NPR logo 10 More Tiny Desk Contest Entries We Loved

Press Room: Tiny Desk Contest

10 More Tiny Desk Contest Entries We Loved

Clockwise from top left: The Crane Wives, ZenSoFly, Fernandito Ferrer, Diana Gameros, Jesus Chris + The Beetles and Haley Heynderickx. NPR hide caption

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NPR

Clockwise from top left: The Crane Wives, ZenSoFly, Fernandito Ferrer, Diana Gameros, Jesus Chris + The Beetles and Haley Heynderickx.

NPR

When we announce the winner of our Tiny Desk Contest, it's always a momentous day. Tank and the Bangas won this year's Contest, and we've been thrilled with the response that the band's received. We know Tank and her bandmates are going to keep doing great things.

But the Contest isn't just one long push to the day we announce the winner. And it's about more than just that one winner. It is about everyone — our winner included — coming together to share that most precious part of themselves: their music. It's about a community of artists lifting one another up. It is, and has always been, about the undiscovered musicians in this country and the dreams that sustain them.

In that spirit, we're featuring 10 more of the many incredible acts we saw in this year's Contest. Find a new musician to fall in love with, and spread the word about them.

Watch The Videos

  • Diana Gameros, "¿Cómo Hacer?"

    We saw a lot of political songs in this year's Tiny Desk Contest, but few were as affecting, or broad-ranging, as Diana Gameros' "¿Cómo Hacer?". Her steady fingerpicking and elegantly simple melody create a calm within the storm, a safe place for big questions and long-ailing wounds that transcend any news cycle. Her voice has a remarkable expressive range. She's at once strong and breathy — in an instant, wounded and boldly searching. The song ends on an unresolved note, a brave and honest reply to questions that have no answer. Our colleague, Felix Contreras, also shared her song last week on Alt.Latino. —BNH

    YouTube
  • Darling Din, "Trash"

    The first things we noticed about Brooklyn rock trio Darling Din were the resonant guitar tones and delicate harmonies that start the song in its entry video. "Trash" has an intense energy that crackles just under the surface; when the song's pulsing bass and steady drums come in, that energy breaks through, raw yet refined. By the song's end, Lisa Jaeggi's guitar is gnarled and distorted, Sharon Raizer holds down both the drums and keys and bassist Jonathon Wright is locked into a melodic groove. The result is mesmerizing. —ML

    YouTube
  • Jesus Chris + The Beetles, "Love Is Degrading"

    Jesus Chris + The Beetles' entry to the Tiny Desk Contest looks like what would have resulted if Wes Anderson had directed School of Rock. Robinson Marlin is a convincingly unhinged frontman, and the whole performance is an exceptional blend of order and chaos. From the coordinated outfits set against Marlin's unruly stage manner, to the band's exceptional technical execution of a noisy, discordant song, Jesus Chris + The Beetles make an oddly catchy sound out of an alienated rant. This video, filmed in the basement of Recycled Books in Denton, Texas, is a weird work of art in miniature. It is electrifying. —BNH

    YouTube
  • The Crane Wives, "High Horse"

    Two-time entrant The Crane Wives charmed us again this year with its harmony-laced folk-rock. The Michigan four-piece entered the Tiny Desk Contest in 2016, but decided on a slightly bigger desk — and a bigger, electric sound — for this year's entry. The band performed its song "High Horse" in one of the coziest living rooms of this year's Contest. The entry shows off the band's polished sound and dynamic energy, but more importantly, it proves just how much fun the band is having with its music. —ML

    YouTube
  • Fernandito Ferrer, "Al Nivel Del Mar"

    In a Long Beach, N.Y., room, Fernandito Ferrer conjures an ocean at night. It takes about two minutes for the singer to begin his song. He begins by building a soundscape of late-evening ocean noises using a shaker, his whistling, a spring and a looped pad. "Al Nivel Del Mar" ("At Sea Level") is an achingly beautiful song that sounds like loss and hope all at once. Ferrer has a captivating voice (which he's paired here with a perfect slapback reverb), and he accompanies himself with tastefully minimal guitar work and the occasional sample of a broadcast voice. It's a performance that's both atmospheric and urgent — vast beyond the walls of that room, deep as an ocean. —BNH

    YouTube
  • Be Steadwell, "Netflix"

    Washington, D.C., pop musician Be Steadwell is an expressive, engaging performer. In her entry video, she constructs her song "Netflix" with just one instrument: her voice. She builds the song loop by loop; then, over it all, she sings about a truly relatable problem in 2017: the weird impact the internet has on our love lives. Our judges fell in love with her funny storytelling, unique style and chill energy. —ML

    YouTube
  • Liz Cooper & The Stampede, "Mountain Man"

    "Mountain Man" is a catchy, simple love song written with the clarity of a good cut of Nashville country. Liz Cooper guides the song with her percussive, fingerpicked guitar and her crackling voice. The song calls to mind the out-of-this-world serenity of a mountain cabin so effectively that it's easy to forget this Tiny Desk Contest entry was filmed in an East Nashville bathroom (check out the rubber ducky on the drums). Cooper and her band manage a seamless balance of muted rhythmic sounds and propulsive drive that feels so good, even Cooper herself lets out a small, satisfied laugh at 3:26. It sounds like a car whirring past a field of trees, the light shining through. —BNH

    YouTube
  • Haley Heynderickx, "The Bug Collector"

    At the beginning of her entry video, you can hear Haley Heynderickx call out "Take one? Kind of?" before launching into "The Bug Collector." The folk singer from Portland, Ore., has a smoky, sweet voice and a knack for intricate guitar lines. Though her entry video evinces solitude — she performs alone in a dimly-lit room with high ceilings — her lyrics evoke intimacy and compassion. Just after she finishes the song, you hear a voice — presumably her videographer — say "I think that was it," and Heynderickx's joy is audible. Even she seems surprised at the beauty in her performance (and, perhaps, at how quickly it came together); it certainly impressed us. —ML

    YouTube
  • The Break Lights, "Holiest Ghost"

    The Break Lights was a favorite among our judges. The members of the New Jersey rock group are masters at defying expectations. Unassuming in instrumentation, visuals and sound, they begin "Holiest Ghost" as a standard rock band shooting a simple basement video; the camera even blurs with the bass-drum hits. Then, Jake Roggenkamp starts singing. The sound of his voice is completely unexpected — it sounds almost like Janis Joplin's: high, reedy and powerful. "Holiest Ghost" is a flawlessly constructed rock song — pulling back and letting loose in all the right places in its ode to the religious feeling of good love — and Roggenkamp's voice is what gives it a unique flavor. —BNH

    YouTube
  • ZenSoFly, "Like That"

    Fans of the Tiny Desk know we're no strangers to confetti. (Check out this recent Red Baraat video if you need to be convinced.) So, naturally, we were thrilled by the last few seconds of ZenSoFly's entry video. But it didn't take us that long to fall in love with the horn-infused hip-hop of this Raleigh, N.C., performer. Thanks to the spirited energy and impressive flow of "Like That," we were hooked from the start. —ML

    YouTube