From Tash Sultana to Jordan Rakei
The NPR Tiny Desk Concert has become a staple of Instagram, Youtube and Facebook feeds for years, spotlighting musicians from all different backgrounds and genres and highlighting their talents through a stripped back set in an intimate environment.
There have been countless Aussie appearances on the series over the years, but here’s five of our favourites that we reckon you should have on your radar.
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Courtney Barnett continued her American takeover with a performance on Tiny Desk all the way back in 2014 with a trio of now-seminal cuts: ‘Avant Gardener’, ‘History Eraser’ and ‘Depreston.’ Her unique style of Aussie storytelling put American audiences in the palm of her hand, garnering Dylan comparisons left right and centre while simultaneously appearing to the grunge stalwarts of the Pacific Northwest.
Playing solo without her trio, Barnett’s gift as a performer shines throughout this one – even just armed with an old Harmony hollowbody, there’s no denying Barnett really is something special.
Melbourne wunderkind Tash Sultana performed on the YouTube series in 2017, amid their astronomic rise to fame and an ensuing month long sold-out tour of the States. Performing three songs from their breakout EP Notion, Tash’s bombastic creations behind the desk creates an amazing wall of sound, dazzling both live viewers and the comment section for a mesmerising 25 minute performance.
NPR’s Tiny Desk obviously had their finger on the pulse with this one, and helped transmit Tash even further into the mainstream to ensure they got all the appeal possible from a worldwide audience.
How good is Stella Donnelly!? Performing at the Desk early in 2019 to promote the release of her debut album Beware of the Dogs, Donnelly wowed audiences with a trio of cuts from her new record, self-accompanied with a Fender Stratocaster. Donnelly is a truly unique Australian singer-songwriter, and her vocal delivery and witty lyricism is second to none, which undoubtedly won her a heap more fans through this performance.
She was set to tour the states again this year, but had to be cancelled for obvious reasons – while you wait, revisit her standout NPR show below.
Ta-ku and Wafia
This Aussie duo work so well together, and when watching this video, you really do have to question why they aren’t bigger than they are. Performing tracks ‘Treading Water’, ‘Meet In The Middle’ and ‘Love Somebody’ off their joint album (m)edian, Wafia and Ta-ku’s beautiful harmonies gave the Tiny Desk an ornate atmosphere, while chilled out electric pianos and percussion soften their voices for a smooth, pillowy take on modern RnB and pop. Get transported below.
He might have been born in New Zealand and is now based out of London, but Jordan Rakei spent just about all of his formative years in Brisbane honing his unique voice and chops as a multi-instrumentalist, which he showed off when he graced the Tiny Desk stage pre-COVID this year.
Along with his very talented band, Rakei brought some sick neo-soul flare to the series – a genre that Tiny Desk is renowned for championing. His insane talent in this performance gives videos from his contemporaries like Tom Misch and Anderson Paak a run for their money. Dive into his captivating set below.
This article was originally published June 28, 2020.
Check out some of our favourite Aussie performances on late night TV here.