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This Author: Bob Boilen
This Publisher: National Public Radio

NPR: Tiny Desk Concerts Video Podcast by Bob Boilen

NPR: Tiny Desk Concerts Video Podcast

by Bob Boilen

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Tiny Desk Concerts from NPR's All Songs Considered features your favorite musicians performing at Bob Boilen's desk in the NPR Music office. Watch videos from Passion Pit, The xx, Wilco, Adele, Phoenix, Tinariwen, tUnE-yArDs and many more.


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http://www.npr.org/tinydeskconcerts

Sampha

Author: NPR
Tue, Mar 21, 2017


A Tiny Desk Concert as intimate as it gets (that's saying something). Just Sampha, a piano and three heart-wrenching songs that seem to double as coping mechanisms.

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Red Baraat

Author: NPR
Mon, Mar 13, 2017


Red Baraat come to the Tiny Desk in celebration of holi, the Hindu festival of color and love that welcomes the coming of spring.

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Tank And The Bangas

Author: NPR
Fri, Mar 10, 2017


Tank and the Bangas' victory lap around the Tiny Desk was momentous, celebratory and deeply touching, with a flair and alchemy of styles that could come from New Orleans.

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Maren Morris

Author: NPR
Mon, Mar 06, 2017


One of the newest Grammy winners stops by the Tiny Desk to share her winking, sometimes tongue-in-cheek songs.

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Ninet

Author: NPR
Fri, Mar 03, 2017


One of Israel's very popular artists maybe be walking a similar path to early-career Joan Jett she brought that same intensity to the Tiny Desk.

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Dirty Dozen Brass Band

Author: NPR
Tue, Feb 28, 2017


To celebrate Fat Tuesday, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band brought their euphoric horns to the Tiny Desk for a raucous, joyous set.

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Little Simz

Author: NPR
Tue, Feb 21, 2017


Little Simz has been compared to Lauryn Hill for her self-reflective wordplay. And though the British lyricist is a relative new-comer, her Tiny Desk performance was poised and confident.

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Agnes Obel

Author: NPR
Wed, Feb 15, 2017


Agnes Obel manipulated the Tiny Desk to better suit the deeply alluring and powerful music she brought to us.

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Esm? Patterson

Author: NPR
Fri, Feb 10, 2017


Esm? Patterson has dropped the banjos and folk from her previous project Paper Bird in their place, electric guitars and a backing band worth getting behind.

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Run The Jewels

Author: NPR
Mon, Feb 06, 2017


Killer Mike and El-P continue to out-muse each other in a supergroup that somehow seems to get better, louder, and more pertinent since their start in 2013.

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D.R.A.M.

Author: NPR
Wed, Feb 01, 2017


The rapper/singer storms the NPR Music offices, activating his signature smile and bouncing through five highlights from his catalog including the smash single "Broccoli."

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Gallant

Author: NPR
Mon, Jan 30, 2017


The rising R&B star performs three falsetto-drenched highlights from his 2016 debut, Ology including "Bourbon," which features a guest rap from Chance The Rapper collaborator Saba.

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Miramar

Author: NPR
Fri, Jan 27, 2017


Watch the Virginia band sweep the NPR crowd off its feet with a collection of exquisite boleros by Puerto Rican composer Sylvia Rexach.

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BADBADNOTGOOD

Author: NPR
Mon, Jan 23, 2017


The jazz band, known for its soulful interpretations of songs by Nas and Ol' Dirty Bastard, plays its own new material live in the NPR Music offices.

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Brent Cobb

Author: NPR
Tue, Jan 17, 2017


Cobb's words shimmer like a tall glass of sweet tea in the late-morning sun. Watch the country singer-songwriter perform four songs from his debut album.

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Lila Downs

Author: NPR
Fri, Jan 13, 2017


With a voice that borrows heavily from opera, Downs performs the kind of full-throated mariachi singing that would fit right in at Mexico City's Garibaldi Square ground zero for mariachi.

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Donny McCaslin

Author: NPR
Tue, Jan 10, 2017


Hear McCaslin, the saxophonist and bandleader whose group backed David Bowie on Blackstar, near the anniversary of that album's release. Selections include an instrumental take on Bowie's "Lazarus."

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Declan McKenna

Author: NPR
Wed, Jan 04, 2017


Hear the spirited young singer-songwriter take on religion, poverty and politics, armed with just a guitar and some unrelenting hooks.

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The Oh Hellos: Holiday Tiny Desk Concert

Author: NPR
Wed, Dec 21, 2016


The nine-piece, family-centered band returns to the NPR Music offices to fill the air with fake snow and real joy.

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Derek Gripper

Author: NPR
Thu, Dec 15, 2016


Inspired by Toumani Diabate, the classically trained South African guitarist performs songs originally written for the kora.

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Gucci Mane

Author: NPR
Mon, Dec 12, 2016


The rapper has spent the year on an extended victory tour. Here are the spoils, recorded in a stripped-down set with a minimal backing track and longtime producer Zaytoven on keys.

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Alsarah & The Nubatones

Author: NPR
Fri, Dec 09, 2016


In the band's hands, East African music pulses, breathes and comes alive in a mix of tradition and contemporary sounds.

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Ro James

Author: NPR
Mon, Dec 05, 2016


Bringing the heat to the NPR Music offices, the R&B singer performs three funky, sexy, stripped-down songs from his debut album, Eldorado.

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Pinegrove

Author: NPR
Fri, Dec 02, 2016


There's a confessional quality to the songs of Pinegrove that feels reassuring. Watch the New Jersey band squeeze four songs into a scrappy, warmhearted 13-minute set.

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Margo Price

Author: NPR
Wed, Nov 30, 2016


On the morning after Election Day, the Nashville musician and her band visited the Tiny Desk to play three cathartic country songs loaded with new political meaning.

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Tegan And Sara

Author: NPR
Mon, Nov 21, 2016


Appearing in the NPR Music offices on the eve of the 2016 elections, the Canadian pop duo crafts acoustic versions of pop anthems like "Closer and "Boyfriend."

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Attacca Quartet

Author: NPR
Fri, Nov 18, 2016


Watch the resourceful young string quartet navigate its way through smoke rings, alligators at Macy's, and the stormy fluctuations of the 18th century.

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John Paul White

Author: NPR
Wed, Nov 16, 2016


Formerly half of The Civil Wars, the singer-songwriter returns to perform three rearranged songs from his solo debut, Beulah.

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Adam Torres

Author: NPR
Fri, Nov 11, 2016


The Austin singer-songwriter showcases his high, lonesome voice and atmospheric storytelling in three songs one unreleased and one from his gorgeous new album, Pearls To Swine.

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Ta-ku & Wafia

Author: NPR
Mon, Nov 07, 2016


The chemistry between the two Australian singers becomes apparent the instant you hear their intertwined voices floating together above low-end rumbles and resonant keys.

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The Westerlies

Author: NPR
Wed, Nov 02, 2016


The self-described "accidental brass quartet" swims comfortably in jazz, classical and pop music. Watch the band evoke a rollicking Parisian street scene and the calm beauty of the San Juan Islands.

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Joseph

Author: NPR
Fri, Oct 28, 2016


The trio's sound has grown to include elements beyond sisterly harmonies and acoustic guitar. But here, Joseph strips down to its original setup, playing newer songs the way they could have been.

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Drive-By Truckers

Author: NPR
Mon, Oct 24, 2016


The long-running rock band holds a mirror to the hard realities of America right now on American Band. Watch Drive-By Truckers' emotional performance at the NPR Music office.

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Blind Pilot

Author: NPR
Mon, Oct 24, 2016


The band's shimmery folk-pop sound, with its vibraphone and overarching vibrancy, is perfectly suited to the space behind Bob Boilen's desk.

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Billy Bragg & Joe Henry

Author: NPR
Thu, Oct 20, 2016


Performing songs they recorded on a recent train journey across the U.S., the two songwriters celebrate the romance and vitality of the modern railroad.

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RDGLDGRN

Author: NPR
Mon, Oct 17, 2016


The D.C.-area band crafts a striking mix of rock, hip-hop, funk, go-go and Brazilian sounds, fused with energy and humor.

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Haley Bonar

Author: NPR
Tue, Oct 11, 2016


In a performance of three songs from Impossible Dream, the Minnesota singer-songwriter achieves a nifty balance of stripped-down intimacy and impeccable polish.

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Common At The White House

Author: NPR
Tue, Oct 04, 2016


It was an offer we couldn't pass up: The veteran rapper fronting an all-star band at the White House, for the very first Tiny Desk Concert to take place outside NPR's offices.

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Joshua Bell & Jeremy Denk

Author: NPR
Fri, Sep 30, 2016


Two A-list classical artists work up a sweat as they revel in the tender and turbulent music of Brahms and Schumann.

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Blue Man Group

Author: NPR
Thu, Sep 29, 2016


The world-famous entertainers retrofitted their custom-made instruments, confetti cannons, and streamers to fit our Tiny Desk.

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Corinne Bailey Rae

Author: NPR
Mon, Sep 19, 2016


There's real joy in this genre-defying performance by the English singer-songwriter, who performs material from her first album in six years.

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Saul Williams

Author: NPR
Fri, Sep 16, 2016


In this intense performance, you can feel the singer and poet's passion in every sharp, thoughtful, powerful, provocative word.

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The Secret Sisters

Author: NPR
Mon, Sep 12, 2016


The Alabama sibling duo's music can be hymn-like: plain but powerful, heartsick and hopeful. Watch The Secret Sisters perform a river ballad, a hymn and a song capturing some old-fashioned loneliness.

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William Bell

Author: NPR
Wed, Sep 07, 2016


The 77-year-old soul hitmaker, known for co-writing songs like the blues standard "Born Under A Bad Sign," returns to the spotlight with the aid of a 12-piece band.

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Big Thief

Author: NPR
Mon, Aug 29, 2016


The band's songs exude muscular warmth, with lyrics that are both memorable and meaningful. Watch Big Thief perform three songs from Masterpiece, recorded live in the NPR Music offices.

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Nina Diaz

Author: NPR
Mon, Aug 29, 2016


As a solo artist on leave from Girl In A Coma, the singer finds new ways to sound ferocious. Here, she performs three songs from an album due out in the fall.

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Margaret Glaspy

Author: NPR
Mon, Aug 22, 2016


Everything serves the songs here: There's no overplaying, no frills, just great music and a tremendous new artist who sounds thrilled to be playing it.

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Eddie Palmieri

Author: NPR
Fri, Aug 19, 2016


An icon for both modern and Latin jazz, the veteran performer continues to break tradition and innovate within many musical styles, including salsa, fusion, Latin funk and more.

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Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals

Author: NPR
Mon, Aug 15, 2016


Watch the invigorating, genre-busting bandleader, drummer, singer and rapper perform four songs three from this year's Malibu, plus one surprising audience request.

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Ren? Marie

Author: NPR
Fri, Aug 12, 2016


Joined by her Experiment In Truth band, the expressive, charismatic jazz singer performs songs from her new album, Sound Of Red.

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The Jayhawks

Author: NPR
Mon, Aug 08, 2016


The beloved band displays its signature country-tinged rock and close harmonies in four stripped-down songs from its newest album, Paging Mr. Proust.

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Rachel Barton Pine

Author: NPR
Fri, Aug 05, 2016


Watch the genial violinist commune with nearly 300-year-old music by J.S. Bach, played on an instrument built during the composer's heyday.

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Kevin Morby

Author: NPR
Mon, Aug 01, 2016


The singer, known for his work in the bands Woods and The Babies, performs carefully crafted songs with powerful lyrics. Morby released his new album, Singing Saw, earlier this year.

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Lucy Dacus

Author: NPR
Fri, Jul 29, 2016


The Virginia musician writes songs that can be thoughtful, playful and powerful, with tremendous arrangements from guitarist Jacob Blizard. Watch Dacus and her band perform three songs from No Burden.1

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Xenia Rubinos

Author: NPR
Mon, Jul 25, 2016


On Black Terry Cat and in the NPR Music offices, Rubinos' music uses her Afro-Caribbean roots as a jumping-off point for inventive, provocative songs.

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John Congleton And The Nighty Nite

Author: NPR
Fri, Jul 22, 2016


These are not songs to shock, but songs to remind us of our fragility, our faults, our instincts and what an extraordinary thing it is to be an ordinary phenomenal nothing.

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Gregory Porter

Author: NPR
Mon, Jul 18, 2016


Watch an entrancing set by the decorated soul singer, who'd visited NPR on a difficult day. Porter's music can be serious and heartwarming, but it never loses its sense of wonder and delight.

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Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band

Author: NPR
Fri, Jul 15, 2016


There's a point when a jam is just a jam, but when a jam becomes a journey... man. Here, the instrumental rock band turns and churns its long-form compositions into new forms.

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Jane Bunnett and Maqueque

Author: NPR
Tue, Jul 12, 2016


The Canadian jazz multi-instrumentalist performs in the NPR Music offices with some of the top young women musicians in Cuba.

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Valley Queen

Author: NPR
Fri, Jul 08, 2016


For a band with only a few Bandcamp singles under its belt, Valley Queen plays with nuance and depth, rooted in a California country sound. At the Tiny Desk, the group played three unreleased songs.

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Los Hacheros

Author: NPR
Tue, Jul 05, 2016


Sometimes it's necessary to get back to basics. In the case of Los Hacheros, that means returning to the deep groove of Afro-Caribbean music that provides the source material for modern salsa.

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Adia Victoria

Author: NPR
Thu, Jun 30, 2016


Performing at the NPR Music offices, Adia Victoria's voice is powerful and direct, with no artifice. Here, she performs "Heathen," plus two songs from her debut album, Beyond The Bloodhounds.

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Charles Lloyd & Jason Moran

Author: NPR
Tue, Jun 28, 2016


In performance together, the venerated saxophonist and the ubiquitous pianist perform three tunes that draw from their past while still looking to the future.

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Mashrou' Leila

Author: NPR
Fri, Jun 24, 2016


A rock band from Beirut gives a stunning performance, with songs that mix hedonism and heady, hyper-literate lyrics.

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Brandy Clark

Author: NPR
Thu, Jun 23, 2016


The country singer-songwriter has a rare gift for making any room feel warmly human. Watch Brandy Clark perform three songs from her new album, Big Day In A Small Town.

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Alessio Bax

Author: NPR
Fri, Jun 17, 2016


In time for Father's Day, watch the celebrated pianist play lullabies by Bach and Brahms for his 22-month-old daughter, who nearly steals the show.

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Chick Corea & Gary Burton

Author: NPR
Mon, Jun 13, 2016


The two highly decorated jazz legends could barely fit their instruments behind the Tiny Desk. But once they did, their unique musical chemistry took over.

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Weaves

Author: NPR
Fri, Jun 10, 2016


The Toronto band displays an eagerness to try on new sounds while always remaining playful and quirky sometimes loud, sometimes gentle and always a trip.

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Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop

Author: NPR
Mon, Jun 06, 2016


In what may have been the most comfortable day in the history of NPR Music, Iron & Wine's frontman performs three songs with the charming, inventive singer Jesca Hoop.

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Barry Douglas

Author: NPR
Fri, Jun 03, 2016


Watch the award-winning Irish pianist play his own arrangements of traditional songs from the homeland, including a haunting rendition of "My Lagan Love."

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Andrew Bird

Author: NPR
Tue, May 31, 2016


For this performance of three new songs, Bird comes with a stripped-down acoustic band: just drums, upright bass and acoustic guitar, with Bird himself on violin.

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Carrie Rodriguez

Author: NPR
Fri, May 27, 2016


On her new album Lola, Rodriguez's bi-cultural life blossoms into a spectacular collection of stories and songs, several of which she performs in this Tiny Desk concert with guitarist Luke Jacobs.

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Robert Ellis

Author: NPR
Mon, May 23, 2016


Robert Ellis somehow finds wide-eyed wonder in heartbreak. He and guitarist Kelly Doyle play stripped-down yet thoughtfully busy arrangements from his ambitious country record.

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Andy Shauf

Author: NPR
Fri, May 20, 2016


The Saskatchewan singer-songwriter visits the NPR Music offices to perform three quietly affecting songs, two of them from his new album The Party.

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Steve Kimock

Author: NPR
Mon, May 16, 2016


The veteran jam-rock guitarist's dedication to his instrument is matched only by his imagination. There's joy in hearing Kimock play acoustically, with no filter between his ideas and his fingers.

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Daym? Arocena

Author: NPR
Fri, May 13, 2016


The Cuban singer's music is fueled by surprisingly mature songwriting (she's only 24), as well as an irrepressible personality that projects warmth, fun and a million-watt smile.

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Lara St. John

Author: NPR
Mon, May 09, 2016


With intrepid pianist Matt Herskowitz in tow, the violinist performs a set of rambunctious tunes from Hungary and Romania that will leave you breathless.

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Monika

Author: NPR
Fri, May 06, 2016


When you hear Monika, life feels good: The Greek singer's performances and presence are simply winning. Watch her perform four songs from Secret In The Dark at the NPR Music offices.

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eighth blackbird

Author: NPR
Mon, May 02, 2016


Watch the Grammy-winning Chicago sextet perform classical compositions by David Lang, Bryce Dessner and Robert Honstein.

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Florist

Author: NPR
Fri, Apr 29, 2016


Emily Sprague performs three quiet, delicate songs in the NPR Music offices with help from members of New York's Epoch collective.

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Peter Frampton

Author: NPR
Wed, Apr 27, 2016


Forty years after the classic album Frampton Comes Alive!, Peter Frampton brings his songs and his voice (but no talk box) to the Tiny Desk. We couldn't help but sing along.

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Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds

Author: NPR
Mon, Apr 25, 2016


The New York band's punchy horn section, bluesy vocals and uniquely transformative harmonica solos instantly demand attention.

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Julia Holter

Author: NPR
Fri, Apr 22, 2016


The most minute details suddenly become a grandiose spectacle in Julia Holter's cosmic cabaret. Her new arrangements at the NPR Music offices unravel amid moments of both quiet and bombast.

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Benjamin Clementine

Author: NPR
Thu, Apr 21, 2016


There are intimate moments of revelation in Clementine's immersive, breathtaking performance, recorded live in the NPR Music offices.

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Seratones

Author: NPR
Fri, Apr 15, 2016


The Louisiana band takes gospel into the garage, and what comes out is fiery rock 'n' roll. Watch Seratones perform three songs in the NPR Music offices.

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Palehound

Author: NPR
Mon, Apr 11, 2016


Ellen Kempner and her band perform three tense and evocative songs from last year's Dry Food, set amid the pin-drop silence of a rapt crowd.

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Mothers

Author: NPR
Fri, Apr 08, 2016


Mothers' members chose a few of their slowest, most languid and fragile songs to perform in the NPR Music offices.

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PWR BTTM

Author: NPR
Mon, Apr 04, 2016


The queer, glammy, wildly dressed duo has a keen sense of mischief and a gift for honest, punk-infused, tongue-in-cheek pop gems. Watch PWR BTTM perform four songs in the NPR Music offices.

