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Caroline Polachek: Tiny Desk Concert

Any good singer who gives half a thought to the health of her instrument knows that hydration is crucial for functioning vocal cords. But when Caroline Polachek — whose left-of-center pop music makes great use of her mellifluous voice — stops for a water break in the middle of her Tiny Desk concert, she doesn't pull out some crappy plastic bottle. No, she drinks from a chalice.

That seems like precisely the right vibe for a performance by Polachek. Her songs are filled with vivid, extravagant imagery — headless angels, smoke floating over volcanoes, fiery sunsets, mayflies in the swimming pool — and in their production you can hear everything from a children's choir to bagpipes to glitchy beats. At the Tiny Desk, she maintains that adventurous spirit but works with a live band to give her songs a more homespun feel. Together, they perform four tracks from Polachek's arresting, maximalist album Desire, I Want To Turn Into You: the propulsive "Pretty In Possible"; the romantic "Blood and Butter"; "Sunset," which gets a group clap-along from the assembled NPR staffers; and "I Believe," which Polachek and the band transform from a stuttering synth-driven track to an acoustic reverie.

Listening to Polachek's recent records, you might be tempted to think her vocals are drenched in pitch correction software. Haters may say it's AutoTune, but when she sings live and unamplified in the NPR Music offices, it's clear that the impressive range and control you're hearing is all her.


  • "Pretty In Possible"
  • "Blood And Butter"
  • "Sunset"
  • "I Believe"


  • Caroline Polachek: vocals
  • Matthew Horton: guitar
  • Izzy Bolivar: guitar
  • Maya Laner: bass, vocals
  • Mikey Enright: keys
  • Melody English: vocals
  • Russell Holzman: drums


  • Producer: Robin Hilton
  • Director/Editor: Maia Stern
  • Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin
  • Creative Director: Bob Boilen
  • Series Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Videographers: Maia Stern, Estefania Mitre, Kara Frame, Michael Zamora
  • Audio Assistant: Neil Tevault 
  • Production Assistant: Ashley Pointer
  • Photographer: Elizabeth Gillis
  • Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Joshua Bryant, Hazel Cills 
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann

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

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