Somewhere inside the body of Julian Koster — the Elephant 6 and Neutral Milk Hotel alumnus who once released an entire album of Christmas songs performed on a singing saw — lives a 13-year-old boy filled with wonder, imagination and a talent for spinning a good, quirky tale. Just in time for the holidays, and with the season in mind, Koster and his friends brought those wide-eyed songs and earnest spirit to the NPR Music offices for a joyful and strange Tiny Desk Concert performance.
Amid drizzling rain, I walked out to I Wayne's black van, which had been outfitted with tinted windows and fat rims. Reaching for the door to let him out, I spied the door handle — which read "Dutty" in big gold lettering — before unleashing a cloud of that oh-so-reggae aroma as I pulled back the sliding door.
Between the van and the fifth floor of the NPR Music offices, I Wayne and his entourage said little. But as soon as our cameras started rolling, he sprang to life. He was quickly transformed into performance mode — vibrant and full of energy, right on cue.
Jake and Jamin Orrall said they'd do it. We didn't doubt them for a second, but when the actual brothers behind JEFF The Brotherhood took off their shirts before a "sad love song," there were still plenty of giggles in the NPR Music office. Of course, by "sad love song," JEFF The Brotherhood means "Bummer," a distorted, three-string guitar doo-wop complete with whoa-oh-oh-ohs.
Mates of State's music isn't the stuff of unplugged busking in subway stations, or of singing listeners to sleep. It's big, broad and bold — voices shouting in unison over arrangements that swell and billow. In short, it may be too expansive to fit behind Bob Boilen's desk, let alone find an appropriate showcase at noontime on a fall day with lots of natural light.