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Ane Brun

Author: NPR
Fri, Apr 01, 2016


The Norwegian singer-songwriter isn't afraid to face her demons. Watch Brun play three new songs, each of which speaks to newfound freedom and fresh opportunities.

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Anthony Hamilton

Author: NPR
Mon, Mar 28, 2016


The soul star, his backup singers in The Hamiltones, and his band visit the NPR Music offices to perform "Amen," followed by three songs that have defined his career.

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Tedeschi Trucks Band

Author: NPR
Fri, Mar 25, 2016


Singer-guitarist Susan Tedeschi and guitarist Derek Trucks celebrate the blues, jazz and much more.

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Graham Nash

Author: NPR
Mon, Mar 14, 2016


In a short set that spans 50 years, the CSNY veteran's voice resonates and cuts to the core.

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Gaelynn Lea

Author: NPR
Fri, Mar 11, 2016


Watch the singer and violinist who stood out from 6,000-plus entries in NPR's Tiny Desk Contest. Gaelynn Lea performs two of these four songs with fellow Duluth, Minn., musician Alan Sparhawk of Low.

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Julien Baker

Author: NPR
Mon, Mar 07, 2016


The young Tennessee singer-songwriter performs three of her spare, sad, simple songs at the NPR Music offices.

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Monsieur Perin?

Author: NPR
Fri, Mar 04, 2016


The Colombian band channels an unlikely inspiration: 1920s-era, guitar-driven jazz from the U.S. Watch Monsieur Perin? perform three songs in the NPR Music offices.

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Lake Street Dive

Author: NPR
Mon, Feb 29, 2016


The band's comfortably styled songs sometimes tilt toward soul and often rock danceably on a new collection of songs called Side Pony. Watch Lake Street Dive perform live at the NPR Music offices.

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Brushy One String

Author: NPR
Sat, Feb 27, 2016


Subtlety and nuance are more easily found in minimalism than excess. Brushy One String's sound is make by one big fat E-string and a rich, powerful voice.

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Wilco

Author: NPR
Tue, Feb 23, 2016


Bands don't typically get to play the Tiny Desk more than once, but Wilco is a natural exception. Watch the group perform "The Joke Explained" and three songs from its late-'90s catalog.

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Ben Folds

Author: NPR
Tue, Feb 16, 2016


Performing solo in the NPR Music offices, the singer, songwriter and pianist performs three songs from his new album and two old favorites: "Emaline" and "One Angry Dwarf And 200 Solemn Faces."

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Chelsea Wolfe

Author: NPR
Fri, Feb 12, 2016


Last year's Abyss saw Chelsea Wolfe make her metallic tendencies explicit. At the Tiny Desk with just an electric guitar, she takes three songs back to their primal form.

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Car Seat Headrest

Author: NPR
Mon, Feb 08, 2016


Will Toledo is a wordsmith with a vision, wrapping his faults and frailties in a DIY sound that's still finely crafted. Watch him perform three songs in the NPR Music offices.

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EL VY

Author: NPR
Fri, Jan 29, 2016


The National's Matt Berninger and Menomena's Brent Knopf team up in an intimate setting that highlights the former's resonant voice and the latter's playful piano.

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The Arcs

Author: NPR
Mon, Jan 25, 2016


It's our 500th show at the Tiny Desk, featuring The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach and the new band he started with Richard Swift, Homer Steinweiss, a Mariachi band and more.

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Wolf Alice

Author: NPR
Mon, Jan 25, 2016


Wolf Alice's music can be noisy and primal, but at the Tiny Desk it showed a different side, as it performed three songs from 2015's My Love Is Cool.

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River Whyless

Author: NPR
Tue, Jan 19, 2016


The North Carolina band uses a typewriter for rhythm, a toy piano for whimsy and a harmonium for mood, as well as a gong, multiple odd percussive accents and subtle guitar effects.

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Benny Sings

Author: NPR
Fri, Jan 15, 2016


The Dutch singer layers R&B, jazz and pop over hip-hop beats in his first-ever U.S. appearance.

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Natalie Merchant

Author: NPR
Tue, Jan 12, 2016


The singer-songwriter gives a warmhearted performance of two new songs, an old favorite and a hymn.

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Mariachi Flor De Toloache

Author: NPR
Fri, Jan 08, 2016


While on tour with The Arcs, the powerhouse mariachi band performs live in the NPR Music offices.

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Rapsody

Author: NPR
Tue, Jan 05, 2016


In 2015, the young rapper had her big moment. This year, she's seizing it. Watch Rapsody perform three songs from Beauty And The Beast, recorded live at the NPR Music offices.

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Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

Author: NPR
Mon, Dec 21, 2015


The soul star and her Dap-Kings throw a holiday soul party with "Silent Night" and two spirited originals: one for Christmas and one for Hanukkah.

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Shakey Graves

Author: NPR
Tue, Dec 15, 2015


When Alejandro Rose-Garcia, aka Shakey Graves, breaks out his guitar and suitcase kick drum/hi-hat, a palpable rush of swooning adrenaline hits the room.

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Land Lines

Author: NPR
Fri, Dec 11, 2015


The Denver band's mysteriously swirling music isn't jazz or rock, classical or electronica. Instead, it's something singular, new and adventurous.

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The Oh Hellos

Author: NPR
Tue, Dec 08, 2015


The nine-piece band brings anthemic joy to the Tiny Desk, with buoyant songs whose underpinnings could still be dark and lonely.

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Protomartyr

Author: NPR
Fri, Dec 04, 2015


The Detroit band's loud, screeching, grousing rock can be profound, poetic and bewildering. Singer Joe Casey barely moves throughout this performance, which only adds to the intensity.

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Teddy Abrams

Author: NPR
Mon, Nov 30, 2015


Hear a young conductor, composer and pianist riff on Beethoven and play his own jazz-inspired compositions.

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Youth Lagoon

Author: NPR
Mon, Nov 23, 2015


Trevor Powers' new songs are more expansive and self-assured than usual, a transition reflected in this performance. In person, he's poised, appearing almost joyful at times.

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The Wild Reeds

Author: NPR
Fri, Nov 20, 2015


Great singers aren't easy to come by, so finding three in one band is something special. The Wild Reeds' songs are clear and memorable, potent and sometimes delicate, and beautifully performed here.

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Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

Author: NPR
Tue, Nov 17, 2015


At the Tiny Desk, Rateliff's body-shaking Southern-style soul takes on a slightly more laid-back sound. The resulting songs are served with a warm heart and suitable for a cold beer.

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Rahim AlHaj

Author: NPR
Fri, Nov 13, 2015


Though wordless, the Baghdad-born oud player's music tells powerful stories about the blessedness and fragility of life.

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Aurora

Author: NPR
Mon, Nov 09, 2015


At 19 and on the cusp of her first full-length album, the Norwegian singer performs with a sense of discovery and adventure.

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My Bubba

Author: NPR
Fri, Nov 06, 2015


My Bubba is the duo of Sweden's My and Iceland's Bubba, women whose quirky, delicate, sweetly sung folk songs are a delight.

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The Suffers

Author: NPR
Mon, Nov 02, 2015


Led by the irrepressible Kam Franklin, the 10-piece Houston soul band can barely fit all its horns, guitars, percussion and energy behind a single desk.

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Diane Coffee

Author: NPR
Mon, Nov 02, 2015


At times conjuring Mick Jagger and David Bowie, Diane Coffee's Shaun Fleming swaggered and shimmied behind the Tiny Desk.

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Beauty Pill

Author: NPR
Fri, Oct 23, 2015


In Beauty Pill's music, life whirs with plunderphonic glee and riffs are funky from the inside out. Watch the D.C. band adapt its deeply textured songs without removing anything vital.

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Paolo Angeli

Author: NPR
Mon, Oct 19, 2015


The Sardinian guitarist has a whole toy shop aboard his instrument, from hammers and pedals to springs and a couple of cell-phone ringers.

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Oh Pep!

Author: NPR
Fri, Oct 16, 2015


The band's clever, thoughtful, infectious, harmony-filled music fits in everywhere from Nashville to its hometown of Melbourne.

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Andra Day

Author: NPR
Tue, Oct 13, 2015


Day was born to perform: She's able to channel the likes of Nina Simone and Billie Holiday in songs that are candid and vulnerable, but not understated.

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Christian aTunde Adjuah

Author: NPR
Fri, Oct 09, 2015


Tiny Desk Concert with Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah

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Deqn Sue

Author: NPR
Mon, Oct 05, 2015


The witty, powerful, heartfelt performer came so close to winning NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concert Contest, we just had to see her play in person.

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Lianne La Havas

Author: NPR
Fri, Oct 02, 2015


The singer is soulful yet playful, raw and vulnerable in a commanding kind of way. Watch La Havas perform three of her songs live in the NPR Music offices.

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The Internet

Author: NPR
Tue, Sep 29, 2015


The L.A. band might just be the oddest thing to come from the hip-hop collective Odd Future, mostly because its members opt to make beautiful, textured, enveloping R&B.

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Joan Shelley

Author: NPR
Fri, Sep 25, 2015


As technology rules the sound of the day, it's good to be reminded how powerfully a single voice can transmit deep emotion.

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Gina Chavez

Author: NPR
Thu, Sep 24, 2015


The Austin singer-songwriter performs with intense openness, directness and warmth. Watch Chavez perform three songs live in the NPR Music offices.

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Watkins Family

Author: NPR
Fri, Sep 18, 2015


With help from Fiona Apple, two Nickel Creek alums gather a band to perform old and new material. Watch the Watkins Family Hour perform three charming, country-flavored songs at the NPR Music offices.

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Chris Stapleton

Author: NPR
Mon, Sep 14, 2015


With his wife Morgane, the country singer-songwriter sings patient, detailed songs of devotion to love, Los Angeles and liquor.

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Sam Lee

Author: NPR
Fri, Sep 11, 2015


This former burlesque performer found his voice by finding and preserving old British, Irish and Scottish folk songs.

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Leon Bridges

Author: NPR
Tue, Sep 08, 2015


There's purity in the 26-year-old singer's voice that's unadorned, untouched and unaffected by 21st-century pop. It's just soul.

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Happyness

Author: NPR
Fri, Sep 04, 2015


If you're a fan of dark, incredibly dry, wry humor, you've just found Happyness. Watch the London trio perform three songs that enchant and lull, even as they jar you with their quirkiness.

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Mitski

Author: NPR
Mon, Aug 31, 2015


Mitski's music is dark and even scary, but glimmers of beauty peek through. Watch the singer perform three of her songs in the NPR Music offices.

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Eskimeaux

Author: NPR
Fri, Aug 28, 2015


There's lighthearted, almost childlike beauty in the way Gabrielle Smith puts words to song. Here, she performs a few of Bob Boilen's favorite songs of 2015.

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Caroline Rose

Author: NPR
Mon, Aug 24, 2015


Inspired by rockabilly, fast country and frequent travel, the singer plays music as if she's just met her new best friend: It's fresh, fun and performed with contagious enthusiasm.

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Son Lux

Author: NPR
Fri, Aug 21, 2015


The trio blows up its sound for the Tiny Desk by adding off-duty, civilian horn players from the United States Marine Band.

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Kacey Musgraves

Author: NPR
Tue, Aug 18, 2015


Before closing with the go-your-own-way anthem "Follow Your Arrow," the country singer showcases four songs from her terrific second album, Pageant Material.

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Restorations

Author: NPR
Fri, Aug 14, 2015


The Philly rock band's big-hearted and decibel-shattering songs are stripped down to a few guitars and a MiniKorg in a set that will leave a lump in your throat.

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Torres

Author: NPR
Mon, Aug 10, 2015


Mackenzie Scott's quiet early music gave hints that she could get loud. But it's still hard to fully prepare for the ferocity of her new work, which channels PJ Harvey and Patti Smith.

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Terence Blanchard Feat. The E-Collective

Author: NPR
Fri, Aug 07, 2015


The New Orleans trumpeter wasn't thinking about Eric Garner, Michael Brown or #blacklivesmatter when he first assembled this funky new band. But then it became a way to ward off despair.

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SOAK

Author: NPR
Mon, Aug 03, 2015


Performing three songs from Before We Forgot How To Dream, Irish singer-songwriter Bridie Monds-Watson makes the most of a single voice and an acoustic guitar.

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Shamir

Author: NPR
Fri, Jul 31, 2015


The singer's disco-infused funk and soul gets stripped down to a lone voice with a guitar, surrounded by an admiring throng of NPR staffers, interns and friends.

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Paul Weller

Author: NPR
Tue, Jul 28, 2015


The beloved Britpop veteran stops by the Tiny Desk with songs from his new album, Saturns Pattern and one from his best-known record, Stanley Road.

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Kate Tempest

Author: NPR
Tue, Jul 21, 2015


A celebrated English playwright and rapper connects with her audiences through storytelling and poetry.

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Songhoy Blues

Author: NPR
Fri, Jul 17, 2015


See a Malian band that fuses African music with Western rock. Their album Music in Exile was co-produced by Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

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Girlpool

Author: NPR
Fri, Jul 10, 2015


Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad perform three of the simple, direct, charmingly stripped-down songs from their new album, Before The World Was Big.

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Christopher Paul Stelling

Author: NPR
Mon, Jul 06, 2015


Best witnessed live, Stelling's music is steeped in tradition yet filled with vitality, immediacy and soul all the reasons worth discovering someone new.

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And The Kids

Author: NPR
Tue, Jun 30, 2015


The fun, colorful trio plays music that's full of life, with dissonant sounds that still feel suited for singing along.

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Oddisee

Author: NPR
Fri, Jun 26, 2015


The charismatic Brooklyn-via-D.C.-area rapper creates just the right amount of space in his music. Here, he performs three songs live in the NPR Music offices.

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Hop Along

Author: NPR
Mon, Jun 22, 2015


Frances Quinlan's voice whispers with a rasp that feels small one moment, then lets loose a gut-punching howl the next. But at the Tiny Desk, it's all about Hop Along's urgent arrangements.

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Strand of Oaks

Author: NPR
Mon, Jun 22, 2015


Timothy Showalter's music is filled with bite and sometimes regret, but also a good deal of warmth.

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The Prettiots

Author: NPR
Mon, Jun 15, 2015


The three women in The Prettiots share their love of everything from Law & Order to old-school girl groups like the Shangri-Las.

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Anna & Elizabeth

Author: NPR
Mon, Jun 08, 2015


If you've never thought your tastes would lean to mountain music, breathe deep and soak it all in.

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Genevieve

Author: NPR
Tue, Jun 02, 2015


See a singer with a powerful voice and extremely encouraging message words to be not just sung but shouted from the rooftops.

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Frank Fairfield

Author: NPR
Fri, May 29, 2015


A young man with an old musical soul has a spellbinding voice, fluid fiddle playing and and warm-toned banjo picking.

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Madisen Ward And The Mama Bear

Author: NPR
Thu, May 28, 2015


The mother-son duo's songs are memorable and singable even days after you hear them. This short set is a perfect introduction to a one-of-a-kind duo.

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Jason Vieaux And Yolanda Kondonassis

Author: NPR
Tue, May 26, 2015


Watch two master musicians combine the sounds of harp and guitar into a singular, evocative instrument in music influenced by Africa and Asia.

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Young Fathers

Author: NPR
Tue, May 26, 2015


The Scottish group's intense, electronics-driven, hip-hop-infused poetry is reduced to just the barest essentials in this set, which spans two songs and just four minutes.

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Caman?

Author: NPR
Fri, May 15, 2015


A major star of fado music in his native Portugal, Caman? sings with a silky baritone and the weight of the world's sadness on his shoulders.

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Bellows

Author: NPR
Tue, May 12, 2015


What sets Bellows apart from thousands of other guitar-bass-drums bands out there is its heart. These are enchanting songs, with the power to drift in your head for days.

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Eskmo

Author: NPR
Fri, May 08, 2015


Plywood shelving from the Tiny Desk, water bottles and a Paul McCartney doll head become percussion instruments in the hands of a man who's part musician, part magician.

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Vijay Iyer Trio

Author: NPR
Tue, May 05, 2015


Fueled by a dozen years of rhythmic interaction (and a lot of espresso), Iyer's working band transforms selections from throughout the pianist's deep and varied catalog.

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Diego El Cigala

Author: NPR
Mon, May 04, 2015


See a singer called "the Sinatra of flamenco," a musical game changer whose expressive style draws on jazz and a range of other genres.

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Jos? Gonz?lez

Author: NPR
Thu, Apr 30, 2015


Performing his first new solo songs in seven years, this soft-spoken Swedish singer left an imprint at the Tiny Desk that was gentle and long lasting.

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DakhaBrakha

Author: NPR
Tue, Apr 28, 2015


An acoustic quartet from Kiev, Ukraine whose music encompasses rhythms and sounds from around the world, while remaining joyfully unique. Plus, they wear amazing hats.

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Jessie Ware

Author: NPR
Mon, Apr 20, 2015


Ware's singing brings warmth to electronic music and a swooning quality to her own pop, so it's no surprise that her visit to the Tiny Desk was filled with casual poise and spontaneity

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Rosa D?az

Author: NPR
Fri, Apr 17, 2015


The singer's lyrics reflect deeply felt emotions in this sophisticated, passionate performance with cellist Daniel de Jesus.

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Chadwick Stokes

Author: NPR
Tue, Apr 14, 2015


Stokes' songs feel familiar; they're old friends before you're done hearing them for the first time. Watch the Dispatch and State Radio singer perform his solo material live in the NPR Music offices.

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Beach Slang

Author: NPR
Mon, Apr 13, 2015


James Snyder's euphoric punk anthems become raw and uplifting confessionals in this acoustic set which includes a new song, "Too Late To Die Young."

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Death Cab For Cutie

Author: NPR
Mon, Apr 06, 2015


In a beautifully stark performance, the band plays two songs from the new Kintsugi and two older favorites one from Plans and one from Transatlanticism.

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Sylvan Esso

Author: NPR
Mon, Mar 30, 2015


Performed softly in the light of day, the duo's year-old material feels fresh and lovable when performed outside of a dark, loud club setting.

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Anonymous 4 With Bruce Molsky

Author: NPR
Mon, Mar 30, 2015


The a cappella quartet, known for luminous interpretations of medieval pieces, teams up with folk musician Bruce Molsky in music from more modern times popular songs from the Civil War era.

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Punch Brothers

Author: NPR
Tue, Mar 17, 2015


Spoiler alert: The Punch Brothers came to the Tiny Desk on Chris Thile's birthday. We made him a cake and gave him an NPR surprise! This wasn't the first time the brilliant mandolinist had brought a project to my desk it was his fourth. The last time was with his longtime band Nickel Creek, but also with his new braces. So the cake we presented here was inscribed "Brace Yourself Chris Happy Birthday." He blew out the candles and then, along with this versatile and talented band, rocked our world. Punch Brothers mixes the worlds of bluegrass, pop and classical. It's a tough combination to imagine, an even harder one to make work, but this band of fiddler, Gabe Witcher, Noam Pikelny on banjo, guitarist Chris Eldridge and bassist Paul Kowert make the unimaginable contagious and fun. They push boundaries and make music like no one else.

