The Official Guide to Dinner Party Music




Great. You're on a first date. You're asking the hard hitting questions [what did you major in, do you have any siblings, did you like highschool?, etc]. You wanna get into it. You ask who their dream dinner party guest would be. They have an answer ready. It's a safe answer, a boring one. It's a generally respected historical figure who was the first to do something very impressive and respectable. Whatever. It feels rehearsed. You want to dig a little deeper.

"So now that [insert generally respected historical figure here] is at your apartment for a dinner party, what do you put on for background music?"

They freeze. They've never been asked this one before. This isn't a pre-selected Hinge prompt they've crafted an answer to, one that makes them seem smart but also funny, well-read but also laid-back. They fumble their words. They don't have an answer. The date spirals from there. There is no second date.

How do you avoid this fate? Do not stress, here is the official COPY guide to dinner party music, for whoever might be seated at your table.

Check out the Official COPY Dinner Party Playlist on Spotify here.

Photo By Lily Crandall

Your ex moves in next door. Yikes. You try to be cordial and mature and say “hey, how would you like to come over for dinner?” They give you a weird look, I mean, it’s weird enough they happened to move in next door, now you want them to come over for dinner? They accept anyway, and ask if they can bring their roommate. You say yes. 

LILY: Peter Cat Recording Co., Bismillah (2019)
Maybe this is a cop-out answer, because this is one of those albums you can put on anywhere, and most people will give it, at least, a “hmm, this is nice.” But in this instance, you’ll need this one specifically for the surprises up its sleeve (did someone say bossa nova mixed with swing jazz, with the occasional electronic, groovin’ beat?), perfect for the inevitable awkward silences.

Your significant other and their parents are coming over. You’ve never met the parents and between thoughts of what to make and “wait, why are they coming to my apartment? Why aren’t we just going out to eat or something?”, you scan your record collection for something to put on. One parent is big into John Mayer and Matchbox Twenty and the other is one of the “all music was better back in my day” types.

MADELEINE: Townes Van Zandt, Townes Van Zandt (1969)
I’ve watched Townes’ 1969 debut country album win over anyone I forced to listen (everyone.) It opens strong with title track “For the Sake of the Song,” building with a delicate guitar riff that puts John Mayer to shame. As the album progresses, there are quick switches between delicate love ballads (“(Quicksilver Dreams of) Maria”) and heavy, driving exclamations of depression and longing (“Waitin’ Around to Die”). The guitar and lyricism is truly masterful and would directly appeal to any John Mayer (who seems to be directly influenced) fan OR anyone who longs for the music of the past. Even if you’re not a country fan, this album transcends country and is just fucking BEAUTIFUL music!

A former president has risen from the dead and is at your apartment for dinner. Just roll with it. You’re not the biggest fan of their politics but your mom is, so you invite her over too. Former president at one end of your IKEA RÅVAROR table, and your mother at the other. Don’t mess this up.

TAYLOR: Gloria Ann Taylor, Love is a Hurtin’ Thing (2015)
You’ve entertained ghosts before, but only in your head—never at your table. For an otherworldly dinner party, give Gloria Ann Taylor’s Love Is a Hurtin’ Thing a spin. This 2015 album collects several singles that Taylor released in the ‘70s before she dropped out of the music industry. Her unyielding vocals pair with unexpected production choices to make a stunning soul record. But it’s the album’s eerie, off-kilter feel that makes it shine. The darkness of “World That’s Not Real” haunts the more spirited reaches of Taylor’s voice. The whole thing feels dreamy and delirious. 

Your uncle drops off your cousin at your place while he and your dad go to the big game. Not only have you not seen this cousin in five years, but they blocked you on Instagram because they’re in the phase of thinking their older cousins are extremely uncool and lame, so you have no idea what they’re into. You know they’ll grow out of it soon, but for now, they’re sitting at your table and you need to put something on to fill the silence.

MIGUEL: Pink Pantheress, 𝙋𝙞𝙣𝙠 𝙋𝙖𝙣𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙨 𝙈𝙞𝙭™ (2021)
I’m confident this would cut some tension and have my distant cousin and me vibing. YouTube mixes are so important, and hopefully my connection to this music at the very least reassures my cousin that I’m on their level. This music is delicate and hard, full of millennial classics with sad, nostalgic lyrics. My cousin’s gotta get over this fear of being cringe. Sing along, “la la la la la la la la la la la la la la,” and maybe they’ll lose that tough shell. And if they’re not into it, the songs are only a minute and a half, and you can hope the next song is the bop to bridge the gap.

You’re not at your apartment. You’re at the home of someone you work with, because your other colleague is leaving the company and moving abroad. It’s a goodbye dinner, and you don’t know anyone here particularly well. Someone in the kitchen calls out “can someone just put something on?” You are handed the aux.
ADAM: Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks (1975), specifically “Shelter from   the Storm”
Blood on the Track’s Dylan can be his most accessible to large crowds. At this point in his career he turns to confession. It’s all so personal but told in the poetically convoluted way Dylan writes his songs. I’ve never met a mellow crowd that didn’t turn into a scene from The Big Chill with this song. Some songs on the album might be a bit too sad for a goodbye party but this one should bring a nice warm, autumn tone to the room.