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Miguel performs a Tiny Desk Concert. Denise DeBelius/NPR hide caption

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Miguel

Miguel turned up in the NPR Music offices early one morning, after playing a show late the night before. Calm and good-natured, he betrayed no hint that he was nervous about stripping his highly produced hits down to their bones.

The New Standards recently performed "Snow Days" for The Current in Minneapolis. Steven Cohen/The Current hide caption

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The New Standards: A Supergroup Celebrates 'Snow Days'

The Current

This Twin Cities trio stages an annual holiday show at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul; it's always the hottest ticket in town. Watch The New Standards perform for The Current.

Andrew Bird performs on The Current. Nate Ryan/The Current hide caption

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Andrew Bird: The Folksy Side Of An Inventive Star

The Current

The singer, songwriter and violinist had a prolific year in 2012, releasing two albums. Watch Bird perform the track, "Three White Horses," live at The Current's Twin Cities studios.

The Polyphonic Spree performs a Tiny Desk Concert. Lauren Rock/NPR hide caption

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The Polyphonic Spree

The sprawling assortment of singers, horn players, guitarists and percussionists is the largest band we've ever hosted at the Tiny Desk. But Tim DeLaughter and his group say they're used to playing a game of "human Tetris," and had no problem squeezing behind Bob Boilen's desk for this special holiday performance.

Dwight Yoakam performs on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic. Larry Hirshowitz/KCRW hide caption

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KCRW Presents: Dwight Yoakam

KCRW

One of country's most critically-acclaimed artists visits the "Morning Becomes Eclectic" studios at KCRW to perform "A Heart Like Mine," from his latest album, 3 Pears.

Alt-J Tiny Desk Performance NPR 2012 Lauren Rock/NPR hide caption

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Alt-J

The Mercury Prize-winning band plays angular, poetic music that takes unexpected turns, shifting gears when you least expect it. Seeing Alt-J live in the NPR Music offices reveals a few of its mysteries, making a group that can be difficult on first listen a bit easier to digest.

The front line of The Cookers. L-R: Billy Harper, David Weiss, Eddie Henderson, Craig Handy. John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com hide caption

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The Cookers: Live In Concert

WBGO

Take a group of heavyweight jazz masters — the kind who helped to make the classic records that defined the modern idiom — and put them together on stage: Of course there'll be fireworks. After five years, they've cohered as a band too. The Cookers lift off in loose assembly.

Geri Allen. John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com hide caption

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Geri Allen And Timeline: Live In Concert

WBGO

For the better part of three decades, the pianist has been widely recognized as one of the fiercest and most inventive pianists in improvised music. Here, she rides the rhythmic boost of a particularly kinetic quartet, featuring tap dancer Maurice Chestnut.

The Afghan Whigs on KCRW. KCRW hide caption

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KCRW Presents: The Afghan Whigs

KCRW

The band's Gentlemen will be 20 years old soon, which has Greg Dulli, Rick McCollum and John Curley back on the road. Watch The Afghan Whigs power through "Fountain and Fairfax" at KCRW.

The Valdons at The Current's studios in St. Paul, Minn. Nate Ryan/The Current hide caption

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The Valdons: After Decades, A Funky Soul Reunion

The Current

The Twin Cities were home to a vibrant funk and soul scene in the 1960s and '70s. One of that scene's bands, The Valdons, recently got back together for a special performance in The Current's studios.

Lyle Lovett performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Nov. 13, 2012. Ryan Smith/NPR hide caption

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Lyle Lovett

Lovett gives a loose, engaging performance that feels like both an introduction and a victory lap. With a fresh-faced accompanist in fiddler and backup singer Luke Bulla, Lovett digs way back into his early archives here: All three of these songs are from his beginnings in the late '80s.

Daniel Bachman performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Nov. 16, 2012. Ryan Smith/NPR hide caption

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Daniel Bachman

Once Bachman zeroes in on the center of a song, it's easy to get lost in it yourself. From a foot-stomping reel to the reflective and tumultuous title track from Seven Pines.

Anais Mitchell performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Oct. 23, 2012. Lauren Rock/NPR hide caption

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Anaïs Mitchell

Singing and playing alongside guitarist and longtime collaborator Michael Chorney, the Vermont singer-songwriter performs three of Young Man in America's most bracingly beautiful songs with clear-eyed directness that requires no adornment.