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Matt Haimovitz & Christopher O'Riley

Author: NPR
Mon, Mar 16, 2015


Whether it's warranted or not, classical music wonks are perennially worried about the next generation of fans.It seems there's less need to fret when you hear cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianistChristopher O'Riley. Some 15 years ago, they were already chipping away at the barriers both real and perceived between classical and pop.Haimovitz played Bach in barrooms across America, and O'Riley (who hosts From The Top, NPR's classical radio show for young musicians) began including his own sophisticated transcriptions of songs by Radiohead and Elliott Smith in his recitals. On their double album Shuffle.Play.Listen., music by Stravinsky and Astor Piazzollamingles with Cocteau Twins and Arcade Fire.Comfortably ensconced behind Bob Boilen's desk, the duo plays a typically diverse set. The central work, "The Orchard," is a collaboration between Philip Glass and West African composer Foday Musa Suso. It unfolds like a lullaby, as the piano's rocking bass line provides a mesmerizing foundation for the cello's wistful song high above. Surrounding it are lyricism and outbursts by Beethoven, from his Cello Sonata No. 4 (sounding distinctly 20th century), and a cinematic movement from Leo? Jan??ek'sPoh?dka, where heart-melting melodies clash with nervous energy.

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Aurelio

Author: NPR
Tue, Mar 10, 2015


Many tributaries follow the story of African migration to this part of the world. Much of that narrative is well-known, but little-known pockets of African culture still produce unique cultural expressions. The story of the Garifuna people is just one example. A tapestry of cultures and influences can be heard in the guitar work of Aurelio Martinez in this Tiny Desk Concert. Accompanied by traditional Garifuna musicians and an electric guitar, Aurelio, as he is known, weaves together intricate layers of acoustic guitar to capture the polyrhythms of West African and the Caribbean. His words reflect the longing and pride for the Garifuna culture from his home along the Pacific coast of Honduras. This is not museum music. This is living, breathing culture that is celebrated in Honduras and wherever else Afro-Latino descendants land in the so-called New World. Aurelio, his band and this music provide a fitting tribute to a nearly forgotten moment in history, keeping it alive for future generations.

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Fantastic Negrito

Author: NPR
Mon, Mar 09, 2015


It says a lot that, with almost 7,000 entries to choose from, we selected Fantastic Negrito as the winner of our Tiny Desk Concert Contest. For his winning submission, he performed "Lost In A Crowd" in a freight elevator in Oakland. It was his passion, his voice and his backing band that landed him an invitation to perform behind my desk. We're proud of our choice. As we learned after choosing him as our winner, Fantastic Negrito a.k.a. Xavier Dphrepaulezz, pronounced dee-FREP-ah-lez has a remarkable backstory. One of 15 children, he grew up in a strict home, and later signed a contract with Interscope Records in the '90s. That deal fell apart, though, and soured him on music-making. Then, a near-fatal car crash put him in a coma, and eventually left him without the proper use of his hands; he struggled with physical therapy for years to get some movement from what he now calls "The Claw." These days, bolstered by a new outlook on life and music, he's reawakened and reemerged under the name Fantastic Negrito. You'll see that newly rediscovered purpose in his eyes and hear it in his voice, as he performs this Tiny Desk Concert with his fantastic band.

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Phox

Author: NPR
Mon, Mar 02, 2015


I first saw Phox in an impromptu concert at a restaurant in Philadelphia. I thought the band was talented and charming, and I still do. Phox is six friends from Baraboo, Wis., who make pretty, catchy music. The group's not-so-secret weapon is Monica Martin, who sings with a smoky lilt in front of spare, tasteful instrumentation. You can hear that warm, accessible sound on Phox's 2014 debut, which was recorded at Wisconsin's April Base studio, built by Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and his brother. Touring has tightened this band since that off-the-cuff restaurant performance last year, as this marvelous performance at the Tiny Desk suggests.

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Dan Deacon

Author: NPR
Thu, Feb 26, 2015


Sometime years from now I may be asked: What was your favorite day at NPR? I am likely to say it's the day Dan Deacon got the NPR staff worked up into a giant dance party! It's also the day Deacon and staff wheeled in an upright piano and connected it to his computer a magical mix of old player piano and electronic avant-garde. Yes, Deacon makes electronic music and dance music, but it's not the thump thump thump stuff you'd go to a club for. It's a mix of Brian Eno, Philip Glass and your kids' birthday party (if you were the cool parents your kids wished they had). Dan came toting songs and that piano from his new record (which is quickly becoming my favorite of his), Gliss Riffer. The party really kicked into gear with the second song. And by the end you'll find me and my All Songs Considered co-host doing wild dance moves with 100 people. There'd never been a day at NPR quite like this!

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Zola Jesus

Author: NPR
Tue, Feb 24, 2015


With her huge voice and an assist from talented trombonist Daniel Walter Eaton,Zola Jesuspresented a curious combination at the Tiny Desk a combination I hardly ever encounter. Having seen her mostly with a big and powerful band, I wondered if this configuration would work. But it was magic, with the trombone poignantly complementing her mellifluous voice and stark personal words.Zola Jesus is the work of Nika Roza Danilova. She has five albums that span and mix electronic music, classical and goth influences. She's always exploring unusual combinations, and this mix of trombone and voice provides just a glimpse into her eclectic explorations. If you find this intriguing and don't know Zola Jesus, you're in for an adventure as you explore her catalog, including her most recent album,Taiga.

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Until The Ribbon Breaks

Author: NPR
Wed, Feb 18, 2015


The beauty of the Tiny Desk lies, at least partially, in the limitations of size and technology. We rarely amplify voices, for example, so for a band like Until The Ribbon Breaks, the challenge becomes how to take a loud electronic sound down to a volume where singer Pete Lawrie-Winfield can be heard. In this case, the solution involved a spaghetti strainer, a paint bucket and an acoustic guitar.It wasn't easy for Until The Ribbon Breaks to devise new arrangements for tried-and-true songs like "Pressure," from its full-length debutA Lesson Unlearnt. But it worked, because the Cardiff band's dance beats are always secondary to strong melodies and songwriting.

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Mucca Pazza

Author: NPR
Tue, Feb 10, 2015


When I first imagined Mucca Pazza at the Tiny Desk, I honestly had no idea how the Chicago band's 23 members would fit in in the literal sense of the term. To load-test this performance, we actually gathered a gaggle of interns behind my desk and began to stack people on cabinets, step-stools and, of course, desks.In nearly seven years of doing Tiny Desk Concerts, with more than 400 participating acts, this turned out to be the biggest one yet. It was also one of the most fun, with Mucca Pazza performing songs from its albumL.Y.A.using trombones, saxophones, trumpets, woodwinds, violin, electric mandolin, accordion, cello, guitar, sousaphone, a big bass drum, percussion instruments and more. Then there were the cheerleaders.I first heard this giant performance-art marching band atglobalFEST 2013, and Mucca Pazza's mix of cacophony, symphony and crazed frolic makes it a large, lovable renegade. The band just celebrated its first 10 years together, so if you missed the first decade, prepare to be a fan of the next. You may even be tempted to join this circus.

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Rubblebucket

Author: NPR
Wed, Jan 21, 2015


Before Rubblebucket played its Tiny Desk Concert, its members asked if they could bring a confetti cannon. And, though I said no dear coworkers, I really do care about you the band still brought a fun mix of brass and brash to the Tiny Desk.At the front of this band is Kalmia Traver and Alex Toth; she sings clever words, straps a tambourine to her foot and plays the flute, while he plays trumpet, flute and more. I really like this band and its attitude party-friendly but with a serious side, perhaps informed by Traver's recent battle with cancer which comes through nicely on Rubblebucket's new album,Survival Sounds.So set aside a few minutes to take this little carousel ride, courtesy of a band like few others.

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Trey Anastasio

Author: NPR
Wed, Jan 07, 2015


He came so humble, holding his acoustic guitar and wearing his heart on his sleeve. Trey Anastasio isn't new to NPR: Concerts of his have even included "All Things Reconsidered," a variation on theAll Things Consideredtheme. Anastasio was in town to perform a concert with his big band of brass and brawn, but this selection of Phish and solo tunes felt more personal. "Summer of '89" is about his wife, Sue, while "Backwards Down the Number Line" reflects on his bandmates and friends. He opened this set with "Sleep Again," a song that looks to a better and brighter future. It's a treat to catch such an intimate glimpse of someone often seen in arenas, steeped in collaboration.

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HMSTR

Author: NPR
Wed, Dec 24, 2014


You could never fully steal the show when you're followed by the blown-out spectacle ofSun Ra Arkestra's Tiny Desk Concert. But theopening actkept jumping on the piano and nibbling on the set, literally pulling up the carpet and leaving "presents" on the floor. How could we not have them back? Did I mention they're hamsters? Joni and Nash first names only, please, like Madonna and Cher are HMSTR. Certainly not the first band to count rodents among its members, but at least they refuse to release a punk album withno punk to be found. "Snow Day" is HMSTR's first single, a twee-as-all-get-out holiday pop-punk song by virtue of having "snow" in its title. After what sounds like digital snowflakes, the song unleashes a one-minute snowball fight with the fuzziest Tiny Desk destroyers we've ever seen. You can download "Snow Day" fromHMSTR's Bandcamp page. Happy holidays!

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Lucinda Williams

Author: NPR
Mon, Dec 22, 2014


She came to the Tiny Desk a little unsure, and left singing "West Memphis" with intensity and passion.Lucinda Williamshas a voice like no other, and it shines in these intimate moments. Williams is on a roll with a new double album,Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone, which is filled with fresh and beautiful songs all this from a songwriter known for working at a deliberate pace. Hearing her perform these new songs with her brilliant band was a rare and exciting treat.

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Yusuf/Cat Stevens

Author: NPR
Sun, Dec 14, 2014


In the summer of 1971, I was a camp counselor at a sleep-away camp for a bunch of 5- to 7-year-olds. For those eight weeks, I walked home with about $50. I bought a guitar and began to learn the songs I'd come to love from the recently released Tea for the Tillerman by Cat Stevens. "Father and Son" touched me most it's a song about growing old, and about beliefs and conviction. More than 40 years later, that songwriter is performing at my desk with his son standing right behind me. You can never imagine the turns life will take. Nor could he. In 1976, Cat Stevens almost drowned off the coast of Malibu. In his panic, he says, he shouted, "Oh, God! If you save me, I will work for you" at which point he recalls a wave that came and carried him ashore. He converted to Islam, changed his name and left the pop world after one last album in 1978. He finally returned in 2006, and now we have a new record, Tell 'Em I'm Gone. From that album of great blues covers and originals, produced with Rick Rubin, Yusuf plays some powerful new music, as well as the 1967 classic "The First Cut Is the Deepest" and then brought me to tears by dedicating a version of "Father and Son" to me. As I walked around the office after this Tiny Desk Concert, I heard one story after another of an artist who has touched so many. It's a joy to have him back.

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St. Paul And The Broken Bones

Author: NPR
Sun, Dec 14, 2014


Close your eyes and listen, and you might imagine someone who looks a bit like Otis Redding. Open them, and you're likely to see someone who looks more like your neighborhood bank teller. That man standing on my desk in the golden shoes is Paul Janeway. He was, in fact, a bank teller in Alabama not long ago and this stupendous seven-piece band from Birmingham has only been doing this since 2012. But take a look at this Tiny Desk Concert and you'll see why St. Paul And The Broken Bones' music is so winning. It's got heart and soul and flair, with a well-worn sound buoyed by strong, fresh songwriting.

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Dublin Guitar Quartet

Author: NPR
Sun, Dec 14, 2014


Don't ask the members of the Dublin Guitar Quartet to play the time-honored classics of the Spanish repertoire. They might play traditional Spanish style classical guitars, but they're not your standard guitar ensemble. The Dubliners are strictly devoted to contemporary music. They've been commissioning new pieces and adapting others for both acoustic and electric guitars since 2002, when the group formed at the Dublin Conservatory of Music and Drama. Dressed more like stylish bankers than hipsters, the musicians filed behind Bob Boilen's desk in matching suits and proceeded to make string quartet music by Philip Glass shine in a completely new way. Whether you know the Glass quartets or not, it's astonishing how satisfying the music sounds on four guitars. The interlocking parts are transparent and the music seems to breathe fresh air. The group's intonation is impeccable, the rhythms crisp and precise whether they are keeping the propulsive engine chugging or lurching to a sudden new arpeggio. Watch their heads, all bobbing in unison. In these arrangements by DGQ, the music is far more subtle than simple repetitions. Just a slight vibrato on the high notes in the third movement of the Second Quartet gives them a sweet, pearly sheen. And the slow section of Glass' Third Quartet, tender as a lullaby, is punctuated with carefully selected notes that hang in the air like fragrances. In other spots, brash strumming summons the spirit of flamenco. Glass' music has been a staple for these musicians, but they also play pieces by Steve Reich, Henryk G?recki and Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy. They've even paired with a couple of rock bands. With eight hands and 24 strings it seems the DGQ can tackle almost anything.

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Sam Amidon & Bill Frisell

Author: NPR
Wed, Dec 03, 2014


Sam Amidon takes traditional music and makes it his own. He might begin with a traditional murder ballad and then morph it into something of his own, fueled by Bill Frisell's languidly atmospheric guitar, Shahzad Ismaily's minimal but essential percussion and Amidon's own yearning voice. At other times, Amidon weaves his own new tunes into worn, weary, seemingly ageless sagas. Amidon has been doing this for a long time. In 1998, back when he was 16, NPR aired a story about his Vermont contra-dance band Popcorn Behavior, a group he'd assembled with his friend Thomas Bartlett (a.k.a. Doveman). Sixteen years later, Amidon has made a gorgeous new album, Lily-O, and performed a pair of its songs at the Tiny Desk followed by "Short Life," from his 2013 album Bright Sunny South.

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Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo

Author: NPR
Tue, Nov 25, 2014


Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo do mock-bickering as well as any long-married couple which, of course, is exactly what they are. More notably, they've formed a commercial and creative juggernaut spanning more than three decades, with the Brooklyn-born Benatar singing and Giraldo working as her guitarist, producer and fellow songwriter. Benatar's recording career spans a dozen studio albums, seven of which have sold more than a million copies, and has yielded multiple Grammy Awards and some remarkably sturdy staples of the classic-rock canon. Though most widely associated with a string of chart-toppers in the late '70s through the '80s "Love Is A Battlefield," "Heartbreaker," et al Benatar and Giraldo still draw huge crowds, for reasons made abundantly clear here. Classically trained as a mezzo-soprano, Benatar still possesses a formidable instrument, and the pair's songs have lost none of their appeal in the intervening decades. And, of course, the duo performs with an agreeable mixture of lighthearted banter, chops and charm. At the Tiny Desk, Benatar and Giraldo ran through three of their classic songs: 1979's "We Live For Love," 1984's "We Belong" and, after a long and satisfying windup, 1981's "Promises In The Dark.

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J Mascis

Author: NPR
Mon, Nov 24, 2014


The loudest guy in the world came to the Tiny Desk to perform some of his quietest music. Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis, for years a guy who's turned my ears red, showed up armed with just an acoustic guitar. I even had an amp for that guitar all lined up, but he decided to not plug in. So we get a rare treat: a low-key J Mascis, performing emotional songs from his new album Tied To A Star, as well as Dinosaur Jr.'s classic "Little Fury Things." If you think Mascis draws all his power from sheer volume, this ought to convince you otherwise.

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Dav?d Garza

Author: NPR
Mon, Nov 24, 2014


Dav?d Garza was already a favorite son for folks in Austin when I discovered a collection of his past works, filled with stunning songwriting and a voice that seemed familiar yet new. Once I heard his music, I knew I'd always look forward to whatever he produced. Being a fan of Garza means accepting the world on his terms and his world is filled with infinite musical possibilities. He's got a tremendous collection of musical friends who call on him for his work as a backup musician in studio sessions and on stage. For example, he and vocalist Gaby Moreno (already a Tiny Desk veteran) have been touring together lately, and you get a taste of her powerful voice as she joins Garza here.

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Roomful Of Teeth

Author: NPR
Wed, Nov 12, 2014


Mix a bit of yodeling with Tuvan throat singing, add in a pinch of Sardinian cantu a tenore, fold in compositions from cutting-edge composers and you have the vocal group Roomful of Teeth. This eight-voice ensemble, which includes the 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw, is gleefully dismantling the traditional definition of ensemble singing right before our ears (and teeth!). Musical descendants of the innovative extended vocal techniques of Meredith Monk, the Teeth tend to make sounds some sweet, others alarming that you probably haven't heard from a group of humans. In Australian composer Wally Gunn's "The Fence is Gone," verses emerge from an infrastructure of "oh-ha" syllables and a simple drum pulse, ending with women's voices, tight in harmony, like a chord from a Casio keyboard. In Rinde Eckert's "Cesca's View," imagine a lonely cowgirl on some windswept plain. Estel? Gomez gets her yodel on, beautifully, while the three other women vocalize in close, barbershop-style harmony. It literally ends on a high note. To finish, Teeth founder and director Brad Wells contributes "Otherwise." Warm, rounded tones in male voices contrast with a steely sheen from the women and a high drone like a Tibetan singing bowl. The harmonies take a tangy, almost Bulgarian turn, then we get something truly otherworldly. A pulsing, slightly creepy Sardinian "bim-bom" vocalise buzzes like a gigantic cicada. Dashon Burton's operatic baritone soars above it all. The agility of the voices and multicolored blend they achieve are extraordinary. As the applause faded away, one of the Teeth said, "Thanks for letting us yell at you." No, I think it's we who are grateful and perhaps a little stunned

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Making Movies

Author: NPR
Mon, Nov 10, 2014


When Los Lobos' Steve Berlin sent me an audio file of a band he was producing, I stopped what I was doing and listened closely. There was something about the energy coming from Enrique Chi's vocals as the rest of Making Movies enveloped him in sound. The band has been making fans across the country one gig at a time, one song at a time whether singing in English or Spanish, whether playing guitars or stringed instruments that come directly from Making Movies' ancestral Panama, whether playing drums or dancing a Mexican zapateado. One of the joys of co-hosting Alt.Latino for the last four and half years has been the way the show has helped me discover new artists who make me feel as if I've been listening to them for years. It's going to a fun ride watching this young band grow and develop from such a strong start. Watch the video here and join us on the ground floor.

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Sun Ra Arkestra

Author: NPR
Sun, Nov 09, 2014


Sun Ra was a big-band innovator, a pioneer of recording and playing with electronics, a poet, a cosmic philosopher, a bandleader and a keyboard innovator who claimed to be from Saturn. Herman Poole Blount would have turned 100 in 2014 had he not left us more than 20 years ago. But his spirit lives on, and so does his long-running band. On Halloween 2014, the Sun Ra Arkestra complete with costumes inspired by Egyptian symbolism and science fiction performed a rousing, out-of-this-world Tiny Desk Concert. The band was led by 91-year-old alto saxophonist Marshall Allen, who's been with the Arkestra since the early 1950s. All these years later, no one makes soul-stirring, spaced-out jazz quite like the Arkestra.

