In January, Mucca Pazza set a Tiny Desk record by fitting 23 members onstage.
In just a few weeks, NPR Music will publish its 500th concert recorded live at the famed Tiny Desk — in fact, in 2015 alone, we've put out a whopping 84 of them. Winnowing those 84 down to the 15 you see here wasn't easy, but we settled on an impressive array of highlights, from a 23-piece band to a lone guitarist to a massive, virtually indescribable dance party.
For a full run of Tiny Desk videos, from this year all the way back to the series' inception in 2008, click here. And if you've ever dreamed of playing at the Tiny Desk yourself, be sure to enter NPR Music's second-ever Tiny Desk Contest.
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He always throws the best parties, and on this day Dan Deacon had the NPR staff dancing with wild abandon. Deacon even wheeled in his own electronically controlled full-size upright piano to make his best Brian Eno-inspired pop sounds, as he played music from his brilliant 2015 album Gliss Riffer. (BB)
This powerful big band, fronted by the full-throated Kam Franklin, may be new to most of our audience. But The Suffers made a huge mark at the Tiny Desk in 2015, with an overpowering performance that found Franklin singing from my desktop straight to the center of the soul. (BB)
Kacey Musgraves' go-your-own-way anthem "Follow Your Arrow" closed this set at the perfect time, the same day the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage across America. But the rest of her (literally) sparkling performance is similarly inspired, as Musgraves performed four songs from her marvelous second album, Pageant Material. (ST)
It wasn't the Marge Simpson-esque hats that got me, though that was the first thing that captured my attention when I saw this Ukrainian band. Instead, it was the mix of rhythms — which sometimes sounded West African, with an underlying drone — and unearthly, magnificent voices. (BB)
Most performers coming to the Tiny Desk try and figure a way to strip down their sound, but not Son Lux. We've been following the music of Ryan Lott for a long time, so we should have figured he'd find a way to surprise us; he did so by taking his usual electronics-based ensemble and turning it into a big acoustic band — which included off-duty civilian horn players from the United States Marine Band. A pure, climactic explosion of joy. (BB)
Leon Bridges' joy is contagious in this magical Tiny Desk performance. The songs are from Coming Home, a soulful debut album from this Fort Worth singer, whose music feels untouched by 21st-century pop, yet universal and contemporary at the same time. (BB)
Lyrically, this set had me and much of our staff in tears. Kate Tempest sings with empathy and clarity rarely heard in music, all through the lens of British hip-hop. (BB)
With 23 members, Mucca Pazza is a marching band complete with cheerleaders, a sousaphone and a big bass drum, all of which we somehow managed to shoehorn behind the Tiny Desk. The biggest and most colorful Tiny Desk show of them all, this one was a challenge and a thrill to pull off. (BB)
Anna & Elizabeth
The spare, beautiful mountain harmonies of Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle are enough of a selling point as is. But when they break out a spooled mural to visualize a hypnotic story in "Lella Todd Crankie," the effect is almost overpowering. (ST)
We received nearly 7,000 entries for our inaugural Tiny Desk Contest, and the explosively charismatic Fantastic Negrito (aka Xavier Dphrepaulezz) stood out as the clear winner. Part introduction and part victory lap, this bluesy, soulful set demonstrates why. (ST)
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
Trumpeter and bandleader Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah calls his new album Stretch Music, the title of which refers to his desire to push the boundaries of jazz. So it makes sense that his septet's Tiny Desk appearance would sprawl out for more than 33 minutes, with room along the way for a long, gripping, timely story. (ST)
Austin singer-songwriter Gina Chavez has a gift for emotional connection, with a radiant voice that's both warm and bold. At the Tiny Desk, Chavez trotted out her terrific band for a grabby star turn. (ST)
When rapper Oddisee (aka Amir Elkhalifa) visited the Tiny Desk, it had the hallmarks of a homecoming: After all, the Brooklynite grew up just outside D.C. So it was no surprise when he made himself at home in our offices, unleashing a charm offensive that was impossible to resist. (ST)
Barcelona-based guitarist Paolo Angeli is the closest thing to a one-man band we've found all year, but he's really just playing one instrument: the most tricked-out guitar around, complete with pedals and springs and cell-phone ringers. At the Tiny Desk, Angeli used his bonkers bag of tricks to update traditional Sardinian music in ways that had us all squinting and wondering, "How did he do that?" (ST)
Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn had been performing the songs from their debut album for more than a year when they finally came to the Tiny Desk. So to shake things up and make it all special, Sanborn came armed with new electronic gear, which helped the duo bring a fresh take to some of the most organic electronic songs in recent memory. (BB)