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.
It's one thing for 11 musicians to make a big sound — and, sure, Antibalas does that — but what stands out is the subtlety of this ensemble; the way the horns weave in and out of each other, sometimes complementing and at other times inspiring and creating musical conversation between players.
Hearing Edmonson makes it virtually impossible to do anything but stop and listen. On her latest record, and now at the Tiny Desk, the 29-year-old is no longer simply inspired by days gone by; with her fragile voice, she gives new life to classic sounds.
The New York street performer's songs feel like deep primal screams, each accompanied by a traditional Venezuelan cuatro — a small stringed instrument similar to a ukulele. At the NPR Music offices, Las Vegass weaves magic with her presence, her playing and especially her voice.
Avital has the long, slender fingers of a concert pianist. Yet instead of stretching chords out wide on a Steinway, he squeezes those lengthy digits onto the tiny fretted fingerboard of a mandolin. The instrument today is associated with bluegrass and western swing, but in Avital's hands, the mandolin sings with the sounds of J.S. Bach, Ernest Bloch and contemporary composers.
The renowned double bassist from France demonstrates his love of classical, jazz and flamenco while performing solo behind the Tiny Desk. Watch Garcia-Fons thump, strum and loop his way through three mesmerizing songs.
Somehow, we managed to fit a glossy black Yamaha upright piano behind the Tiny Desk. Then we tuned it and waited for some glorious moments. By the time Wainwright reached the middle of his final song, "Montauk," there were few dry eyes among the NPR employees and guests.
Predicting music that will survive the ages just isn't possible. In a stripped-down performance at the NPR Music office, founding members Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone still have the chemistry that began 51 years ago, playing classics like "She's Not There."
Known for mixing folk and electronic music, Orton unveils three new songs with just an acoustic guitar. Her next album, Sugaring Season, doesn't come out until Oct. 2, so consider this a sneak preview — alongside a lovely, spare version of 1999's "Sweetest Decline."
Singer Hamilton Leithauser may wield an acoustic guitar in these three songs, but this is no awkward attempt to shoehorn booming rock anthems into arrangements that don't suit them. It's clear that these guys were making the Tiny Desk accommodate their sound rather than the other way around.