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Banks

Author: NPR
Tue, Nov 04, 2014


Tiny Desk Concerts often require creative and logistical transformations, from electric bands going acoustic to big bands squashing into a tiny space to many players gathering around a single microphone. But the setting is particularly challenging for vocalists, especially those accustomed to heavy production, effects or in the case of recent guest T-Pain generous dollops of Auto-Tune. T-Pain's effects-less set grabbed more attention at the time, given the extent to which digital alterations are expected of him, but this performance by Banks is, in its own way, an even greater high-wire act. Banks' terrific full-length debut, Goddess, is constructed out of layer upon layer of electronics, beats, samples and other means of submerging the singer's voice in swirling accoutrements. With assistance from keyboardist/guitarist John Anderson and percussionist Derek Taylor, she's not all alone behind the Tiny Desk, but her expressive voice is fully exposed here. Kicking off her three-song set with "Beggin For Thread," Banks sets the scene in vulnerable, breathily seething fashion before opening the throttle in her choruses. On record, she's placed at the center of lavish productions, each suitable for throbbing remixes and banks of swirling lights. At the Tiny Desk, though, she serves notice that she's a powerful singer in her own right and that heavy production needn't be the product of necessity.

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T-Pain

Author: NPR
Wed, Oct 29, 2014


T-Pain's fingerprints are all over pop and R&B and hip-hop. He wasn't the first musician to use Auto-Tune as an instrument he noticed it on a Jennifer Lopez remix, and remembers "Deep" well but it was, as he says, his style. For a while, in the mid-2000s, he lived at the top of the charts. He dominated that brief moment of our lives when ringtones were a thing. He was celebrated as an innovator, and he happily took his talents where he was invited, which was everywhere. But somewhere along the way, somebody got it twisted. "People felt like I was using it to sound good," says T-Pain, in an interview that will air on All Things Considered. "But I was just using it to sound different." He just turned 30, but T-Pain has already done enough to drop a greatest hits album next week. We asked him if he'd grace the Tiny Desk without any embellishment or effects to show what's really made his career: his voice, and those songs.

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Danish String Quartet

Author: NPR
Mon, Oct 27, 2014


An abundance of facial hair is not restricted to the sensitive male indie-rocker set. Three of the four players in the Danish String Quartet could easily pass for hipster Brooklyn beard farmers. "We are simply your friendly neighborhood string quartet with above average amounts of beard," the group's website says. Yet what's really important about the ensemble is how they play and judging from this performance behind Bob Boilen's desk, these Nordic lads possess warmth, wit, a beautiful tone and technical prowess second to none. Like most string quartets, they thrive on classics by Brahms, Beethoven, Haydn and the like. But this group recently took a musical detour that landed them in the foggy inlets of the Faroe Islands (a Danish outpost halfway between Norway and Iceland) and various Nordic hamlets where folk tunes are played and passed on. "Folk music is the music of small places," the quartet notes on its new album Wood Works, which includes the tunes in this concert. "It is the local music, but as such it is also the music of everyone and everywhere." You don't own folk music, the band believes, you simply borrow it for a while. Violinists Rune Tonsgaard S?rensen and Frederik ?land, violist Asbj?rn N?rgaard and cellist Fredrik Sch?yen Sj?lin begin with a set of wedding tunes, some dating back some 400 years and still in use today. Then they pair up an old Danish dance that feels like an Irish jig with a traditional Danish reel from near their home base, Copenhagen. And to close, a slow, evocative wedding dance, in a wistful arrangement by their friend Nikolaj Busk that conjures a lonely fjord shrouded in mist. The young musicians may only be borrowing this music, but we're awfully pleased they lent a little of it to us.

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Anthony D'Amato

Author: NPR
Tue, Oct 21, 2014


Anthony D'Amatosings and writes in the tradition ofBruce SpringsteenorJosh Ritter: His songs sound friendly musically, but they also tackle the difficult and the twisted. Like those great songwriters, D'Amato's work is universal without devolving into moping. There's also a spirit to these songs, as it's easy to imagine a crowd spontaneously backing these his powerful choruses. His new albumThe Shipwreck From The Shorecan feel Motown-y, garage-y and Springsteen-y, and all that production serves these gems well. But here at my desk, D'Amato's music is more spare, as the four other musicians simply serve the lyrics and the stories they tell. It's a good entry point if you don't know his music. Then, when you do hear the album, an extra treat awaits.

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?sgeir

Author: NPR
Mon, Oct 20, 2014


When he was 20, ?sgeir Trausti Einarsson released an album in Iceland, sung in Icelandic, with many of the words written by his father. D?r? ? dau?a??gn became the biggest-selling debut in Icelandic music history. A year or so later, he rerecorded that album in English under the name In The Silence, with translation help from John Grant an American singer-songwriter (and Tiny Desk veteran) now living in Iceland. ?sgeir's voice is angelic and yearning, his songs simple and universal. At the Tiny Desk, his raw, slowed-down arrangements bring a sense of grace to what were already elegant songs. On piano, with simple guitar accompaniment from his childhood friend Julius R?bertsson, ?sgeir strips these spare tunes down even further, locating their essence in the process. It's been a wonderful year for the singer: His U.S. tour is wrapping up on the West Coast, and many in the U.S. have discovered his music in 2014. If you haven't done so yet, here's your ?sgeir moment.

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The Bots

Author: NPR
Wed, Oct 15, 2014


The Bots' members are brothers and bandmates whose playful, catchy songs rock hard. Singer-guitarist Mikaiah Lei is 21 and drummer Anaiah Lei is 17; they made their first album when they were 15 and 12, respectively. Pink Palms is their newest and best. I hear Jimi Hendrix in The Bots' bluesy moments, both in the guitar and in Mikaiah Lei's voice, but there's also that great rock-duo punch we've heard in The White Stripes or JEFF The Brotherhood. Still, unexpected sweetness surfaces here, in a way that provides a fine counterpoint to The Bots' frenetic moments. Watch and you'll see what I mean.

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Raquel Sofia

Author: NPR
Wed, Oct 15, 2014


Singer Raquel Sofia has spent most of her career 20 feet from stardom as a backup singer for Juanes and Shakira. But these days, she's got her own new album and tour, leading a small band of gifted musicians. Sofia's songs are about matters of the heart and, as you'll hear in her performance here, it's hard to believe that feeling bad can sound this good. Her music doesn't wallow; instead, it makes me want to celebrate and experience the joy and pain along with her. I hope you find a place in Raquel Sofia's music for yourself. Her voice, her songwriting and her performances more than met the expectations I had after hearing her EPs, so I don't doubt that you'll become a fan, too.

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Jackson Browne

Author: NPR
Mon, Oct 06, 2014


My admiration forJackson Brownebegan with his first album in 1971. I was wowed by the fact that the singer-songwriter had worked with Nico of Velvet Underground fame his girlfriend at the time on her first album,Chelsea Girl.He wrote one of my favorite songs on that record, "These Days." More than 40 years on, my appreciation continues to grow. Browne still writes songs with conviction and craftsmanship and careful attention to detail. At the same time, there's a perceptible loosening of attitude: His Tiny Desk Concert performance isn't perfect, his heart showing through every crack in his voice. Browne can be seen out and about in other informal settings besides this one. At the Newport Folk Festival a few years ago, you could hear him play formally and informally withTom Morello,Conor Oberst,Dawesand more. Back home on the West Coast, he might just sit in whenSaraand Sean Watkins put on theirWatkins Family Hourvariety show at Largo. This week, Jackson Browne turns 66 and releases his 14th album,Standing In The Breach.It's a record that fully captures his rare ability to mix activism with poetry: His stature allows him freedom he's largely free of obligations with the ability to play comfortably with musicians of his own choosing. Yet he continues to stretch, working alongside much younger players with different talents and interests, sharing his talents and finding inspiration. It's that passion for playing and exploring that brings Browne to things like the Tiny Desk Concert, an awkwardly intimate setting for such a popular performer.

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Ryan Keberle & Catharsis

Author: NPR
Mon, Oct 06, 2014


Even if you've never been to a jazz concert in your life, it's likely that you've heard Ryan Keberle play trombone. He's toured withSufjan Stevens, backed up pop stars like Alicia Keys and Justin Timberlake, recorded for a Woody Allen film, played in Broadway pits and directed music for a church in Manhattan. Left to his own devices, though, Keberle likes to put himself into improvising situations. You'll see him wherever jazz musicians want trombones read: he's in alotofbigbands and, increasingly, leading the groups himself. He's hit upon something with his working band, a quartet called Catharsis consisting of Keberle's trombone, Michael Rodriguez's trumpet, Jorge Roeder's bass and Eric Doob's drums. That lineup indulges the intersecting parts of his tunes, but preserves the melodic through-lines and swinging undertow. Here, as on their new record,Into The Zone, they're joined by Camila Meza, who came from Chile to study guitar and applies that training to her largely wordless vocals. All five drove down from Brooklyn (well, one from Queens) just to showcase that sound for NPR Music. You get the sense that playing for so many different audiences affects how Keberle thinks about Catharsis. Certainly, his time with Sufjan Stevens rubbed off he leads off with a lovely arrangement of Stevens' "Sister." More generally, Keberle knows he's not going to impress anyone with complexity; he's not after any high-concept framing. He's just targeting the sweet spot where a nifty arrangement meets a solid groove, and after three songs, everyone seemed pretty satisfied at his aim.

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Bio Ritmo

Author: NPR
Mon, Sep 29, 2014


Latino migration in the U.S. has placed people of Afro-Caribbean heritage all over the country. Bio Ritmo's heritage leads directly back to that migration and to the sound of Fania Records, which fueled Latin dance music's transition from the big-band mambos of the 1950s to the cutting-edge sounds of 1970s New York. Bio Ritmo moves salsa music even further through stellar musicianship: crisp horn charts; a powerful rhythm section of timbales, congas and bongos; and a piano/bass combo that reminds me of the best groove masters in salsa and Latin jazz. The secret to playing salsa well is a perfect combination of chops and passion that makes listeners move their hips instinctively while looking for enough clear space to break out their favorite salsa moves. This is dance music, and Bio Ritmo has burnished its reputation on dance floors. It's a time-honored tradition: If you can't make the dancers move, then you're in the wrong genre. So move some furniture around, press play on this video, and enjoy.

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Tweedy

Author: NPR
Mon, Sep 22, 2014


There's something heartwarming about a family making music together. I'm especially sentimental when I see a father with a son, because my son and I made music in contra dance bands and Irish sessions as he grew up. Years ago, while interviewing Jeff Tweedy before a Wilcoconcert, I asked him if he'd made music with his kids. He told me about going to his son Spencer's preschool class and writing a tune with all the kids; "Monkey Mess" was their final creation. Now, all these years later, he and Spencer have put together 20 songs as Tweedy for a new record calledSukierae;the material is strong, personal and bare.Spencer is a great drummer who grew up playing in the basement of a Chicago bar called Lounge Ax (which his mom, Susie Miller, co-owned), and he's got a group of his own called The Blisters. The father and son usually perform together with a full-band lineup. But here at the Tiny Desk, we've stripped it down to just the men who bear the Tweedy name and share the family bond that helps make their music together beautiful.

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Luluc

Author: NPR
Mon, Sep 15, 2014


I've spent more time listening to Luluc's second album, Passerby, than any other album this year. It's a calming, seemingly effortless affair: a marriage of graceful singing and storytelling, with guitars and textures that help create an unforgettable aura.The voice and acoustic guitar belong to Zo? Randell, while bandmate Steve Hassett contributes all the remaining sounds. Both are Australian, though these days they split their time between Melbourne and Brooklyn. I might have missed this album as I did its 2008 predecessor had it not been for Joe Boyd, a brilliant record producer since the 1960s and the person who brought the world Nick Drake. In 2012, Boyd asked Luluc to perform on a Nick Drake tribute tour, which makes sense: This music is true to the late singer's spirit, and then some.

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Justin Townes Earle

Author: NPR
Mon, Sep 08, 2014


We threw a curve ball at Justin Townes Earle. Despite his five albums full of well-loved songs, we asked him to play new material for this Tiny Desk Concert; songs we hadn't yet heard. Earle's new album Single Mothers comes out this week, and here he performs two tracks from that record: "White Gardenias," his nod to Billie Holiday, and "Burning Pictures." Based in Nashville, Earle is a strong lyricist with a father, Steve Earle, who similarly finds strength in perfectly crafted words. The younger Earle is on tour now, playing old and new songs, so here's a taste of his sharp songwriting to tide you over until he comes to your town.

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Jessica Lea Mayfield

Author: NPR
Mon, Sep 08, 2014


These days, Jessica Lea Mayfield is all contrasts, starting with the way she sets her wistful voice against her shimmering guitar. It's got a harder edge to it than the rootsier music of her past. Then there's that cotton-candy hair and all the glitter; her guitar glitters, her eyes glitter, her shoes glitter. It's easier to talk about what isn't glittered and mostly that'd be her lyrics. In the final song from both her album Make My Head Sing... and this Tiny Desk Concert, "Seein* Starz," she starkly sings: When it's just us two in the dark You've got a stranglehold On my heart When she speaks of her unicorn-adorned guitar knobs, she sounds about 13. But then there are lines like these, from "Party Drugs": Party drugs just make us argue Don't know why they didn't used to In those moments, you're hearing an older, hopefully wiser character. All those schisms in her sound beguile me. On the record, her songs often rock with abandon. Here, they hypnotize.

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Trampled By Turtles

Author: NPR
Wed, Sep 03, 2014


What immediately attracted me to Trampled by Turtles when I first saw the band was its speed, but the Minnesotans are about more than just blistering bluegrass. They also write beautiful, heartfelt folk-pop songs, as this Tiny Desk Concert demonstrates. All three of these tunes come from Trampled By Turtles' new eighth album, Wild Animals. Watching the band gathered around one mic seemed perfectly right.

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Sturgill Simpson

Author: NPR
Tue, Sep 02, 2014


Sturgill Simpson doesn't fit today's common image of a country singer. When he arrived for his Tiny Desk Concert, the 36-year-old Kentucky native sauntered in sleepy-eyed, wearing jeans, a pair of old canvas tennis shoes, no socks and a well-worn button-down blue shirt, one of only two identical shirts he said he had in rotation while on tour. (He appeared a few nights later on Letterman wearing either the same garment or its twin.) Simpson's songs don't sound like what you'd expect, either: Mostly, it seems, he writes about taking drugs and drinking. Opening his Tiny Desk performance with the seemingly existential meditation "Turtles All The Way Down," Simpson tells the audience it's "about some other stuff, but mostly drugs." He follows that song with "Time After All" ("I wanna roll off the tempo, lay back and get high") and "Life Of Sin" ("Every day I'm smokin' my brain hazy ... I keep drinking myself silly") before closing with "Water In The Well," a tamer, comparatively melancholy reflection on loneliness and failed dreams. Regardless of the themes, Simpson is a force. His acoustic-guitar work in this solo performance is phenomenal, and he possesses a thundering voice that made the NPR offices shudder. "Turtles All The Way Down" and "Life Of Sin" are from this year's incredible Metamodern Sounds In Country Music,while "Time After All" and "Water In The Well" both appear on Simpson's 2013 debut, High Top Mountain. (Get it?)

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Nickel Creek

Author: NPR
Tue, Aug 26, 2014


Nickel Creek was made to sing and play around a single microphone, so a Tiny Desk Concert seemed inevitable. All it took was a reunion tour celebrating 25 years of Nickel Creek to make it happen. All three of the band's remarkably talented core members have been to the Tiny Desk before. Chris Thile is a veteran, having played the Tiny Desk with friend and guitarist Michael Daves, then later in the same year with Yo-Yo Ma and others in a project known as Goat Rodeo. When The Decemberistsperformed a Tiny Desk Concert, Sara Watkins was there to play her fiddle and sing. Her brother, Sean Watkins, was also at the NPR offices earlier this yearwith the marvelous singer Tom Brosseau. The trio, backed here by bassist Mark Schatz, has no equal. Nickel Creek has been doing this on and off since its members were kids, and what blows me away is the comfort and ease with which they navigate their instruments. That skill, and the creative force behind it, is a joy and a thrill to witness.

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Rodrigo Amarante

Author: NPR
Mon, Aug 25, 2014


Rodrigo Amarante has made the year's tenderest record.Cavalo is sonically rich and spare at the same time: Every instrument breathes and every sound blends, yet every moment is distinct. At Cavalo's core are heartfelt songs and Amarante's sweet, smoky voice. Amarante is from Rio de Janeiro, and these days lives in Los Angeles. You may know him from a few other projects: Rio's Los Hermanos, as well as Little Joy, which included Binki Shapiro and Strokesdrummer Fabrizio Moretti. For his Tiny Desk Concert, Amarante brought his small Harmony parlor guitar from the '30s, known lovingly as "Butter." These songs are stripped to their essence, and what you'll encounter here and what you can't hear on Cavalo is the warm, approachable singer's physical presence. Prepare to be drawn close to this intimate music. You'll want to crawl in bed with it.

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Ernest Ranglin

Author: NPR
Mon, Aug 18, 2014


At 82, legendary guitarist Ernest Ranglin still plays the ska, reggae and jazz that he's championed and helped perfect for more than half a century. Ranglin was a key figure in shaping the sounds of ska influenced by New Orleans jazz and R&B in Jamaica in the late 1950s. But most of the world wouldn't hear of ska until producer Chris Blackwell teamed Ranglin up with a Jamaican singer named Millie Small. Together, they recorded "My Boy Lollipop," a song that became a smash at the height of Beatlemania and helped put ska and Jamaican music on the map forever.You've probably also heard Ranglin if you've seen the James Bond film Dr. No particularly the scenes set in Jamaica. The effects of Ranglin's fluid and rhythmic playing on Jamaican music, from mento to reggae, are deep and long-lasting. But his work as a jazz artist is equally amazing, and here at the Tiny Desk he does a bit of everything, including music from his lyrical and wonderful album Bless Up. So watch as this humble, charming gentleman makes magic on guitar, with his talented young band Avila holding down the beat.

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Bob Mould

Author: NPR
Mon, Aug 11, 2014


Bob Mould came alone, except for his 1987 Lake Placid Blue Fender Stratocaster. We provided the Epiphone Blues Custom 30 amp, which he promptly cranked. Needless to say, he announced his own Tiny Desk Concert without using the paging system.Mould isn't a shy man his power chords will tell you that but he's humble and gentle. Many know Mould from his days with H?sker D?, an awesome punkish band from Minnesota that laid the groundwork for the Pixies and more. His subsequent work with Sugar managed to do something none of his other records did so well: Copper Blue sold hundreds of thousands of copies.Beauty and Ruin is solo album No. 11 for Mould, and as you can hear from these songs, he's all amped up and ready to go. Sweaty and happy, he makes "Makes No Sense At All" his final calling card classic H?sker D?.

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Irene Diaz

Author: NPR
Mon, Aug 11, 2014


The first time I heard it, Irene Diaz's voice stopped me cold: Her sheer power belies her compact stature, and her musical impact is simply immense. With her musical partner Carolyn Cardoza strumming away intently on ukulele, Diaz conjures a place where emotions run deep and beauty is unmistakable. Watch them perform these four songs at the Tiny Desk to see what I mean.

