The NPR Music offices have hosted a remarkable array of instruments in the years since we launched the Tiny Desk Concerts series: harps, koras, a pipa, a pipe organ and many more surprises, to go with the expected scores of guitars, violins and muted snare drums. Listening to either of Noah and the Whale's first two albums — 2008's warmly organic Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down and 2009's string-swept breakup album The First Days of Spring — you'd never expect the London band to spring a surprise on us.
But Last Night on Earth, Noah and the Whale's recent third album, is highlighted by the encroachment of a drum machine, which the band used to replace co-founder Doug Fink (brother of singer-guitarist Charlie) after he left to attend medical school. And, lo and behold, Charlie Fink and violinist Tom Hebden turned up at this Tiny Desk Concert as a duo with drum machine in tow. The device's tinny simu-snare takes a little bit of getting used to — it's thankfully shelved for an exquisite run through "Blue Skies," from The First Days of Spring — but it does add pep to the two new songs here, "L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N." and "Waiting for My Chance to Come." It's not Noah and the Whale unplugged, obviously, but sweet simplicity still reigns.
- "Blue Skies"
- "Waiting For My Chance To Come"
Michael Katzif (cameras); edited by Bob Boilen; audio by Kevin Wait; photo by Amanda Steen/NPR