The first article I ever wrote for WKNC was a review of Phoebe Bridgers’ album “Punisher”. As of September 2021, I have two tattoos inspired by her songs. All my friends could tell you that I’m obsessed with Phoebe’s music. So let’s just say that seeing her in concert in Charlotte on Sept. 19, 2021 was kind of a dream come true.
This playlist is the third playlist from my “Local Coffeeshop Soundtrack” series. I feel emotional making a playlist inspired by Cup A Joe because it’s the first coffee shop I went to when I moved to Raleigh, NC. Cup A Joe is a coffeehouse and coffee roaster located on Hillsborough Street. They offer coffee, hot beverages, smoothies and sweet treats. They sell their own coffee beans — the slogan on their merch even says “don’t forget your coffee beans”— and they’re also known for supporting local artists. The very first Cup A Joe opened in Greensboro, NC in 1994, and you can tell the Hillsborough one also has an old-school vibe just by looking at its interior design. Brown tiles, retro coffee machine, Elvis Presley photographs and 7” vinyls on the walls: the smallest details inside this place personify the ’50s and ’60s.
The first thing that came to mind when making this playlist was “I need to include at least one song by Elvis Presley to honor the decorations on their wall”, and I did. The second thing that came to mind is that Cup A Joe has both old-school and chill vibes, so the songs need to render exactly those. Here are five tracks that best illustrate this coffee shop, with 50’s blues for the vintage sounds, neo-soul and nu-jazz for the lounge atmosphere, and chill rap to give it a modern touch. You can find the full playlist here.
“Hell N Back” by Bakar
Bakar‘s “Will You Be My Yellow?” is a smooth and groovy EP released in 2019. The British singer, songwriter and model wrote exclusively about relationships on this record — “both thriving and failing” relationships. “Hell N Back” has become a classic alternative jazzy song in my eyes. As poetic and sweet as this track is meant to be, I crack up every time I listen to Bakar sings “She had green eyes like Mountain Dew” — but the poetry in “Me and you went to hell and back just to find peace” balances it out.
“I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James
The rhythm’n’blues queen released “I’d Rather Go Blind” in 1968 after dealing with drug addiction and several abusive romantic relationships. Given her level of fame now, you’d never guess she had a hard time staying at the top of music charts back then because of her personal issues. “I’d Rather Go Blind” is a pretty self-explanatory title: Etta can’t stand to look at her love interest being with another woman. The sad girl/hopeless romantic in me thought including a blues song like this one would fit Cup A Joe’s atmosphere pretty well.
“Eugene” by Arlo Parks
Speaking of songs about unrequited love, “Eugene” is a sweet queer love song (or should I say, unrequited love song) about Arlo “half falling in love” with her straight female childhood friend, who’s in a relationship with — you guessed it — Eugene. Despite its heartbreaking topic, I find this song very soothing. Arlo Parks’ official bio describes her style as “indie-pop”, but I’d personally describe it as a mix of neo-folk and neo-soul. Her album “Collapsed In Sunbeams” was released in 2021 and was critically acclaimed: it was nominated as Album of the Year, Best New Artist and Best British Female Solo Artist at the 2021 Brit Awards. Even though I don’t believe that awards and prizes define the quality of an artist’s work, she really does deserve all these nominations.
“Ring Master” by Mattari
Mattari is a nu-jazz producer from London, UK. the only description I could find about their work in their Spotify and Bandcamp’s bios is “Chilled Beats – Horns – Grooves” and it sums up their style pretty well. “Ring Master” is a nu-jazz instrumental song released a single in 2020 and it sounds like your typical relaxing coffee shop tune.
“Mi Casa” by Kota The Friend
In addition to being naturally talented, Kota The Friend is also a very prolific rapper. He releases one album per year and saying that each one is good would be an understatement. “Mi Casa” is taken from his 2020 album “EVERYTHING”, a record with touching lyrics and chill vibes. By touching, I mean that the lyrics in this song are all about him celebrating his success, being humble about it and holding on to his inner peace. Very wholesome content for a rap song, if you ask me.