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Quetzal

Author: NPR
Mon, Aug 04, 2014


The Southern California band Quetzal recently celebrated its 20th anniversary with a blowout concert that seemed to attract as many musicians as regular people. The band has maintained such a strong presence in the SoCal Chicano music scene that its members could be considered padrinosand padrinas of that free-flowing musical community. Quetzal is respected and admired as much for its commitment to social justice, activism and education lead singer Martha Gonzalez has a Ph.D as for its folk-infused music, which gets a marvelous showcase in this Tiny Desk Concert. While the instrumentation is stripped down, the sound is full; the music penetrates the intellect even as it makes your hips sway. The group runs a tight ship musically: Gonzalez's voice could be heard well past the confines of the Tiny Desk, all the way to our web-designing neighbors; guitarist Quetzal Flores unplugged and worked the Mexican jarana for both rhythm and melody, often at the same time; violinist Rocio Marron wove blues licks into Mexican folk runs; bassist Juan Perez provided a nimble and melodic bottom end. Add it all up and you get a glimpse into a musical vision that inspires as much as it entertains. If you didn't know Quetzal before this video, now's the time to catch up. If you're a fan like me, you've already got a head start on looking forward to the next 20 years.

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Saintseneca

Author: NPR
Tue, Jul 29, 2014


One of the many instruments you may hear Saintseneca play beyond the banjo, baglama, bulbul, balalaika, bowed banjo, baritone ukulele, bass and bouzouki is a stomp box. Basically, it's a roughly 2'x2' plywood floorboard meant for pounding the beat. At a show just before this Tiny Desk Concert, craftily bearded singer Zac Little put his boot right through that floorboard. Saintseneca had its beginnings in the heart of a small Appalachian town in Ohio, and the band grew up at college in Columbus. This year's Dark Arc is a pastiche of gentle lyrical moments and punk anthems, often within the same tune and often with that aforementioned stomp, straight from a small wooden porch. After Saintseneca left the Tiny Desk, I pointed the band to a hardware store to replace its broken floorboard only to get a note a while later telling me that the new board had been destroyed within weeks. Here's a good sampling of what the group does best, though you should be sure to see Saintseneca in concert, where its fierceness is afoot.

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Highasakite

Author: NPR
Mon, Jul 28, 2014


My first time seeing this Norwegian band was at a fairly soulless convention center in Austin, Texas. They transformed that big, open room into an intimate affair. So having them perform at the Tiny Desk, an already intimate space, was a thrill. It was also the first appearance of a flugabone here. Kristoffer Lo plays that mournful horn and Ingrid Helene H?vik compliments the yearning with words that are mysterious, somewhat dark and contain surprising twists. The song titles on their 2014 album Silent Treatment seem more like chapter headings in a crime novel. "Leaving No Traces," "I, The Hand Grenade," "The Man on the Ferry," "Science & Blood Tests" you get the picture. But this band has a powerful pop side filled with drama made of drums, synths, guitar and the aforementioned flugabone and voice. So glad I get to turn you on to a new favorite of mine.

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Hamilton Leithauser

Author: NPR
Mon, Jul 21, 2014


This is the second time Hamilton Leithauser has graced the Tiny Desk. Two summers ago, he and his band The Walkmen played a powerful set of songs from their final album for now, Heaven. The Walkmen announced an indefinite hiatus toward the end of 2013, and since then we've heard strong solo records from Walter Martin and Peter Matthew Bauer and, of course, Leithauser himself, which is what prompted us to invite him back. These songs put Leithauser's voice front and powerfully center, even more than it was in the band. There's a more relaxed feel all over his new solo album, Black Hours, though a few full-throttle tunes get the most out of his huge voice including the second song from this set, "Alexandra." Along with The Walkmen's Paul Maroon on guitar, Leithauser brought along Hugh McIntosh, who played drums in Leithauser's old band The Recoys. All in all, a fine re-introduction to a singer who's lost none of his power, even as he's matured and loosened as a performer.

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Marisa Anderson

Author: NPR
Mon, Jul 21, 2014


Marisa Anderson knows where American guitar music has been and where it is now, and probably possesses an inkling of where it can go. She's studied the history and musical nuance of blues, country and folk music through and through, and ingests it all in a style that's as raw as it true. But mostly, Anderson just wants to kick up some dirt which isn't easy here, given that the NPR Music offices are relatively clean. (Mind the towering stacks of CDs, though. They could topple over at any time.) In 2013, Anderson released two albums. December'sTraditional and Public Domain Songs contains exactly what its title suggests; as she says, "I thought of these songs like our national parks they belong to all of us. If we don't use 'em, we'll lose 'em, I reckon, or someone will buy 'em." At the Tiny Desk, that includes Stephen Foster's parlor song "Hard Times Come Again No More," in which she slowly builds the melody with a violent shake. Mercury came out six months prior, and it side-winds through Americana off and on the beaten path. She plays "Sinks and Rises" on the lap steel; it's an ode to a Kentucky swimming hole. Quick to defer to the influential musicians before her, she pays tribute to blues guitarist Rev. Gary Davis with a deconstruction of his song "Hesitation Blues." Anderson's version has a bit more pick-up and, since she doesn't sing, finds clever ways to mimic Davis' jokey speak-singing style. Just when the gospel songs of "Canaan's Land Medley" set us in meditative mood, Anderson whips out a baby-blue Stratocaster for "Galax." It's got that chicken-pecking-at-corn rhythm, egged on (sorry) by a wild slide. If it sounds like 12 simultaneous hoedowns, that's by design: The song came to Anderson while she stood in the parking lot of a bluegrass festival, overwhelmed by everything hitting at once.

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Holly Williams

Author: NPR
Mon, Jul 14, 2014


Truth be told, Holly Williams brought me and many of my hardened colleagues to tears. The singer-songwriter has a magnificent way with words and phrasing, not to mention a country-music lineage that fills her with pride and guides her poignancy and subject matter. Country is in her blood: As the daughter of Hank Williams Jr. and half-sister of Hank Williams III, she's also the granddaughter of the ultimate country legend, Hank Williams Sr. That said, it was a song about the other side of her family, "Waiting on June," that brought us to tears that day. It's a song about her grandparents on her mom's side, married for 56 years, and it tells a tale of love and unwavering dedication; of two kids meeting in a cotton field and the love that fills their lives through war, birth and death. We were slower than we used to be The nursing home told June and me That we'd have separate rooms side by side Oh, what I'd give for one more night of sleeping with my wife Since '45, I've touched her skin in the middle of the night So I'm lyin' in this single bed until they cut the lights That's when she'll sneak in and I'll be fine Holly Williams came to the Tiny Desk still able to hide her pregnancy behind her guitar. She's married to musician Chris Coleman, and it's easy to imagine that some years down the line, their offspring will sing new songs about ageless feelings of love and hurt, happiness and tragedy. Country music doesn't die.

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John Grant

Author: NPR
Mon, Jul 14, 2014


John Grant's songs don't mess around: The music isn't complicated, while the lyrics function as darts of retort and thought. His album Pale Green Ghosts is decorated with synthesizers, his voice often drenched in reverb; those tools and textures help make the record strong and everlasting. So when Grant came to the Tiny Desk with just an acoustic guitarist and wanted to play piano himself I feared that the power of the songs I'd come to love wouldn't translate amid such bare sounds. I was wrong, and his music was just right. The lyrics rush forward and hit hard. Try this line from the first song he performs, "Where Dreams Go to Die": Baby, you're where dreams go to die I regret the day your lovely carcass caught my eye Grant is known to some as the singer from the Denver band The Czars, but these days he lives in Iceland. He recently helped translate the best-selling Icelandic album from ?sgeir Trausti into English. Pale Green Ghosts is his second album on his own, though he did have help from the band Midlake when he recorded Queen of Denmark in 2010. The two solo records and much of his writings are deeply personal, touching on his sexuality and his battles with drugs and alcohol. Stripped to its core, this material gets even stronger and here's proof.

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Moon Hooch

Author: NPR
Mon, Jul 07, 2014


People ask me all the time to name my favorite Tiny Desk Concert. It's my desk and I've seen almost all of the nearly 400 concerts up close. So you'd think this would be easy. Moon Hooch have made it a lot easier. Up there with the ear-shaking voice of Adele, the desk dancingof Gogol Bordello, the stripped down version of Phoenix not to mention magic moments with Alt-J, Angel Olsen andLucius and more Moon Hooch blew me away with just two saxes and a drummer. Their music is a mix of the best jazz, EDM and rock have to offer. It's out there, it's danceable and you may find yourself feeling a sense of reckless abandon! The band is saxophonists Mike Wilbur and Wenzl McGowen, and drummer James Muschler. They all studied in New York at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, and every single moment of every song I've ever seen them perform has been full throttle. They call their music "cave music," taking the best elements of electronica the brutal stops, starts and shifts and performing those unnaturally precise hairpin turns organically by blowing on horns and banging on drums. This for the boldness in all of us. Embrace Moon Hooch.

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The Foreign Exchange

Author: NPR
Mon, Jul 07, 2014


While on a world tour to support their fourth album, Love in Flying Colors, The Foreign Exchange stopped by the Tiny Desk to rev up a Friday afternoon. I've followed Phonte Coleman and Nicolay in their 10 years as a band and it's evident their writing and production are honest and downright pungent at times. But when it's time to perform, it's all about fun. Backed by keyboardist Zo! and percussionist Boogie, Phonte, never short for words, lays down some quick ground rules. He then proceeds to interpret lyrics to meld three stripped-down highlights from their latest LP, including one of our top sleepers from last year. Enjoy this Tiny Desk Concert that also serves as a church sermon and stand-up act.

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Lydia Lovless

Author: NPR
Tue, Jul 01, 2014


For 23-year-old singer-guitarist Lydia Loveless, gritty, countrified blues-rock is a palette broad enough to include literary drama complete with fatalistic references to the doomed French poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud and a plainspoken plea for oral sex. In fact, "Head" and "Verlaine Shot Rimbaud" (both of which appear on this year's terrific Somewhere Else) pop up back-to-back in this subdued but seething three-song Tiny Desk Concert, which Loveless recorded with the help of her full touring band. Loveless follows "Head" and "Verlaine" with "Mile High," an even newer single (released with a cover of Kesha's "Blind" as a B-side) she'd just put out as a 7" on Record Store Day. Taken together, the three songs performed, as Loveless notes wryly, with very little audience eye contact paint a smart, no-nonsense picture of a smart, no-nonsense talent.

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Tracy Silverman

Author: NPR
Tue, Jul 01, 2014


Tracy Silvermanhas been called the greatest living exponent of the electric violin. But we're not talking just any electric violin. After he graduated from Juilliard in 1980, Silverman designed his own six-string instrument, creating new musical possibilities and inspiring some of today's greatest composers to write for him including John Adams (The Dharma at Big Sur) andTerry Riley, who says, "Tracy's violin is like an orchestra in and of itself." Silverman's instrument looks a little like an electric guitar, a mini Stratocaster complete with frets. To achieve his orchestral sound, he works with looping pedals. They record what he plays, then send the music back out so he can add new layers. On the opening piece, "Matisse: La Danse," notice how he starts with a few simple riffs that soon become the setting for a series of improvised countermelodies all flowing at once. A self-described NPR junkie, Silverman adores the theme music from NPR's various news shows. He couldn't resist cooking up a new piece, a little theme and variations, teasing familiar tunes from All Things Considered and Morning Edition. (He also couldn't resist filming a selfie.) In Axis and Orbits/Mojo Perpetuo, Silverman's closing number, pizzicato notes set up a foundation for mesmerizing, long-bowed melodies, expanding out into deep space like planets in orbit. With distorted electric guitar sounds and reverb, he finally segues to a more virtuoso section reminiscent of a Paganini Caprice. Who knew that with a little ingenuity, imagination, six strings and a couple of pedals one could conjure such an enormity of sound from a single instrument? And who knows where Silverman will take his versatile violin next?

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Conor Oberst

Author: NPR
Mon, Jun 23, 2014


Conor Oberst's new album has fast become my favorite of the Bright Eyes singer's solo projects, so having him come to NPR and perform a few of these songs at the Tiny Desk was especially exciting. The new music on "Upside Down Mountain" contains the sort of personal songwriting that got me loving him in the first place. His backing band for this tour is the roots-rock group Dawes, which has a huge following in its own right. At the Tiny Desk, Dawes brothers Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith joined in on beautiful harmonies, guitar and some light percussion. It was an especially sweet day a rare weekend Tiny Desk Concert that had friends and families present, including Oberst's wife (Corina Figueroa-Escamilla) and his father Matthew. Oberst actually began making music on his dad's four-track cassette machine more than 20 years ago. Now 33, Oberst seems much happier, if his songs are any indication. You may even see that on his face as he performs these stripped-down and soulful songs on a beautiful Saturday afternoo

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Eliot Fisk & Paco Pe?a

Author: NPR
Mon, Jun 23, 2014


Eliot Fisk looks like the happiest man on the planet. Watch that face as he plays guitar. Between performing music by J.S. Bach and partnering with the world's best flamenco guitarist, Paco Pe?a, Fisk can barely control his joy. I find his exuberance and their performance undeniably brilliant, inspiring and so completely universal. The repertoire here ranges from Baroque compositions by Bach andDomenico Scarlatti to present-day flamenco. And what happens when these two master players get together is a mix of meticulous and improvised, with Fisk leaning toward the former and Pe?a toward the latter. Fisk was a student in fact, the last student of the great Spanish guitarist Andr?s Segovia. Pe?a was born in Spain and is a composer in addition to being a gifted performer. On these tunes, and with Fisk, Pe?a tends to never play the same thing quite the same way. It makes for music that's filled with craft (watch those fingers fly!) and surprise for both the player and the audience.

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Mali Music

Author: NPR
Mon, Jun 23, 2014


On a particularly muggy day this past week, Mali Music arrived at NPR's D.C. headquarters armed with only his enthusiasm (and a teensy entourage). Though the humid haze and some midday I-need-a-coffee-stat office funk hung all around him, he soldiered his way through. Throughout his new album, Mali Is..., the singer-songwriter and musician showcases his unabashed positivity and the sort of uplifting spirit that can faithfully be found ringing through choirs down South; as a boy, Mali Music was raised in the church in Savannah, Ga. But when compared to his previous albums The Coming and The 2econd Coming the new record avoids the direct, at times repentant, language of traditional gospel music. He says he's using his new perspective to serve a higher purpose, to make a difference. That message travels a bit further when it aligns with the sounds and words of the mainstream; these tools are necessary for adjusting to the secular world. In this session, you'll see Mali Music hop from in front of a microphone, backed by booming production streaming from his DJ's laptop, to an intimate cuddle with an acoustic guitar, and finish in a relaxed position behind a keyboard for a touching performance of the album's lead single, "Beautiful." With every song and between the tracks, with motivational messages strung throughout he demonstrates his readiness and capability to take on the industry, as he charges forward with an electrifying message of hope.

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Rodney Crowell

Author: NPR
Mon, Jun 16, 2014


Rodney Crowell performs with the ease and swagger of a man comfortable in his ways. He carries his songs the way he carries his old guitar: out in the open, no case, almost as an extension of his body. The man from Crosby, Texas, has been writing country songs for much of his life. At 22, he moved to Nashville and honed his craft with country greats Jerry Reed and Guy Clark. Emmylou Harriswould record his song "Till I Gain Control Again," and these days 40 years later Crowell is a legend whose songs have been recorded by Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash and the Oak Ridge Boys, among others. Crowell's commercial success in the late '80s was huge, and in 2003 he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Now, he's just released his 14th solo album, Tarpaper Kid, and it's filled with poignant autobiographical songs, marked by brilliant turns of phrase and thoughtful observations. Here, he performs three of its songs, with the aid of backup singers Donivan Cowart and Joanne Gardner.

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Marian McLaughlin

Author: NPR
Tue, Jun 10, 2014


Marian McLaughlin is a unique musician based in the Washington/Baltimore area, and because she's lived in D.C., I've had a chance to watch her grow. She's an artist on her own path, making music like few others. The closest comparisons might be Joanna Newsom or Diane Cluck, both of whom I admire; both are of their own place and time, and the music they make connects on a personal level. Listening feels as if you've entered their meticulously decorated living rooms. And so it is for Marian McLaughlin, with her quirky and wistful style of singing and her unusual nylon-string guitar playing, which balances staccato and spacious sounds. When I saw McLaughlin perform with a string quartet, I felt compelled to bring her to the Tiny Desk. Ethan Foote, the fellow on the upright bass, did the arrangements; Geoff Manyin is on cello and Nick Montopoli, on violin, is from the group Invoke. The strings add considerable atmosphere to McLaughlin's music; you can hear it especially in the opening song about Otto Lilienthal, a German mechanical engineer who was a precursor to the Wright Brothers. These three songs are from McLaughlin's self-released record on Bandcamp, titled "D?rive."

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Simone Dinnerstein

Author: NPR
Tue, Jun 03, 2014


Almost any pianist, from a budding beginner to a pro like Simone Dinnerstein, will tell you that one of the basic techniques of keyboard playing is also the toughest to master: making your hands to do separate things simultaneously. The great Johann Sebastian Bach knew this to be true. That's the primary reason he composed his Two-Part Inventions. On one hand (pardon the metaphor) they are rigorous exercises he wrote in the 1720s for the musical education of his children and students. On the other hand, as Dinnerstein told the audience at this Tiny Desk Concert, they are "an endless well of musical knowledge and imagination." Some of the Inventions zing with the speed of a sewing machine. Others dance and some unfold like a gentle aria. Dinnerstein learned a number of Bach's Two-Part Inventions as a youngster. Later she used them to teach her own students how to divide their brains. And now, as an adult musician with a major career, she has returned to these deceptively simple pieces, finding their complexity especially satisfying. She also likes the way the inventions force the player to make the piano sing. That's not easy when you consider the piano is actually a percussion instrument of wires and hammers concealed inside a box. Bach himself noted that they are good not only for playing "neatly in two parts" but also "to achieve a cantabile style of playing." That's musical jargon for playing the music in a singable style. And oh how poetically Ms. Dinnerstein makes our Tiny Desk piano sing.

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Juana Molina

Author: NPR
Mon, Jun 02, 2014


No one else makes music that sounds like this. Juana Molina takes familiar elements guitars, drums, keyboards, voice and manipulates them into bewildering, attractive, polished jewels. Her songs don't fall into beat patterns we're used to, but we can dance to them. The guitar doesn't make sounds you'd expect, but we can relate to them. It's as if she'd been raised by wolves and discovered the world of music on her own. The truth, however, is that Juana Molina is a creative soul. A comedian in her home of Buenos Aires, she found success in that field before giving it all up for music at age 23. Now 51, with six imaginative records in her catalog, Molina brings her small band to share some magic at the Tiny Desk. This is one of the most enchanting 15 minutes of music I've heard all year.

