For the NPR Music team, the Tiny Desk Contest is an annual opportunity to learn about undiscovered artists we might not otherwise hear. We hear from artists in every imaginable genre from all across the country. We're still accepting entries for a few more weeks — until April 14 at 11:59 p.m. ET — but we've already started to see entries we love. Here are a few that caught our attention this week.
Four Play Clarinet, "Soulful"
If you're like me, you're not usually bopping to a group of clarinets. Enter Four Play Clarinet, an LA-based group that puts a hip, modernized twist on the classic clarinet ensemble. One of my favorite things about watching Contest entries is finding musicians who challenge traditional conventions of their genre, and Four Play Clarinet aims to break any clarinet-shaped mold you thought you knew. In the video for "Soulful," the women of FPC are in sync and their love of the instrument shines through in this incredibly mellifluous tune. — Pilar Fitzgerald
Kristen Joselle, "Lightning Strikes"
In Kristen Joselle's entry video for "Lightning Strikes," the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter lays down a series of percussive and melodic loops with her bass; when she sings over it all, it sounds simultaneously like encouragement and a warning: "Lightning strikes no more than once / So if you're struck twice, count yourself lucky," she sings. In the song's second half, she adds some soothing vocal loops, then shows off the impressive reaches of her range. (And we love to see a familiar face: Joselle also entered the Contest last year with her song "You.") — Marissa Lorusso
Randy Mason, "After The Rain Comes The Rhyme"
Over the ordinary chatter in a coffee shop, Randy Mason and Akil Dasan created their Tiny Desk Contest entry video. In Mason's song "After The Rain Comes The Rhyme," he says he's grateful for the difficult times in his life because they've kept him inspired and appreciative of the good things yet to come. Akil Dasan sings the hooks and beat-boxes in-between, giving the song a groovy feel. Watching their performance feels like you're sitting right next to them, having just as much fun as they are. — Clara Maurer
Lulu Fall (with the Kris Johnson Group), "Between Two Worlds"
Lulu Fall, an New York-based singer-songwriter and actress, created an anthem dedicated to her formidable African and American identities with her entry "Between Two Worlds." There's a multicultural energy bursting from the instrumentation in the song, brought to life by the Kris Johnson Group. Between the driving conga/djembe drum line, the bold trumpet interludes and the essential twinkle of the marimba, the band summons the two worlds that Fall's lyrics call to. The end result has a courageous character, paving its own way into the music world. — Pilar Fitzgerald
GLASYS' inventive performance, I can only imagine, was inspired by the drummer running late (again). Whatever the case, Gil Assayas creates a one-man band in his video, with one hand on the keys and the other hand on a controller connected to an acoustic drum kit.
"Every sound you hear is performed live simultaneously, no overdubs or sequences," GLASYS states in the entry video's caption. If that isn't impressive enough, the piano break where Assayas uses both hands will blow you away. His unique musicality and seemingly effortless technique makes this instrumental performance one of a kind. — Clara Maurer