Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos is a fussy sonic craftsman: A keyboardist and singer who started out working solo on his laptop, he now makes fizzily catchy electro-pop that orbits around monster hooks. He's not, in other words, the first musician you'd associate with a stripped-down performance behind NPR Music's Tiny Desk, where Technicolor production tends to give way to unfiltered voices and bare instrumental essentials.
Lord Huron is a band for just about anyone: The rich harmonies are welcoming, the lyrics relatable and the live performances thrilling. The group started out as a solo project for singer Ben Schneider, but is now a full assortment of terrific musicians, all based in Los Angeles.
Bringing blues music to the Top 40 isn't easy: Only a handful of musicians have done it in the 30 years Robert Cray has spent winning awards, selling millions of records and otherwise kicking around on the national stage. But Cray has, crossing over from blues-club stages to arenas with the double-platinum 1986 album Strong Persuader and its single "Smoking Gun," and has continued to stick around as one of the most reliably gifted and accessible guitarists around.
Every member of Dirty Three has a highly respectable career outside of the band: Violinist Warren Ellis works closely with Nick Cave, drummer Jim White is a sought-after collaborator with an instantly recognizable sound, and guitarist Mick Turner has released a string of gorgeous instrumental solo albums when he's not working as a visual artis