Listen to any Lionel Loueke record long enough and you'll wonder, "How did he make that noise?" When the unusual jazz guitarist and his drummer showed up for a video performance at the NPR Music offices — literally with bells on — they helped answer that question.
There have only been a handful of Tiny Desk Concerts where NPR employees have overflowed our modest office space, stepping away from looming deadlines to hear some music. Jakob Dylan and his touring companions, Neko Case, Kelly Hogan and Paul Rigby, joined those ranks when they stopped by to perform a mesmerizing, stripped-down set of songs from his latest record, Women and Country.
The Baltimore duo didn't have to travel far to liven up a day at the NPR Music offices. Wye Oak's four-song Tiny Desk Concert draws two songs from a new EP called My Neighbor/My Creator, another from 2007's If Children and an as-yet-unreleased song called "Civilian."
For much of the past year, the band has stunned live audiences with its extraordinary range, moving seamlessly and gracefully from quiet, delicate moments to thundering swells of chaotic rock noise. That said, for this Tiny Desk performance, the trio pulled way back, offering stripped-down versions of songs from Hospice.
The singer was part of a musical scene in 1950s Cuba that produced an entire generation of musical innovators and pioneers. The two classic boleros she performs in this Tiny Desk Concert are a reflection of the passion for life she instills in every performance.
The songs on July Flame orbit around Veirs' acoustic-guitar playing and voice. But it's her idiosyncratic lyrics and melodic flourishes that imbue her music with sun-dappled warmth; hers is the sound of immense, wide-open spaces. When a very pregnant Veirs settled in for this performance behind Bob Boilen's desk, that same kind-hearted intimacy shone through.
As the frontman for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Alec Ounsworth wrote brash, poppy songs. But the singer and songwriter clearly had more music to make. In the fall of 2009, he released a solo record called Mo' Beauty, an album he wrote and recorded in New Orleans with a number of local musicians. Here, Ounsworth performs songs from Mo' Beauty, accompanied only by two guitars.
With a trove of instruments, languages and good humor, Abaji demonstrates his passion for music that reflects his numerous family roots, including Armenia, Turkey, Greece and France. Watch him perform a short concert at the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen.
Castaneda is the sort of musician who isn't afraid to challenge the established order. He's carving out a place for himself in Latin jazz on an instrument you don't often hear in his style of music: the Colombian harp. Castaneda recently parked himself behind Bob Boilen's desk and crafted a transporting mix of tradition and improvisation.
It's hard to know what will happen when the string quartet Brooklyn Rider starts playing. Yes, these four guys love to play Debussy and Brahms, but they're just as likely to team up with a singer-songwriter or a Kurdish kamancheh player. Or write their own music. So we weren't sure what they'd do when they stopped by the NPR Music offices to play a Tiny Desk Concert. What we got was a bracing sample of their visceral fire.