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Here are my top 10 Michigan picks for NPR's Tiny Desk Contest

Feb 26, 2016

It’s time to throw away the objective journalist hat for a moment and put on my completely biased music-loving shoes because the submissions are in for NPR’S Tiny Desk contest.

The judges at NPR are pouring through all the entries right now to pick their national winner (their announcement is expected in the first week of March).

In the meantime, I watched all 129 of the videos submitted to the contest from our lovely mitten state.

Here are my top 10 picks.

1. Vox Vidorra

This rock/soul band from Grand Rapids knocks it out of the park, again. They’re pretty familiar with this whole, public radio music video thing. Check out their in-studio performance and interview they did at Michigan Radio that explored race, inequality and religion through music. The combination of the amazing voice of Molly Bousma Schultz along with her captivating stage presence and energy makes it really hard to keep your eyes off of her. Bonus point if you spot the Michigan Radio swag in the video.

2. Crane Wives

Ah yes, another band I bias-ly adore. They tout themselves as being female fronted. Emilee Petersmark and Kate Pillsbury are great songwriters, have powerful voices and sing killer, tight harmonies. These talented sweethearts from Grand Rapids are also big Michigan Radio fans. The guys in the group are such public radio fans that they also started a band called Public Access and named every track after a public radio broadcaster—names like Steve Inskeep, Jack Speer, Dave Mattingly and Michigan Radio’s own, Jennifer Guerra. The Crane Wives have also made their rounds at the station. Check out their heart felt interview and in-studio performance they did at Michigan Radio last summer.

3. Katie Stanley

Speaking of female fronted, check out this trio Katie Stanley of Fenton has put together. Enjoy the laid back folk tune When in Roam. This was a pleasant surprise to stumble across among the many Tiny Desk entries.

4. Jetty Rae

This was my second pleasant surprise. This Charlevoix singer songwriter brings us sounds from the north that slightly resembles the sound of Patty Griffin.

5. VALENTIGER

Grand Rapids' Brent Shirely performs a tune that takes you back to the folk music of the 60's and 70's, with a modern twist.

6. The Lollipops

The voices and two part harmonies make this tune. It’s a cute one, supported by a simple ukulele and an egg shaker.

7. Rollie Tussing & the Midwest Territory Band

This is a real throwback band from the 90's -- you know, the 1890’s. (Insert Porlandia reference here, which by the way leader Rollie Tussing lived in Portland before settling back in the Midwestern mitten). 

8. brotha James

This is a fun one man band from the northern Michigan town of Elk Rapids.

9. Mike Anton

Let’s stay in northern Michigan, because that part of the state pulls at my heart strings and makes me feel at home. Is my bias showing again? ;-)

Anton wrote this song when he lived in Gaylord. The song is called Lord of the Lake and mentions places like Indian River. Anton says he wrote most of this song “while living in Gaylord, MI. I remember recording an early version in a semi-truck trailer at a loading dock, completely alone, in the middle of the night.”

Anton reminds me of a singer/songwriter I grew up listening to at Cross Village’s iconic Legs Inn restaurant near the tip of the mit. His name is Kirby Snively. Because of him, the sound I associate with northern Michigan will always be descriptive lyrics accompanied by a harmonica and guitar. 

10. Kaitlin Rose

This gal from Kalamazoo serenades us with an original folk tune on guitar. 

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