Ted Walker

The Tiny Desk Contest

Ted Walker
The Tiny Desk Contest

I have long loved NPR’s Tiny Desk. Their annual spin-off, the Tiny Desk Contest, adds a “The Voice” element to their otherwise stellar programming of top-shelf performers.

I love to search “Tiny Desk Contest” before they announce the winners to see what YouTube has to offer. It’s become a yearly ritual. Some great ones rise up as viewers annoint them with views and likes. Odds are strong that you’ll find a few eye-openers. Here are some of my favorites this year. Not because they are perfect but because they seem to do something new or interesting.

Phat Lip “Coyote” - What you look for — in life but also in Tiny Desk submissions — is some ethereal hint that the artist is about to break away from the pack. This one from Phat Lip crackles. The lead singer’s pipes, the tastefully fierce subject matter, the unexpected and delightful vocal runs. This is a sum greater than its parts. I feel big things for this entry.

Cab Ellis “Flashback” - Give it a minute…

Zach McMillan “Once More” - This one isn’t pitch-perfect, but there’s a compelling dynamic in the interplay of his voice, his looping technique, and his general presence.

GLASYS “Acceptance” - Umm, uh, okay. Fingers of fury.

Noso “Allie”

With interplay between guitar and vocals that approaches Laura Marling levels…

Sierra Ferrell “Why’d Ya Do It” - Even the introduction to this one jumps off the page. The Berlin zazzle on this one, mixed with Appalachian warble, takes me somewhere new.