— Lise Nox
I’ve recently started making playlists inspired by all the coffee shops I go to in Raleigh, NC. This one is dedicated to Sir Walter Coffee. Sir Walter Coffee is a coffee shop located in Downtown Raleigh that serves coffee, tea and cocktails offered with or without alcohol. I’m used to going there mostly in the late afternoon and at night. Before one of my friends asked me to hang out there and do homework one night, I had never heard of a coffee shop that closes at 12 a.m. It only applies to Fridays and Saturdays, but still. I usually go there with a friend on Friday nights to catch up on everything we’ve been up to during the week, and the oat latte we order at 5 p.m. turns into a glass of wine around 8:30 p.m.
The music that plays at Sir Walter Coffee is often…random. Not in a bad way, but in a way that makes you ask, “Wait, they’re playing rock ‘n roll now?” after they’ve played Soundcloud electronica music for an hour. It’s at best funny, at worst a little confusing, but if I genuinely didn’t like the music that plays there, I wouldn’t be making this playlist. I’ve decided to compile my own version of their late-night playlist, featuring neo-soul, chill electronica and French indietronica. Here are five songs that illustrate their electronic playlist (when they decide they’re in the mood for this genre) most accurately. You can listen to the full Sir Walter Coffee playlist I made here.
“Fatal Fantasies” by Gold Fir
The mysterious duo from London released their EP “Prelude” in 2019 and “Fatal Fantasies” is the first song on it. Its afrobeats percussions and dark neo-soul vibes make the erotic lyrics come to life flawlessly. This song has me completely hooked and I’ve been listening to it on repeat, to the point where I think it’s going to make it to my Spotify 2021 Wrapped. I just know it.
“PATTERNS” by NASAYA Feat. Sara Diamond
NASAYA is a young French producer from the Reunion Island and he takes inspiration from a vast spectrum of genres. “PATTERNS” is a rhythmic yet heartbreaking electronic collaboration with vocalist Sara Diamond. I still can’t tell if this song is more on the sad side or the chill side of things, but it reflects perfectly the kind of electronic music that plays in the late afternoon/early evening at Sir Walter. The drop is slow enough to fit the mood of the song, but dynamic enough to release perfectly all the tension built up in the first minute of the song.
“quand j’entends les gens” by Mélodie Lauret
I discovered Mélodie Lauret a while back at a live session of one of my favorite French podcasts, “À Bientôt de te Revoir” (a French neologism made up by the host’s grandma which means “see you soon”). Mélodie played this song live with just her synthesizer and her computer, and she was so good that I looked her up on Spotify the very same night. I would describe her style as typical French indietronica: addictive beat, mellow voice and obscure yet poetic lyrics. All you’d ever want to hear when you’re drinking wine at a coffee shop at 8 p.m.
“One Evening” by Blank & Jones Feat. Zoe Durrant
Another electronic beat, another collaboration with a female singer, another song with romantic lyrics. I know, not really surprising. The difference between Blank & Jones and the rest of the artists mentioned above is that 1) they’re German producers 2) their style is more Ambient and Lounge. Every single one of their songs has a powerful relaxing effect. This song in particular is about the first encounter between the narrator and a stranger one night, and I love the mysterious story hidden in the lyrics.
“Toi Et Moi” by Paradis
Paradis is a French music duo consisting of Simon Mény and Pierre Rousseau. Their album “Recto Verso” was released in 2016, but its sounds and lyrics are so cohesive with the current French indietronica scene that I can’t help but think that they’re literal visionaries. You guessed it, the lyrics are poetic, the melodic beat is on point and the overall vibe is sensual and romantic. As it should be.
If there’s one thing I love doing around Raleigh, NC, it’s going to coffeeshops alone to drink good tea or coffee. Even if I usually wear my earphones to focus on what I’m reading or working on, if good music is playing, there’s a great chance my drink is going to taste better. I can’t help it. I’m just sensitive to the music playing around me. Since I’m that sensitive, I thought it’d be fun to make playlists inspired by the music I hear at every coffeeshop I go to just to recreate their atmosphere — starting with Heirloom.
