Bob Boilen

The title and subject of Amadou & Mariam's latest album, La Confusion, would lead you to believe that the music this married, Malian couple make might be sad and troubled. But Amadou & Mariam, on the contrary, bring some of the most lyrical melodies and joyful sounds we've ever had at the Tiny Desk, and their performance comes while their country endures great turmoil, including a coup and insurgencies.

It's as if brothers Brian and Michael D'Addario fell from the sky, victims of a transporter beam gone awry in 1971, and landed here at my desk with guitars in hand, right next to a perfectly tuned Yamaha upright piano.

AHI: Tiny Desk Concert

Jan 16, 2018

The first time I heard the music of AHI (pronounced "eye") was in the midst of listening to 120 other song submissions for the DIY Musicians Conference panel I was hosting in Nashville back in August. It simply rose above everything else I heard.

"Take Me To The River" is a 1974 song from the legendary Al Green and guitarist "Teenie" Hodges.

In March of 2016, just a handful of months after her debut album Sprained Ankle was released, Julien Baker came and played a quiet, thoughtful Tiny Desk concert that went on to become one of our most popular and certainly one of the most-talked-about Tiny Desk Concerts of the year. (It's now approaching two million views on YouTube alone.)

The Weather Station's fourth (and self-titled) album was a constant companion for me in 2017, in no small part for the song that opens the band's Tiny Desk performance. It's called "Thirty" and in less than four minutes and nearly 400 words, singer Tamara Lindeman paints images of joy intertwined with the awaking jolt of turning thirty.

For nearly 10 years, NPR Music has recorded concerts from behind Bob Boilen's desk. During the holidays, the desk gets a little more festive, thanks to a snow machine, paper snowflakes and Stephen Thompson's hand-drawn Christmas tree. (It's labeled "tree.") Whether they perform original songs or new takes on holiday staples, these artists bring big sounds to the Tiny Desk.

Effortless storytelling is at the heart of This Is The Kit. And the stories the band's only permanent member, Kate Stables, weaves are profound but sweet with a tone that quietly reels you in.

This comes close to the quietest Tiny Desk Concert we've ever had. The music Greg Gonzalez makes with his longtime bandmate Phillip Tubbs as Cigarettes After Sex is hushed. The common thread in these songs is minimalism, heard in both Greg's guitar and Philip's synth, that lay just under Greg Gonzalez's barely audible, somewhat spoken singing. Yet, somehow, this sound that barely exists holds together because of the strong melodies in these songs. I find I sing them to myself over and over again.

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