Walter Martin: Tiny Desk Concert Best known for his role with The Walkmen, as a solo artist he makes unabashedly joyful, sweetly innocent and playful music. And only he would arrive with a barbershop quartet.

Tiny Desk

Walter Martin

Only Walter Martin would bring a barbershop quartet to the Tiny Desk. Best known as a singer and multi-instrumentalist with the band The Walkmen, Martin has spent his solo career making unabashedly joyful, sweetly innocent and playful music perfectly suited for quirky four-part harmonies. It works particularly well on the song with which he opens this performance, "I Went Alone On A Solo Australian Tour," a brilliant and comical call-and-response story-song about, well, going alone on a solo Australian tour.

Like much of Martin's music, the song, from his upcoming album Reminisce Bar And Grill, is wry and plain-spoken, finding humor and heart in life's smallest moments. But unlike his previous batch of mostly children's songs (on 2014's We're All Young Together and this year's My Kinda Music), "I Went Alone On A Solo Australian Tour" is really a weightier meditation on where Martin finds himself in life, now, as a married middle-aged father. He follows it in this set with the equally charming if slightly more wistful "Me And McAlevey," a reflection on his close friendship with a songwriter from Maine and the power of music to give meaning and perspective to life.

Martin closes with "Sing To Me," his best-known song, thanks in no small part to its appearance in an Apple ad. While the original version includes a conversation sung back and forth with Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer Karen O, Martin here takes on both parts and slows the tempo down just enough to find the loneliness at the heart of what is otherwise an earnest love song.

The barbershop quartet Martin brought along for this Tiny Desk performance is known as The Glen Echoes, a group of singers he found online and met for rehearsals the day before coming to NPR.

Reminisce Bar And Grill is due out early next year on Flottante Music.

Set List

  • "I Went Alone On A Solo Australian Tour"

  • "Me And McAlevey"

  • "Sing To Me"

Musicians

Walter Martin; Josh Kaufman; Jamie Krents; Brian Kantor; Richard Cook; Ken Sleeman; Mike Holmes; Al Blount

Credits

Producers: Robin Hilton, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Niki Walker, Alyse Young, Nicholas Garbaty; Assistant Editor: Alyse Young; Production Assistant: Salvatore Maicki; Photo: Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR

For more Tiny Desk concerts, subscribe to our podcast.

[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

Trouble Funk performs a Tiny Desk concert on April 9, 2018. Eslah Attar/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Eslah Attar/NPR

Trouble Funk

We squeezed 12 go-go musicians behind the Tiny Desk. Watch what ensued.

Tyler Childers performs a Tiny Desk Concert on March 8, 2018 (Eslah Attar/NPR). Eslah Attar/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Eslah Attar/NPR

Tyler Childers

Tyler Childers writes songs about hard lives and hard love with direct heart and a soulful Kentucky drawl.

The Nate Smith Band performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Sept. 14, 2017. (Christina Ascani/NPR) Christina Ascani/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Christina Ascani/NPR

Review

Tiny Desk

Nate Smith + KINFOLK

The drums take center stage at this Tiny Desk. Watch veteran jazz percussionist Nate Smith dazzle the NPR audience in a transfixing performance.

Jason Isbell performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 30, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Jason Isbell

The Alabama singer-songwriter and his band perform three songs from The Nashville Sound, but their set includes a few surprises, too.

ALA.NI performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 20, 2017. (Photo: Liam James Doyle/NPR) Liam James Doyle/NPR/NRR hide caption

toggle caption Liam James Doyle/NPR/NRR

ALA.NI

ALA.NI captures and conveys a reverent love of early-20th-century music, while injecting those sounds with charisma and charm well suited for any era.

Maggie Rogers performs a Tiny Desk concert at NPR headquarters. Liam James Doyle/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Liam James Doyle/NPR

Maggie Rogers

The rising pop star performs three of her best-known songs, including a sweet solo take on her career-making "Alaska."

Aldous Harding performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 6, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Aldous Harding

Intensity in songs often expresses itself as volume – a loud guitar, a scream, a piercing synth line. But in the case of Aldous Harding it's in the spaces, the pauses, and her unique delivery.

James Mercer of The Shins performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 19, 2017. (Liam James Doyle/NPR) Liam James Doyle/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Liam James Doyle/NPR

The Shins

James Mercer, the emotional and creative heart of The Shins, gives a moving performance at the Tiny Desk, with two new songs and a classic from the band's 2003 album Chutes Too Narrow.

Albin Lee Meldau performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 12, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Albin Lee Meldau

Albin Lee Meldau possesses a thunderous, deeply affecting voice, which he uses to tell some utterly dark, but demonstrably cathartic, tales.

Rare Essence performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 9, 2017. (Liam James Doyle/NPR) Liam James Doyle/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Liam James Doyle/NPR

Rare Essence

Rare Essence has been bringing go-go to the world since 1976 — the group brought that pedigree, and the genre's massive meld of funk, rhythm and blues and soul, to this raucous hometown Tiny Desk.

Back To Top