Archive for the ‘Tiny Desk Contest’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: TANK AND THE BANGAS-Tiny Desk Concert #604 (March 10, 2017).

Tank and the Bangas won this year’s Tiny Desk Contest.  And here is their official Tiny Desk Concert.

There is something so alive and fun about Tank and the Bangas.  I definitely get their appeal and how much fun they are live.  There are seven members–five musicians and two singers.  The musicians are top-notch–and almost never stop, they seem to keep the groove going even between songs while Tank hangs with the audience.

And then there’s the two singers.  Jelly is an amazing hype woman.  Her voice is terrific wit ha great deal of range and delivery style.  And then there’s Tank, versatile, emotional, funny and sweet but not to be trifled with.

I really like a lot about them.  I just wish I liked their music a little more.

“Boxes And Squares” opens with a groovy riff and a great flute intro.  Tank begins by speaking in a strangely childish voice “I like that, Albert [the flautist], but it’s missing something.  It’s missing you [the audience], can I get a snap?”  She switches to some deeper voices as she sings/recites/raps the lyrics.  Tank is adorable and fun with her huge hair pulled off to thee side and spiked with purple.

I have no idea what she’s going on about in the beginning of the song–I would have been the milk, I would have been the sup etc.  Then she switches to a kind of rapping style.  Then she interacts with Jelly: “You are like a loop.”  “A what?”  “You are like a loop.”  “A what, girl?”  “You don’t understand me?” “I don’t understand what you’re saying.” “You are like a loop a hoop.  Like I’m going round and round with you like the o’s in my soup.”  There’s much laughter and fun.

I really do like the way Tank and Jelly play off of each other with the staccato riffing about whatever it is they are singing about “you…you…you”

The end of the song is a funny improv of her being excited that she won Tiny Desk.  It’s fun and funky with some great synth and bass underneath (her vocal delivery is crazy diverse).

“Quick” was their winning entry, which sounds pretty different from their contest version (I find this version to be far more dynamic and the sounds to be really cool).  But once again the focus of this song is on the two front women who are fun and vibrant and have great vocal range.

I really like the chanting: “who who who gonna save me now? (points to the audience).”    “I don’t know.” “I don’t know.”

They have a ton of fun introducing the band–singing the band members names and joking with each other.  The music pretty much never stops.

Even as they segue into the final song, “Rollercoasters.”  In New Orleans, there’s a theme park that still says “will open after storm.”  She asks “why people rode those big roller coasters.  The feeling of throwing up gave them some type of excitement that they did not receive on a regular day.”

But the song is about when she finally did ride a rollercoaster–the butterflies and fireflies fighting in my stomach.  The song is quite emotional–she even seems to be crying during the delivery.  “Jelly sings over and over fly fly fly (in a falsetto) and then oh oh oh oh in a deep voice–very cool.  I’m not sure how much of the song is improv or what’s normally there.  Rollercoasters are for people like me who have never been in love–who want to know how it feels to just fall.”  When the song ends, Tanks mumbles, “Shit, I’m such a crybaby).

Here’s a bit more detail about the band from the blurb:

Out of over 6,000 entries — more submissions than we’ve ever received — Tank And The Bangas won, unanimously, this year’s Tiny Desk Contest. I fully expected their victory performance here at NPR headquarters in D.C. to be celebratory. I didn’t know we’d all end up in tears.

This band [Tarriona Tank Ball (vocals); Jelly Joseph (vocals); Merell Burkett Jr. (keys); Norman Spence II (keys); Joshua Johnson (drums); Jonathan Johnson (bass); Albert Allenback (saxophone)] combines R&B with hip-hop’s poetry and rollercoaster storytelling, with a flair and alchemy that could only come from New Orleans. Their winning song, “Quick,” mixes liquor and revenge — a sort of modern day take on a great folk tale, but peppered with their own idiosyncratic flair and humor. What I couldn’t see, until they took over my desk, was the depth of their lyricism and the versatility of their players. At one moment fun-filled funk, the next laid-back jazz, rhythm-driven blues — and it all flows seamlessly. And it’s fun to watch: There’s a magic kinship between Tarriona “Tank” Ball and Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph as they share singing roles, like two best friends finishing one another’s sentences.

So yes, i wish I liked them a little better.  But I’ll clarify.  I enjoyed this and watched it a few times.  I wouldn’t  go out of my way to see them live, but I’ll bet it would be a lot of fun.  And I’m petty excited for them that they won.

[READ: January 11, 2017] “Chairman Spaceman”

I see that I have enjoyed a bunch of stories by Thomas Pierce.  And I enjoyed this one as well.

