Title Bout: Coffee

What’s your favorite style of America’s favorite beverage? For me, it’s gotta be a Wells Fargo kitchenette French Roast with two packets of liquid hazelnut creamer. Magnifico! I wouldn’t have it any other way. (Okay, yes I would. I would have something mocha-y whipped up at Caribou, but only with Laura behind the counter. And those days are gone.)

Here are the two tunes in my wheelhouse that take “Coffee” for a name.

Aesop Rock (2007)

This first serving is one to give you that espresso energy. It combines two returning contenders: Aesop Rock assisted by John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats. The chunky chorus has the weird wordplay you have to parse for meaning, including the pleasant puzzler “we just want our hermitry to stay and our coffee to go.” In short order it’s time for the verses, which is where the fun really begins. I had to look up the lyrics, but just clicking into the flow is enough to enjoy this tune. There’s not a lot of coffee-specific stuff going on here, but there are some gems like “you got to answer to you at the end of the volatile day” and “just ’cause I don’t wanna war with you/ doesn’t mean go warm up the barbecue.” The end of the second string of verses does amuslingly conclude with a quick coffee order, epithet, and blessing. Then there’s the breakdown of T-A-K-E-N-O-P-R-I-S-O-N-E-R-S, while the carpet is rolled out for Mr. Darnielle. His chanting rhythms bring to life a creepy scene that features one particular gun from The Mountain Goats’ mainstay “Going to Georgia,” and the whole collaboration really works. Yet there is a lack of brown beverage in John’s lines here, to my dismay.

Sylvan Esso (2014)

Sylvan Esso’s tune is more of an ascent from grogginess to waking up, when the coffee is more useful as a smell and a warmth. “Rock me in your arms” is an early refrain that leads into an easy beat set to “get up, get down.” These highs and lows mimic the way coffee treats the brain throughout the day. The smooth and almost tentative vocals overlay the odds and ends of the song’s sounds, until the killer lines: “wild winters, warm coffee” and “blazing summer, cold coffee.” (And the intervening “do you love me?” has become a standard baby-talk phrase around our house.) The song circles back to its catchy, easygoing chorus, allowing you to drift on a light buzz. You don’t know whether to dance or to ease back into repose, which is kind of the magic here. An understated hit of 2014, this track is representative of everything that makes Sylvan Esso interesting, such as the bridge of “my baby does the hanky-panky” which seems out of place right up until it seems to fit just right. Its warm haze splits the difference of the spring we find ourselves in, recalling the extremes of the more dramatic seasons.

Winner: Sylvan Esso, regardless of the month. It’s such a great modern ditty that touches on the taste and smell memories that coffee can conjure. The Aesop Rock song is a solid selection but just has too few lines about the drink. Both videos are worth checking out, though: one features feel-good dancing while the other is a low-budget horror flick. Cheers to the caffeinated catchiness all around.

I’m taking a break from the sketch photo pattern so I can promote my favorite mug, which combines the two blissful creations of music and coffee:


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