When I first saw The Front Bottoms, I was stunned, as 350-plus singing/shouting clubgoers repeating compassionate verse after complicated verse back at singer Brian Sella. And then it happened again at a hot sweaty club in Philadelphia, and later in D.C., and then again in Baltimore. The community that’s formed around these songs, total strangers purging deep emotions in a public space. It’s a beautiful phenomena, a testament to the passion and compassion that this band radiates. A testament to the nerve that’s gets pinged with lines cried out, ‘I wanna be stronger than your dad was for your mom’ or the phrase in one of this years best songs 'Twin Sized Mattress’ “
I wanna contribute to the chaos
I don’t wanna watch and then complain
'Cause I am through finding blame
That is the decision that I have made
And when you hear the music…uncomplicated but pretty memorable, you realize that the talent in this band isn’t about instrument craft and years of playing scales…this is about the shortest distance from emotion, sometimes complex and storied emotion, from band to audience. At the Tiny Desk in the bright of day and with office lights on, it was a tough to get the call and response that happens in a darkened late night room, but it’s not hard to look at the faces in this band, especially the sweet smile of Brian, to understand this band. Their new record Talon of the Hawk is certainly on my year end list for all these reasons. It’s all about heart and soul, something frequently avoided and hard to convey.
Elizabeth Biondi, from her introduction to ‘The Nature of Imitation,’ by Yola Monakhov Stockton:
Yola has empathy for her birds—she recognizes nature’s beauty as well as its cruelty, which is the reason I have fallen in love with some of these images. I am seduced by their natural beauty and also disturbed by the brutality inflicted. I think of Saint Francis, that lover of all animals, his arms stretched out, birds perched on them. For Yola, birds are a metaphor for her photography—for the ability to fly into freedom while remaining, at times, captured or tethered.