NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concerts -Podcast Review

In this episode I sat down and listened… well, I while working my never-ending overnight job, listened to Tiny Desk Concerts. The show is ten year tradition of NPR bringing in amazing musicians to play in their cramped office. I’ve watched a lot on YouTube, maybe you have too? When I found out it was available in podcast form, of course I knew I had to review it.

PodApplaud- Tiny Desk Concerts

Welcome to PodApplaud, the Monday and Friday podcast that aims to enable your Podcast habit. I’m your host Seb, and today we are going to get musical With The Podcast: Tiny Desk Concerts. Before we get into it I’m going to just quickly rattle off some stuff about PodApplaud behind the scenes, since Tiny Desk is simple and my script was short this will be a good episode to catch up on some housekeeping. You may have noticed I said Monday and Friday podcast in this intro, I’m cutting back 5 episodes down to 2 a week. I started PodApplaud for a few reasons first as a way to prove that I could overcome my fear of putting myself out there, second I wanted to share podcasts that make me smile and third my girlfriend was out of country for 5 months and I needed something I could do to keep busy. I still have shows I want to share, but I’ve proved that I’m capable of working hard and putting out a show without giving up or crumbling from fear of being disliked or not living up to my own expectations. Now that I’m reunited with my sweetie I also don’t have 10 free hours a week to work on this project. So yeah uploads Monday and Friday now, two a week. Next I figure since I’m talking music here on PodApplaud It’s about time I got some of my own, I’m going to start experimenting with some different themes on the show so be prepared for that as well. Without further ado, back to the show.

Tiny Desk Concerts is a music podcast that features popular musicians playing a short set inside the NPR office. Episodes range between 10 minutes and half an hour for the most part. New episodes are constantly being added, so far they have 578 available in podcast form.

I’ve known about Tiny Desk Concerts for sometime, although I have usually watched the show on Youtube. Bob Boilen began the show over ten years ago and remains as the host today. I would guess the show has 900 individual episodes by now, but it is hard to find a concrete number anywhere. Regardless the huge backlog explains the feverish upload rate to the Tiny Desk Concerts podcast feed.

Tiny Desk Concerts is so named because the bands are cramped behind a desk in the office with what I would guess to be less than 50sq feet of space to work with. Often the limited space causes the musicians to play slightly striped down versions of their songs or get creative with their approach. I think a big part of the fun of Tiny Desk is seeing how the musicians interact with the space and the small intimate audience. For example, I recall Florence Welch of Florence and The Machine admitting how nervous she was between songs despite performing for huge audiences on a regular basis.

I can confidently say something of the show is lost without the video, I love seeing 8 members of The Roots crammed behind a desk playing brass instruments and grooving. Now admittedly they have a video RSS feed, but people listen to podcasts that’s just the way it is Podcasts are typically listened to even the ones hosted on youtube fall subject towards being a secondary tab in my experience. The show is still well worth checking out in podcast form though. There is usually a 5 second blurb at the beginning stating the sponsors of the show, Bob tells us where we can find the video and then the music starts typically musicians go right into a song finish it up and have some short banter with the audience and go back into another rather quickly. After a few songs the show comes to a close and there is a short ad read, maybe 10 seconds tops. Very little of the show is ad so NPR has respected our time quite well with this pod.

I would say the main draw of Tiny Desk is that you can easily explore so many different bands all in one convenient place. The show has a history of featuring a lot of indie and alt rock bands, although as the show has progressed it has started featuring more electronica, rap hip hop, jazz ensembles, operatic singers, and more. So you will either have to be open to the genres that dominate the show or just be relatively open to all sorts of musical talent. For example if you’re a diehard metal fan you might be disappointed to find out despite its ten year runtime, the show featured it’s first metal band this month. I’m relatively open musically I enjoyed listening to Steve Martin’s blue grass band just as much as I enjoyed BIG KRIT, or even The Blue Man Group. I’m going to give the show a rating and close it out with some more examples of the groups who have blessed the Tiny Desk stage

Here on PodApplaud I rate shows on a 1-5 scale, 1 is silence, 2 is a slow clap, 3 is applause, 4 is a round of applause, and 5 of course is a standing ovation! I’m going to give Tiny Desk Concerts a ⅘ a round of applause. This is a great show to mix it up between podcasts. Since I do podapplaud, I always have a notepad on the ready when listening to podcasts, which is nice to jot down a band if I found them up my alley. The scope of the talent they get is quite amazing and I like hearing the musicians being so personable with the NPR audience. The only real downside keeping this from a perfect score is that watching on Youtube is a better experience, although I do appreciate I can download it as a podcast and listen anywhere.

That’s been the show for today, if you found it valuable be sure to subscribe for more podcast reviews. If you wish to reach out or follow me, you can find me on twitter @podapplaud or send an email to podapplaud@gmail.com Thank you for listening, and please tune in again. As I promised here are some acts you can expect to hear on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts:

Wu-Tang Clan, BADBADNOTGOOD, Weezer, Cat Power, Hobo Johnson and The Lovemakers, Tech N9ne, Yo-Yo Ma, Mac Miller, Daughter, Superorganism, Randy Newman, DJ Premier & The Badder Band, The Shins, Chance The Rapper, Tegan and Sara, Billy Brag & Joe Henry, Peter Frampton, Chelsea Wolfe, and hundreds more.