There is a band I’ve been listening to a lot of lately called The Front Bottoms. You probably knew all about them “before they were cool.” You’re hip that way.

There are many things I like about the band that I would be happy to gush about if requested to do so via email or Twitter. (Members of TFB, this would be an excellent way both to boost your self-esteem and mine in one fell swoop.)

What I would especially like to talk about, though, is vocalist Brian Sella. Because he made me ponder something.

Brian is not what I would call a conventionally (conventionally!), uh, good singer.

(Front Bottoms people, allow me to remind you at this point of the lovely things I said about you earlier. I’m a snob. I’m a jerk. Will you ever forgive me? I’m going to one of your shows soon! Some of my pennies are now your pennies! Now, don’t navigate away. I’m about to say some more nice things. Nicer! Trust me.)

This does not, at all (at all) mean I think Brian is a bad singer. Or unpleasant to listen to. Or anything short of incredible. But he is not the sort of human you overhear belting away in the shower and later try to convince “must do this as a career!” He has a very different kind of beauty (and I mean beeaauutyy) to his voice. John Darnielle (The Mountain Goats) and Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) – same deal. Bob Dylan probably as well, but Dylan I could honestly take or leave. (Yes! But no – shush! Tish!)

The thing about these singers is, well, I believe them. They are singing as a vessel for the beautiful words they need to tell you instead of using such-and-such lyrics as a vessel for their voice.

Certainly I would never say that “technical” artistic “proficiency” precludes the possibility of genuine artistic expression. Merely that it provides an often successful Plan Bravo. You needn’t fondle my heart quite as vigorously if you’ve got my ears eating out of your–

Well, anyway.

Today, I am wondering if there are analogous artists in other media. Particularly, is there a novelist Brian Sella? A poet John Darnielle? (Well, of course there is – John Darnielle. But you see what I’m getting at.) There must I think be some element of fallibility to all the accepted “right ways” in art. Some of these loopholes and alternatives obviously go on to become the new normal (or art would never change), but I think it is just as desirable (if not more) to simply be the grand unusual. If that’s not . . . too weird a phrase. I think it wouldn’t be too stupid a goal, when sitting down to write, to make something grand and unusual.

Meditate on this I will.

I will close with the lyrical reflections of some artists mentioned previously:

I could have been a famous singer, if I had someone else’s voice. But failure’s always sounded better. Let’s fuck it up, boys. Make some noise!

Or, perhaps more poignantly –

Florida’s a long way from Rhode Island.

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