The 2019 Tiny Desk Contest is officially closed for entries. Last Sunday night, in the final hours of the entry period, we watched videos pour in from across the country, delivering thousands of songs (and desks) to us.
For the musicians who sent us their songs, the hardest part is behind them. But for us, it’s just beginning. While our judges deliberate, you can watch all the entries coming in as we moderate them and maybe find some new favorites of your own. Here are a few that we discovered this week.
Isabeau Waia’u Walker, “Pull The Story”
In her submission video for “Pull The Story,” Isabeau Waia’u Walker is alone in an empty high school gymnasium — the site of the Oregon-based songwriter’s day job. Her electric guitar and warm voice resonate throughout the cavernous space as she sings with a quiet intensity. “It is different now / It is so different now,” she repeats, building from a gentle murmur to a passionate cry, then returning to softness, ending on a note of powerful resolve. —Marissa Lorusso
Nik Alexander, “AM I OK”
Take some gospel influence, add a dash of theatricality and a heavy dose of boundless energy and you’ll have Nik Alexander’s entry, “AM I OK.” Based in New York City, Alexander has a few Broadway credits on his resume, so it’s no wonder he has such a powerful voice and stage presence. Alexander captivates with his confidence and charisma, performing as if he were in front of an audience of hundreds in a church on Sunday or a theater on closing night. We love when Tiny Desk Contest entries are rooted in multiple genres and this one is a shining example. —Pilar Fitzgerald
Alidade, “Death Valley Blues”
Alidade’s entry video for “Death Valley Blues” drew me in with its opening image of the songwriter alone at the intersection of warped tree remains, graffitied cement and a rusted drawbridge (and, of course, a desk.) I stayed for the song’s delicately annihilating lyrics: “I’ve been speaking in tongues / and grinding my teeth / until your name tastes strange and bittersweet.” “Death Valley Blues” is tender yet demanding as Alidade leaves us with the aching refrain: “I just want you to hold me like less of a friend.” —Elle Mannion
Angela Sheik, “chiN uP giRL”
Angela Sheik makes looping look easy in her entry video for “chiN uP giRL,” as she layers creative rhythmic patterns and harmonies over one another with bold production choices. In addition to her voice and keyboard, she uses her phone as an instrument that grounds the track with a warbling bass sound. As the track fades out, all you can hear is the graceful twinkling of the piano and you’re left with the optimistic reminder to keep your chin up. —Clara Maurer
Oh He Dead, “Lonely Sometimes”
“Lonely Sometimes,” D.C.-based band Oh He Dead’s entry video, is full of life. The video takes place in a barn-like warehouse, which I can only guess is reminiscent of the West Virginian cabin where band members wrote the song together. Watching this video from my own desk, I’m unable to sit still. I want to bop and sing along with band members to this infectiously groovy tune. Lead singer Cynthia Johnson’s smoky-smooth voice is joined by Andy Valenti’s for a soulful funk breakdown at the bridge that leaves you wanting more. —Elle Mannion
The Rabbit Hole Orchestra, “The Fountain”
In The Rabbit Hole Orchestra’s entry video for “The Fountain,” the band members’ confidence is bursting from their animal onesies and Hawaiian shirts. Hearing the nine-piece psychedelic funk band feels metaphysical from the start. The video, filmed by Marco Antonelli, starts casually with bandmates laughing in camaraderie, like an open invitation to join their safe space. Then, midway into the track, the strings, synths, brass and drums melt into the fuzzy visuals with ease. “The Fountain” is a mix textured in its own decadent groove. —Jacqueline Reed