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Hozier

Author: NPR
Wed, May 28, 2014


Andrew Hozier-Byrne's voice is so rich, so vital and so soulful, I'm certain I'll follow his music for a long time to come. The 24-year-old Irishman, who performs under the name Hozier, opens this set with the brilliant and instantly grabby song "Take Me to Church," about passion, sex and religion. Hozier's music is based in the blues, and you'll hear the singer-guitarist's love for Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker during the second song he performs here. His band piano, guitar, percussion steps aside for the swampy "To Be Alone," in which the blues provide a starting place for his high, yearning vocals and deep questioning. Hozier has just two EPs out, and both have me yearning to hear more.

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Yasmine Hamdan

Author: NPR
Wed, May 28, 2014


Lebanese singer-songwriter Yasmine Hamdan is one of the most groundbreaking musicians in the Middle East thanks in part to her work in the electronic indie band Soapkills though she's now based in Paris. Also an actress in Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive, Hamdan possesses an allure unlike any performer I've seen, and it comes through clearly in this Tiny Desk Concert. Her singing is both casual and provocative, framed by provocative and commanding movements. These three songs are stripped-down versions of pieces from Hamdan's current album, Ya Nass. Amazingly, these hypnotic arrangements came together mere moments before her Tiny Desk Concert. Hamdan had only just met Gabriel Gordon when they traveled down together from New York that morning. They're unrehearsed, and yet locked into a sound that's calm, cool and universal.

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Ages And Ages

Author: NPR
Tue, May 20, 2014


Everyone knows there are five immutable truths in life. No. 1 is "Nothing's ever easy." No. 2 is "Nobody does the right thing." No. 3 is, well, you get the idea. The Portland, Ore., band Ages and Ages will likely make you rethink these immutable truths particularly the whole idea about doing the right thing in life. Pay close attention to the second song the group performs in this uplifting Tiny Desk Concert, and you'll see what I mean. The eight young men and women who make up Ages and Ages shower audiences with pure joy. The songs are unabashedly inspirational, thoughtful and crazy-catchy, in ways that make it hard to listen without feeling better about the state of the world. The recipe: Take a liberal amount of group sing-alongs, stir in some hand-clapping, and add a few ecstatic shouts to the heavens. Ages and Ages is touring in support of its triumphant second album,Divisionary. The group stopped by the Tiny Desk earlier this spring to perform four songs: "No Nostalgia," the infectious opener to the band's 2011 debut Alright You Restless, as well as "Divisionary," "Light Goes Out" and "Our Demons" from the new record.

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Iestyn Davies

Author: NPR
Mon, May 19, 2014


The Bee Gees did it. So do Smokey Robinson, Prince and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. They all sing in the high register usually associated with female singers. Men have cultivated their upper range in falsetto for centuries. They're called countertenors at least in the classical world and today we find ourselves in a golden age of such singers, thanks in part to continued interest in early music. One of the best of today's crop of countertenors is Iestyn Davies (pronounced YES-tin DAY-vis). Lately, he's been exploring the meticulously crafted, melancholy songs of Elizabethan composerJohn Dowland. Joining Davies is lutenist Thomas Dunford, who has been affectionately dubbed "the Eric Clapton of the lute" by the BBC. Dowland was a master of melancholy, a condition viewed differently in Elizabethan England than it is today. You might say that, back then, it was almost hip to have the blues, and Dowland instinctively knew how to tap into feelings of rejection, regret and general malaise in his music. (Dowland himself seemed to nurse a lifelong disappointment in never landing a job with Queen Elizabeth.) Yet not every Dowland song is a downer. The opening number, "Come again, sweet love doth now invite," finds the protagonist relishing the taste of love he's had, wondering if it will ever return. When he weeps over his bad dreams, Davies, an expressive singer with a sweet timbre and a keen ear for drama in the text, shades the music by lightening his tone to sound more vulnerable. We can't forget the lute in this partnership; it's crucial and shouldn't be viewed as mere accompaniment. Listen for the delicacy in the colors and lines Dowland builds in the lute's part, as if the instrument itself were singing a duet with the voice.

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Chvrches

Author: NPR
Mon, May 12, 2014


For a brief moment, I imagined hearing Chvrches perform "Recover" or "Gun" with a couple of acoustic guitars and perhaps a shaker or two. And, though these songs would surely stand up well when broken down and bared, I'm thrilled that Chvrches came with a small arsenal of synthesizers to perform a few highlights from last year's album The Bones of What You Believe. Seeing these now-familiar earworms executed up close was nearly as much a campfire moment as an acoustic set might have been, except the flames burned brighter. Lauren Mayberry's voice felt powerful and vulnerable, while Iain Cook and Martin Doherty kept those memorable synth lines bubbling underneath. The result works as a perfect introduction to the Glasgow trio, but also a reaffirmation of talent and longevity for those already love with the band.

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Timber Timbre

Author: NPR
Mon, May 12, 2014


The music of Canada's Timber Timbre is often strange and unsettling. The band, led by Taylor Kirk a crooner with a deceptively sweet voice makes spare, evenly paced songs that sound like late-night echoes from a swampy woods. It's the kind of music you'd expect to hear in a David Lynch movie, or in HBO's deeply disturbing series True Detective: dark and unnerving, yet oddly seductive. It's an eerie, mysterious vibe that's nearly impossible to re-create while playing live in someone's office at 2 o'clock on a Wednesday afternoon. But that's just what Timber Timbre does for a captivated crowd in this Tiny Desk performance. Taylor Kirk is a man of few words. For this performance, he lets the music do all the talking as the quartet eases its way through three songs from the band's latest album, the smoldering Hot Dreams. The set includes the title track, the truly creepy "Run From Me" ("Run from me, darlin', you better run for your life"), and "Grand Canyon."

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Public Service Broadcasting

Author: NPR
Mon, May 05, 2014


These guys don't speak or sing a word, but each song sends a clear message. Public Service Broadcasting is a duo featuring the nerdy J. Willgoose, Esq. on guitar, banjo and electronics and Wrigglesworth on drums. The source material for the music is British public-service films from roughly the 1940s through the 1960s. The band projects carefully crafted films from those public-service messages that sync to the music, liberally using footage and voices from the past as a way of looking at the present. Public Service Broadcasting puts it all together in a powerful way it's sometimes melancholy but mostly good fun. It's entertainment as education for the head and feet alike. In this Tiny Desk Concert, we project a few of those films in the bright daylight of our office. It frankly works better in a dark club, but the music made in this small setting remains huge and powerful.

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Cian Nugent

Author: NPR
Mon, May 05, 2014


Cian Nugent doesn't know what he wants to be, and that's OK. The Dublin-based guitarist cut his teeth as a 19-year-old pickin' on the acoustic worlds that John Fahey, Jack Rose and Bert Jansch built. But that was five years ago, and since then, Nugent has come at his instrument and his songwriting from all sides, hitting up psychedelic folk, garage pop and cosmic guitar improvisation along the way. On a short U.S. tour supporting Angel Olsen (herself a Tiny Desk alum), Nugent stopped by the NPR Music offices to play what he's called the "incoherent range of the mess that is my musical career." There's the acoustic "Grass Above My Head," a slow, somber melody that turns into a ragtime jaunt. The song once shared a 7" with an inventive Black Flag cover and was re-recorded with his band The Cosmos for last year's excellent Born With the Caul. Nugent then switches to a cheap, no-name electric guitar purchased just days before in a pawn shop that only seems to stay in tune when a pencil's been in the nut. (Oh, yes, there's a story about said pencil.) It gives "Hire Purchase" the just-barely-off quality required for the raunchy, basement-bar choogle going down like maybe J.J. Cale is still drunk from yesterday's gig and the only cure is more pencil! And, in defiance of all daylight, Nugent closes with "Nightlife," which, at the time of the Tiny Desk filming, was still untitled. True to its title, it's the sad-sack set closer sure to be played at last call heads on the bar, mops out on a beer-soaked floor, with Nugent singing about regret and "wasted time."

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Johnnyswim

Author: NPR
Mon, Apr 28, 2014


Once you're able to see this three-song set by the band Johnnyswim, NPR Music will have published exactly 350 Tiny Desk Concerts so we've developed a pretty good sense of when a set will stick in our memories for a while. We intuited, for example, that Adele was about to become a dominant force shortly after she breezed into our offices. (Okay, that didn't exactly require psychic powers, but still.) In the case of Johnnyswim, the prevailing sense boiled down to, "Boy, we haven't heard the last of them." Impossibly telegenic and charming, husband and wife Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano who formed their band in Nashville before relocating to L.A. have the booming voices of great street buskers, but also the polished sparkle of natural-born stage performers. Sudano is the daughter of the late Donna Summer, with whom she used to sing backup, but Johnnyswim's story isn't one of nepotism or overnight success; the two have been at this together for nearly a decade, and they've got the grandiose impeccability to prove it. In this set, the lovely ballad "Falling for Me" is bookended by songs that could be airdropped onto half the shows on television; if you're hearing them here for the first time, don't be surprised if it's your first exposure of many. Johnnyswim opens this session with "Home" a sweet rouser that could easily follow in the footsteps of other recent hits with that title and closes it with a full-band reading of what promises to be its signature song, the title track from the new Diamonds. As Sudano notes here, the song has morphed into "an anthem to ourselves to keep ourselves encouraged." For Johnnyswim, such pep talks won't likely be necessary for long.

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Quilt

Author: NPR
Mon, Apr 28, 2014


It's right there in the band's name, but the music of Quilt is truly a tapestry. Its songs are made of small bits of verses and choruses that, heard individually, may not seem to fit. But in the hands and voices of this band, they stitch together beautifully. Interweaving harmonies and guitar lines from Anna Fox Rochinski and Shane Butler set the tone for these tunes soft and benevolent, dreamy and quivering, with poetry that's thoughtful and playful. The opening song at this Tiny Desk Concert, "Arctic Shark," questions and enchants. How can I proceed with thee? This eastern harbor's full of grief All my heavy dreams are simply a luxury Horses in the pepper tree and the lighthouse floating in the sea Quilt has become a favorite live band of mine, and its album Held in Splendor often finds its way into my late-night listening. Comforting and warm, the Boston band's music always has me feeling right at home.

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Federico Aubele

Author: NPR
Mon, Apr 21, 2014


Argentine singer-songwriter Federico Aubele uses his dark, husky voice to produce a specific effect in the three songs he performs at this Tiny Desk Concert: Together, they jell into one impressionistic midtempo ballad. A voice like Aubele's could be restrictive: His lower register seems to always reflect something dark and lonely. Think of your favorite bottom-scraping vocalist and the lyrics he or she interprets. But while touches of nostalgia and longing seep into both the words and the way he sings them, Aubele can also wrangle a shy smile and a whimsical raised eyebrow with that deep, emotive voice. It's perfect for his own expressive lyrics, which he sings in both Spanish and English sometimes in the same song. And don't even get me started on his guitar playing

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Usman Riaz

Author: NPR
Mon, Apr 21, 2014


This is simply astonishing. Watch twenty seconds and you'll be sucked into the world of Usman Riaz, an immensely talented 23-year-old Pakistani musician who will change your perception of how a guitar can sound and be played. What's more remarkable is that this Berklee College of Music whiz kid learned much of his dazzling guitar technique by watching YouTube videos at 16. He also learned what he calls "parlor tricks," like body percussion and harmonica. But the classically trained pianist also used the Internet to learn how to write and conduct orchestra pieces and make films. If you're a skeptic, fine, just watch this youngest of TED senior fellows and be dazzled.

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Courtney Barnett

Author: NPR
Mon, Apr 14, 2014


Courtney Barnett can tell you a story like she's your best friend provided your best friend is a funny poet with an Australian accent. Listen to "Avant Gardener," an autobiographical account of trying to turn a life around through gardening, only to be foiled by a severe allergic reaction. The tale that follows at this Tiny Desk Concert, "History Eraser," is a ramble in an alcohol-fueled dream state; it features some of the best lyric-writing in music today. Here's a sample from that song: I found an Ezra Pound and made a bet that if I found a cigarette I'd drop it all and marry you. Just then a song comes on: "You can't always get what you want" The Rolling Stones, oh, woe is we, the irony! The Stones became the moss and once all inhibitions lost, the hipsters made a mission to the farm. We drove by tractor there, the yellow straw replaced our hair, we laced the dairy river with the cream of sweet vermouth. The only downside for a fan like me is that these songs have been kicking around my head for more than a year. As she played them, I found myself hoping for something new, too. And so it was that Barnett graced the Tiny Desk with a brand-new tune, not yet on a record, about a suburb near Melbourne known as Preston; it's a song about house-hunting that she appropriately calls "Depreston." The song is thoughtful, acerbic and funny, just like the woman who sings it.

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Courtney Barnett

Author: NPR
Mon, Apr 14, 2014


Courtney Barnett can tell you a story like she's your best friend provided your best friend is a funny poet with an Australian accent. Listen to "Avant Gardener," an autobiographical account of trying to turn a life around through gardening, only to be foiled by a severe allergic reaction. The tale that follows at this Tiny Desk Concert, "History Eraser," is a ramble in an alcohol-fueled dream state; it features some of the best lyric-writing in music today. Here's a sample from that song: I found an Ezra Pound and made a bet that if I found a cigarette I'd drop it all and marry you. Just then a song comes on: "You can't always get what you want" The Rolling Stones, oh, woe is we, the irony! The Stones became the moss and once all inhibitions lost, the hipsters made a mission to the farm. We drove by tractor there, the yellow straw replaced our hair, we laced the dairy river with the cream of sweet vermouth. The only downside for a fan like me is that these songs have been kicking around my head for more than a year. As she played them, I found myself hoping for something new, too. And so it was that Barnett graced the Tiny Desk with a brand-new tune, not yet on a record, about a suburb near Melbourne known as Preston; it's a song about house-hunting that she appropriately calls "Depreston." The song is thoughtful, acerbic and funny, just like the woman who sings it.

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Tom Brosseau

Author: NPR
Mon, Apr 14, 2014


Tom Brosseau possesses one of the most arresting voices in folk music today. Many people who hear him sing, without knowing his name or face, assume the voice belongs to a woman, as he hovers somewhere around the countertenor range, with an unusually pure tone. The beauty of Brosseau's voice is magnified in this Tiny Desk Concert by the spare accompaniment of two acoustic guitars. Brosseau is on rhythm, accompanied by Sean Watkins. Watkins, who also plays and sings with Nickel Creek, produced and plays on Brosseau's new album, Grass Punks. Brosseau is unabashedly sentimental and earnest. It informs his plainspoken story-songs, which find beauty and light in heartfelt themes of love and yearning. But Brosseau also possesses a wry sense of humor; you can hear as much in "Cradle Your Device," a playful take-down of modern technology. The next song he performs, "Stuck on the Roof Again," tells a true story about the octogenarian newspaper columnist Marilyn Hagerty, who got stuck on the roof of her home in Grand Forks, N.D., after a heavy snowstorm. Brosseau closes his set with "Today Is a Bright New Day," a wistful reflection on lost love and the belief that no matter our past disappointments or missteps, the future is full of hope and opportunity.

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The Both

Author: NPR
Mon, Apr 07, 2014


Singer-songwriters Aimee Mann and Ted Leo are often at opposite ends of the volume knob. But what started as separate sets during a mutual tour, then a few walk-ons during Leo's solo set, is now an adventure in collaboration and mutual songwriting and the birth of The Both. Months after this Tiny Desk Concert, which we recorded in February, there's an album. For the announcement of that record, Leo said, "The writing process has largely been long-distance, but it's been line by line, verse by verse, part by part; we'll send each other something and go back and forth until it's finished." When they showed up to play together at the Tiny Desk, there was a lot of uncertainty and a sense of adventure. The performances weren't about perfection so much as inspiration, with Mann rocking a bit more and Leo hunting for subtlety in his guitar playing. It wasn't compromise, though, so much as a creative challenge that's unfolding during this set one of their earliest public performances of these songs. It's fascinating to watch them sing in uncharted territory.

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The Haden Triplets

Author: NPR
Tue, Apr 01, 2014


Petra, Rachel and Tanya Haden are three sisters in love with the art of singing. Born in 1971 to a famous musical father (Charlie Haden is a world-class upright jazz bassist), they've separately taken on vastly different music projects. You may have heard Petra with The Decemberists or tackling the music of The Who a cappella. Tanya plays in Let's Go Sailing, while Rachel sometimes turns up with The Rentals and other projects. Together, they have a common love for American country and traditional songs, and that's what brought me to them and them to the Tiny Desk. Their new self-titled record is filled with what first made country music grand: songs by The Carter Family, Kitty Wells, Bill Monroe and many others. It's produced by Ry Cooder, an American legend, terrific slide guitarist and lover of all types of traditional music. At the Tiny Desk, you'll hear the traditional tone and effortless voices that only siblings can produce. It's a treat and a trip in time.

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Joseph Calleja

Author: NPR
Mon, Mar 24, 2014


Malta, the island nation 50 miles south of Sicily, may be small, but it's home to one of the biggest stars in opera, tenor Joseph Calleja. And like his country's name, which may originate in the Greek word for honey, Calleja's voice is a potent mix of Italianate passion and sweetness. Just listen to how he pulls the volume back to a slender golden ray of tone several times in Tosti's gorgeous "Ideale," and especially the word "disciogliea" in the Puccini aria that closes this performance. His singing requires the breath support of a true athlete, which is key to launching soft sounds even more than his roaring top notes all the way up to the cheap seats. The ability to control dynamic levels and expressively shade notes and phrases were once techniques in nearly every singer's toolbox. But we don't hear as much subtlety these days, and that makes Calleja an especially refreshing throwback to pre-World War II singers such as the suave Tito Schipa and the magical Alessandro Bonci. It's a reason Calleja is in such demand from all of the world's top opera houses. Along with his voice, the tenor's burly good looks and acting skill have helped land him on the silver screen as well. He plays opera legend Enrico Caruso opposite Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cotillard in The Immigrant, a story set on the gritty streets of 1920s New York. The film is expected to be in limited release in the U.S. beginning May 2. The best news of all is that Calleja is just 36. His voice is already changing, growing richer, bigger and a little darker than what you hear on his earliest recordings. With any luck, we'll have a few more decades to enjoy what is already one of the most impressive tenor voices of the past half century.

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Diane Cluck

Author: NPR
Tue, Mar 18, 2014


When a performer has an exceptional night, we sometimes say he or she "left it all on stage" the "it" being effort, energy, passion, sweat. To close a concert with a raw throat and a rumpled appearance signifies full disclosure, proof that the person on stage has held absolutely nothing back. Diane Cluck's performances, at their best, take a near-opposite approach: unfolding melodies of winding complexity without the barest hint of strain or struggle. A rich 15-year recording career precedes this year's Boneset, as thrilling a showcase of Cluck's clawed, counterintuitive fingerpicking and elastic voice as anything she's ever released. Witnessing the same process live, however, jams the senses it's almost easier to imagine some tiny spirit in her chest is controlling the action, turning a pitch wheel with one hand and a tone knob with the other. In three songs at the Tiny Desk (two from Boneset and a sparkling new piano number, "Grandma Say") she broke focus only once, to answer a question as she strapped on a set of ankle bells for the set closer, "Sara." The bashful smile that attends her whispered reply "I got them on eBay" is a privilege to witness.

