Alex Macnutt's chilled out mix of music best consumed with a cocktail, in a cool hotel bar in an exotic location. Your house, say. Proof that music can blend into the background but stand out just enough to be noticed. with project pablo, goody goody, peza, michael kiwanuka & tom misch, kiwi, chemise et. al.

Curation by Alex, Cover art by Mick, Concept by Keith. Drink up.

At the Song Sommelier, we consider what we do to be a suitably ‘lean forward’ experience. In plain English, we expect you come here to seek out great music and then spend some of your precious time listening and paying attention to it.

This is the reason we exist, not least because musically speaking, the world seems to be ‘leaning back’. If this seems a little basic, or worse, nonsense – just wait. Whole business strategies in music are based on the concept of which way you dear listener, desire to lean. For example, traditional broadcast radio – the BBC, KCRW, RTL etc. is said to be ‘lean back’ (despite the fact that if there is a specific show you want to listen to, you’ll make a considerable effort to make that ‘appointment to view’ even if that means searching on an app later). The streaming service Spotify has gone from being ‘lean forward’ (in the early days you had to search for the artist or song you wanted to pluck from its vast catalogue) to much more lean back. Fire up the app and press play - and be amazed that your ‘favourite songs to grind coffee to’ playlist is ready for you just as you…jump in…the shower! It’s a soundtrack to your life approach requiring you to not think too much. Until you’ve had your coffee/shower combo.

I’ve never grasped lean back music too well. Take studying for example, ‘chill music for study’ is huge on YouTube and streaming services, as is music to help you concentrate, sleep and other activities that really, do not call much for music. To my mind, music can accompany most activity, but we don’t need every single moment ‘soundtracked’ do we, really?

Why are we telling you this? Well, it’s all a pre-cursor to the difficult notion of really good ‘background music’. The science has proved that retail stores, hotels and the like, have higher customer satisfaction and loyalty if they get the music right. Some do and some don’t. The prevailing view is that ambient music has generally improved. There are no ‘jingles’ these days (except on some radio ads during which people put their hands over their ears whilst screaming, even when driving) and gone also are the days when commercial establishments could get away with playing those deeply daft cover versions of chart hits. Small mercies. The fact is all brands should pay close attention to their sonic ID. There are entire businesses devoted to this and you can read about it more in this rather good Guardian Long Read. It features our personal favourite sonic brand agency, the wonderful Music Concierge.

Putting music to use in creating an ambience reminds me of someone I used to work with, who had the unique ability to blend in wherever they went, while at the same time sticking out like a sore thumb, kind of noticeably inconspicuous. I’ve always maintained that if you are in a bar, hotel, shop etc. that is playing good music, you will notice. While it blends in to create the mood, you can also find yourself wondering “mmm, this is good, who is it?” And then quickly scrambling to fire up Shazam before the track runs you out! Sure enough though, as a result, you are probably better connected to that particular place and time. Certainly more so than if no music played, or worse, something horrid.

And thus, finally people, welcome to the Boutique Hotel Bar. Bringing you a sense of what it really means to have quality music to create a mood, that mood here being very much a cool vibe. Sophisticated and full of possibility. But relaxed, confident in its own skin, and not at all highfalutin (yep, that’s a word). Our guy on the decks you may vaguely recognise as one and the same as our ‘Nighthawks Bar’ DJ. Small virtual worlds indeed.

Our (real life) Boutique Hotel Night Manager is Alex Macnutt of The Common Rooms, so it’s no surprise that if this was playing in some swanky bar, from Brooklyn to Berlin to Birmingham (hey, Brum has some swanky bars you know!) you would just be ‘Shazaming’ the night away. And since that sounds onerous, chill – it’s all right here playlisted for you. Just you know, don’t try to study, concentrate or sleep to it. Instead, enjoy it as proof that music can blend into the background but stand out just enough to be noticed. Vol. 2 soon!