Hugs From Your Grandma: Favorite Tiny Desk Concerts

NPR Tiny Desk Concerts logo, white text on black background

I’ve been spending my after-work hours browsing NPR’s rich and varied library of Tiny Desk Concerts. There have been many gems, but even in such fantastic company, the winners of last year’s Tiny Desk Contest stand out:

Tank and the Bangas hail from New Orleans, Louisiana, and they play a luminous mix of rock, folk, soul, funk, spoken word, and—as its own members put it—Disney and anime. I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of description that grabs my interest before I even hear a single note.

Luckily, I listened to their Tiny Desk before I read anything about their influences, so I can tell you from experience that they will move you even if you come in knowing absolutely nothing about who they are or what they’re about. That obliviousness vanishes quickly, too, since Tank and the Bangas are the kind of group you just have to know more about.

There’s plenty of material out there, starting with their debut album ThinkTank, released in 2013. Tiny Desk was obviously just another step in what’s already been a long and celebrated journey, and I’m glad that performance put them on my radar. Time to follow these amazing people and see what else they’ve got in store.

While we’re looking to the future, I’d like to join the chorus of voices dreaming about a collaboration with another artist:

Noname comes from Chicago, and like Tank, she’s an accomplished rapper and slam poet. She released her debut album, Telefone, in 2016. Before that, she captured audiences’ attention with her contribution to Chance the Rapper’s “Lost,” from the 2013 mixtape Acid Rap. Her set for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts demonstrates a gentle, enthralling power that reminds you of how much weight music can hold.

About halfway through Noname’s set, she says, “Let’s heal the world through vulnerability.” What a proposition! It illustrates the kind of earnest, soulful intention that runs through both of the Tiny Desk Concerts I’ve linked here.

In a feature from the Louisiana Weekly, Tarriona Ball, the “Tank” of the group’s name, describes the effect they strive to have on their audience:

“You always want to inspire them in some way and let them know we’re growing together.”

They seem to be doing a damn good job of accomplishing that.