There were over 150 entries from Massachusetts to this year's NPR Tiny Desk Contest. Five panelists — Dart Adams, Frances Forever, Peter Mulvey, Mano Sundaresan and Amelia Mason — were tasked with choosing a favorite. But it's hard to pick just one. So as we prepare to reveal the panel's top choice, we're highlighting a few entries that left an impact.
There’s a reason you don’t see too many garage-rock bands entering the Tiny Desk Contest: it’s extraordinarily difficult to bottle up the energy of a basement show and reproduce it in someone’s living room. But that’s exactly what the Boston-based Trash Rabbit (Mena Lemos, Nick Adam and Gibran Mobarak) managed to do in their Tiny Desk submission, a viscerally live rendition of their song “Lab Jazz.”
“Lab Jazz” starts with an earworm of a hook that roams all over the fretboard. Lemos has one of those yelpy vocal deliveries that has become something of a hallmark among Boston indie bands (think Krill, Vundabar), and the song is built to deliver big, heart-stopping shifts in dynamics. The best part is when Adam belts out a harmony, with no mic in sight, and absolutely nails it. That’s rock ‘n’ roll bliss.
My only gripe with Trash Rabbit’s video is that it’s almost impossible to understand the lyrics. Every so often I can make out a line or two: “It’s so hard to see what’s coming;” “I've grown accustomed to/ Blowing out my brains in school.” It all seems appropriately angst-ridden. But maybe the lyrics don’t matter as much as I’d like to think. As one of our panelists argued — how many words can you ever really make out at a rock show? Point taken. Trash Rabbit made me feel like I was elbow-to-elbow in a dim, dingy, definitely-not-up-to-code venue, which was exactly the point.