From Pinegrove to T-Pain, They're All Stellar.
In honor of Chance the Rapper's new Tiny Desk Concert, I'm writing about my favorite Tiny Desk Concerts of all time.
If you don't know what Tiny Desk Concerts are, I'm here to inform you that you're severely missing out. Tiny Desk Concerts are fairly self explanatory. Accomplished artists will go to the NPR Music offices and perform. NPR describes them as "intimate video performances, recorded live at the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen." You can watch the entire series catalog at http://www.npr.org/series/tiny-desk-concerts/.
Tiny Desk Concerts offer an extraordinary venue to society's favorite artists. They're minimal, vulnerable, and accessible. They offer a new lens into the skillset of a particular artist; you can't help but recognize something new about an old favorite. A high percentage of artists might even comment on how intimate the setting is; even for consistent viewers, the "venue" is said to feel even smaller in person. A wild assortment of acts (ranging from Tegan and Sara to Gucci Mane) have graced the office, and this is a list of my favorites, in no particular order.
Pinegrove's album Cardinal was named to NPR's 50 Best Albums of 2016. If that's not enough for you, you'll have to take my word for it: we're halfway through 2017 and I'm still obsessively listening to it. Pinegrove is what would happen if introspective folk music was somehow fused with a talented teenage soft rock band. My favorite songs on Cardinal are Old Friends, Cadmium, and Aphasia. Probably in that order? Maybe? It shifts.
Their songs are both sharp and observant, while also remaining melodic, honest, accessible, and distinctly catchy. I was a little surprised when I saw their Tiny Desk Concert for the first time -- frontman and lead singer Evan Stephens Hall appears a little more boyish than I had imagined. I almost immediately realize that it's in a good way though; a way that suits them and adds to their authenticity. At times, their Tiny Desk set seems a little cramped (they cram 6 people with some large instruments behind the desk) but it never feels that way musically. I dig it.
Chance the Rapper
Chance's Tiny Desk Concert was released on July 5th, and I've only watched it once so far. Chance makes it worth the watch, but his rendition of Juke Jam is mildly disappointing. What's impressive is his presence in the small space. Watching him perform a fresh poem, deal with a little interruption, and follow it up with a cover of Stevie Wonder's "They Won't Go When I Go," I realize what I clicked on the video for. It's Chance originality with an ambush of positivity, insight, and sentiment. Don't get me wrong, Juke Jam isn't bad. But it's the next two pieces that really make it worth the watch.
Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals
This is probably my favorite Tiny Desk Concert of all time. Anderson's voice and energy fills the room, and his on set charisma is both calm and inescapably evident. It's a beautiful, beautiful performance -- the perfect remedy for a stressful day. I'd venture to say that the live performance is even better than the recorded Malibu album, but Malibu is damn good as well.
Noname's performance (much like Anderson's and Chance's) gives you the sense that you're in the room with her, but that she's definitely in the elite. It's almost as if you're there but you've paid a hundred dollars to see her and you can't get on her level. She's present and inaccessible at the same time, in a way that emphasizes the strange nature of the setting: it's a concert behind a tiny desk in an office. Noname's performance displays the best attributes of the series. It's both vulnerable and substantial. She's right there but also just out of reach. These tiny desk concerts offer a performance like none other.
Other Honorable Mentions:
Dram (who has a wonderful slow version of Broccoli)
T-Pain (Phenomenal. No autotune, no problem.)