Ten Years, Thirteen Coffee Songs

lets rock

I can count on one hand how many times I’ve walked into a coffee shop and music was nonexistent. It was weird. I appreciate silence but I’ve been sonically conditioned to hear music as part of an experience. Music can also be an aesthetic especially when curated well from sounds giving off that lo-fi vibe on vinyl, a playlist intentioned for a morning open, or a beach adjacent coffee shop playing sounds that’s as soothing as being out on a wave. 

I dedicated a portion of my content to a section I initially called siplipSaturday – me with the alliteration, right. The section about new music out or existing music that I thought would be good to hear, while leisurely sipping coffee. Because when I started my webzine I was still working in corporate America, my coffee was often taken on-the-go in the morning, or on a coffee break with a designated clock time to return back to the office. The idea of a Saturday coffee, wherever I wanted, for however long I wanted was a luxurious thought that I explored as an event.

When I first started out on smdlr, now The Coffeetographer, I knew that pivotal to the documentation of the culture, was bringing in how the Arts reflected culture and embodied it. This meant art, fashion, film and music. 

For now, I made a tally of songs that I’ve listened too and been inspired by over the last decade of The Coffeetographer. I’m still getting used to saying that: DECADE. I hope you sing along, dance along and of course, coffee along. 

Over the years, that section has just become the music section, where I could explore photographing musicians at festivals – locally in Brooklyn or stateside at Coachella – curating mixtapes from music played in independent coffee shops to sharing stories about musicians whose work contained the name or referenced the culture around it. Now, I have a Patreon feature where each month I write a story about a coffee I’m drinking and pair a playlist with it. This playlist is influenced by the character of the coffee and the stories it connects me to. Should you want to join, this is the link to do so, I would love to have you.

For now, I made a tally of songs that I’ve listened too and been inspired by over the last decade of The Coffeetographer. I’m still getting used to saying that: DECADE. I hope you sing along, dance along and of course, coffee along.

1 .“Coffey on The Mile”, Thomas Newman, 1999

From the beginning of my webzine and the writing of my bio, I had to write who I was. Part of writing who I am included my preferences and cultural affinities. I love classical music and film scores. Thomas New man is one of my favorites. This song is one of Newman’s from the film, The Green Mile. It is one of my go-to songs for making coffee, thinking about coffee and writing about coffee.

2. “Beach Baby”, Bon Iver, 2020

Justin Vernon’s voice is primed to cut through the noise. The noise of a day, the noise of a coffee shop, even the clutter that can cloud a mind, mine included. I can play his vinyl’s all day, any day because they speak to the stories of a life that is simple, complex and meditative. That’s why this song is here, including the lyric I love,

When you’re out, tell your lucky one
To know that you’ll leave

Don’t you lock when you’re fleeing
I’d like not to hear keys

Only hold till your coffee warms
But don’t hurry and speed

Coffee makes me slow down the pace of life and thought, as well it should.

3. “Love”, Lana Del Rey, 2017

There’s a romance to dressing. I don’t mean dressing sexy per se. I mean the ritual of getting dressed. I wouldn’t call myself a tomboy, but I do love some hobo chic. I love coveralls and platforms, vintage dresses and kicks and to feel at home in my clothes. Nothing feels better than feeling good in how you adorn yourself. Del Rey who sings poetic gets this, whether its coffee in the classroom, in a coffee shop or with a lover.

4. “Dancing“, Friction, JP Cooper

The coffee game is a hustle. I say that whether you’re on the independent side as a writer and blogger, or even influencer. And, I say that if you’re a coffee shop owner or importer. Each needs to find and align with their audience. This space hasn’t been easy. I’ve endured challenges and that’s what makes hitting the decade mark, a good reason to dance.

5. “Give Yourself A Try”, The 1975

The Coffeetographer I am sure would not exist if it wasn’t for my dad. It might still be an idea, scribble on a napkin at work, possibly framed into a keepsake of an idea that once was. Thankfully, smdlr, as it was called in 2011 was born. Thankfully I took my dad’s advice, switched its name to The Coffeetographer and developed a webzine and a living brand from it. Thankfully, I remember his words then, today, “you don’ know what you can do, until you do it. But, you already thought it, so it’s done.” I am extremely grateful for a diet of Les Brown, the bible, my parents record collections and my dad’s imagination for all of it got me here and it’s what I still lean on.

6. “I Like Me Better”, Lauv

For all the barista(s) I’ve had a crush on. And, for the one that used to make me coffee every morning in New York City. Thank you for showing me what a barista could be. 

7. “Coffee”, 2016,

Miguel discusses coffee in the morning. While it is a preferred time for many, I’ll have it then, in the afternoon and even at night. Before I started making copious amounts of pour over’s at home, due to the pandemic, it was rare to get a great coffee at night. Most coffee shops close before dark and before a night cappuccino could be secured. Thankfully, I can have coffee before and after I dream now.

8. “Sylvan Esso”, Coffee, 2014

This open was unforgettable in 2014. It played and hooked me and so many airwaves of not only coffee shops but the culture at large. It played in a lot of coffee competitions to follow; I have the documentation to prove it. Their ‘Coffee’ brilliantly sums up the dichotomy of the comfort that coffee is in name and temperature, for this woman who became a bi-coastal dweller – New York and Los Angeles – while managing this webzine.

9. “Didn’t I”, One Republic, 2020

This melody is like a good cry.  I’ve made a lot of memories in coffee shops. It is why I will say this, don’t make memories in coffee shops that you don’t want to remember. Memories often last longer than the time it takes for an independent coffee to shop to close, which happens often but sometimes not as quick as you might want to forget what happened inside one.

10. “Coffee Bean“, Travis Scott, 2018

Coffee is sexy. Now pair that thought with a song by Travis Scott that plays on the noun, coffee bean and at the same time is a play on the brand ‘The Coffee Bean’, then we have a dual story being told. This song is a story, accessible by any who’ve loved another and that loved has been challenged. Early on in my quest for a good coffee -after making a cup of Folgers in college from my dad’s stash and hating it – I was a regular at Coffee Bean, foam and everything. I laugh, I love my history. I was in search of something real to drink. I had no idea what rabbit hole I’d soon fall into. Good coffee is good news. Bad coffee is bad news, periodt! That’s a quote.

11. “Best Part“, Daniel Cesar Feat H.E.R. 2017

The best part of coffee is simply, coffee. When coffee is enjoyable and also incites functionality it’s the best part. As much as coffee is a fruit, it is also a character. This song sums up my adventure with coffee. Once I tasted something brilliant, I couldn’t stop, won’t stop the search for more of it.  Beyond the hype, Gugi and Gesha coffees have been my coffee stars.

12. ”Beautiful Crazy”, Live Luke Combs + Leon Bridges, 2018

Coffee dates have been a hallmark of being The Coffeetographer. However, I had to learn to not schedule anything too soon after a coffee date. The great ones always go longer than planned. But when that coffee is good, I’ve been told my eyes light up: the soul knows.

 13. “Say a Little Prayer”, Aretha Franklin, 1968

She’s the queen of soul. Whatever the queen has to say or sing about coffee, I’m all ears and all heart. Once upon a time I only had coffee on a corporate coffee break. Bless the coffee break, bless the land of Ethiopia, and bless the hands that make coffee, forever and ever.