LCD Soundsystem and the Unbearable Sameness of Restaurant Playlists

Why is it that every hip restaurant plays the same music? When Eater restaurant editor Hillary Dixler Canavan kept hearing similar songs while dining for work assignments, she compiled a playlist of what she heard. It included songs by LCD Soundsystem, M83, Grimes, Biggie, Beck and the like.

Her subsequent article about this music, “This Is Every Generically Cool Restaurant’s Playlist,” went viral. She’d captured the elusive sound of small plate dining. But what left her guessing was why this sound? And how did it reach so many restaurants in cities across the U.S.? She brought this question to Switched On Pop to understand why this 00s mostly indie sound was the ideal background for post-industrial chic establishments.

Investigating the issue, she discovered a small bubble of music selectors who curate these lists for businesses. She spoke with Yvette Bailhache, a D.C. based music selector for restaurants and bars about how these lists are made. And she asked Jonathan Shecter, founder of the Las Vegas based background music service Playback Prodigy, about what makes an ideal background sound. What she discovered is surprising. The sounds in the background may dictate more of our foreground than you’d expect.

Music Discussed

  • LCD Soundsystem – I Can Change
  • M83 – Midnight City
  • Grimes – Genesis
  • Ice Cube – It Was A Good Day
  • Wu-Tang Clean – CREAM
  • This Will Destroy You – Kitchen
Listen to Hillary’s Every Restaurant Playlist and for more stories and news on food, subscribe to Eater’s podcast Upsell