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10 More Tiny Desk Contest Entries We Loved

Some of our favorite entries to the Tiny Desk Contest. Clockwise from top left: La Misa Negra, Rossonian, Andrea Von Kampen and So Chi Voices. YouTube hide caption

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Some of our favorite entries to the Tiny Desk Contest. Clockwise from top left: La Misa Negra, Rossonian, Andrea Von Kampen and So Chi Voices.

YouTube

Earlier this month, we at NPR Music announced the winner of the 2016 edition of the Tiny Desk Contest: a fiddle player and singer from Duluth, Minn., named Gaelynn Lea. Like the thousands of other contestants, she'd sent us a video of herself performing an original song at a desk — in Lea's case, a love song called "Someday We'll Linger In The Sun," which she played in her office. Last week, we were honored to welcome Lea to the Tiny Desk here in Washington, D.C., where she demonstrated to everyone in the room why she'd caught our team's ears.

As our panel of judges (Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton, Dan Auerbach, Jess Wolfe, Son Little and Holly Laessig) worked tirelessly to whittle more than 6,100 entries down to a single winner, the two of us had a bit of an easier task. We curated the Tiny Desk Contest Tumblr, where we were able to share more of the incredible music and videos our entrants dreamed up. After all, the Tiny Desk Contest really isn't just about one winner. It's about letting the creative light of an entire community shine.

In that spirit, we've collected a few highlights out of the many videos we loved. These 10 selections — and all the other eligible entries, which you can browse freely — are proof of all the talent this country harbors, just under the radar, waiting to be discovered.

Watch The Videos

  • So Chi Voices, 'See Another Day'

    Their community has experienced its share of hurt in recent months, but the members of Chicago's So Chi Voices work to stitch up those wounds by channeling the pain into the original gospel anthem "See Another Day." Rashida Olayiwola's verses project defiant resilience ("When you rain on us, our trees grow roots / And then our 'hoods grow strong, and then our seeds bear fruit."), while Rashawn Nadine Scott leads the collective in the joyous chorus that brings the song home. On top of it all, this is a group that gives back: So Chi Voices has promised to donate half of the proceeds from this single to local youth charities. —RH

    Jeff Hadick YouTube
  • Gwen Austin, 'Child'

    In a house in Minnesota, Gwen Austin sang her heart out. Accompanied by the oceanic strums of guitarist Russell Marshall, Austin sang the song "Child" from her feminist folk opera about the nativity story. She lays her voice gently on the song, drawing the notes out long and heavy in the chorus.

    Judge Son Little was especially captivated. "I chuckled at the start of the backlit, lo-fi video that she used for the Tiny Desk Contest, only to be instantly taken captive as soon as she began to sing — at first gently, like a female Roy Orbison, rising to an insistent, bone-chilling whine, and then even softer than at the start," he wrote. "'Child' is one of the most sadly beautiful sounds I've heard in a long time." —BNH

    Russell Marshall YouTube
  • La Misa Negra, 'Sancocho'

    "Sancocho" is named after a hearty stew popular in several Latin American countries, but La Misa Negra's performance doesn't leave much room even to catch your breath, let alone chew. The eight members of the cumbia-loving band from Oakland, Calif., light a fire under the metaphorical soup kettle with this thrillingly frenetic, percussion-heavy concoction. (It was no surprise that our colleagues at Alt.Latino loved La Misa Negra, too! Check out more of the Latin bands of the Tiny Desk Contest in their podcast.) —RH

    Natalie Orozco YouTube
  • Tutlie, 'The Bison'

    What possessed Tutlie to jam a full harp under a staircase, we will never know. It befits the group to pack big instruments in small spaces, though — the song builds its billowing sound out of layers of airtight arrangement. This Pennsylvania group's bewitching song, "The Bison," featured some of the most ethereal instrumentation we heard, complimented well by the band's immaculate and dense harmonies. —BNH

    Bob Sweeny YouTube
  • Scott Mulvahill, 'Begin Againers'

    Double-bassist and singer-songwriter Scott Mulvahill stunned us with "Begin Againers," a song that muses on and celebrates all the possibilities afforded by starting over with a clean slate. It's a theme that the Nashville musician's spare phrasing and impeccable bass tone — inviting as a fresh notebook page — illustrate beautifully. —RH

    Gabe Ford YouTube
  • Andrea von Kampen, 'Let Me Down Easy'

    It was early on in the contest when we saw Andrea von Kampen, and we were completely blown away. Her guitar has an appealing, organic tone, but her voice is overpowering and dynamic. She modulates from wistful heartbreak to forceful reproach. "Let Me Down Easy" is a well-constructed break-up song and Nebraska's von Kampen ably conveys the ins-and-outs and ups-and-downs of emotional vulnerability. —BNH

    Brent Scott Maze YouTube
  • Hazard To Ya Booty, 'Movers and Shakers'

    The name of the song is "Movers and Shakers." The name of the band is Hazard To Ya Booty. If those two hints aren't enough to get you to leap from your seat and boogie down, this groove should seal the deal. It's clear that the seven-piece St. Louis band, which also serves as the house band for local late-night comedy show STL Up Late, doesn't take itself too seriously. But lead singer Ryan Stewart and bassist Pat Alexander's mock-talk-show opening and goofy dance moves belie an old-school soul beat that's definitely no joke. Hear Stewart and Alexander talk about making the video for St. Louis Public Radio. —RH

    Joshua McNew YouTube
  • Rossonian, 'Love In A Wasteland'

    Rossonian's entry, "Love In A Wasteland," was unique from basically every angle. Everything about lead singer Seth Evans' pants is superlative. The band's cosmic R&B is delightfully strange. And it even managed to play behind an exceptionally tiny desk. Yet perhaps the most singular element of this entry happens off-screen and takes less than a second. They recorded at Blue Silo in Colorado near the train tracks, and you can hear a train rush past at 1:04. It's the only thing that grounds this extraterrestrial band firmly in our earthly realm. —BNH

    Noah Mittman YouTube
  • Def-i And The Delbert Anderson Trio, 'Roadrunner'

    Recorded at the Sunflower Theatre in Cortez, Colo., "Roadrunner" is a collaboration between Albuquerque rapper Def-i (given name: Christopher Bidtah) and a jazz trio led by trumpeter Delbert Anderson. Def-i and Anderson's trio each count indigenous music of the American Southwest among their influences, but that's not the only reason this project melds together so well; "Roadrunner" makes it evident that these artists also share a forward-thinking restlessness and a refusal to be parceled into neat boxes. —RH

    Rory Pfotenhauer YouTube
  • Cactus Tractor, 'Jelly Donut'

    Cactus Tractor's purple desk proves to be a magician's hat of sorts. Out of its depths emerge guitarists, back-up singers, a fisherman and members of the Albuquerque Aerialist Collective who round out this spectacle — all filmed at The Kosmos at Factory on 5th Art Space in New Mexico. "Jelly Donut" is the best sort of nonsense song — one that knows how to be catchy, evocative and fun all at the same time. It's a testament to the song that this beautifully-shot video doesn't distract from the music in the least. —BNH

    Austin Madrid (JAK Media) YouTube