Heirloom is a cute Taiwanese and Laotian café in Downtown Raleigh that serves amazing tea and vegan mochi donuts. Their playlist mostly revolves around new electronic music and indie stuff. I don’t really listen to electronic music anymore, though I used to dig this genre a lot on Soundcloud a few years ago. The thing is, every time I go to Heirloom, the music mesmerizes my brain and I can’t help Shazaming every song that comes on. The music always plays louder in the bathroom, so in case you want to Shazam a song while you’re there, you know where to go. Here are five songs that illustrate their playlist most accurately. You can listen to the full Heirloom playlist I made here.
“All In Me” by Jerry Folk
This is one of the first songs I ever Shazamed when I went to Heirloom. Jerry Folk is known for his hypnotizing and chill electronic songs, often accompanied by a female voice. The intro takes some time to build up the general atmosphere of the song, and once you get to the “chorus”, it gets addictive. I’m always so impressed by electronic music producers that can make you feel so many things with so little lyrics.
“No More Love Songs” by Harrison Brome and Pomo (FCC: explicit language)
I would describe this song as sweet, slow and electronic R&B. It’s the perfect balance between the amazing work of producer Pomo and Harrison Brome’s soothing voice. Just add to that romantic lyrics and you get your perfect indie-electronic love song (quite ironic, given the title).
“Winter In Tokyo” by Kazam
Speaking of artists who make you feel things without lyrics, Kazam is one of them. Each song by this young French lo-fi producer makes me feel like I’m floating on a cloud. The instruments he uses closely resemble traditional Japanese music. The mix between traditional Japanese instruments and his own is what makes his music so unique and I’m obsessed.
“Tied Up” by LEISURE
Another song I’ve Shazamed at Heirloom before. It’s indie, alternative, pop, a little R&B, a little electronic — genres are too confusing for me to put a label on LEISURE, because they truly do it all. All you need to know is that this song is both sensual and uplifting, and its enchanting aura is addictive.
“All Yours” by APRE
Soapy cheesy romantic lyrics are the best lyrics, but they’re even better when they’re written for good alternative indie songs. “All Yours” is one of them. The repetitive notes played on the synthesizer are in perfect harmony with the bass and the drums, and it really makes for a catchy 90’s inspired love song.
— Lise Nox
ALBUM: “breathe” by Tiny Moving Parts
RELEASE YEAR: 2019
LABEL: Hopeless Records
RATING /10: 8
BEST TRACKS: “Medicine”, “Vertebrae” and “Soft Spot”
FCC: explicit language
Tiny Moving Parts’ album “breathe” was released in September 2019 and it has become a classic Midwest emo album in my eyes ever since. The band’s style is a blend of math rock, emo and pop-punk, and it’s moving further away from typical Midwest emo with each album. The cathartic release found in their previous albums “Swell” (2018) or “Pleasant Living” (2014) is still at the core of their song-writing, but this time with the “mindset to keep powering through”. Lead singer Dylan Mattheisen’s experimental screaming mixed with his emotional singing, the insanely good guitar riffs and the powerful drums rhythms: everything about this record makes for a refreshing dose of Midwest punk music. Dylan is scared of death, struggles with anxiety and heartbreak all at once — and each of his personal struggle is reflected in his lyrics. The title of this album couldn’t have been more on point. Sometimes, his breathlessness is a metaphor for drifting apart from his lover: “I tried to breathe in our love / Ended up coughing blood” (“Vertebrae”). When he’s not having his heart broken, he’s asking his lover to become one with him: “Let’s breathe each other in.” (“Soft Spot”)
Dylan feeling powerless in his own body is another recurring theme through the album. In “Medicine”, the most famous single off the album, he sings: “I swear my legs, they function / But I’m assembled to crawl”, which is similar to the lyrics in “Vertebrae”: “My trembling vertebrae is bound to snap / Never helped me stand up straight”. In “Bloody Nose”, he describes a scene where his nose starts bleeding in the shower, and he thinks he’s about to die. I know, not the happiest song you could ever think of, but I promise the album is not as dark as it seems. “All I could think, my insides gave up, they’re ready to go / I’m not ready to go I wanna live forever, I’m not ready to go”. You’d have to be very scared of your own mortality and fragility as a human being to jump directly to the conclusion that a bloody nose means imminent death, but I’m absolutely not here to judge. As powerless as Dylan feels most of the time, he wishes to be saved as much as he wishes to be loved. When he sings “I can’t do this alone / Someone please open the door” in “Icicles (Morning Glow)”, or “I want to exist in your heart just a little bit” in “The Midwest Sky”, you can tell that his screams perfectly mirror his hurt and confused internal state. What I like about this album is that it recounts very accurately the duality of mental health struggles, which affect equally both the mind and the body.
