Like a perfectly constructed cortado, great coffee shop music has depth and power. It’s art to appreciate leisurely: a calming substance that improves with repeat consumption. And while — like one’s taste in espresso — each has his/her own musical preferences, it’s not hard to identify a good café tune when you hear it. Earthy indie-pop with a hint of melancholy and lyrics that reward the close listener, coffee shop music may not be played in every coffee shop, but when you hear it, you know. These are 5 essential tracks to enhance any java drinking experience.
What do you think coffee drinkers? Is there anything we missed? Let us know your picks in the comment section below.
Fleet Foxes – “Mykonos”
Surely, there’s no better pairing than a cup of mellow, Ethiopian cold brew and some early-career Fleet Foxes. With its intricate harmonies and Pecknold’s otherworldly vocal performance – not to mention all the talk of “gentle coasts” and “winter meadows” — “Mykonos” is an ideal song to vibe with over a steaming cup o’ joe. Do you really think it’s coincidence that the gentlemen of Fleet Foxes hail from Seattle, WA, America’s coffee mecca?
Neutral Milk Hotel – “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”
How to describe the quixotic sonic carnival that is “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”?
Opaque yet emotionally resonant, experimental yet achingly simple, it’s a song that defies categorization. Working just as well in a café setting as on headphones, “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”, with its cryptic lyrics and feverish strumming — takes a page out of the Dylan playbook (the original coffeehouse crooner), and twists it into something wholly mesmerizing. 17 years since its release, it’s still a top choice of hip baristas citywide.
Bahamas – “Lost in the Light”
If any artist is tailor-engineered for the coffeehouse, it’s Afie Jurvanen, aka Bahamas. With his powerful, unadorned voice and outstanding guitar chops, The Toronto-born crooner makes music as warm and comforting as a Sunday afternoon latte. And nowhere is this power to uplift and nourish clearer than on “Lost in the Light,” a breezy bit of gospel-tinged soul that will have you smiling at the person on the other side of the table. Forget the Austrian goat milk half-caf cappuccino (extra hot) with a dash of Madagascar cinnamon—this is great stuff done simple.
Iron & Wine – “Upward Over the Mountain”
It’s no accident that half the baristas in the city look like Sam Beam — the superbly bearded singer-songwriter behind Iron & Wine. Sensitive, stylish, and excellent with his hands — Beam’s the archetype for a good coffeemaker. “Upward Over the Mountain” combines Beam’s pretty, double-tracked whisper with a simple blues rhythm and some of his most heartbreaking storytelling to date. It’s the perfect tune to listen to as you contemplate the complexities of life over an Americano Misto.
The Shins – “New Slang”
“You gotta hear this one song — it’ll change your life; I swear.” That was the world’s introduction to “New Slang” by The Shins back in 2004 when Natalie Portman’s character handed Zach Braff’s character a pair of headphones in Garden State. Softly jangling and pleasant almost to a fault, it instantly became a hit in dorm rooms and cafes worldwide. Nothing sounds better as you gaze longingly through the rain-dappled windows of a bustling urban café.
HM: MGMT – “Pieces Of What”, Kimya Dawson – “Loose Lips”, Grizzly Bear – “Knife”, The Tallest Man on Earth – “You’re Going Back”, Beirut – “Elephant Gun”.