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Jake Bugg

Author: NPR
Tue, Mar 11, 2014


There was a haze over Jake Bugg when he arrived at the Tiny Desk. He was expressionless and quiet. That all changed when he strummed fast and fierce on his acoustic guitar and began a flow of words reminiscent of Greenwich Village in the '60s, not modern Clifton in England's East Midlands, where he grew up. Bugg is a prolific talent already working on his third record in as many years. His second album was produced by Rick Rubin and recorded in California. His recognition in the U.S. is still small, but that'll change maybe even before we get that third record.

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Lowland Hum

Author: NPR
Thu, Mar 06, 2014


It's hard to convey the sound of two people in love, but Lowland Hum does that effortlessly. Daniel Levi Goans and Lauren Plank are now Daniel and Lauren Goans; they met a few years ago and spent much of their first married year on the road, singing together on small stages and at house concerts across the country. Daniel was a folksinger in North Carolina, while Lauren had aspirations to sing but mostly did it privately. She has a passion for making things with paper, and you'll see that in the little black book of lyrics she hands out at shows. This music is mostly unadorned and pure, with considerable attention to detail. Lauren's voice sounds refreshing and simple, and Daniel's passion shakes from his head and literally to his feet. They tour with a few homemade wooden platforms inlaid with small metal jingles the kind you'd find on a tambourine and that enhances Daniel's stomp. Together, they have one album called Native Air, and they joyfully perform three songs from that record here.

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Asaf Avidan

Author: NPR
Tue, Mar 04, 2014


So I'm driving down the road when I hear this incredible voice coming out of my car speakers part Janis Joplin, part Nina Simone and I wonder, "Who is she?" That day, I'd ripped a number of CDs onto my phone and didn't remember which record this was. Upon a quick glance at my phone during a traffic light, I discover the name Asaf Avidan. Next traffic light, I look it up and I see a picture of a skinny, handsome white male. I figure that's a mistake that I must have typed the wrong name so I wait to get home. What I discovered floored me. Asaf Avidan is a 33-year-old, very well-known Israeli singer, formerly with a folkish rock band with gold records called Asaf Avidan & The Mojos. He's now on his own with a solo record and no U.S. record label to put it out, but he's on a solo tour that's stunning. He stopped us all cold when he began to sing at the Tiny Desk. There's a disconnect, when you watch this, between what you see and what you hear. And those songs that he writes? Well, he truly understands his voice, and they're just some of the best tunes I've heard in a long time.

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Brass Bed

Author: NPR
Wed, Feb 26, 2014


It wasn't an easy road to the Tiny Desk for the four guys from Louisiana who make up Brass Bed. Their tour, for the band's debut album The Secret Will Keep You, was plagued from the start: Singer Christiaan Mader had the flu, there was a death in the family and multiple dates had to be canceled. Their van was broken into and their instruments stolen. So when they heard that a big snowstorm was headed for D.C. at the same time they were to play the Tiny Desk, it felt like yet another bad omen. Fortunately, they got in just ahead of the first snowflakes and performed a memorable set, as they re-created some of the stellar studio effects on The Secret Will Keep You with a simple but potent pedal steel and bow. For the ethereal closing track from the album, "Have to Be Fine," the guys produced reverb effects by singing a cappella into plastic novelty microphones they'd picked up at a store just outside of D.C. As soon as Brass Bed's members finished their set, the lifelong Southerners graciously accepted a complimentary ice scraper in case they got into more trouble on the road. But it wasn't enough to get them out of the District; the storm they were trying to avoid snowed them in for an extra night. We wish they could have stayed, and played, even longer.

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Sofia Rei

Author: NPR
Wed, Feb 26, 2014


A drum from the Argentine Pampas fuels the music of Sofia Rei in this video: The way Franco Pinna has it incorporated into a traditional drum set serves as a musical metaphor for the music Rei performs alongside Pinna and guitarist/bassist JC Maillard. Rei carries the accent and spirit of her native Argentina in her jazz-infused vocals. She's successfully carved out a spot for herself within a small and exclusive group of vocalists from Latin America who, after spending their formative years in their own countries, came to the U.S. to blend folklore, jazz and classic influences into singing that feels both familiar and new. For about 20 minutes one sunny afternoon, the NPR Music offices were converted into a small Latin American folk club, where Rei treated us to stellar musicianship and genre-bending music. Que les difruten!

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Cate Le Bon

Author: NPR
Wed, Feb 19, 2014


The Beatles may be an odd place to begin a Cate Le Bon conversation, but I remember being struck by the way four guys from Liverpool could sing without their English accents. That's true of most pop singers, whose words often come out sounding more American than anything else. But that's not true with Cate Le Bon. Her phrasing is completely tied to her Welsh dialect in fact, her first record was in Welsh. I find that that draws me into her songs: The enunciation is completely tied to the loneliness and the questioning. One song she sings at the Tiny Desk, from her brilliant album Mug Museum, is called "Are You With Me Now?" There is a feeling I love Buried in my brow I have no reason to run I see no reason Are you with me now? Listen to the inflection in the line 'Buried in my brow,' and then when she poses the question; it's so intimate, such a whisper, so inviting. I'm also a fan of her clean, sharp guitar playing and the way she weaves it together with her partner H. Hawkline. If you're a fan of Tom Verlaine and Television, you'll find yourself loving this lyrical guitar duo. It works so well stripped-down, though there wasn't much excess in the original versions to begin with. These are songs of essence, clarity and drive, executed so simply here.

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Suzanne Vega

Author: NPR
Tue, Feb 11, 2014


In pop-music circles, Suzanne Vega is known almost entirely for two songs from the late 1980s: the child-abuse ballad "Luka" and a song that launched literally dozens of dance remixes, "Tom's Diner." But Vega has been making vital, inventive music the entire time much of it folk-based, though her sound has taken many smart detours along the way and is about to put out her first album of original material in seven years, Tales From the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles. The challenge, then, lies in capturing a snapshot of her career in only four songs. For this Tiny Desk Concert performed with her brilliant guitarist and producer, Gerry Leonard Vega splits the difference evenly between old and new, bookending her set with the aforementioned classics and tucking two about-to-be-released songs in the middle. Game and good-spirited throughout, Vega performed "Luka" and "Tom's Diner" as if she hadn't played them thousands of times before aided greatly by Leonard, who's worked extensively with David Bowie and lends these songs an extraordinary amount of color and texture. (Check out the "bells" he adds near the end of "Tom's Diner.") Vega's songwriting gifts haven't waned at any point in her long career, and the new songs here taken from a concept album about the way our world and the spiritual realm intersect sound as sharp as anything she's done. It only makes sense that, nearly 30 years after her debut, she still examines new realms with grace, empathy and an explorer's spirit.

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Fanfare Ciocarlia

Author: NPR
Mon, Feb 10, 2014


Truth be told, I was scared. We've stuffed a lot of musicians behind the Tiny Desk, but when I saw Fanfare Ciocarlia (pronounced "fan-FAR-eh cho-car-LEE-ah") at Globalfest the week before the band arrived at NPR, I couldn't fathom how we'd corral these 12 musicians and their various assorted horns and drums into that truly tiny space. But the day this joyous Balkan brass band from the Romanian village of Zece Pr?jini came to play, it was one of the happiest days I've experienced at our new building. From wedding songs to American rock 'n' roll to the occasional James Bond theme, the group plays at a pace that would make the Ramones burst into a sweat. When you get hooked and want more, find Fanfare Ciocarlia's new record, Devil's Tale. It will help make your parties the stuff of blissful memories.

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Pixies

Author: NPR
Mon, Feb 03, 2014


The windowsills were lined with people standing, as every nook between every office desk filled to capacity with NPR employees and their assorted guests. Pixies, after getting misplaced for a time in our parking garage during a moment worthy of This Is Spinal Tap, showed up in time to encounter the largest crowd we've ever assembled for a Tiny Desk Concert. (Our new office space allows for more guests than the old one did, but it's still a mark of this band's significance for so many youthful grownups.) Black Francis played an acoustic guitar for this set, while drummer David Lovering set up a simple snare and a cymbal, tapping a tambourine with his foot where a bass drum might be. With his electric guitar, Joey Santiago was the only plugged-in member of the group. The newest member of the Pixies is Paz Lenchantin, a musician of many talents who played violin at the Tiny Desk, though she handles bass duties at larger concerts. You may miss Kim Deal on bass for all the good reasons one might miss Kim Deal, but Lenchantin rhythmically fits in well, and was a treat to hear (albeit quietly) on violin. Prior to the rolling of cameras, the band warmed up the crowd with "Where Is My Mind," but this three-song set features a 2014 tune called "Greens and Blues," a song yet to make it onto a Pixies release called "Silver Snail," and 1989's "Monkey Gone to Heaven," which melted hearts and seared minds with a new memory from a time long past.

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Angel Olsen

Author: NPR
Mon, Jan 27, 2014


Angel Olsen came to the Tiny Desk on an odd autumn day, as an impending storm loomed outside our office windows. It all seemed just right for occasion: Watch her and you'll see calm in her eyes; listen to her and you'll sense torment in her heart. Olsen gave us a preview of her third record on that October day; she wouldn't tell us the title, but she did say the word "Burn" with a hint of the title in the words to a song she'd sing. Now, months later and just a few weeks before the release of Burn Your Fire for No Witness, we can share this exclusive preview. Olsen is a Missouri-born and now Asheville, N.C.-based musician via Chicago. The new record was produced by John Congleton with a new band featuring Josh Jaeger on drums and bassist Stewart Bronaugh. The trio began rehearsing these songs in a church turned recording studio in Asheville over the summer. The songs are at times explosive and at times lulling. At the Tiny Desk, the expressive and powerful singer stood alone, and in the process gave us the perfect way to first hear these songs.

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Robert Glasper Experiment

Author: NPR
Tue, Jan 21, 2014


The third song in this Tiny Desk Concert, explains the jocose pianist Robert Glasper, first appeared on one of his trio's albums of acoustic, instrumental jazz. It was called "F.T.B." then, though it later acquired words and a singer and was retitled "Gonna Be Alright" on the record which won the 2013 Grammy for Best R&B Album. That in itself provides a sense of the worlds to which Glasper has access; depending on your point of view, he either freely traverses or explodes those boundaries. Glasper has released two albums of what you might call neo-soul, or maybe organic R&B, featuring a core band (The Robert Glasper Experiment) and guest stars like Erykah Badu, Lupe Fiasco and Norah Jones. Black Radio and last year's sequel, Black Radio 2, aren't heard much on "urban" radio, but the point is that they ought to be. Glasper builds his songs with old-school values: singers and MCs who don't need software to carry a melody, improvising within a band, hand-building beats and vamps with live instruments. That's what you see at the Tiny Desk. "Trust" features Marsha Ambrosius, formerly of the duo Floetry, and it's a good example of the Black Radio concept in raw, unpasteurized form. The middle tune is an ad hoc improvisation, and a good example of how Glasper and his Experiment have so dialed in their communication that they can plant seeds of noise and harvest blooms of music. By the time "F.T.B" (a.k.a. "Gonna Be Alright") rolls around, the mood is familiar and at ease. It's the sound of a band whose members speak many musical languages, but decide to converse in one that feels like its native tongue.

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Afro Blue

Author: NPR
Mon, Jan 13, 2014


"Afro Blue" is a jazz standard written by Mongo Santamaria in 1959, with a lyric added later by Oscar Brown Jr. It's been performed countless times, by everyone from John Coltrane to Robert Glasper and Erykah Badu. The beautifully understated words include the phrases "undulating grace," "elegant boy," "beautiful girl," "shades of delight" and "cocoa hue." Afro Blue, a nine-member a cappella troupe from Howard University in Washington, D.C., is all that and more. Its members sing as one with nuance, ease and experience, as if they've been singing together for years. But they haven't: The ensemble is ever-changing, as students graduate and new members audition for a coveted spot in the lineup. Professor Connaitre Miller formed the vocal jazz ensemble in 2002. Afro Blue recently reached the final four on NBC's The Sing-Off, and it routinely performs at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. It played at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem with Dianne Reeves, and just recently was invited to the White House to perform for the president. The list of awards and accolades continues to grow, as does the list of invitations to sing. But Miller often turns them down so that the students have enough time to study and don't miss class. While it usually performs standard "vocal big band" songs and jazz blended with contemporary pop music, Afro Blue recently stopped by Bob Boilen's Tiny Desk to sing African-American spirituals songs that can never grow old so long as talented young groups like Afro Blue sing them this well.

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Lily & Madeleine

Author: NPR
Tue, Jan 07, 2014


Sisters Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz aren't the youngest musicians ever to play the Tiny Desk, but they come pretty close. Their music a restrained, homespun mix of folk and pop with undeniably sweet harmonies certainly ranks among the loveliest we've heard. Lily is just 16. Her sister Madeleine is 18. And while the older of the two Indiana natives recently headed off to college, leaving her sister behind to finish high school, they still write and record together. They released a stellar EP, The Weight of the Globe, last June, and a self-titled full-length debut followed in October. Lily & Madeleine's openhearted ballads first found an audience in the fall of 2012, after the pair posted a video for "In the Middle" on YouTube. It quickly received more than a quarter of a million views enough to draw the attention of the Sufjan Stevens-led Asthmatic Kitty label, which signed the sisters and released both their EP and their full-length album. For the duo's Tiny Desk set, Lily & Madeleine chose not to perform that breakthrough song, opting instead to focus on newer material from the album: the wistful "Devil We Know," "Paradise" and "You Got Out."

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Van-Anh Vanessa Vo

Author: NPR
Mon, Jan 06, 2014


Van-Anh Vanessa Vo is a veteran when it comes to taking risks, and it pays off in her compelling music. As a young girl in Vietnam, she knew she wanted to be a traditional musician, even though it was a world dominated by men. It was risky, then, when she pestered a master teacher for three years to give her lessons. He finally gave in, taking her on as an apprentice. Vo also takes risks in blending East with West in her music. She lends a trippy sound to Frenchman Erik Satie's Gnossienne No. 3, performed on the dan Bau, the traditional Vietnamese monocord. The instrument ("invented by bad girls on the street") has a single string, but by bending it with a kind of whammy bar made from buffalo horn, Vo creates a haunting landscape of growls, hushed vibrato and graceful slides, all with the exquisite phrasing of an opera singer. Vo's infectious enthusiasm erupts in her own compositions. "Three-Mountain Pass" (also the title of her recent album), for voice and Hang drum, is based on the sensuously evocative texts of Ho Xuan Huong, a groundbreaking female poet (and concubine) from the 18th century. And with "Go Hunting," Vo introduces another traditional instrument, the dan T'rung, a bamboo xylophone from Vietnam's south highlands. This instrument, which looks a bit like a skeleton, is struck with double-headed mallets. The theme starts peacefully at a relaxed pace, but heats up to a dizzying frenzy as Vo's mallets become indistinguishable blurs of speed. Her adventurous spirit moved her from Vietnam to the U.S. another risk, but one that paid off with more opportunities for composing; she even won an Emmy Award for her work on a documentary film. Vo is also fond of collaborating with new-music ensembles like the Kronos Quartet, and of playing in prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center and, of course, Bob Boilen's Tiny Desk.

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Christine Salem

Author: NPR
Thu, Jan 02, 2014


Her voice feels old, but it's got power that's young and vibrant. In fact, Christine Salem sings songs that are old: They're work songs and chants from the maloya tradition on R?union Island in the Indian Ocean. I first heard her in New York City as she shook a flat board called a kayamb, made of cane reeds, with two percussionists flanking her to provide rhythm. Salem makes powerful, strongly focused music in which all the elements are essential, with nothing superfluous. She says it feels like the spirits move through her when she plays, and though you may doubt her if you're a nonbeliever, you'd be hard-pressed to deny her your attention once you hear her.

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Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Author: NPR
Wed, Dec 25, 2013


Our goal for this special holiday Tiny Desk Concert is simple: to bring you joy. Preservation Hall Jazz Band is a hot and historic outfit from New Orleans, and its members brought us a tuba-wielding Santa and some original holiday cheer and praise what they call a Cajun Christmas from the French Quarter. We lit some lights and decorated my desk and shelves as best we could, but it's this amazing band complete with saxophone, trombone, trumpet, drums and a couple of tubas that lit this place up. We've never had so much dancing from the NPR crew at a Tiny Desk Concert. So enjoy the show, and happy holidays to all from NPR Music.

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La Santa Cecilia

Author: NPR
Mon, Dec 16, 2013


La Santa Cecilia spreads joy every time its members plug in to do a show. They do it one dance step at a time, with cumbias, corridos, elegant mambos and plain old rock 'n' roll. I first saw La Santa Cecilia perform in an Austin, Texas, parking lot about five years ago. As all great bands do, it showcased an It Factor that has only intensified as the L.A.-based, Mexican-American group works tirelessly to perfect its musical vision. The video here provides just a hint of the band's dynamic live shows, albeit a spectacular one. No matter how small the device you use to watch this, the songs ought to have a significant impact on your personal joy meter. A bailar!

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Dessa

Author: NPR
Mon, Dec 09, 2013


Part of the Twin Cities hip-hop collective Doomtree, rapper, singer, poet and songwriter Dessa divides her time between singing and rapping, often landing on a spoken-word splitting of the difference. The week she performed this Tiny Desk Concert, she appeared at an All Songs Considered live listening party, during which she opined articulately before closing the night by singing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" in the style popularized by Jeff Buckley. This year, the former philosophy major released both a new album (Parts of Speech) and a chapbook of poetry called A Pound of Steam. As versatile as she is, Dessa faced down a string of challenges in getting to the Tiny Desk. Near the tail-end of a tour during which thousands of dollars' worth of her band's gear was stolen her voice started to give out as she battled a bad cold. (Keep an eye out for her expression of relief at the completion of "The Man I Knew" in this set.) And, of course, Dessa and her band had to come up with ways to perform three songs from Parts of Speech in such a way that the drums and guitars wouldn't drown out the unamplified voices of herself and singer Aby Wolf. Once we started recording, though, the seams never showed, let alone split: If it weren't for a bit of between-song tea-sipping, we'd have never known she was under the weather. Instead, what we got was as forceful and whip-smart as everything else Dessa sings, speaks, raps and writes.

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Sarah Jarosz

Author: NPR
Mon, Dec 09, 2013


Bluegrass' most beloved pros often play well into their 80s and 90s, so it would surprise no one if our children's children's children turn up at a Sarah Jarosz concert 70 years from now. The singer and multi-instrumentalist first surfaced as an 18-year-old wunderkind with the release of 2009's Song Up In Her Head, which generated the first of what will likely be many Grammy nominations; now a grizzled 22, she's out performing songs from her fine new third album, Build Me Up From Bones. That record forms the basis of Jarosz's recent concert at the NPR Music offices, performed with the aid of fiddler Alex Hargreaves and cellist Nathaniel Smith. All polished young pros, the three breezed in happily and knocked us out with a careful mix of technical proficiency and poppy warmth. It's an enduring combination, as this sweet little set of songs amply demonstrates.

