Victoria Bergsman's songs seem to come from a place somewhere between a dream state and waking life. There's restraint to the way Taken by Trees' players approach this music, almost as if they're trying not to wake the baby in the other room.
Wainwright does the opposite of sugarcoating: She roughs up life's smooth spots, then digs her fingertips into the cracks that form. Watch her perform three songs from her new album, Come Home to Mama, in the NPR Music offices.
For this, the 250th Tiny Desk Concert, the Death Cab for Cutie and Postal Service singer performs solo and unadorned, with just an acoustic guitar to back him up. Hear Gibbard perform a new song, a little-heard track from 2011, and "St. Peter's Cathedral" from Death Cab's Codes and Keys.
Lytle's deeply affecting story-songs offer listeners moments of fantastical escape or quiet reflection, while examining the mundane hopes and failed dreams of oddball characters. Watch him perform solo acoustic versions of songs from his latest record, plus one classic Grandaddy tune.
A keyboardist and singer who started out working solo on his laptop, Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos makes Technicolor electro-pop with monster hooks. But his songs are sturdy, versatile things, as this performance indicates.
Like any great blues singer, Cray makes heartache and dysfunction sound engaging and relatable. The three new songs here execute the deftest possible blend of emotional misery and instrumental majesty — just the way the blues ought to be.
One of the loudest performances ever captured in the NPR Music offices, Dirty Three's set alternately seethes and rages in a flurry of high kicks, shambolic rumbling, prolific hairiness and dramatic yelling.
The group plays fiddle, banjo, guitar and washboard, all gathered around a single microphone in an old-style tradition. The result is what Spirit Family Reunion's members call "open-door gospel" — gospel music that's not tied to any particular religious denomination.