Don Whipple, the notorious corporate raider had given away his entire fortune–everything–houses, cars, cash–to a religion.  The religion is called God’s Plan for Space and his money has earned him a one way trip to a distant, habitable planet.  He will be frozen–and not aging–for the duration of the flight.

They wish to establish a more egalitarian society on another planet and to spread the message of God’s love to e unexplored solar systems.

The story opens on his going away party–he is leaving in a day or two. All kinds of wealthy people are there to see him off  And he was happy to never see them again.  But he was also attempting to make amends with as many people as he could. (more…)


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kickass2 SOUNDTRACK: DEQN SUE-Tiny Desk #476 (October 5, 2015).

deqnDeqn Sue and her producer Kelvin Wooten play three songs at this Tiny Desk Concert.  And although she is the name and voice of the set, I’m more impressed by him.  He is sitting in front of a keyboard, holding a bass guitar.  He plays the bass, loops it and then plays it live again.  While the bass is looping he;s playing keyboards and all the while there’s percussion and other sounds that he’s programmed.

NPR had played “Bloody Monster” a while back.  It’s a wonderful kiss off song about a person that she thought was a friend until she called her “nigger” (which is addressed in the second verse).  The chorus is surprisingly poppy:  “Shimmy shimmy cocoa pop, you’re a crazy bitch.  I don’t even like that word, but for you I think it fits.”  It’s fun and bouncy.

The second song is “Flame.”  She says it’s the only song she’s written about love–most of her songs are more socially aware.  It’s got a cool bass line, although I don’t like her voice on this song.  She seems to sing better when it’s louder and faster.

“Magenta” is the first song they wrote together.  She explains that magenta is about the color you feel when you’re not specifically one: you’re not pissed, so you’re not red, you’re not sad so you’re not blue and you’re not scared so you’re not yellow.  You’re a mixture–magenta.  Each verse starts with her singing “I am a color” in a deep distorted voice.  It’s pretty cool.  The song is interesting and has some cool ideas in it.

Overall though I’m not all that impressed by her.  I feel like she’s close to being amazing, but hasn’t quite gotten there yet.

[READ: February 1, 2016] Kick-Ass 2

This book picks up right where the last one left off.

Hit Girl is still training Kick Ass (and beating the crap out of him), but she might have to give up.  Her mom is really fragile right now and if something happened to her, it would kill her mom.

And then we see that Red Mist has returned and set up a superhero brawl in Manhattan streets.  But that’s coming in the near future. The rest backtracks a bit.

Dave has joined a superhero gang–like a real-life X-Men called Justice Forever.  He is friends with a guy named Doctor Gravity (who claims that he has made a pole that can increase gravity (actually it’s a baseball bat wrapped in tinfoil). (more…)

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adventSOUNDTRACK: THE WILD REEDS-Tiny Desk Concert #489 (November 20, 2015).

wildreedsThe Wild Reeds are a five piece band who prominently feature a trio of women with beautiful voices. They had submitted a video for the 2014 Tiny Desk Contest, and they are pretty excited to be at the Tint Desk just a short time later.

The trio change instruments so it’s not easy to say who does what.  And since all three of them have gorgeous voices, you can’t even single one out!  When they sing together it’s even more impressive.

“Where I’m Going” is the great lead-off track (from their 2014 album).  Kinsey Lee sings lead and plays acoustic guitar (and harmonica).  Sharon Silva plays electric guitar and Mackenzie How plays harmonium (and harmonica).  Kinsey has a powerful kind of rocking voice while the other two offer great harmonies.  There’s some moments where all three are singing super loud and it’s really impressive.

The next two songs are new.

Sharon sings lead on “Everything Looks Better In Hindsight” and continues to play a really rocking electric guitar (she really crushes those chords). Kinsey switches to banjo, but also plays harmonium.  Mackenzie also plays electric guitar and this song rocks pretty hard.  Sharon’s voice is a bit smoother until the chorus where she wails.  And the harmonies are again outstanding.  I think it is Mackenzie’s harmonies that really elevate the song.

There are a bassist and drummer (unnamed) who add low end to the first two song (but not the final one).  The trio is the focus, but the rhythm section’s contributions are really good.

Mackenzie sings lead on  “The World We Built”  This is the most mellow of the three songs. She plays electric guitar (the only music in the song) and the other two sing harmonies.

Although their music can veer in the country direction, their voices are so good you can easily look past it.

