Perk up with these coffee shop playlists

Jam to classic tunes while enjoying the Classic Cappuccino at Morning Times in downtown Raleigh.Taylor Shaw

There’s more to those beats than just head-bobbing. Music has long been touted as inspo for creativity … according to a bajillion studies — like this one noted by Reuters at the end of last year: “Listening to happy music while working may spark the kind of divergent thinking that’s associated with creativity and problem-solving, a recent study in the Netherlands suggests.” In the era of remote working (or studying … or writing the next great American novel … or banging out the best biz deal), the coffeehouse is your creative-thinking concert for solo and collab.

And if you’re just looking to relax, a cup a joe with a side of soundtrack may too be just what the doctor ordered. Music is good for the soul — helping to ameliorate stress, anxiety and even depression.

To wit, we rounded up sounds from hot java spots around town to get the spin on where best to perk up and settle down.

Sola | @solacoffee

Welcoming and airy, this laid-back family-owned shop with an Australian/West Coast vibe pushes play a range of oldies, reggae, alternative, Motown and more. “Depending on the day, we strive for different types of moods,” says Sola’s Sally Luther. “Mornings — due to a quieter and older crowd — we would aim for softer tunes. As we move throughout the day and the crowds and conversation picks up, so does our music.”

Thus, the playlists vary by day and time. “We love the oldies, stations such as Fleetwood Mac, Louis Armstrong, Otis Redding, America, to name a few.”

Looking for Motown? Hit up sola on Mondays. Reggae? Well, the fix is in on Reggae Thursdays. And if classics are your thing, “Saturdays are generally classic,” says Luther. “We love our music to create an atmosphere that cultivates conversation.”

We’re thinking sipping the maple cinnamon latte with made-in-house syrup ($4-$5) on Motown Monday sounds like the cure for Monday blues.

Cocoa Cinnamon | @cocoacinnamon

Now with three locations, Cocoa Cinnamon’s first perk shop on Geer Street is unique from its brethren via a purposefully crafted playlist to complement the communal living room vibe. Dotted with comfy couches and bartops, the shop offers “a sense of travel and exploration throughout,” says co-owner Areli Barrera, “with a pretty low-key SZA or Anderson .Paak vibe.”

The Coffee Vibes playlist includes deep house, funk and soul, Italo disco, international, new wave, cumbia, bossa nova, jazz, global bass, Baile funk, Soulection… etc. “People can follow us on Spotify via username ‘clubcocoa,'” says Barrera. “On nice sunny days, we try to keep the genre fluctuating throughout the day and are always trying to make the vibe feel like you are sitting by a pool soaking in the sunshine and interjecting a pop of foreign landscape.” #YAAS.

Our pick? Channeling those vibes and copping a spot outside with an Iced Natural Ethiopian Pour Over (12 ounces for $4) for its juicy notes of watermelon, strawberry, green apple and fig with a chocolatey finish. Perfect for impending warmer weather.

The Morning Times | @themorningtimes

DTR’s go-to coffeehouse for everything from meeting, working, dating, creating and more is the quintessential neighborhood cafe. Reflecting that vibe is a Pandora Business soundtrack spinning everything from Frank Ocean to Mulatu Astatke, with a morning vibe of smooth jazz a la Otis Redding and Beach Fossils to a nighttime pick-me-up range from Moody Synth, R&B/Soul to upbeat ’90s rock.

Classic meets classic with the classic cappuccino ($3.50), in your hand as you are propped anywhere from the patio to the entry windows to the large upstairs seating area.

Open Eye Cafe

Dubbed “Carrboro’s Living Room,” this spot offers an eclectic mix of upbeat and chilled with inspired environs for work or collab; date-night desserts; or a relaxing coffee, wine or beer. Complementing the arty, funky, comfy living room vibe is a set of soulful selections that vary by barista.

“More upbeat in the morning with soul and early rock sounds,” says the cafe’s Michelle M. Temple. “Weekends you’ll hear some ’80s jams (think Fleetwood Mac and Joan Jett). You’ll hear some indie, bluegrass, etc., in the daytime and a variety of really cool ambient instrumental sounds at [night].”

Our pick? The Nitro Cold Brew (6 ounces for $2.25; 12 ounces for $4.50). Made in-house, the cold brew is “poured through a nitro keg system to impart a very smooth yet bold coffee with a delicate, almost creamy, mouth feel,” explains Temple. Hello, summer!

Jubala | @jubalacoffee

Preferring full albums to playlists, music stylings at Jubala — a prime perk spot for dates and hangouts — vary. “We use Spotify to stream all the music played in the shop,” says manager Brian Franklin. “Rather than playlists, we usually will play full albums queued up by the baristas working in the front.” Genres vary wildly, featuring everything from ’80s post-punk to soul/R&B to instrumental hip-hop … and mellow in the morning, picking up as the day winds down. “We are simply trying to create an environment where it’s fun for people to come in, catch up with friends and enjoy quality products in a comfortable, fun space,” he adds.

Some albums you might hear include Mazzy Star, “So Tonight That I Might See”; Television, “Marquee Moon”; SZA, “CTRL”; Rihanna, “Anti” and more.

Our rec? Grab a Cortado ($3.25) — the perfect balance of espresso and steamed milk — and settle in.



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