Marissa Lorusso

The 2018 Tiny Desk Contest is now open! You can now submit your video via the entry form on our website. We'll be accepting entries through March 25 at 11:59pm EST.

When you're ready to enter, you'll need to:

  • Film a video of you (or your band) performing an original song in front of a desk (any desk).
  • Upload that video to YouTube.
  • Submit that YouTube video via our entry form.

"Must Be Nice," the first single from Chicago band Varsity's forthcoming album Parallel Person, has a title that comprises a double meaning. The title phrase is habitually "bandied around sarcastically," says singer and keyboardist Stephanie Smith. But she says it can also be an ultimatum, as in: "I must be nice in order to be liked/noticed/not be considered a b****."

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


Philly art-rock group Palm might look like a normal band: two guitars, a bass, drums, a couple singers. But if you listen to Rock Island (or really anything else the group has released), it becomes clear that any passing resemblance to normality is purely accidental.

The Philly art-rock band Palm seems to delight in being collaboratively weird. Bandmates Kasra Kurt and Eve Alpert bury their lyrics in singsong melodies and fractured, jittery guitar parts — both of which appear in constant, if antagonistic, communication with each other. The frenetic songs are made slightly more surefooted by bassist Gerasimos Livitanos and drummer Hugo Stanley, but the rhythm section's confrontational energy often undermines its own attempts at stability.

"The value of Death," wrote songwriter Sean Bean, of Boston's Bad History Month, in a dense, intimate introduction to new album Dead and Loving It, "is that it's an infallibly reliable fixed point on the horizon to navigate by when I'm lost at sea."

Some of us are verbal processors, who feel like certain vexing issues just can't be solved until we've exhaustively enunciated every angle. The hope is that the act of explaining a problem aloud will draw out a perspective previously unseen; sometimes you just have to start a sentence to see where it will lead. On "Let Down," from the four-member Gingerlys, Jackie Mendoza and Colin O'Neill's call-and-response vocals feel like two sides of a conversation with the self, an attempt to sketch the contours of tangled relationship in search of a way out.

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