[READ: July 5, 2016] Adventures in Cartooning

The full title of this release is The Center for Cartoon Studies Presents Adventures in Cartooning: How To Turn You Doodles into Comics.  This is an instructional cartooning book which also tells a fun story.

And I loved it.  I have recently discovered James Sturms’ books, and I love his simple but powerful style.

As it opens “Once upon a time, a princess tried to make a comic.”  The girl says she can’t draw well enough to make a comic But the Magic Cartooning Elf comes to help her.  He says that if she can draw simple stuff, then there is nothing stopping her. (more…)

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boilenSOUNDTRACK: ANGEL OLSEN-Tiny Desk Concert #333 (January 27, 2014).

angelBob Boilen has liked Angel Olsen for some time, so when she did her Tiny Desk and most of us had never heard of her, he was already a fan.

Olsen plays a long set but with four songs.

She sits very still, strumming with her thumb and singing kind of low–not unlike Sharon van Etten.  The first song, “Unfucktheworld” is only two ans a half minutes.  The second song, “Iota,” is a little longer.  She sings in an affected almost falsetto style, although the guitar remains very spare.

Between these songs, she is coy about the title of the new record although she is quick to say the first word of the title “burn.”  Later she admits that the final song contains the title of the album, if we wanted to spend time figuring it out.

I marvelled at how high the chords were that she played on “Enemy,”  She seems to eschew any bass for this song.  This one is five and a half minutes long and is just as slow as the others.

Before the final song they talk about whether this is the most awkward show she has done.  She says everyone is very alert–and indeed you can hear utter silence between songs.  But then they talk about the storm outside (and potential tornado) and how this show may never air if the storm is really bad.

“White Fire” is an 8 minute story song.  She does use the whole guitar for this one, which has many many verses.   Since I don’t really know Olsen’s stuff that well, I don’t know if this was a good example of her show or a fun treat to hear her in such an intimate way.

[READ: May 10, 2016] Your Song Changed My Life

This site is all about music and books, but you may be surprised to know that I don’t really like books about music all that much.  I have read a number of them—biographies, autobiography or whatever, and I don’t love them wholesale. Some are fine, but in general musicians aren’t really as interesting as they may seem.

What I do like however, is hearing a decent interview with musicians to find out some details about them–something that will flesh out my interest in them or perhaps make me interested in someone I previously wasn’t.  Not a whole book, maybe just an article, I guess.

I also really like Bob Boilen. I think he’s a great advocate of music and new bands.  I have been listening to his shows on NPR for years and obvious I have been talking about hundreds of the Tiny Desk Concerts that he originated.  I also really like his taste in music.  So I was pretty psyched when Sarah got me this book for my birthday.

I read it really quickly–just devoured the whole thing.  And it was really enjoyable. (more…)

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octSOUNDTRACK: ENORMODOME-“The Way We Burn” (Tiny Desk Contest Fan Favorite 2016).

enormo Last week, a Tiny Desk Contest winner was announced. This week, All Songs Considered posted ten runners up that they especially liked.  Last year, Enormodome made it to the top ten runner ups, but sadly, they did not this year.

However they did make a fan favorite vote and I like the song, so there.  Last year their concept was awesome—they played in the office of the mayor of Flagstaff (where they are based).  This year, they took their desk outside and set it on fire.

Enormodome is just two guys, a guitarist and drummer and they get a big rocking sound out of their tiny set up.  They’ve got a fuzzy guitar and lots of high hats to keep the song from ever sounding spare.  And both guys sing–often in harmony–so the songs stay interesting.

The song is a kind of heavy classic rock—a big catchy riff, and a wonderful chorus.

Beyond the flaming desk, the video is fun to watch–there’s circus performers everywhere and lots and lot so fire!   Which makes sense given the title of the song.

Check it out:

[READ: February 21, 2016] “Late”

I really enjoyed this story.  I thought I’d read a lot more by Millhauser, but I see that I’ve only ever read a few short pieces by him.  Well, after this I’ll have to read more.

Because Valeria is always later, the narrator tells her to arrive at a restaurant an hour earlier than he wants to eat.  He figures, if she’s 35 minutes late for a 6 o’clock dinner, she will actually be 25 minutes early for a 7PM dinner, which is when he wants to eat anyhow.

However, he doesn’t want her to arrive on time and wonder where he is, so he arrives at the restaurant a little before 6 to secure a window table with a view of the front door.

He orders a coffee and tells the waiter that he is awaiting somebody. (more…)

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octSOUNDTRACK: CACTUS TRACTOR-“Jelly Donut” (Tiny Desk Contest Runner-Up 2016).

cactus Last week, a Tiny Desk Contest winner was announced. This week, All Songs Considered posted ten runners up that they especially liked.  I want to draw attention to a couple of them.

