There were many submissions that stood out from the number of Massachusetts entries to NPR's Tiny Desk Contest this year. The panelists were privy to intimate balladry, upbeat acoustic tunes and thoughtful storytelling. However, NWASOUL and Eph See's entries were distinct for both their artistry and presentation while still making talent the focal point.
This quirky and charismatic band immediately caught the attention of the Tiny Desk panelists with their fiery harmonies, infectious energy and bold stage presence. The five-member NWASOUL was founded in Boston back in 2012 and specializes in a feverish genre that combines jazz improvisation, the lustrous stylings of funk and smooth remnants of soul. Their song “OWK” was a lively video that basked in its subdued beauty; vocalist Tricia Reed delights with lyrical playfulness. Her well-cadenced verses sound sultry against ravenous percussion that perfectly compliments her introspective words: “Take a second/ Clear your mind/ Every day’s a lesson/ There’s no need to rush life/ In due time/ You will grow.”
Eight years of creating and playing songs together have allowed the group to become comfortable with each other; their chemistry is organic and wholesome. “OWK” is just over three and a half minutes long, but it doesn’t feel like enough time to truly enjoy the song. Its fast-paced nature is especially intriguing but leaves listeners enthralled with their approach to music making and wanting to hear more of it. These Berklee alums have been celebrated all over the city as they performed at bars, clubs and festivals — but it was truly a treat to see them grace our screens with their submission.
Eph See, "the things I used to care about seem so stupid now"
This Boston based singer-songwriter takes intimacy to a whole new level with “the things I used to care about seem so stupid now.” On the surface, it is assumed to be a transformational anthem celebrating the shedding of one skin to make way for a more permanent one. But from the moment Eph See cracked a luminous smile, seconds into her Tiny Desk submission, it was clear that she would impress us with her candor as well as her charm. The artist’s angelic voice is both soothing and alluring; between quietly strummed guitar strings, Eph See serves up vulnerability in such a nonchalant manner we almost forget how much of a rarity it truly is.
“I’m constantly changing cause commitment’s such a scary thing” is a line she belts out so serenely that its weight feels more like a pleasure than a burden. Themes of regret, reflection and growth are obvious, but it is Eph See’s undeniable sincerity that proves to be her biggest asset. The outpouring of emotion throughout her song is apt for someone who started writing and recording songs since she was just 17 years old. Eph See approaches her music with the kind of delicacy and sophistication that Tiny Desk aims to attract with its yearly contest. Her creative future is extremely bright and her lyrical skills are top tier. Eph See is taking acoustic balladry and executing it on her own terms and quite frankly, the world needs to hear what she has to say.