Bands with big ideas work well at the Tiny Desk. Efterklang is a Danish group whose recent album Piramida took its members to an abandoned mining town between the North Pole and Norway. There, they recorded sounds of empty oil tanks, old pianos and pretty much anything they could strike or record.
You're about to watch one of the best fiddlers on the planet and a subtle guitar master work their magic. For too many of us, Irish music is something that merely gets trotted out around this time of year, associated with St. Patrick's Day and the coming of spring — and made a cliche by commercialism and whatever other shallow notions make cliches what they are.
After hearing The Lone Bellow's self-titled debut, I couldn't wait to play it for friends and on All Songs Considered — I knew people would love it. Still, honestly, I was unprepared for the stunning power of the band's live show. When you see this Tiny Desk Concert, I'm sure you'll experience the same sensation I did. The Lone Bellow features three brilliant players, with Zach Williams singing every word as if it's the last time he'll ever get the chance.
Winston Yellen didn't start singing until he was 18 — he's 23 now — but he's already got one of 2013's most arresting new voices. As the singer for the country-rock group Night Beds, Yellen often performs a cappella, with tremendous soul and nuance.
It's easy to think of The xx as a fashionable band: Its members have a sleek all-in-black look, its typography and cover art is coolly and distinctively styled, and the group itself has been showered with validation, including Britain's 2010 Mercury Prize. But beneath all that tightly controlled image-making lays music that's raw and vulnerable; shy, worried tentativeness is wired into a sound that shimmers powerfully, but remains as fragile and delicate as a soap bubble.