Cactus Tractor also have a lot of fun with the desk part of the tiny desk.  There’s a small purple desk and from behind it comes the lead singer and guitarist.  He is dressed crazily–this song and band are definitely a little goofy.  He pulls out a cactus and a tractor and then starts whistling.  It doesn’t seem like he’s whistling the song but he is. He starts playing along to the song a kind of old jazzy sound.  And it reminds me of “Mister Sandman” at times.

There’s some fairly complicated lyrics, “like reading Chinese, like choosing wine based on the cheese.”

And then a ukulele player comes out from behind the desk.  She is followed by a fisherman (it has to do with the lyrics). Then an accordionist sneaks out and she’s followed by an acoustic guitarist and an upright bassist.  The drummer comes out (they wheel his drums over)  And then finally a saxophonist and 2 trumpeters.

The song is funny and bouncy and catchy with several parts.

Eventually, the song switches to German (Berliner-jelly donut) and they sing many verses in Deutsch.  There’s no explanation for the fisherman by the end of the song (expect that he holds the jelly donut).  But that’s irrelevant because then some acrobats appear at the side of the stage and the camera pulls back as jugglers, stilt walkers and the like fill the screen.  It’s pretty extraordinary and it was done in one take (I expect the music was prerecorded, although I’d love to be wrong).

The song has novelty written all over it (they do lots of visual jokes about the lyrics) and yet it is really catchy and…unexpectedly, it is nearly six minutes long!

[READ: February 20, 2016] “The Cornucopia”

This is a short story that is set in Australia (the author is Australian, so that makes sense).

It is about a woman, Julia Holt, who is never impressed.  No matter what exciting things her friends tell her, she never shows appropriate excitement.  She is happy for her friends’ successes, but nothing seems to make her excited.

Perhaps it is because she is powerful and rich and has everything she needs.  Indeed, she even has her friends do a lot of her work for her–she is quite busy, after all.  But her friends (carefully cultivated by Julia, it must be said) do benefit from her friendship.  And honestly she was a little afraid of their successes because she didn’t want to lose any of them.

She and her husband are wealthy.  They are one of Australia’s millionaire couples.  Ralph, despite this wealth was never arrogant or showoffy.  He also had no time for games or hobbies.  He just did financial work all the time  And Ralph will always acknowledge that Julia is the more powerful one of the two oft hem.

So far so good as stories go.  But there has to be a crisis of some kind, right? (more…)

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septSOUNDTRACK: HAZARD TO YA BOOTY-“Movers and Shakers” (Tiny Desk Contest Runner-Up 2016).

hazardLast week, a Tiny Desk Contest winner was announced. This week, All Songs Considered posted ten runners up that they especially liked.  I want to draw attention to a couple of them.

Hazard to Your Booty, in addition to having a great name, have the most fun with the Tiny Desk setup.  They begin with two members, singer Dr Music and bassist Professor Funk chatting as if it were a talk show.  They have a fun intro and once the song starts, the scene behind them lights up and the full band appears-two sax, a trombone, a funky guitarist and a drummer.

Professor Funk plays an awesome bass and it’s clear why he is up front—he really holds the song together.  He’s got a great, clear sound (with some amazing low notes) and the whole band plays a cool riff at the end of each section—fast and complicated.

I love how committed they are to the Tiny Desk with Dr Music even using note cards and drinking from a coffee mug.

And what about the song?  It rocks, it’s funky, it’s a lot of fun.  And I’ve listened to it a bunch of time, risking my booty each time.

[READ: January 4, 2013] “Tremendous Machine”

Scibona continues to surprise me as a writer.  His last story was set in Iceland and this one is set in Poland.  And just to make things different, the main character is a Danish model name Fjóla Neergaard.

We learn a bit about Fjóla.  Her modelling career has more or less abated, although she continues to starve herself.  And she has more or less fled to Poland to get away from it all.  Why Poland?  Because her wealthy parents bought a plot of land there (the house was something of liability) once they saw how cheaply land could be gotten in the once communist country.

The house is basically a box, but Fjóla decides to buy a couch so she has something to lounge on in front of the fire.  She drove into town to a warehouse that might sell her a couch.

Her Polish is poor and after talking with a man for several minutes she winds up buying a piano instead.  She can’t play the piano–she knows nothing about the instrument in fact.  The warehouse man sells her a piano and then gives her the name of an instructor–Mrs Kloc. (more…)

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