with knife-sharp hooks make for one of the most captivating young artists around. Tinashe blends weighty hip hop beats with a spaced-out, poetic production to make music deeply rooted in R&B's breathy hall of fame – think Aaliyah, Cassie – fusing this seduction with a DJ Mustard trap beat on current single "2 On". Ahead of her debut album this autumn, Tinashe talks us though a surprising, indie-leaning playlist of her musical obsessions, talking us though her love of indie-folk, downtempo electronics and the joy of time signatures.
Stream the playlist and read Tinashe's take track-by-track below.
Andrew Bird – "Anonanimal"
"I was probably around 15 or 16 when I first heard this – I think a friend recommended I listen to the album, and that became my favourite song off that project. I really like Andrew Bird in general, but I love the strings on this song. They're very classy, they come in these unconventional waves and they just add so much drama. I played the violin in school for about five years, but I always played by ear, I never read the sheet music. I love the change in this song; about two minutes in. Everything slows down and then picks up again. It catches you off guard every time, even when you know it's coming. I like songs that kinda make the most out of feeling sad."
Bon Iver – "Re: Stacks"
"I listened to this so much when it came out, that's why I was pissed when he was nominated for a Grammy on his second album, which was much worse than this, I was like 'What the fuck? His first album was so much better'. That's always how it happens, isn't it? In 2008 I was in the girl group (The Stunners). I always liked to listen to mellow things, I'm attracted to mellow. I think that's figured into the music I make as an artist, too. You can tell he recorded this in a log cabin. It's kinda isolated."
Broken Social Scene – "7/4 Shoreline"
"This is one of the coolest songs ever, because it's in 7/4 time – there's seven beats in the bar, listen "one two, three, four, five, six, seven ONE, two, three, four" – I don't know any other songs that are like that. It's so rapid. It's like hyperventilating. It almost gets there, and then it doesn't. It's one of the coolest songs. I think it's super cool that they could do that, most songs are in 4/4, 8/4, or even 3/4, but not 7/4. I don't know how they do it. That's why it's so impressive. I just don't know how. It's an incredible thing to do. Music is just not in that time frame. Listening to this track just excites me."
Devotchka – "The Clockwise Witness"
"The first thing is just how great the name is. De-vot-ch-KAH. My favourite line in this song is 'If you're in the rat race, and you come in first place, then a rat is all you'll be'. I love that. It's a great line, it's so true. I used to compete in these contemporary dance competitions when I was 16, and I would dance to this. It was me and like four other girls. I won, actually, a lot. I still have the trophies back home in my room."
Iron and Wine – "The Boy With a Coin"
"Is this gonna surprise people? I dunno, I like guitary stuff. I like strings. I just don't use them in my music. I like the tempo in this, the mellow voice. This is one of Iron and Wine's more uptempo songs and it's still super chill, it's kinda whispery. These songs don't hit you, you're supposed to take your time with them, and really get into them."
James Blake – "A Case of You"
"James Blake has some of my favourite songs ever. This is so beautiful, especially when you think that it's a cover, I love that he did something so bold on his first record like cover a Joni Mitchell song. The song is so beautiful, I love how his voice keeps cracking during the chorus, like it's an actual struggle getting the lyrics out."
Little Dragon – "Twice"
"This is plucky. Their videos are siiick. They sound totally unique, like, well, Little Dragon. Everything I choose is so mellow, it's not even funny. But these kind of songs are the ones I always come back to, my favourite, favourite songs. Yukimi Nagano is awesome."
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – "Maps"
"My favourite Yeah Yeah Yeah's song, although it's hard to choose. I love their stuff, they're such a great band, especially "Heads Will Roll", that fierce "OFF OFF OFF with head" bit. Yeah Yeah Yeah's are pretty loud and polished now, but this is still grungey. The long intro is just the best, that long guitar riff, then when the drums come... *starts playing air drums* when the drums come in. It's like the whole intro is a verse itself, then you go right into the hook. You get that euphoric feeling. "They don't love you like I love you" is an amazing line. I'm a huge fan of the album art, too."
Metric – "Collect Call"
"I just liked this so much when it came out. 2009. I just love them, Metric are one of my favourites, I saw them live in 2009 and it was amazing. It's one of my favourite songs on the album. It just felt so fresh. I've slacked off on finding new music, so having tracks like this on my phone is good. It takes me back to when I heard this track for the first time. 'The fire is out baby. How you gonna keep me warm?'"
SBTRKT – "Never Never"
"This track has such a great opening, I love that intro. This track is really uptempo but it doesn't feel hyper, it still feels chill. It fits into that whole chill thing we were talking about. I saw him a couple of years ago, I think at Coachella, I love the weird masks they wear on stage, the Egyptian heritage. It's beautiful."
Sade – "The Sweetest Taboo"
"I've got to pick a Sade song because she rocks. I just love her note choices on this track, she goes so minor-chord, and it's really unexpected where the melody goes, that's why I really like this song. As a songwriter myself, it makes you think, you can't help study these songs and kind of pick them apart. It's a really interesting approach, between the melody and the vocals. The beat is almost happy but the melody is so eerie."