The Tiny Desk Concert. It’s a dream and a milestone for bands all over the country, even the world. Musicians of all backgrounds have made their way here: DC go-go bands. Atlanta rappers. British superstars. Spanish crooners. The Blue Man Group. Even Korean folk groups dressed in drag have performed at NPR HQ. So for the fourth year in a row, NPR held the Tiny Desk Contest to find the country’s best unsigned artist (as decided by a panel of NPR Music writers and a few musicians) and give them the opportunity to perform at the Tiny Desk and reach thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of eager listeners. This year’s winner was LA-based guitarist and busker Naia Izumi, whose simply-filmed, slightly-cramped recording featured a drum machine, a loop pedal, and some impressive guitar skills. On the night of his Tiny Desk Concert filming, NPR’s Studio 1 room was opened to the public for a performance before he embarks on a nationwide Tiny Desk Contest tour. While the other tour stops will feature local bands that ranked high on the final list of entries, the DC performance was all about Izumi.
For the past two years, Lil Uzi Vert has stood out as one of rap's brightest stars. The ascension from Soundcloud sensation to self-proclaimed "rock star" has been fast-tracked, powered by multiple mixtapes, two top ten Billboard singles ("XO TOUR Llif3" and "Bad and Boujee"), and a #1 debut album in Luv Is Rage 2 released in late August. The Philadelphia native took advantage of his momentum this year by kicking off his holiday tour A Very Uzi Christmas with 6,000 fans in attendance for the Anthem's first hip-hop concert.
Yes, NPR Music is only ten years old. Although All Songs Considered is going on 18 years strong, the coalition of NPR member stations from across the country was founded in 2007 to centralize the regional tastemakers that bring us shows like World Cafe or Jazz Night in America. It's hard to overstate its cultural influence on music in that short time, most notably with the Tiny Desk Concert video series, where up-and-comers like Diane Coffee and established arena acts like Adele come to perform. In the spirit of the brevity-focused music series, seven bands and musicians took to the stage to play three or four songs each. The event quickly sold out the day it went on sale. But the plot twist? NPR kept the lineup a secret until the moment they came on stage. Of course, when you're NPR Music, it's not hard to ask the public to place your trust in them.
Sixteen years ago, All Songs Considered’s Bob Boilen didn’t just change the game with his podcast about the music he loved and nothing but, he pretty much INVENTED the game.
Now Bob has set his sights on the literary world with his new book Your Song Changed My Life. A collection of conversations that is “…less like a record and more like a stack of 45’s,” Your Song Changed My Life checks in with some of rock and roll’s biggest names, as well as a few up -and -coming greats to explore not just what makes these artists tick, but why music is so important to us all.
For our 200th episode we’re sitting down with Bob to talk about his book, his life as a journalist (and other things), what drives his love of music, and much, much more.
Whether you’re a fan of All Songs Considered, a creative looking for inspiration or just a lover of music, this podcast might change your life.
For all the jokes we make at the expense of our neighbors to the north, Canada may have the United States beat in one key export – great indie rock. Some Canadian groups find massive success in the US – Arcade Fire, for example. Others find a smaller but no less rabid following, such as Japandroids, Destroyer, or Besnard Lakes. Still others have found success in Canada but have yet to truly break through here despite prodigious amounts of talent and fantastic live performances.
One such band is Montreal’s Patrick Watson (that’s the name of the band as well as the singer/pianist who founded it). They garnered a Juno New Artist of the Year nomination in 2007 and have been shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize in 2007 and 2009. (No, you don’t need to know what those are, only that they’re a much more accurate gauge of talent than the Grammys.) Those successes have yet to translate to fame in the United States, but if Wednesday’s show at the 9:30 Club is any indication, they won’t be a kept a secret much longer.
All words/pictures by ace contributor Suzanne Wnek
I just attended my first SXSW and I got everything wrong. But even if you get everything wrong at SXSW, it’s an experience you cant’ help but love, and hey, there’s always next year.
First things first: if you’ve never been to SXSW, it’s not like a huge park with 2 or 3 stages and the acts rotate through while you decide in which field you’re going to sit. Instead, it’s as if all your favorite bars and music venues in the world relocated within a one-mile radius (give or take…someone out there was probably wearing a pedometer). In those 100s of venues, 1000s of bands can play 40-minute sets over the course of 5 days, and they will.
If you don't have any Big Star in your life then you ain't got nothing. That's a fact. Look it up. Big Star was one of the best, biggest, unknown bands that have ever been. Powered by songwriter extraordinaire, Alex Chilton, they less fit into any specific genre than actually are one in and of themselves. Fuzzed out 70's rock, psychedelic explorations, gorgeous folk melodies; It's all there for you to find. NPR recently did a piece on Big Star's #1 Record that does a pretty good job of explaining what the band was all about, but really it's best that you discover this stuff for yourself and there's no better place to start than the first track off of that record. We can't post the whole record here, but there's nothing stopping you from heading to your favorite record shop, finding a copy of this on vinyl and then relaxing with a doobie with a lava lamp with some tapestries with some friends tonight while you take in a fantastic record from one of the greatest bands that ever was or will be.
The first time I saw Wye Oak, they were opening for Blitzen Trapper at Ottobar in Baltimore. I can’t recall if it was the last night of their tour, or if it was just the first time the duo of Jen Wasner and Andy Stack had been home for a long while. But either way, they made it a point to let us know that this was a sort of homecoming show for them. The two musicians then proceeded to tear through a set that was as ferocious as it was joyful. Blitzen Trapper, as great a band as they are, quite literally ended up as sort of a happy afterthought to the night.
In the two years since that night, Wye Oak has not only managed to hang on to all of that power and all of that joy, they have managed focus it to the point that hearing them play now is akin to standing in the eye of a controlled hurricane.