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The Best 2021 Tiny Desk Contest Entries We Saw This Week: Volume 5

Originally published on June 25, 2021 9:31 am

The 2021 Tiny Desk Contest closed for entries on June 7. We've heard songs from every state in the country, from big bands and solo artists, in a huge range of genres and styles. Now, our judges will start to comb through our entries to find a winner. Here are some of the best entries we've seen recently.


Dogs on Shady Lane, "18"

YouTube

Hometown: Providence, R.I.
Pairs well with: The long car ride home from a camping trip gone wrong

"18," the Tiny Desk Contest entry from Providence, R.I., duo Dogs on Shady Lane, was filmed in an abandoned Bible college library; a mess of fallen bookshelves coated with graffiti and dust serve as the duo's dramatic backdrop. The hushed sonic landscape is just as impressive and particular. Backed by singer-guitarist Evan Weinstein, Tori Hall questions the excess of her own emotions ("I'm too old to be crying so much" and "I think I feel too much") with a soft but substantial voice as she plucks at — and moments even strokes with an orchestra bow — her guitar strings. —Elle Mannion


Rotem Sivan, "Far From Shore"

YouTube

Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Pairs well with: Unwinding after a long week; taking the next big leap

Rotem Sivan's "Far from Shore" is the soft push you need to keep going. The track, while slow and steadfast, has a grounding emotional resonance. With rhythmic percussion and meditative lyrics, the song provides a relaxing groove to unwind and decompress. Musicians Adam Neely, Jaylen Petinaud and Rotem Sivan provide a spirited and sensual compliment to Kamila Gibson's soulful vocals. With the numeric refrain, "2,3,4,5 / Check your pulse you're still alive/ 6,7,8,9 / You really can't ignore the signs," the track leads you on a satisfying inhale and exhale. Sivan's "Far from Shore" is a pearl, delicate and genuine, that encourages you, too, to come out of your shell. —Gabrielle Pierre


Casey Conroy, "As Deep As You Loved Me"

YouTube

Hometown: Orlando, Fla.
Pairs well with: Crying at a romcom after a breakup

Songwriter Casey Conroy says "As Deep As You Loved Me" was inspired by a particularly emotionally brutal scene in the 2019 film Marriage Story – but the sound and energy of the track is all her own. Her entry video featuring the refined, brooding pop track was filmed in a church (with appropriately moody lighting) and builds to an effective, dramatic climax, thanks to her stellar three-piece backing band. —Marissa Lorusso


Jack Rabbit, "The Stack"

YouTube

Hometown: Los Angeles, Calif.
Pairs well with: Feeling like the main character on your neighborhood walk

Reopening old wounds and singing about a now-faded heartbreak can be painful. "We couldn't make it through more than once," Jack Rabbit, the duo of Andy Leon and Morgan Donegan, told us when submitting its entry, "so here's the first and only attempt!"

Luckily, one take, filmed on Leon's phone, was all the band needed to pack a punch. The duo's smooth harmonies are thick with emotion as they recall with Swiftian specificity (note the jacket, the matches, etc.) both the intimacy that comes with knowing "all the names of your best friends from home / the places you go when you're feeling alone," and then the sorrow that comes with detangling your memories from another's presence: "When I go through my day, I walk the long way / The streets that we'd take might as well wear your name." —Elle Mannion


Lily Talmers and the Ypsilanti Goddam, "Maybe Next Year No. 2"

YouTube

Hometown: Ann Arbor, Mich.
Pairs well with: A summer thunderstorm

Singer-songwriter Lily Talmers has a graceful, delicate voice reminiscent of Big Thief's Adrianne Lenker or Lomelda's Hannah Read. She calls the entry she and her band submitted to this year's Contest "a heavy dose of midwestern melancholia" – an apt description of the warm, finely-crafted folk song and her dreamy delivery. (In the video's YouTube description, Talmers says the band performed "in a room all too subtlety filled with desks [seriously it is]" – and while we usually prefer very overt desks in Contest entries, we'll accept some subtlety once in a while.) —Marissa Lorusso


REHMA, "Dreaming"

YouTube

Hometown: Los Angeles, Calif.
Pairs well with: Zoning out mid-conversation and thinking about your crush

REHMA's "Dreaming" speaks to the hopeless romantic in me. Surrounded by beautiful plants in a bright, all white room, REHMA muses about the possibilities of her love. Her seemingly effortless vocal runs paired with guitarist Sanjana's relaxed chords makes the song the perfect soundtrack for daydreaming about "the one." REHMA is nothing but optimistic about love, evident by her repeated lyrics: "Nothing will change, babe / I will be ready any day." —Jill Britton

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