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I watched 132 videos to find the best local bands in NPR's Tiny Desk Contest


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, and that announcement is expected April 24. In the meantime, I watched all 132 videos submitted to the contest from Washington state.

Here are my top 10 picks:

1. Racoma

This band began by rehearsing in a gutted-out trailer on Vashon Island’s Racoma Beach. This song was written by lead singer, Glenn Haider. He says he wrote it for his wife before they made the leap to move to Seattle from New Jersey.

You can see Racoma play at a house show in Fremont April 13 and at the Crocodile on April 27.

2. Alec Shaw Band

At only 20 years old, this Renton-based musician leads a six-piece band in a soulful bluesy song. You can see them live at Seattle’s Union Saloon May 18. They’ll also perform at Seattle’s Upstream Music Festival the first weekend in June.

3. St. Paul de Vence

This band is led by Ben Doerr of Brainbridge Island. Doerr is a sailboat charter captain by summer and a songwriter in Seattle’s cold and rainy months as leader of the band St. Paul de Vence.

“I write toward the darker side because I write in the winter of Seattle,” Doerr said. “It’s always gray and sad so I kind of write sadder songs but there are little themes of hope and inspiration in there.”

One of those songs is called "Leave Them." It was inspired by Doerr's personal experience as a survivor of childhood sexual assault. 

[asset-audio[{"description": "Interview with Ben Doerr", "fid": "144172", "uri": "public://201804/NEWS_20180419_Stpaul_0.mp3"}]]St. Paul de Vence will be performing as part of Bainbridge “Sounds of Summer” series in July. They’ll be releasing a new album this fall.

4. Carl-Eric Tangen

This song transports me to those awe-inspiring views on PNW road trips, either alone or with a special human next to me. Bonus points for the harmonica — I’m a huge sucker for that instrument.

Tangen lives in Edmonds after stints in Seattle and Portland: “I just love being by the water, the sound of the ferry in the distance while trying to go to sleep."

5. Micaiah Sawyer

Hailing from Olympia, you can catch more of Micaiah Sawyer at Upstream Music Fest and Bumbershoot later this year. Her first album is expected to be released this summer.

6. The Meadow Roads

You had me at first vocal belt. Watch out for a new EP from this band later this summer.

7. Kate Kuffel

A Bainbridge Island native and current Seattleite, this classically-trained cellist shows of her vocals in this jazzy track. Expect a new album from her this fall.

8.The Old Kids

Fueled with an acoustic guitar and powerful vocals, this duo recorded their Tiny Desk video in a Columbia City attic.

9. Yesper

A one man band armed with a voice, a guitar and a loop pedal. This is the project of Stephen McCauley. He was raised in the urban sprawl of Virginia Beach, but he’s called Seattle home since 2011.

10. Lions Ambition

You can tell this seven-member band has a lot of fun fusing jazz, soul and hip hop together in their song “Brighter Days.” Lions Ambition recently returned to Seattle after performing at Austin’s SXSW Festival. You can see them headline two nights at Barboza in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood at the end of August.

Bonus Track: Chaos and Cosmos

This band has a presentation that’s “out of this world.”