At NPR Music, we usually brainstorm Tiny Desk Concerts by scouring the concert calendar in Washington, D.C., before inquiring about the schedules of our favorites. A few musicians have made special trips into town just to appear at NPR — including The Swell Season last year — but when that happens, a Tiny Desk performance is often secondary to some other function in the building.
Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack, who perform together as Wye Oak, live only half an hour away in Baltimore, so they didn't think much of a trip to D.C. for the sole purpose of livening up a day at our office. Last year, Wasner and Stack put out an extraordinary album called The Knot — the disc even hit a certain NPR editor's year-end Top 5 — and they wanted to bust out some of their brand-new stuff behind Bob Boilen's desk. The typical Wye Oak concert doesn't want for volume, so they'd agonized over ways to tone down the noise while letting the unfamiliar material shine in an unexpected setting.
They needn't have worried. Though Stack's instrumental input was minimal compared to his usual role in the live band — he often plays drums and keyboards simultaneously, to remarkable effect — Wasner lost none of her commanding presence or energy. (If anything, her words are easier to parse without so much noise and distortion.)
Wye Oak's four-song Tiny Desk Concert bypasses The Knot entirely, instead drawing two songs from a new EP called My Neighbor/My Creator ("My Neighbor" and "I Hope You Die"), another from 2007's If Children ("Regret," sung by Stack after a brief acknowledgement of the current healthcare debate), and an as-yet-unreleased song called "Civilian."
- "My Neighbor"
- "I Hope You Die"
Filmed and edited by Michael Katzif; photo by May-Ying Lam