The Decemberists

The Decemberists

Indie-rock rise has been quite steep. Twenty years ago, disputes whether it was The Smiths vs Wedding Presents (in UK) or Sonic Youth vs Dinosaur Jr. (in the States) were matters for just a bunch of freaks.
Ten years on, Oasis/Blur and Nirvana/Pearl Jam topped the album charts selling millions both sides of the Atlantic.
Other ten years passed, “indie” is these days synonym of mainstream. Indie artists are signed by majors, from PJ Harvey to the Babyshambles.
Indie music today means simply everything that your dad both hates and finds futile.
Be sure that in the next ten years your dads will love indie guitars, but this will be a Phil Collins trouble not ours.

Avant-gardes always wish but rarely erupt into revolutions, when it happens expect consequences. Main one is that more followers jump on that train. This creates sections, parties, trends that evolve and broaden the original ideas.
Twenty years ago, The Smiths and Sonic Youth were the avant-garde.
Today we are in the followers’ age and indie-rock is plenty of different facets.

Some are useless. I am not yet a dad but until someone explains to me the utility of Kaiser Chiefs’ incessant cho-Ruby-Ruby-Ruby-ses or Klaxons’ Nu-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-AHH-Rave, I will not change my mind.

The Decemberists

Some are shining, as the indie-pop quintet, The Decemberists.
This “college students looking” guys from Portland, Oregon, create brilliant popular songs with the best available ingredients. They studied pop history, from the Beatles to the R.E.M. They can handle the cool wind coming from nearby Canada. A wind that remotely scents of Arcade Fire’s intense chamber pop, Broken Social Scene hectic, ethereal sounds. Their melodic capabilities remind me of their close fellows Death Cab for Cutie as well as far cousins, neo-psychedelic, Liverpoolian, the Coral.

The Decemberists<

The alt.folk taste is accomplished by means of the most wonderful set of crafted instruments I have seen on a stage. Vintage, electric, acoustic, 12 string guitars, double bass, mandolin, violins, accordion.
Listen to “A cautionary song” on the player on the right and you will get straight to the delicious Sgt. Pepper feel that I am trying to materialize with these words.
A Decemberists gig is crowd pleasing. Their sympathy is total. The songs are perfectly arranged, they manage any minute with confidence playing, chatting with the audience, telling jokes and inviting the crowd to play an active part.
Minutes of pure, elegant, refined entertainment.

The Decemberists

That is why I was quite shocked to read on their myspace bulletin a couple of days after their Cambridge concert, that “With much regret The Decemberists have cancelled the remainder of our European tour. One of our band members is ill and needs to return immediately home to mend”.
This article is dedicated to you, with my best wishes to get well soon.
If you want to know more about The Decemberists, it’s here: [myspace][official site]

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Photo tip

There is one important thing after shooting gigs. Technically is called post-production and sounds cool. Practically is much more boring as a word and as a procedure: selecting the pictures.
If you followed my wise advice of not saving film (or memory card) and shoot as much as you are inspired, you will be back home with loads of images. If you are presenting a portfolio to an editor that will select one or few, you don’t want to send more than a dozen pictures. These people get bored looking tenths of identical shots, no matter how good they are.

Selecting the right image is not as straightforward as you might think. Guidelines may differ from photographer to photographer. Mine would be:

– Don’t be emotional; your emotions are not transferred to the viewer, if a picture reminds you of your favourite song or moment, that is only for you. Unfortunately a picture doesn’t sing…and eventually the picture editor could not even know the song.

– Try to be different, look for your own style, don’t be dull. Select the original, when the artists pull a face, smiles at the drummer, is absorbed in a solo. An artist standing, his face hidden behind a microphone is once in a blue moon a good shot.

– Don’t put too much attention into technical issues; an out of focus picture can be much better than a pinpoint sharp one. A tilted image could be more dynamic of a perfect aligned one. This is not large-format architecture photography.

– Try to imagine you are a picky viewer and ask yourself this question: “would I be stunned by this image?”. If you can answer yes, then that is one, move to next.

– If it’s late and you cannot make your choice, go to sleep. Mornings are much better than late nights to select photographs, don’t ask me why.

– Look at magazines, newspapers album covers. Study the masters, from Jim Marshall to Anton Corbijn, if they become great is because they took great pictures.

– If none of this attempt helped you selecting the picture, throw a coin up in the air while deciding if it is heads or tails! But never send two indistinguishable photos albeit you like them.

The Decemberists

PS-I don’t crop negatives. I don’t manipulate pictures, but if you are not as orthodox as me, that is another option.

~ by Valerio on October 14, 2007.

4 Responses to “The Decemberists”

  1. […] Valerio wrote a fantastic post today on “The Decemberists”Here’s ONLY a quick extractGuidelines may differ from photographer to photographer. Mine would be:. – Don’t be emotional; your emotions are not transferred to the viewer, if a picture reminds you of your favourite song or moment, that is only for you. … […]

  2. VAle adesso ho capito il quid: “try to be different” è un consiglio del *****! I always say to my students “DO NOT try to be different. Track what is bothering you down to the last bit, let it be dull anyhow you cannot know beforehands.
    They don’t sing in a Portland accent, do they? They don’t sound like Chuck Pahlaniuk.

  3. Well Airid, I bet you are not teaching concert photography. Have a look around, millions of photographers always the same picture. “Do not try to be different” sounds cool, but in this context doesn’t work. I am not a teacher, though!

  4. hi valerio! thanks for dropping by!
    great blog you have here – excellent photographs!
    ciao from roma

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