Bob Boilen

It's as if the pianos were haunted. Somewhere about midway through this Tiny Desk, as Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds performed on his electronic keyboard, two upright pianos were playing lilting melodies behind him, absent any performer at the keys. And yet these "ghosts," along with Ólafur's band of strings and percussion, put together some of the most beautiful music I've heard at the Tiny Desk, made all the more mysterious through its presentation.

The horns burst, the voices wail and, as if about to launch into a sermon, this author, activist, intellectual, pastor and singer introduces himself: "My name is Rev. Sekou and these are the Seal Breakers, now they from Brooklyn." He points to his band and continues, "but I was raised in in a little old place called Zent, Arkansas that's got about 11 houses and 35 people, and they'd work from can't-see morning to can't-see night and then they'd make their way to the juke joint.

It was a late night at an unfamiliar club in Austin, Texas when the spirit, sound, lights and costumes of the Golden Dawn Arkestra put a huge, dreamy smile on my face. It took more than three years to get ten of the players and performers in this band (there are often even more) to my desk. I tried to transform the bright daylight of the NPR office with some of my handy, previously used holiday laser lights. But honestly, it wasn't until their psychedelic jazz kicked in that the office transformation felt real.

Our 2016 Tiny Desk Contest winner Gaelynn Lea is back with a new video and a new album on the way.

It was Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day when this somewhat loud and sometimes frenetic band came to play at my desk. I couldn't help but wonder if The Messthetics would inspire some eight-year old child in the office to one day become a musician, one who'd go on tell the tale of seeing these D.C. legends at an office when they were a kid.

When 14-year-old Grace VanderWaal came to perform at the Tiny Desk I had to confess to her (and her mom) that, until my "accidental concert experience," I had no idea who she was, nor did I know what America's Got Talent was.

It all started this past February, when I went to the 9:30 Club, a 1,200 capacity music venue, to see what I thought was a show by rock guitarist Grace Vonderkuhn and her power trio from Delaware.

Singer Meg Myers' exasperation with her former record label birthed the song "Numb." She wrote me to say that the song "is about how I was feeling when my (former) record company was looking for something out of me that just didn't feel right for many reasons. I was frustrated and it came through in this song."

It was daylight but the music was dark and moody. And despite having the office lights turned on high, it was Khruangbin's trance-inducing tone that set the mood and carried me away.

"These times are poignant / The winds have shifted / It's all we can do / To stay uplifted."

Those words are sung so powerfully by Rising Appalachia, the musical project of sisters Leah Song and Chloe Smith. This uplifting, original folk song for these challenging times is called "Resilient."

"I think this is one of my vaguest songs," Mitski says in this conversation about her new song, "Geyser." "Usually my songs have a narrative of some sort. But this song is all feeling."

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