What would YOU want to hear in a coffee shop?
May 25, 2010 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Tell me your favorite compilation albums! The more eclectic, the better! The catch: I want to play them at the coffee shop where I work, so they can't be too loud or have any cursing in them...

We can finally play our own music at work, and THANK GOD for that, because the corporate playlist was the same every day... but now that I can play my own music, I'm realizing that it's actually really hard to come up with a different seven-hour playlist every day. I'm working on sorting out the appropriate music from my library, but in the mean time I've mostly been playing some compilation CDs I bought on emusic: Dark Was The Night, No Depression, and Blues Guitar Masters. And when I'm sick of those, I put on this massive six-hour classical album.

These have all been working out great, and I found a few new good bands this way too, but now (after three weeks) I'm kinda sick of them already. I keep defaulting to the classical music because I basically know every word to the rest of them already. So now I want more, more, more.

My tastes are pretty roots-rock-y (or, as my coworker put it, "Why do you only listen to depressing country music?"), but I'll listen to literally anything- give me polka, big band, Chinese hip-hop, whatever. It just has to be something that could potentially be ignored by a person who was trying to study (so, like, no Of Montreal), and also (by corporate decree) it can't have swearing in it. Of course if a great album has one sweary song, I can just uncheck it, but I'd prefer not to have to bother.

Hit me!
posted by showbiz_liz to Media & Arts (44 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Google "Hello Young World" volume 2 -- it's a few years old (and was a free download at one time). It's my go-to compilation.
posted by kidelo at 10:46 AM on May 25, 2010

Have you tried the Putumayo albums? Every kind of World music you've never heard. As far as I know, it's all corporate-friendly.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:51 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Good times compilations are good...I've only heard 1&2 though...looks like they're up to 7 so dunno about those.
posted by Not Supplied at 10:52 AM on May 25, 2010

Nuggets and Nuggets II: two four volume collections of mostly little known psychedelic pop and rock records from the mid to late 60s. Not too loud compared to modern recordings and no cursing that I can remember. Great stuff.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:53 AM on May 25, 2010

Saint Etienne have put out three great comps. Though perhaps best known for their dance-pop cover of Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart," keyboardist/producer Bob Stanley has had a long parallel career as a music journalist. The three albums are really well-conceived:

Saint Etienne Presents: Songs for The Dog & Duck

Songs for Mario's Cafe

The Trip: Created by Saint Etienne

Lots of great sixties sounds and soul classics. Great albums, love 'em all. You might just take a peek at the tracklistings even if you don't buy.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:59 AM on May 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

the new 7 Worlds Collide album, maybe? It's a collective headed up by Neil Finn with about a dozen or so musicians (incl. Jeff Tweedy, Johnny Marr, Lisa Germano, and others), all doing their own original material, so it has the feel of being a compilation album even though it was produced in the same series of sessions. (I don't think, offhand, that there's any cursing in it.)

I really like the Left of the Dial set, though not all of the songs will meet the "ignorable" and/or "no cursing" criteria. There's a single disc sampler, too.
posted by scody at 11:07 AM on May 25, 2010

"American Primitive", "The Friends of Charlie Patton", and the "Anthology of American Folk Music".

Dust-to-Digital and Tompkins Square have also put out some great compilations (I'd start with "Imaginational Anthem" and - if gospel won't be a problem - "Goodbye, Babylon".) Also, download Takoma Records' long out-of-print "Contemporary Guitar, Spring '67".
posted by ryanshepard at 11:10 AM on May 25, 2010

Rhino Records has a series of albums called "Rock Instrumental Classics." I only have the '60s one, but it's so good I would readily buy any of the others. If you go to that Amazon link you'll see others in the series under "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought." Some of them are decades, and some are genres (soul, surf).
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:12 AM on May 25, 2010

Hitsville USA, Vol. 1: The Motown Singles Collection 1959-1971. (Volume 2 has some good early '70s stuff but tails off pretty quickly.)
The Complete Stax-Volt Singles 1959-1968
Atlantic Rhythm & Blues 1947-1974
posted by kirkaracha at 11:16 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have heard and enjoyed the David Byrne and Fatboy Slim curated tribute to Imelda Marcos in coffee shops. Lots of lovely voices, no cursing.
posted by *s at 11:16 AM on May 25, 2010

A bit dated, but back when he hosted Late Night, Conan O'Brien put out a great album of live performances called "Live from Studio 6A." It's a good range of musicians from 311 to Ani DiFranco and since it's from network TV there's no cursing.
posted by chrisulonic at 11:17 AM on May 25, 2010

I know the lounge fad has come and gone, but I still love these. They're my go-to SFW compilations. (Since just about everything else I like is very NSFW.)
posted by JoanArkham at 11:18 AM on May 25, 2010

