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Alvvays: Tiny Desk Concert

Tiny Desk concerts involve challenges and constraints that aren't always immediately apparent: The crowd stands closer than many artists expect, it's truly a working office and not a soundstage, in-ear monitors are a no-no and so on. The guideline that caught Alvvays off-guard came in the form of our limit on reverb and other vocal sweeteners, which get used to glorious effect on 2022's Blue Rev, but are otherwise frowned-upon at the Tiny Desk.

The restriction forced the Toronto band — and recent first-time Grammy nominee — well outside its comfort zone. But it also shined a bright light on the radiant and expressive voice of Molly Rankin while proving, in the spirit of T-Pain, that not every vocal enhancement is there to hide imperfections. Still, Rankin acknowledged the nerves involved in making this show happen: "We've not worked up the courage to do this until today," she said with a chuckle, acknowledging (however indirectly) that we'd been trying to make this Tiny Desk concert happen for ages.

The band needn't have worried, as its magnificent recreation of Blue Rev's billowy, shoegaze-y sound lit up the room. By the time Rankin joked about replacing a retiring Bob Boilen, we were half-inclined to give her the job, just to keep Alvvays from leaving. Can you imagine a more lopsided trade?

SET LIST

  • "Belinda Says"
  • "Pressed"
  • "Very Online Guy"
  • "Tile By Tile"


MUSICIANS

  • Molly Rankin: lead vocals, guitar
  • Alec O'Hanley: guitar, vocals
  • Kerri MacLellan: keys, vocals
  • Abbey Blackwell: bass, vocals
  • Sheridan Riley: drums, vocals


TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producers: Stephen Thompson, Bob Boilen
  • Director: Joshua Bryant
  • Audio Engineer: Neil Tevault
  • Series Producer: Bobby Carter 
  • Editor: Maia Stern
  • Videographers: Joshua Bryant, Elizabeth Gillis, Maia Stern
  • Audio Assistant: Ted Mebane
  • Production Assistant: Ashley Pointer
  • Photographer: Zayrha Rodriguez
  • Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Josh Rogosin, Hazel Cills
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)

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