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Fanfarlo: Tiny Desk Concert

Between our exhaustive end-of-the-year coverage and our exhaustive end-of-the-decade coverage, it's easy to forget that NPR Music's staff also needs to be exhausting itself with holiday coverage. Sure, we've got our Jingle Jams music stream, and a world-spanning playlist full of surprising holiday songs from around the world, and an upcoming episode of All Songs Considered in which the gang plays its seasonal favorites. But we needed an event — a way to gather 'round in the spirit of holiday togetherness and maybe listen to some actual live music.

Enter the charming London indie-folk band Fanfarlo, whose album Reservoir has turned up on several of our year-end Top 10 lists. We had an opportunity to bring the group into the NPR Music offices during its trip from Baltimore to Philadelphia (where it played a marvelous noon concert for WXPN), so All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen asked Fanfarlo's members in advance if they wouldn't mind dressing up their playlist with a holiday song. We, in turn, would dress up Bob's desk with the holiday finery we had at hand: a strand of red-and-green tinsel, a flaming yule log on Robin Hilton's computer monitor, and my Sharpie-on-looseleaf-paper rendering of a fabulous Christmas tree.

After playing a pair of songs from Reservoir, the band closed with what a cover of a recent holiday classic: Low's 1999 song "Just Like Christmas." Fanfarlo's members had practiced it all the way from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. — not exactly a trek across continents — but the result was... well, it was perfect.

To watch last week's Tiny Desk Concert with Lightning Dust, click here.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)