There's a hell of a lot of buzz right now around Lagos Disco Inferno, a new comp of disco music from Lagos in the early 1970s. The tunes I've heard [short sample mp3s from Academy LPs: Grotto, "Bad City Girl;" Pogo LTD, "Don't Put Me Down;" Asiko Rock Group, "Everybody Get Down;" MFB, "Boredom Pain;" Nana Love (that's her on the cover), "Hang On"] include some really brilliant, stonking stuff. Unfortunately it might be tough to get this on anything but vinyl, since it was just released in a mostly-vinyl pressing a week and a half ago and many outlets seem to be sold out, but I'll bet you could get a CD copy from the main distributor if you wanted to.

This would fit great at a coffee shop, I think – just lively enough to be lots of fun, but something you could turn down if you needed it to be more ambient.
posted by koeselitz at 11:20 AM on May 25, 2010

The soundtrack to Until the End of the World would be perfect coffee shop music.
posted by something something at 11:34 AM on May 25, 2010

Seconding Until The End of The World. Also, Steely Dan has a great vibe to play in public places. My absolute favorite is my big New Orleans playlist. Just go on Amazon and search for New Orleans -jazz. If the title mentions a party, so much the better. No bad language on any of this.

As for Lagos Disco Inferno, I have over 2gb of mp3s downloaded from the guy who compiled that set. Those come packaged as one hour long tracks and one of them is called Lagos Disco Inferno but the track list is different from the album. Very occasionally there may be some bad language but mostly the singing isn't in English so 99.95% pure. 100% funky.

I've got a pile of mp3 discs that I have made for work over the years. If you memail me I'll mail them to you. They're normalized and everything.
posted by irisclara at 12:29 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sub Pop 100: the first sub pop compilation, featuring odd tracks by Steve Fisk, Skinny Puppy, the U-Men, Scratch Acid, and nary a grunge band in sight.
posted by googly at 12:36 PM on May 25, 2010

I notice no one has mentioned the Verve Remixed Series. It's compilations of great old Soul and Funk songs, reworked by contemporary DJs and Producers. This kind of sounds like "asshole kids killing the classics" but in fact they do a pretty good job of maintaining the original spirit and energy of the songs.

Another electronic compilation series that's not bad is the FabricLive series. Though these can be kind of hit-and-miss.
posted by tuck_nroll at 1:06 PM on May 25, 2010

David Byrne's Luaka Bop label has some great stuff:

Brazil Classics, Vol. 1: Beleza Tropical
Afro-Peruvian Classics: The Soul of Black Peru
Cuisine Non-Stop: Introduction to the French Nouvelle Generation

I"m a big fan of the compilations put out by the Soul Jazz Records label.

Tropicalia:A Brazilian Revolution in Sound
Brazil 70: After Tropicalia: New Directions in Brazilian Music

...and you can't really go wrong with their soul and funk compilations, and their focus on the Studio One label.
posted by hydrophonic at 1:06 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

History of Trojan Records, volume 1 and volume 2
posted by wherever, whatever at 1:09 PM on May 25, 2010

The soundtracks to every Wes Anderson film.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 1:20 PM on May 25, 2010

I'm not really familiar with, but love the idea of, the DJ Kicks series and also the Back to Mine series.

Ugh, I need to stop hitting Post Comment when I pause my thinking.
posted by knile at 1:31 PM on May 25, 2010

From the weird and wonderful oldies department, which even if they're weird or raunchy, sound socially acceptable in a coffee shop.

Victrola Favorites is as eclectic as you can get - everything from Chinese vaudeville routines to African gospel.

Stars of the Apollo is a classic comp of R&B oriented Jazz, starting with Bessie Smith and ending with Aretha, but taking a lot of crazy detours yet someone keeping a steady vibe going. It's on eMusic too.

My favorite Western Swing comp, Okeh Western Swing, is both jazzy and rocking enough to get a pass from everything-but-country types.
posted by bendybendy at 1:45 PM on May 25, 2010

I love the Paste Magazine New Music Samplers. You can find some used ones on Amazon for cheap, or you can subscribe to the digital version of Paste for 99 cents/month which includes a Sampler download.
posted by donnagirl at 2:01 PM on May 25, 2010

Succour is a fantastic compilation of modern psychedelic music.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:15 PM on May 25, 2010

I highly recommend the Ethiopiques series. Late 60's - early 70's music from Ethiopia.
posted by Miss Otis' Egrets at 3:00 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding Lagos Disco Inferno, and thrilled that koeselitz already mentioned it. I'll throw in the Soundway Nigeria comps while I'm at it.
posted by box at 3:12 PM on May 25, 2010

