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Tiny Desk, Huge Talent: My 10 Favorite NPR Tiny Desk Concerts

Confession time: I am addicted to NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series. If you haven’t experienced one of these masterful examples of audio production and musical artistry, you’re seriously missing out. There are hundreds of concerts, each lasting between fifteen to twenty minutes. The shows feature a diverse range of artists including Tyler the Creator, Taylor Swift, and the cast of Sesame Street, to name a few. The series is a great way to discover new artists and to get to know the artists you’re already familiar with on a more intimate and organic level. The concerts listed below are my top ten favorites, not ranked in any particular order because I am way too indecisive for that:

  1. 1. Florence and the Machine

    Oh Flo, my favorite forest goddess. I would describe this set as magical and otherworldly. Florence comes off as timid, yet undeniably powerful. In this set, my favorite song is “Ship To Wreck,” which begins at 9:34.

  2. 2. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

    I love love love this band. I don’t know if it’s the size of the group, the lyrics, or the energy of the music, but it feels like they’re all just happy to be together experiencing the music. My favorite song from this set (and the band overall) is “40 Day Dream,” which begins at 10:18.

  3. 3. boygenius

    I found this group through my YouTube recommendations of Tiny Desk concerts. I am so glad I have been exposed to this melancholy, ethereal music. Each singer’s voice is gorgeous on its own, but when these three women combine their talents to harmonize, the result is absurdly poignant and beautiful. In this set, my favorite song is the first one, “Ketchum, ID,” (beginning at 0:01).

  4. 4. Leon Bridges

    Leon Bridges is a rare talent. He is authentic, warm, timeless … I could go on, but I think it’s better if you just listen to him. My favorite song of his is “Coming Home,” and it just so happens to be the first song of this set, beginning at 0:05.

  5. 5. Mitski

    Angsty, raw, gorgeous, burning passion. That’s basically all I’ve got for Mitski. Please listen to her, she’s truly something special. In this set, my favorite song is “Last Words of a Shooting Star,” which begins at 4:37. P.S. I believe that this song has an even greater effect if you also listen to the song which precedes it, “Class of 2013,” which begins at 2:15.

  6. 6. Imogen Heap

    Imogen Heap is so impressive. Her performance is avant garde, immersive, and emotional. I would compare her stage presence to Florence and the Machine; however, they are definitely different. Both exude a certain kind of power and raw artistry. Heap’s set includes a very interesting explanation and demonstration of a pair of gloves which she and her team developed to enhance her performances by allowing her to mix, alter, and record music without being behind a computer on stage. Watch the video; Imogen can explain it a lot better than I can! My favorite song in this set is “Hide and Seek,” which begins at 13:00.

  7. 7. Bleachers

    I kind of forgot that Bleachers existed (oops) until I rediscovered him via Tiny Desk. I genuinely believe that each song in this set is better than the studio versions. Something about the music makes me want to sing and dance along. Also, the saxophone features are incredible, especially in the first song, which happens to be my favorite: “Everybody Lost Somebody,” which starts at 0:06.

  8. 8. Superorganism 

    This is another band I found through Tiny Desk on Youtube, and it makes me so happy! It is big, theatrical, and joyful. Everyone seems to be authentically themselves and their musical methods are so unique and fun (at one point, two people just bite apples into the mic, it’s everything). My favorite song in this set is “Something for your M.I.N.D,” which starts at 7:12.

  9. 9. Maggie Rogers

    Maggie Rogers gives me joy. Her voice is so pure and pretty, and her songs feel authentic. My favorite song in this set is “Alaska” which begins at 10:05.

  10. 10. Daniel Caesar 

    In this list, last is definitely not least: Daniel Caesar is an absolute treasure. His voice might be my favorite of the male vocalists on this list. It is calm, smooth, and sweet — his music feels blissful and full of life, yet relaxed. In my opinion, the best part of the set is his song “Best Part” (ha. ha.) which begins at 11:00.

I hope that this list allows someone to discover some new music or to experience already familiar songs in a new way.