There’s a hush to the music of Nilüfer Yanya that made the Tiny Desk the perfect stage for her sound. On a hot summer day, the British singer and her band — made up of Jazzi Bobbi primarily on sax, Lucy Lu on bass, Ellis Dupuy on drums and Nilüfer on guitar and vocals — performed their three-song set with restraint and subtlety. At moments, the music felt like an eruption waiting to happen, though the suave, refined sound left an indelible vibe in the room.
The songs performed at the Tiny Desk all come from one of my top-10 albums of 2019, Miss Universe. It’s an album of lovable pop songs awash in reverb but stark in tone, with Nilüfer’s thickly accented, laid-back vocals and rich imagery at the forefront. Minus the production of the album, these songs are spare and spacious. The words lead the way as the ringing guitar tones embellish lines such as:
“Do you like pain?
Again, again, again, again
Again, oh, again
Do you like pain?”
I don’t know anyone who sings like Nilüfer, but I’m reminded of Astrud Gilberto singing bossa nova. There’s a sophisticated sensibility rough enough around the edges that I find captivating.
- “Baby Luv”
- “The Unordained”
Nilüfer Yanya: vocals, guitar; Jazzi Bobbi Dreissen: saxophone, keys, vocals; Luke “Lucy Lu” Bower; bass, keys, vocals; Ellis Dupuy; drums
Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineers: Josh Rogosin, James Willetts; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Jeremiah Rhodes, Bronson Arcuri; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Production Assistant: Paul Georgoulis; Executive Producer: Lauren Onkey; VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann; Photo: Shuran Huang/NPR