And there are about a million Ultimate Beats and Breaks and Dusty Fingers comps, and they're all pretty good or better.
posted by box at 3:14 PM on May 25, 2010

There are some great Numero (I especially like the Gospel Funk ones) and Mississippi Records comps, too. Ooh, and the John-Fahey-created American Primitive comps, and Goodbye Babylon and People Take Warning, and, well, that's a good start.
posted by box at 3:18 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can't recommend David Holmes' Cherrystones: Hidden Charms collection enough. If amazing, obscure psych-rock is your thing.
posted by Ian.I.Am at 3:52 PM on May 25, 2010

knile: “I'm not really familiar with, but love the idea of, the DJ Kicks series... ”

It's indeed a great series, worth checking out. And if you want a starting point, my absolute favorite is the Henrik Schwarz one; guy's brilliant, and he does some really nice, woody, organic stuff – world music, jazz, and soul stuff are penchants of his – that probably would fit nicely in a coffee shop, actually.
posted by koeselitz at 4:01 PM on May 25, 2010

As said above, Putumayo put out some very good discs. And they're themed, which is nice (World Lounge is one of my favorites).
posted by Lexica at 5:58 PM on May 25, 2010

The soundtrack album for 'I'm Not There' (Todd Haynes movie about Bob Dylan) is really good. It's all Bob Dylan songs, but done by different artists who put their own spin on them.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 8:25 PM on May 25, 2010

Nuggets and Nuggets II have already been mentioned, but I also liked Rhino's The Brit Box.
posted by rfs at 8:37 PM on May 25, 2010

nthing the 'Until the End of the World' soundtrack. Just amazing how the songs on that compilation work together.

Landmark Theaters puts out music sampler discs, free for the asking (at least they use to; haven't been there in awhile). They're not bad, usually a sprinkling of established artists with newcomers. And hey, free.
posted by Bron at 9:15 PM on May 25, 2010

Inflight Entertainment if you can find it http://www.whatrecords.co.uk/items/34273.htm, tounge-cheek lounge-y stuff. Marvelous
posted by fatfrank at 6:14 AM on May 26, 2010

Damn it, tongue-in-cheek
posted by fatfrank at 6:15 AM on May 26, 2010

I have a similar situation at work, this is what i've found to work well.

DJ Kicks series is pretty sweet (what i've heard at least, Four Tet's is fantastic.) It's more on the electronica side.

You can get the Complete Stax-Volt Singles. It's three massive 9 disc each box sets but it's pretty fantasic. The first one is the best - 1959-1968. I just throw it into the playlist one disc at a time and everybody basically loves it (how could you not?)

There's a really good and also pretty massive collection of African music called Africa 100 that is really good too and worth checking out even if you don't think you like African music.
posted by saul wright at 9:15 AM on May 26, 2010

Seconding the Soul of Black Peru & Ethiopiques.

Also, for eclectic: A Tribute to Kurt Weil You might want to uncheck a song or two, but it's a good and varied collection.

Not so eclectic, but great for coffeeshop vibes, and 4 disks long to boot: When the Sun Goes Down. It's a nice collection of older blues.
posted by aka burlap at 10:22 AM on May 26, 2010

When I worked in a coffee shop, the Back to Mine and DJ Kicks compilations mentioned above were invaluable. Another good electronic-y compilation is "children's music for adults," which is great studying music.

The Paste Magazine samplers will probably also be right up your alley. You could also try downloading songs from Daytrotter and making your own mixes. A little more work, but definitely fun work.

One other suggestion: ask your regulars to make you mix cds. If your coffee shop is at all community oriented, people will be delighted to feel like they belong and can contribute to the environment of a place they enjoy, and may bring you great music. The only danger here is if they bring things you hate, but the potential for awesomeness far outweighs that, in my experience. You could even organize a competition where the best mix cd of the week gets a free espresso drink or cookie or something.
posted by dizziest at 10:05 PM on May 26, 2010

I'm on Emusic and so all of my recommendations can be found there.

The Roots of Chicha: Psychedelic Cumbias from Peru remains one of the very best albums I've ever downloaded. So fun and weird and funky. Cumbia Beat Vol. 1 covers much of the same terrain, and it's almost (but not quite) as good.

Let's see, folks have already recommended Nigeria Special and they're totally right to do so. Really, I haven't found a dud in anything that Soundway puts out. My latest downloads have been Panama! Latin, Calypso And Funk On The Isthmus 1965-75 volumes 1 and 2.

Also, when it comes to compilations, Smithsonian Folkways can't be ignored. Here's one that's incredibly diverse, and all the musicians are in NYC.
posted by 2or3whiskeysodas at 9:21 AM on May 31, 2010

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