In Hear This, The A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, because it’s “Love Week” here at The A.V. Club, we’re picking our favorite songs to put on a mixtape.
It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that, as an unrepentant emo kid—perhaps now an emo adult—I’m a bit of romantic. Couple this with being a total nerd and it makes perfect sense that I’ve spent countless hours making mixtapes for people I’ve found myself taken with. Like a parody of John Cusack’s character in High Fidelity, I’ll spend hours thinking about how a mixtape flows, whether I’m striking the balance between songs this person likes and ones they may not know and, most importantly, I’ll struggle to find the perfect place to drop Braid’s “Do You Love Coffee?” into the track list.
Like many of Braid’s best songs, for a long time “Do You Love Coffee?” was a rarity. Released in 1996 on the Ooh Do I Love You compilation—which saw the best of ‘90s emo using the comp to raise awareness about sexual assault—“Do You Love Coffee?” wouldn’t find a new life until the release of Movie Music collections in 2000. It was here, on Movie Music’s second volume, that I’d find a song that would become the single through-line among my many hours spent putting together mixtapes.
As was common in Braid’s early work, “Do You Love Coffee?” is a knotty piece of Midwest emo that’s far from traditionally accessible. The production is lo-fi, the guitar work between Bob Nanna and Chris Broach is notably intricate, and the song shifts tone and tempo a handful of times. All that being said, there’s a playfulness to it that perfectly captures the giddy nature of a new crush, and all those nervous jitters that come along with disclosing it. Nanna touches on that exact concern when he sings, “I’ve got this question to ask her / Whatever the answer / I’ll understand.”
There’s some caffeine-induced shakiness in Nanna’s lyrics as well. At first, when he goes to ask this big question, he chickens out. He doesn’t come right out with it and ask, “Do you still love me?” Instead, he changes course, asking “Do you like coffee?” Though a little skittish, Nanna settles himself down and gains the confidence to ask what he wanted to know all along.
The answer to his question is never revealed, but that’s part of what makes “Do You Love Coffee?” my go-to mixtape track. It’s an ode to putting yourself out there and sitting comfortably with whatever answer comes back. It’s a song that perfectly captures the moment of sifting through new feelings and what they might mean, and bullheadedly charging ahead in spite of any fear of rejection. It’s a lot to drop into a mix for someone you’ve only recently come to know but, like Nanna, it’s easy to pass it off as a love song about coffee if things don’t go as planned.