Listening to the Top 40 radio station can be a lesson in madness.
The same predictable chord progressions. The same exact drops. The increasingly small pool of influences that blurs musicians together and makes the very rare unique single stand out like a slap to the mouth. I don’t work a conventional nine-to-five, nor do I constantly tune in to my local radio, so the Top 40 station has become something of a niche for me. I prefer to dig for songs through YouTube recommendations or Soundcloud autoplay, enjoying good surprises and stumbling across lesser-known artists who deserve more love.
A relaxing cadence for your ears melting into the delicious flavors on your tongue. Coffee and music go hand-in-hand, and I found myself wanting to see just how much they overlap. The brew is a daily staple for millions around the world, helping people get through their day with a much-needed moment of comfort or caffeine buzz. Unsurprisingly, that love of coffee seeps into art. The media we consume, the language we speak or the ways we look at one another. It shapes us as much as we shape it.
I’m nothing if not a multitasker. I’ve got five songs that don’t just go great with coffee, but talk about coffee, with enough variety in genre to ensure there will be at least one song that speaks to you:
Let’s start off with a song you’ve probably heard of (if you remember popular ads from the late 2000’s, that is).
‘Falling In Love At A Coffee Shop’ was featured in an AT&T commercial around a decade back. Coffee shops are highly romanticized locales, the subject of many a romance novel and first date rendezvous. It’s a gentle, introspective little number, as wistful a piano ballad as you can expect from such a rose-tinted title. The hook lifts almost like hope, the singer’s voice constantly hitting notes that are both high and soft. It’s as if he’s going through the heartwrenching motions in real-time, from first pitter-patter to first kiss.
It’s affecting stuff, and no mystery why this song got as popular as it did.
i never knew just what it was
about this old coffee shop I loved so much
all of the while I never knew
i think that possibly, maybe I’m falling for you
Just as gentle as the first song, but with a decidedly different production.
This is a group I’ve enjoyed for a while now. Sylvan Esso has a dreamy sound and several memorable hits to their name, somehow always surprising while staying distinct. Their blend of tender synth and wispy vocals is well-pronounced in ‘Coffee’: it’s the kind of song that feels just like easing out of a nap to the peaceful urging of your body’s internal clock instead of an alarm. The outro still gives me chills after the fiftieth listen and never fails to float me off into space.
If caffeine has you jittery, let this single bring you to a better place.
wild winter, warm coffee
mind’s gone, do you love me?
blazing summer, cold coffee
baby’s gone, do you love me?
Wait, don’t go! This is one burnt espresso you’ll actually want to try.
I came across Sidney Amos recently, immediately struck by the artist’s easy sincerity. Piano pop’s main appeal is how down-to-earth it is, often eschewing complex production in favor of a simple, yet sharp stirring of your emotions. Her vocals are delightfully off-key and the chirping birds in the background are the perfect touch to a song that’s all about waking up, in every sense of the word. If you’ve got a love of Tori Amos’ vulnerable songwriting and Sara Bareilles’ keyboard style, you’ll adore this short-and-sweet ditty.
it takes one to know one and I’d liked to get to know one so
if you’d like to drink shitty coffee down a couple streets at the northbound side of me
i’d love to stay there and
think of what to say there
And now for something completely different.
You don’t have to be a geek to recognize Hatsune Miku, the blue pigtail’d girl seen in many a meme and avatar. It’s a shame Vocaloid has a reputation for being ‘weird autotuned J-POP’, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. While it’s certainly one of the most popular genres, there are also plenty of others to explore if you do a little digging. This garage rock number is a prime example of the variety you can enjoy once you step outside the box.
Wintermute is an artist who clearly adores the full, rich expanse of garage and grunge, with addictive hooks and solid productions showing a mastery of the craft. There’s a touch of shoegaze here, too, with the echoing vocals and musical sensation of feeling the wind whip your face out of a car window. It’ll never fail to amaze me how succinctly sound can capture memories, and I’ve found myself returning to this time and time again.
coffee dake nonderu
soredake de ikiteru
amai satou to nigai caffeine
siroi milk ga toketa
Rounding out the list is the type of navelgazing number that’s perfect for…well, a coffee break.
(also, what are the odds I have two songs on coffee by an artist with Sylvan in their name)
This low-key, soothing hip-hop single was recommended to me a few weeks back, snagging my attention with its contrast of soft chords and raw lyrics. It fondly reminds me of Nujabes (a long-time favorite artist of mine), with a stream-of-consciousness approach that perfectly replicates a tumble of thoughts. The artist discusses a slew of painful topics, from poverty to existential crises, and doesn’t hold back on a single one. It’s a rant in the shower bottled into a musical package, and I’m chuffed this song’s now a part of my life.
see, I been making music for the wrong reasons
i think my vanity’s catching up with my sense of being
i think my lust for status is tragic, imagine
ain’t spoke to friends in like seven months at what cost is there for this
If you’ve got any coffee-related songs you’d like to share, go ahead and post them in the comments (I forever hunger for new music). I’ve got a tea song list coming up, but until then? Practice your pourover technique and support your local roasters.
If you’re looking for more coffee or music, check out:
I used to do a song round-up and review series called Sharing The Goodness, separated by genre (and subgenre). If you’re craving some indie and shoegaze, I’ve got five great singles by lesser-known musicians you can add to your playlist.