I spend a lot of time listening to music. Who doesn’t, really? You might have seen me around town in one of a couple local cafes slingin’ joe, which is my job when I’m not writing for Smile Politely. One of the best parts of being a barista is getting to pick the soundtrack for an entire public spacethe power goes right to your (my) head. I overthink my music selection at work constantly. Is this too happy? Too sad? Too explicit? Too Paul-Simon-every-single-shift-get-a-new-favorite-album-Graceland-is-old?

Sound invariably affects the mood of a space. Imagine trying to have a quiet conversation over a cup of coffee with death metal blaring, or getting pumped with your friends at the bar on Friday night to sweet slow shoe-gaze tunes. Not that those genres don’t have their place, and if you love conversation over metal music, I’m here for that. I’m just saying, sound and activity can be incongruous which is jarring, or it can be complimentary, which is satisfying.

It got me thinkingC-U has a fantastic live music scene, that’s a fact. But what about our favorite local places that provide the soundtrack for our activities?

For me, if I take out the places where I am the one playing DJ, which I guess is fair, Crane Alley in Urbana has my favorite background sounds. The volume is never intrusive, and every time I go, the playlist is just enough for the atmosphere of the evening. I regularly find myself thinking “Whoa! I forgot about this song! It’s so good!” I don’t know if they make playlists, or choose pre-made ones, or they’re using a music service that creates a station based on an artist someone chooses, or who’s doing the choosing. All I know is that if they had a Spotify account with their selections organized into playlists, I would follow them.

What other local places are the best (or worst?) for background music?

Photo from Crane Alley's Facebook page, original photographer uncredited