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The Dismemberment Plan

Author: NPR
Mon, Dec 02, 2013


When NPR Music started inviting musicians to perform at Bob Boilen's desk back in 2008, we never could have expected that we'd one day host The Dismemberment Plan. For one, the D.C.-area group had long since disbanded; for another, its fleshed-out and periodically funky sound wouldn't seem to lend itself to vastly stripped-down arrangements. When the newly re-formed band finally did make its way to our offices on the heels of Uncanney Valley, its first album in 12 years it unsurprisingly made for an odd fit. According to the group, these particular arrangements of songs from Uncanney Valley were sorted out just a day before this Tiny Desk Concert; after singer Travis Morrison flubbed the call-and-response portion of "Let's Just Go to the Dogs Tonight," he professed nervousness at making the NPR staff holler F-bombs. (No one seemed to mind.) As always, though, The Dismemberment Plan wears its ramshackle qualities well, exuding playfulness and wry charm throughout this set.

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Kronos Quartet

Author: NPR
Mon, Dec 02, 2013


Sunny Yang joined Kronos Quartet in June 2013. Now, just five months later, the cellist she says she's learned quite a few new works not just a handful, but about 70 pieces. That degree of dedication to contemporary composers, coupled with an insane concert schedule, has propelled Kronos Quartet forward over the past four decades. If they wanted, the musicians who also include founder David Harrington and longtime members John Sherba and Hank Dutt could reminisce over more than 800 new works and arrangements they've commissioned in 40 years. But instead, the new-music train pushes ever onward to new territories. They remain a living, breathing world-heritage site for music. Now in the midst of its 40th-anniversary tour, Kronos brings to this Tiny Desk Concert a new arrangement, a work from a new album and, for Kronos, something of a chestnut, a piece the group recorded a whopping five years ago. Aheym (Yiddish for "homeward") was written for Kronos by Bryce Dessner; a member of the Brooklyn rock band The National, he studied composition at Yale. The music thrives on nervous energy, pulsating with strumming and spiccato (bouncing the bow on strings) while building to a tremendous fever. It also opens Kronos' new album of Dessner works. "Lullaby," a traditional song with Afro-Persian roots (from the group's Eastern-flavored 2009 album Floodplain), is woven from different cloth altogether. Colorful tones that lay between our Western pitches are threaded through the music, anchored by a gorgeous solo from violist Dutt; his contribution takes on the warm and weathered sound of a grandmother singing to a child. Kronos caps off the concert with another hairpin turn, this time to a fresh arrangement of "Last Kind Words," a little-known blues song from around 1930, recorded by singer and guitarist Geeshie Wiley. In Jacob Garchik's exuberant arrangement (which Kronos premiered this fall), interlocking strums and plucks provide a kind of rhythm section, while Harrington's violin stands in for the now-forgotten blues singer.

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Waxahatchee

Author: NPR
Mon, Dec 02, 2013


This might be as intimate as hearing Katie Crutchfield sing in her basement. That's where she and her sister would play guitar, write and sing songs 10 years ago, when she was 14. Katie and Allison Crutchfield had a band back in Birmingham together, The Ackleys; these days, Katie performs as Waxahatchee, while Allison's band is called Swearin'. The songs Waxahatchee brought to the NPR Music offices aren't just stripped down for this Tiny Desk Concert, this is Katie Crutchfield as Waxahatchee, spare and exposed; this is what she does. Sometimes there's a drummer (her sister's boyfriend Kyle Gilbride) and at other times another guitarist, her boyfriend Keith Spencer (both play in Swearin'), but even on Waxahatchee's second album, Cerulean Salt, there are plenty of bare-boned songs. This is intimate music for an intimate setting, as we got to stand in careful silence, listening intently and capturing this frail and powerful performance.

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John Legend

Author: NPR
Mon, Nov 18, 2013


At 34, John Legend has sold millions of records, won nine Grammys, collaborated with many of the biggest stars in music (Jay-Z, Kanye West, Alicia Keys, The Roots, et al), and achieved the kind of statesmanlike musical-ambassador status usually afforded to artists twice his age. He is, in short, the sort of star who doesn't usually perform behind desks in offices. But once we'd wedged a piano back there, Legend sounded perfectly at home. His rich, soulful voice never suffered for a lack of processing and production as he performed three songs for NPR Music and a few hundred of our rapt coworkers, loved ones and hangers-on. Though he recently released a fine new album titled Love in the Future, from which "Made to Love" and "All of Me" were drawn for this set, Legend took special care to provide the backstory for "Move," which he'd recorded for the soundtrack to 12 Years a Slave. Legend executive-produced that soundtrack himself don't be surprised if you wind up hearing him perform "Move" again on Oscar night and recorded the album version with U.K. musician Fink. Here, though, it's stripped down considerably, with just Legend's piano and the acoustic guitar of guest Bobby Anderson providing accompaniment. Legend doesn't play settings this intimate very often, and it's not as if he has anything to prove at this point in his career. But, just in case he did, he retains a busker's lung capacity, the charisma of a born star and the easygoing grace of a performer fit for any stage even a tiny one.

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Debashish Bhattacharya

Author: NPR
Wed, Nov 13, 2013


You've probably never seen or heard an instrument like this. The Hindustani slide guitar is the creation of Debashish Bhattacharya, whose creation pairs his first love a Hawaiian lap steel guitar, a gift from his father when he was only 3 and the sounds of India. You can see the similarities to a lap steel guitar, as Bhattacharya lays the guitar across his legs, sliding a metal bar to create the fluid, almost vocal melodies. The additional strings (and lack of frets) allow him to slide easily between notes, in the process creating a sound that resonates and drones while remaining attuned to his Calcutta home. His music incorporates a good deal of North Indian (Hindustani) classical music, but you can also hear the blues pouring out from this stunning creation. I first met Bhattacharya 17 years ago when he was touring with other great slide guitarists, Bob Brozman and Martin Simpson. In those 17 years, his music has become even more astonishing, and his instrument refined even further. This trio includes his daughter (Anandi Bhattacharya) on vocals and his brother (Subhasis Bhattacharjee) on tabla. The current album and some of what's played here today can be found on two different records, the first with guitarist John McLaughlin and Dobro master Jerry Douglas (titled Beyond the Ragasphere) and the second with his brother and daughter (titled Madeira: If Music Could Intoxicate). These are brilliant recordings and a good place to start exploring more from this unique artist after his intoxicating Tiny Desk Concert is done causing your jaw to drop.

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Gary Burton

Author: NPR
Mon, Nov 11, 2013


In 1963, the jazz pianist George Shearing, an enormously popular act in his day, made an album that was unusual for him. He asked his new, 20-year-old vibraphone player to write an album of contrapuntal, classical-music-inspired compositions, and recorded them with a woodwind quintet atop a jazz rhythm section. It's out of print now, but Out of the Woods received good reviews, and it remains an early career highlight for its young architect, Gary Burton. Gary Burton is 70 now, and that's just two pages' worth of his new autobiography Learning to Listen. Here's a guy who played withStan Getz and Chick Corea, was an early adopter of jazz fusion, and became the Dean of Berklee College of Music. But when he stopped by the Tiny Desk, he saluted that moment by calling an unrelated tune called "Out of the Woods." For his next number, Burton called "Remembering Tano," a piece he wrote for another man with whom he's worked briefly but meaningfully: new-tango pioneer Astor Piazzolla. Burton has a long history of hiring great guitarists, and his current band is no exception. Julian Lage is just 25, but his own bandalready played the Tiny Desk once; his jabs and lean threading brighten this session. Their dialogue accentuates another thing about Burton: He may be past retirement age, but he can still dazzle. He concocted an impromptu blues for his final number, and sent his signature four-mallet grip slaloming up and down the instrument.

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Ashley Monroe

Author: NPR
Wed, Nov 06, 2013


In the last few years, Ashley Monroe has cobbled together an impressive country-music pedigree by working alongside both upstarts (Pistol Annies with Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley) and longtime Nashville veterans (Vince Gill produced Monroe's solo album Like a Rose), and even collaborating with Jack White every now and then. Monroe belongs to a remarkable wave of gifted young country-singing women who've surfaced with great records in 2013 a list that also includes Kacey Musgraves, Holly Williams, Brandy Clark and others while tapping into the relatable searches and struggles of everyday people. This three-song set at the Tiny Desk, performed with the aid of guitarist John Shaw, captures a nice cross-section of Monroe's appeal: The title track from Like a Rose tells an optimistic story of survival, the ambivalent ballad "You Got Me" chronicles ill-advised romantic obsession, and, of course, the Top 40 country hit "Weed Instead of Roses" functions as a playful, fun-loving mission statement. Speaking of "Weed Instead of Roses," which closes this charming performance, Monroe says the straitlaced Vince Gill insisted upon the song's inclusion on Like a Rose even going so far as to declare it a condition of his producing the album. The guy knew what he was talking about, both in his support of the song and of Monroe herself.

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Neko Case

Author: NPR
Wed, Nov 06, 2013


Watch a special Halloween Tiny Desk Concert in which a gorilla-suit-clad Neko Case performs alongside Kelly Hogan, as well as Eric Bachmann of Crooked Fingers and Archers of Loaf.

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San Fermin

Author: NPR
Tue, Oct 29, 2013


San Fermin's music bursts with ambition, talent and extreme joy. Its self-titled debut is charged with great storytelling and amazing vocals by both Allen Tate and Lucius singers Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe. Then there are the arrangements: little gems that turn these the songs into cinematic vignettes using trumpet, sax, keyboard, violin, guitar and drums. San Fermin is the musical vision of Ellis Ludwig-Leone, who wrote these songs with Tate's dark, rich voice in mind. Here at the Tiny Desk, Rae Cassidy makes the album's female vocal parts her own; in fact, the entire band keeps growing into these little song-worlds. I've seen San Fermin three times this year, and the songs keep gathering more power, intrigue and fire. The album provides a jumping-off point for a 2014 that promises to be huge for San Fermin.

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Typhoon

Author: NPR
Tue, Oct 29, 2013


The appropriately named Typhoon is a sprawling band with an epic sound. The group from Portland, Ore. crafts rock anthems like emotional tidal waves, propelled by the stories of frontman Kyle Morton. His deeply personal tales are often full of grief and loss. But just as often they celebrate and praise life's simple wonders. Morton himself is a very grateful (and lucky) man who writes songs as if he were living on borrowed time. That's because a random bug bite when he was a child left him with a monstrous case of Lyme disease that led to multiple organ failures. Morton's own father donated a kidney to save his son's life. At 27, with a backing band of a dozen musicians, Morton and the rest of Typhoon are making some of the most poignant pop tunes around. We've been following this group for a few years now, but Typhoon has never done anything quite like what you can hear on its latest album, White Lighter. The songs are by far the best arranged and most compelling of the group's nearly 10-year run. Somehow everyone in Typhoon not only managed to fit behind the Tiny Desk, but also managed to shine in this performance. If you're looking for music that touches your heart, that helps you appreciate the everyday, sit back and get ready for Typhoon to carry you away.

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Daughter

Author: NPR
Mon, Oct 21, 2013


Daughter first popped up on our radar when we heard the London band's song "Landfill" while preparing for SXSW early last year: Achingly pretty and melancholy, the track builds to an absolute gut-punch of a line "I want you so much, but I hate your guts" that conjures a pitch-perfect mix of gloom, desire and hostility. The group has since released a full-length album, this year's lovelyIf You Leave, but Daughter was kind enough to resuscitate "Landfill" for this stripped-down performance at the Tiny Desk. As you'll see and hear, that aforementioned gut-punch is a recurring specialty for the band: In all three of these sad, searing songs, singer Elena Tonra showcases a remarkable gift for coolly but approachably dishing out weary words that resonate and devastate.

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Matt Ulery's Loom

Author: NPR
Mon, Oct 21, 2013


The next time you go to see live jazz in a club, and the band is playing original compositions, look closely in front of the musicians. Sometimes there'll be stands holding sheet music. There's nothing wrong with this per se, especially if the music is a bit complicated. But sometimes there'll be no need for stands, as the musicians have memorized the material. It's impressive, but it also signals a certain commitment, one borne of having rehearsed and performed together often. You frequently see this in tight bands that know what they're doing. The Chicago bassist Matt Ulery writes beautiful music in an unpretentious way. It's intricate stuff, with interlocking parts and segmented structures. It often borrows from Eastern European scales, orchestral tone colors, folky textures. (On his backpack, he sports a SXSW patch from when he toured with a rock band called In Tall Buildings.) But it doesn't sound like calculus class, as in some other ambitious works of modern jazz. It never seems to stray too far away from pretty melody over undulating rhythms, and that deceptive simplicity sets it apart. Last year Ulery put out a grand two-disc set of music you might call "chamber jazz." By A Little Light had strings, orchestral horns and singers the whole nine yards. But he has also long done lavish on a smaller scale with a band called Loom. A rejiggered quintet lineup (note: bass clarinet, accordion) produced this year's Wake An Echo, which the band brought to our office during a brief summer tour. Listen for yourself and decide whether you think the music is as rich as this description makes it out to be. But at least note how the band was playing without sheet music having committed to getting this overlapping, precise stuff down pat.

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Okkervil River

Author: NPR
Tue, Oct 15, 2013


At first blush, Okkervil River is obviously a good rock 'n' roll band, but listen closely especially to its lyrics and you'll hear a great rock 'n' roll band. The group has been making sharp, thoughtful music since the late '90s, with the first of its seven albums coming out a dozen years ago. The songs in this Tiny Desk Concert are from The Silver Gymnasium, a record inspired by the childhood of 37-year-old singer-songwriter Will Sheff; he grew up a bespectacled, crooked-toothed redhead in the small New Hampshire town of Meriden. His lyrics are drenched in specific memories, pop-culture references and youthful insecurity. Look at these lines from "Down Down the Deep River": Tell me 'bout the greatest show or the greatest movie you know Or the greatest song that you taped from off the radio Play it again and again it cuts off at the ending, though Tell me I'm always gonna be your best friend Now you said it one time why don't you say it again? The stories pop a bit more in this acoustic set-up for Okkervil River, but they rock plenty hard in concert and on their albums. If you've missed the past dozen years of this band, start here and then work your way back through its catalog. The Stage Names is my favorite, but nothing disappoints.

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Valerie June

Author: NPR
Tue, Oct 15, 2013


Short of seeing her live and in person, this is the best way to encounter Valerie June's heartfelt sound. Her new album Pushin' Against a Stone is terrific, but when I first heard that voice unadorned, I was hooked. The same may happen to you. Valerie June is a singular performer with an array of singing styles. Sometimes she's channeling an old male voice; at other times, she channels a younger woman or even a child. Her music is steeped in tradition. The striking Tennessee singer on its own, her hair could pass for sculpture can sing the blues or gospel or country or a blend that sounds like nothing else. She learned how to sing during 18 years of church, but the "old man's voice" comes from deep inside in unexpected ways. Prepare to be surprised, and to become Valerie June's newest fan.

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Superchunk

Author: NPR
Mon, Oct 07, 2013


It's remarkable to think that Superchunk's career has spanned four decades. The North Carolina band got its start in 1989, and here it is in 2013, with a new record called I Hate Music that demonstrates an undying passion for punk-fueled story songs with catchy phrasing. The band recorded its 10th album with a lineup that has held for most of its history: Mac McCaughan on guitar and vocals, Laura Ballance on bass, Jim Wilbur on guitar and Jon Wurster on drums. At the Tiny Desk and on tour, it's a shame not to have Ballance in the fold her hearing problem worsens on tour and in loud venues though Jason Narducy fills in admirably here. This set in the NPR Music offices includes songs from I Hate Music and 2010's Majesty Shredding, but the group also digs deep to perform a song from 1995's Here's Where the Strings Come In. All in all, it's a joy to have Superchunk translate its electric sound to acoustic instruments in such an intimate way.

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Lawrence Brownlee

Author: NPR
Mon, Oct 07, 2013


These days, Lawrence Brownlee spends most of his time on the stages of the world's great opera houses. That's where you'll find him singing Rossini and Donizetti. His supple, strong, high-flying voice can negotiate the tightest hairpin turns with grace and elegance; that, and his ability to command the stage as an actor, has won Brownlee the praise of critics worldwide. But as much as he excels at opera, there's a special place in Brownlee's heart for African-American spirituals. Growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, Brownlee sang gospel music in church, and now he's returning to that tradition by releasing a new album, Spiritual Sketches and singing selections from it here in the NPR Music offices. Brownlee bases much of his operatic success on his sturdy church-music grounding. "I would say that the flexibility I have with my voice is in large part because I sang gospel in church," Brownlee told NPR in 2007. "It's a lot of improvisational singing with a lot of riffs or runs." The spirituals might be well-known, but through Brownlee's voice, they shine in new, occasionally jazz-inflected arrangements by Damien Sneed. "There Is a Balm in Gilead" floats in a newly contemplative mood with the addition of a few blue notes and chromatic touches, while the spunky piano line Justina Lee plays in "Come By Here" seems inspired by great stride players like James P. Johnson. But the heart and soul of this concert is "All Night, All Day," a performance that swells with a potent combination of tenderness and operatic horsepower. The song speaks of a protective band of angels angels that Brownlee told the audience are watching over his 3-year-old son Caleb, who's just been diagnosed with an autism-spectrum disorder. "It's called 'All Night, All Day,' but I've renamed it 'Caleb's Song,'" Brownlee says. The soulful vocalisms with which Brownlee closes the song are gorgeous and tinged with anguish. Afterward, I heard one NPR staffer say it was the first time she'd ever wept at a Tiny Desk Concert.

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Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi

Author: NPR
Tue, Oct 01, 2013


He seemed so casual sitting on a bar stool behind the Tiny Desk, acoustic guitar in hand but when you hear that husky voice, you'll know why he's a legend. Oliver Mtukudzi, or "Tuku" as his fans lovingly call him, plays spirited music, born from the soul of Zimbabwe. He's been recording since the late 1970s, with about as many albums as his age: 60. But Mtukudzi's new record reveals a heavier heart than before:Sarawoga is his first recording since the loss of his son Sam. He and Sam also a guitar player, as well as a saxophonist had a special relationship touring together. But in March 2010, Sam Mtukudzi was killed in a car crash at the age of 21. Oliver Mtukudzi recently told NPR's Tell Me More that "the only way to console myself is to carry on doing what we loved doing most. Sitting down [to] cry and mourn I think it would have killed me." So here is the legend himself, with much to share in the odd intimacy of an office desk. A special moment.

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Hem

Author: NPR
Mon, Sep 30, 2013


Hem is one of All Songs Considered's earliest discoveries. Back in 2002, we received a beautiful and unique album called Rabbit Songs. It was a homey, fireside kind of record, with a sound that could be called country or Americana, and the arrangements by Dan Mess? made it feel quaint and warm. To top it off, there was singer Sally Ellyson, an untrained natural talent with an effortless yet breathtaking voice. Hem has gone on to make five more albums since Rabbit Songs; their latest, Departure and Farewell, finds the group still writing songs that feel as if they've always been there. I'd never met any of Hem's members since we featured them on All Songs Considered (and All Things Considered) all those years ago, but they made a point to say that those NPR stories helped keep them making music together. In turn, I'm thankful for all the wonderful music they've made in that time and hopeful that this Tiny Desk Concert helps you discover a new musical friend with an old, special sound.

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