Honestly, I’ve been in a bit of a mood this past week and despite there being a large amount of new music for us (me + u + all our friends) to sink our collective fangs into, I’ve felt the pull of other sounds, sounds that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Then today NPR released Corinne Bailey Rae’s Tiny Desk performance and I suddenly felt much better. For those who don’t know, Tiny Desk is a series of shows put on by NPR, bringing an impressively diverse array of artists into it’s confines to play stripped down sets, generally consisting of new material. For a taste, here’s Corinne, angel from on high, in all her glory!
In light of this, I decided to dedicate this week to the incredibly rewarding and consistent series by choosing five ‘episodes’ from this years crop, featuring artists you’re probably not listening to but should. In addition, I've tried to choose musicians that represent different genres to pay respect to the programs wide ranging and eclectic tastes. Enjoy!
Benjamin Clementine is a polarizing figure. His presence commands your attention, with his intense glare and striking features, it's hard not to succumb to his pull. That sentiment is increased tenfold once he places his fingers to the keys and begins to sing, as his expansive tenor vocals and passionate delivery force you to not only hear, but understand him. While he isn't for everyone, those patient enough to allow him into your ears, hearts, and minds, will no doubt feel better having done so.
To place him into a genre, even vaguely, would be a disservice, as he neither suggests nor warrants comparison; he is simply his own entity. And in this day, it's a near impossible quality. Captivating is a word that I don't use lightly, but this poet/ musician certainly deserves it. Check out his 2014 debut album (deluxe version released this year), At Least For Now.
A pianist with remarkable touch, Alessio Bax has tackled many of the greatest composers with poise and genuine affection. However, after the birth of his daughter, he decided to put out an album dedicated to her, titled Lullabies for Mila.
It's a beautiful compilation of works, the majority of which were composed by the killer B's: Bach, Brahms, and Beethoven; we also have pieces by other greats, such as Rachmaninoff and Scriabin (who had a spectacular and expansive collection of his works released in early summer, Classical Genius: Scriabin; listen to it next time you have a short four hour break).
Alessio keeps things short and light, but his elegance and grace on the keys is easy to see. And with his daughter sitting close by, this is possibly the cutest Tiny Desk Concert to date.
Porter's musical journey took longer than most to come to fruition, releasing his debut album, Water, in his late 30's. There is a softness to him that immediately puts you at ease. Rather than demanding you hear him, he instead welcomes you to listen, drawing you in with warmth and the generosity in his sound.
NPR describes his soulful work as 'healing' and I can't think of a better word for it. His lyrics timely, his voice composed and strong; Porter can do no wrong here as he sings songs of love, loyalty, and peace. Let this man into your heart, I promise you won't regret it.
Despite only having released a collection of singles over the past few years, this California based band plays like seasoned performers, comfortable and confident. After listening to them, it's easy to see why.
They have a raw coastal country-rock sound, both relaxing and stormy; they slide into your ears and before you know it you're a fan. This is a group to keep close tabs on, especially for us West Coasters. They have dates in CA, OR, WA, and AZ through to the end of the year (December 14th at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs is where I'll bring if you'd like to buy me no more than seven drinks).
Margaret Glaspy isn't the soft spoken songstress to have a relaxed afternoon with. Her angsty grungy alternative sound is fun and addictive (think angrier Laura Marling) and her debut album, Emotions And Math (released back in June), is spectacular.
With honesty and penchant for clever lyricism, Margaret tackles heartbreak and transition with poise and and refreshing awareness. She's a unique presence, and with her debut album coming in her late 20's, she allowed herself a bit of maturity, which you can hear and feel in her sound. One of the years best, this is a perfect introduction to an artist I'm excited to have found (courtesy of NPR!!), and hopefully you'll feel the same!