It was a long, dusty trail to the Tiny Desk. Beirut had just finished a show at Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn., where it had been a brutal 100-plus degrees outside. Without a chance to bathe between there and here, the band needed to be led to NPR's basement showers, at which point things began to look up. Zach Condon and company came up beaming, clean and ready to play — a bit exhausted, but with a handful of inspired new tunes.
Audio Only: Jeremy Messersmith's Tiny Desk Concert
It's sort of astonishing that more people don't know about the sweetly effervescent pop of Jeremy Messersmith. Sure, the Twin Cities singer-songwriter's latest album, The Reluctant Graveyard, is a song cycle about death, and at his Tiny Desk Concert, he trots out a Star Wars-themed "Tatooine," which he says is "for the nerds." But, really, this guy is for everyone — his charming, timeless songs are just radiant, beautifully sung and beautifully played.
On paper, Sean Rowe's music should be the stuff of ineffectual self-parody: He is, after all, a bearded guy who sings acoustic folk-rock songs, complete with themes revolving around humanity's relationship to nature. But this is big, bold, muscular stuff — a closer relative of Man vs. Wild than the nearest coffeehouse. When Colin Meloy's beard is cornered in a dark alley, it summons the assistance of Sean Rowe's beard.
There was a scene at this year's Sasquatch music festival that truly caught me off guard. I went to see Foster the People — I'd heard a few of the band's songs, and we'd posted "Pumped Up Kicks" on the All Songs Considered blog last summer — but I'd missed how many people had fallen in love with the group. The greeting Foster the People received felt like a homecoming.
Audio Only: King Creosote and John Hopkins' Tiny Desk Concert
At the risk of serving up a spoiler three months in advance, King Creosote and Jon Hopkins' Diamond Mine is going to turn up near the top of many Best Albums of 2011 lists on this website. The breathless love isn't unanimous across the NPR Music staff, but it's widespread and intense, and rightfully so.