Nadine Shah

I did what everyone nowadays does.

I read about Nadine Shah opening her first headlining tour in Cambridge and I went to her Wikipedia page to know more.
I found this sentence. “Nadine Shah is a British singer. A regular theme in her reviews has been comparisons to both PJ Harvey and Nick Cave.” (Wiki)

Second step is to look for reviews and interviews. Pitchfork, the online Bible of independent music (!? yeah, right), marks the album with a solid 7.9, more than many of the most praised acts out there. The reviewer adds Diamanda Galas to the holy couple above.

Considering that, to me, PJ Harvey and Nick Cave represent pretty much what the Virgin Mary and Jesus are to a Catholic, I thought this emerging singer may be a new goddess about to parking a small van in front of the Portland Arms to enlighten me and few more adepts.

If I was following the real Bible I should now be Nadine‘s apostle and walk around the world spreading her word, her lyrics and her music. Which I am really going to do, though limited to this post and in a very secular way, because I’m allergic to religions.

Thankfully she is the first to deny the comparison in one of the interview I read. Good

TLOBF: Your sound has been likened to PJ Harvey and Nick Cave. Are you comfortable with such comparisons?
Nadine: “I love it because it sounds really bloody cool, but I don’t think my music is anything like their’s.”

There is a problem with lazy journalists and with lazy readers too. Strong and misappropriate references are everywhere.
Few days ago I was reading an interesting piece on the Daily Mash pointing about the misuse of ‘Orwellian’ by people that likely have ever read either 1984 or Animal Farm.

I could find many adjectives used in the wrong meaning. Music-wise it is not only about adjectives but about comparisons and album marks.
At its laziest, the average reader of a review looks for a couple of reference and the album mark.

Every review nowadays (except for the Quietus) marks the album (or even the gig) out of 5 stars or out of 10. Then looks for one or two big artists to make a comparison. There is nothing wrong to orient an audience with references. Any artist in any era is influenced by what was created before their arrival. Nevertheless, if you use a comparison (and I did several times in these blog) you need to explain it, not just pull out a name off the hat.

I am against marks too. To mention Nick Cave, appropriately, in 1996 he refused MTV best male artist saying… “I am in competition with no-one. My relationship with my muse is a delicate one”.

On the web, reviews are a quick way to web traffic. Readers read and click through many albums just scrolling to the mark not reading a single word of what is written along. It’s good for websites traffic, hence advertisement, it is bad for the music writers whom, 9 out of 10, won’t have their words read.

There’s a worse side. Places as anydecentmusic or metacritic are research engines browsing music websites, gathering marks and delivering average user ratings saving the reader even from the browsing experience. It is rubbish, read and listen!

Back to Nadine, if you read up to this point, there is something more to know.

Her father his a Pakistani singer who sings ghazals in Urdu. It sounds a different world but it has a visible influence in her music, more than the holy pair.
Influence not limited to the way she sings but in side elements. She confesses to love the colour blue “second favourite only to black “ as she told the audience.
Blue is an emotion, black is for loss. Both are dark colours, both are rooted in her culture. Darkness permeates her music and is present in her favourite colours.

Nadine Shah songs are deep as deep is her voice, very deep.
She tells she dreamed to be Mariah Carey but she ended up writing sad songs about death and loss.
She loved Whitney Houston as a child and has the voice to sing that way, but her voice is full of real emotions and couldn’t glitter Hollywood as it managed to lit up the Portland Arms.

Which is not great news if you aim at living as a professional musician, as she explained in anpother nice interview at Rookie magazine, but it is great news for music lovers.

Rookie: When you tell your parents you want to be in a band it’s like telling them you are joining the circus.

Nadine: Completely. I know so many people in big bands in London who still work full-time jobs! If someone is able to finance [their own music], that is wonderful. I have no idea how the hell they do it, though. Music is all-consuming.

I’m frank. I don’t like Nadine Shah album title. Love Your Dum And Mad. It sounds nonsense humour to me that is unnecessary, and not revealing… or maybe I don’t get it. It clashes with a strong painting on the cover, and doesn’t suit the music.

So let’s talk about the content… Aching Bones and Dreary Town, from the earlier EPs, are included. Plus 9 more songs that start with a full band and get to her singing with the piano. Which is where some of the critics must have found the link to Nick Cave, some catchy melodies with a gothic feel emerge here and there, but is not more Cave than Ban Hiller behind the mixer signing the production. Hiller has worked with Depeche Mode and The Horrors he knows how to get darkness out of a tune.

Cannot get the PJ Harvey influence. They must be influenced by the black clothes, despite PJ Harveyoften wears white. Or some hint at a world music to which both get inspired, even if what in UK is world music in the rest of the world still are some hundreds different countries with their own and unique history.

Forget it all. There is spotify, ther is youtube, there is a tour going on and there will be more. Internet doesn’t require you to read if you don’t want. It offers the opportunity to go straight to the music, often for free. Which is what you can do from Nadine Shah: [website][facebook][twitter][spotify]
You’ll likely to buy the album at the end. If you get it on vinyl you have the CD for free too. Bargain!

Photo tip

Photo tip

Several hundred concerts, I never brought this lens along… till today. I didn’t do on purpose either.

105mm f/2.8 Macro.

I left the 70-200mm at home because the Portland Arms is a wide angle place and I saved some weight off my back.
I made a silly error. When shooting a solo artist, a singer, a telephoto is always a lens to have with you.
Portraits don’t come always nice with a 70mm, it’s not easy to get very close during a show without being intrusive and a longer focal has a better depth of field.

Luckily enough I forgot my macro lens in the bag from another project and it came very handy.

This Nikon 105mm micro It is not a fast AF lens. Compared to the Nikon 2.8 zooms, the AF is slow and often cannot focus in the dark. I had problems to find a contrast point to focus on Nadine’s eyes.

Advantages, the lens has a very useful VR mechanism (vibration reduction). Useful because Nadine Shah doesn’t move much when she sings and makes the conditions ideal.

Remember, if the subject moves, the VR can’t help. I had already written about this in the past.  Still, if the subject is static, the venue is dark and the options are few or none, that couple of stops can make a difference between a good photo and no photo.

Another advantage, or disadvantage in some conditions, of macro lenses is that they are ridiculously sharp. And they are optimized to focus close subjects where most lenses are optimised to infinite.

Last good point of bringing a macro lens at a concert, is the bokeh. These lenses are designed to blur the background so they are built to deliver nice smooth out of focus (this is Bokeh) areas.

What is not true, is that they have more (or less) dept of field. DOF follows the laws of optics and it cannot change on a 105 macro from another same non macro lens.
Depth of field is linked to the lens focal length, the aperture used and the sensor size. So a 105mm at 2.8 on a full frame prime has exactly the same DOF of a 70-200mm zoom set at 105mm and f2.8.

~ by Valerio on October 8, 2013.

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