SXSW Music Review: NPR’s Tiny Desk Charms and Swaggers

SXSW Music Review,
SXSW Music Review,

SXSW Music Review, Coziness tipped into the sublimely surreal For over a decade now, Bob Boilen’s cramped workstation at NPR headquarters in D.C. has staged some of the biggest names in music. Tiny Desk concerts play out intimate, unorthodox, and sometimes hilariously awkward, but always engaging and often spectacular.

For their first SXSW Music Review,, the Tiny Desk team put together an impressive lineup to cap the final day of this year’s online festival. As Boilen noted, SXSW Music Review, and Tiny Desk emphasize artist discovery and diversity, and the hour-long showcase fulfilled the promise. The four unannounced acts met with immediate excitement in the comments scroll, some viewers thrilled at the inclusion and others marveling at the new finds.

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Steady Holiday (Dre Babinski) opened with a ridiculously charming set. Tucked in the corner of her house in Los Angeles, complete with glowing fire and a puppy playing at her feet, the songwriter wound through this year’s Take the Corners Gently. She opened solo with “Living Life” before raising the blinds to reveal her band on the front porch for the poppier “Tangerine” and introspective “White Walls.” A googly-eyed printer next to her announced each song in the setlist via paper.

The coziness tipped into the sublimely surreal before Babinski closing solo again, dreamily strumming beautiful lullaby “Love Me When I Go to Sleep.”

NPR’s Bobby Carter changed pace introducing Duckwrth, perhaps the biggest act of the afternoon. Fronting a white-clad sixpiece, Jared Lee smoked sexy and smooth as hell with “Kiss U Right Now.” His hip-hop laced R&B dripped over the wicked mellow bass line of “Make U Go” and flirted through “Birthday Suit,” breaking falsetto ranges as easy as he broke hearts. Closer “Super Good” launched the outfit into dance behind his skittering groove.

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Alt. Latino host Felix Contreras brought the impressive Yasser Tejeda & Palotré into the mix, kicking into the Dominican fusion of latest LP Kijombo. The quartet laid heavy SXSW Music Review, into the Latin and Afro-Dominican rhythms through the jazzy “Amor Arrayano,” while instrumental “La Culebra” coiled and slinked into a heart-racing breakdown. Mario Castro joined for closing highlight “Nuestras Raices,” blowing tenor sax as the band burst to meet Tejeda’s clarion vocals.

Biggest surprise saved for last, NPR’s Stephen Thompson offered up the project of breakout Hamilton star Daveed Diggs, clipping. Filmed in triptych and taking the “Tiny Desk” instrumentation literally, Diggs and co-conspirators William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes blasted through five songs behind the inertia of the front man’s breathless lyrical sprints. The producers’ provocative backing laid out a post-industrial wasteland of sound, at times eerily ambient (“Check the Lock”) or shockingly shattering (‘The Show”) before the trio closed on the epic “Nothing is Safe.”

“It’s an honor to be here, especially in these times,” noted Babinski at SXSW Music Review, the close of her set. “It’s nice to figure things out together.”

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