The only breath of fresh air that Dylan can truly hope to access is through nature: “I want to seek some unforeseen color / Please get me outside with sunlight / Reflecting off a waterfall” (“Medicine“), but sometimes even nature won’t cooperate: “I want to jump off of this bridge / Headfirst into the water and swim / But this lake is clearly frozen” (“Vertebrae”). There are many references to the tundra and to Midwest on the album — the first song on the album is literally called “The Midwest Sky” — and they seem to be at the core of Dylan’s inspirations. I like that the band is taking their Midwest origins so seriously and turning them into poetic metaphors that make for very inspiring lyrics.
Dylan’s vulnerability when it comes to his mental health struggles is just another example of why I’ve always found comfort in emo and punk music in general, because the song-writing is often so raw, vulnerable and dark, no matter the exact genre or melody. As someone who used to struggle with mental illness a lot, I relate to this album on a very deep emotional level. “breathe” is already a classic in my eyes, and I’m glad the band was able to sign to Hopeless Records (one of my favorite pop-punk labels) in 2019 to make this album. Tiny Moving Parts were supposed to play at Cat’s Cradle on Mar. 25, 2021 in Raleigh — needless to say that I can’t wait for venues to reopen, so I can see them play the album live.
— Lise Nox
As I was looking for indie French bops to bump on those hot, sunny Spring days ahead of us, I realized there are so many indie French artists who are not getting enough international recognition. So there you go: here’s a list of French artists you should be listening to this Spring and keeping an eye out for in the coming months! You can find them all in this Spotify playlist I’ve made recently.
“Bleu ou vert” by BARON.E
The French duet “BARON.E” released their EP “Jeunesse Dorée” (“Golden Youth”) in 2020 and it’s one of the best musical discoveries I’ve made in the last few months. “Bleu ou vert” literally fits so well the happy mood that sunny days get me in, so I couldn’t resist sharing this song with you. It’s just too good.
“Été 90” by Thérapie Taxi
Bad news: Thérapie Taxi broke up a few months ago. Good news: the duet just released an EP to say goodbye to their fans before they continue their careers separately, and they have a tour planned post-COVID to say goodbye to their fans. “Été 90” (“Summer 90”) is going to be my official Spring and Summer 2021 anthem, in their memory. Long live Adélaïde and Raphaël.
“Feux ” by Poupie Feat. Jul
I am addicted to the chorus of this song and I’m listening to it so much it’s becoming alarming. That’s it. That’s the review. In all seriousness, the song was first released by Poupie singing alone, and Jul collaborated on a new version with her when it was time to work on her EP. I never thought I’d like Jul’s voice that much — he heavily relies on autotune and I usually HATE it — but I guess I do now.
“Étrange Mélange” by Claire Laffut
Claire Laffut’s voice is really sensual in this one. This song is perfect for relaxing sunny days. The lyrics are somewhat dark and mysterious but the overall mood really screams “sunny summer vibes” and I love it. 10/10 recommend to listen to while you’re soaking up the sun.
“Le temps est bon” by Bon Entendeur
This song has become so famous and mainstream in France that I feel weird recommending it to anyone, but I don’t think it’s well-known in the US, so I thought I’d include it just to make sure no one’s missing out on this absolute hit. It’s a remix of Isabelle Pierre’s song “Le temps est bon” from 1972. Bold move, but the result honors the original version perfectly.
— Lise Nox