The orchestral folk-pop band's music bursts with ambition and extreme joy, and its self-titled debut is charged with great storytelling and rich vocals. Then there are the arrangements: little gems that turn these the songs into cinematic vignettes using trumpet, sax, keyboard, violin, guitar and drums.
The dozen members of this Portland, Ore. band crammed behind the Tiny Desk for a transcendent set. See them perform songs from their latest album, White Lighter — the best arranged and most compelling of Typhoon's nearly 10-year run.
In all three of these sad, searing songs, singer Elena Tonra showcases a remarkable gift for coolly but approachably dishing out weary words that resonate and devastate. Achingly pretty and melancholy, the London band's music conjures a pitch-perfect mix of gloom, desire and hostility.
Chicago bassist Matt Ulery writes beautiful music in an unpretentious way. It's intricate stuff, with interlocking parts and multiple sections, but it comes out sounding folky and simple. His small group, featuring bass clarinet and accordion, has it down pat.
The band performs three songs from The Silver Gymnasium, a record inspired by the childhood of 37-year-old singer-songwriter Will Sheff. He grew up a bespectacled, crooked-toothed redhead in the small New Hampshire town of Meriden, and the songs here reflect those experiences.
Short of seeing her live and in person, this is the best way to encounter June's heartfelt sound. A singular performer with an array of singing styles, she sometimes channels an old male voice; at other times, she channels a younger woman or even a child.
Watch the venerable North Carolina band translate its electric sound to acoustic instruments in an intimate way. Superchunk bookends this set in the NPR Music offices with songs from the new I Hate Music, and throws in two selections from earlier in its catalog.
With a supple, strong, high-flying voice that can negotiate the tightest hairpin turns with grace and elegance, Lawrence Brownlee has conquered the world's great opera houses. But for this performance, the tenor circles back to his roots as a singer of spirituals.
Oliver Mtukudzi, or "Tuku" as his fans lovingly call him, plays spirited music, born from the soul of Zimbabwe. He's been recording since the late 1970s, with about as many albums as his age: 60. Here, Mtukudzi performs songs from the mournful but celebratory Sarawoga in the NPR Music offices.
Hem makes a homey, fireside kind of music, with songs that feel as if they've always been there. The arrangements by Dan Messé make Hem's songs feel quaint and warm, while singer Sally Ellyson is an untrained natural talent with an effortless yet breathtaking voice.
The husband-and-wife duo mixes rowdy folk-rock and rootsy ballads, with the help of a canine friend. Watch Shovels & Rope perform a pair of songs from 2012's O' Be Joyful, as well as the older "Bad Luck," live in the NPR Music offices.
Latin jazz works best when the musicians involved are as fluent in Afro-Cuban rhythms as they are in the deep grooves and advanced harmonics of bebop. A man with a powerful interest in both the past and the future, Arturo O'Farrill has that pedigree in his DNA.
The 1975 knows its way around bigness. But, when asked to strip his band's sound down to fit the intimate confines of the Tiny Desk, singer Matthew Healy doesn't hesitate to transform both his songs and himself.