He came to the Tiny Desk with friends, a lot of friends. In fact, Josh Karpeh, best known in the music world as Cautious Clay, put together a backing vocal ensemble of friends he's known since his days as a music student at The George Washington University here in D.C. And so, with five singers - along with a drummer, keyboardist and a bassist - Cautious Clay brought a warm, thoughtful and chill vibe to the Tiny Desk.
I was first struck by Cautious Clay's charismatic spirit at a sold-out show in D.C. earlier this year. And while I was already captivated by his seemingly effortless singing, with hints of James Blake and Sampha, when he picked up his saxophone and, later, a flute, I was won over by his rich sound-palette. Here at the Tiny Desk, Cautious Clay opens with "Cold War," a song that I interpret to be about commitments within relationships. The line, "In it for the monetary growth and power / But we divided at the bottom of this whiskey sour" shows the humor and insight that I love in his lyrics.
There's good reason why I'm so certain that this little-known artist will be well-known in the coming year: he's a bright talent, exploring music with a curiosity and invention that is genuine, without pretense and with intentions that aren't aimed at fame but rather meant for friends.
- "Stolen Moments"
Josh Karpeh (Guitar/vocals/Saxphone/flute), Chris Kyle (Guitar/bass guitar), Francesco Alessi (Drums), Eric Lane (Keyboard/keybass), Sanna Taskinen (vocals), Marianne Khattar (vocals), Sam East (vocals), Claire Miller (vocals), Michael Ferrier (vocals)
Producers: Bob Boilen, Maia Stern; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Maia Stern, Bronson Arcuri, Kara Frame, Kaylee Domzalski; Production Assistant: Brie Martin; Photo: Emily Bogle/NPR