Molly Sarlé began her fascination with the multitude of objects shelved behind the Tiny Desk back when she sang with Mountain Man earlier this year. This time, with her own band, those objects left by others inspired a tale of a sweaty towel, an old lover and more.
At the heart of Molly Sarlé’s songs are stories. Sometimes they feel like dreamy inner thoughts loosely connected. “Human,” her opening cut, is one of my very favorite songs of 2019. It may simply be a breakup song; but its wisdom is in recognizing our individual flaws, being OK with them and even finding pleasure in being imperfect beings.
I’ve been watching Ken Burns’ Country Music documentary, and listening to Molly Sarlé sing here at the Tiny Desk — and then hearing the Carter Family in the documentary — I truly can imagine Molly as a soul from a century gone by. She’s a captivating performer who sings as much with her eyes as she does her voice.
The songs Molly Sarlé performed at theTiny Desk are all from her debut solo album, Karaoke Angel. These songs aren’t frivolous — they’re thoughtful snapshots of life. Just before singing her final tune, “Almost Free,” Molly cleared her throat and said this song is “about my dad wanting to talk to me about committing suicide — and it turns out writing a song about your dad talking to you about wanting to commit suicide is a great way to shift the conversation, because now we just talk about this song.” Molly Sarlé laughed a bit about the absurdity and truth of it all and, with what I sense as holding back a tear, sang a powerful, personal song in an awkward, open office space. It took hold of my emotions and thoughts as only a great songwriter and singer can and I’m grateful for that.
- “Karaoke Angel”
- “Almost Free”
Molly Sarlé: vocals; Brian Betancourt: bass; Austin Vaughn: drums; Adam Brisbin: guitar
Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineers: Josh Rogosin, James Willetts; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kimani Oletu, Bronson Arcuri, CJ Riculan; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Production Assistant: Paul Georgoulis; Executive Producer: Lauren Onkey; VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann; Photo: Shuran Huang/NPR