Francis and the Lights Features Bon Iver and Kanye in New Video, ‘Friends’

New York-based musical group Francis and the Lights have released a new video for their song “Friends,” featuring Bon Iver and Kanye West. After a close-up on West, the video pans in a single take to frontman Francis Farewell Starlite dancing by himself, before joining Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon for some cool synchronized choreography.

Jake Schreier, who directed the video, talked to Pitchfork about his famous subjects.

On Kanye: “He was great. He was there as long as we needed him to be. He just wanted it to be good and had some good ideas to improve it.”

On Vernon: “When we make these videos, it’s a completely collaborative experience between Francis and I. He’s an equal creative partner in the video. So a lot of the relationships and what’s in there came from him as much as from me. Justin and that relationship was something that very much came from him.”

Check out the gorgeous, minimalist piece, below.

James Blake, Bon Iver Share Stunning ‘I Need A Forest Fire’ Video (Watch)

After building buzz for his new album The Colour in Anything with a pop-up flock of Quentin Blake-illustrated billboards, James Blake released the 17-track, melancholic beast on May 6. For his third full-length studio LP, Blake recruited the legendary Rick Rubin to co-produce seven tracks, with additional support from Frank Ocean, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Connan Mockasin.

The result is chilly and textural, metallic and complex—a familiar sound from the London native that, perhaps, sounds strongest on the Vernon-assisted album opener, “I Need a Forest Fire.”

While the track alone inevitably tugs on heartstrings, as Blake songs typically do, the accompany video brings it to a more stylized, sophisticated place. Directed by Matt Clark in collaboration with Chris Davenport, the visual treatment is simple, featuring a lineup of beautifully lit art pieces, from Renaissance statues to pendulums. Watch, below: 

Premiere: Hear Tree Machines’ Seasonal and (Sensorial) ‘Late Snow’

Music, Tree Machines

“Don’t float away,” sings Douglas Wooldridge of Kansas-based duo Tree Machines in their new track, “Late Snow.” Ironically, that’s just what the song makes us want to do—with its gleaming placidity reminiscent of Bon Iver, held steady over an abate, pulsing beat.

“[The song] is about the fading love for a town that once felt like home; where all the once familiar faces seem like strangers,” says Wooldridge. “To us, it’s more like a movement than a pop song. It really was the magic track that came together once we got into the studio.”

Bandmate Patrick Aubry adds, “Anyone who’s lived in the Midwest knows the feeling of a late snow while waiting for the warm weather to break through the winter. There’s always one more snowfall to prolong the salvation, but the wait always seems to make those first days of spring that much more enjoyable.”

Much like how I feel about the end of winter, completing the track was an emotional experience. “When I heard it finished for the first time, I had a hard time keeping the tears back. I knew we had finally made the music we had been working towards for years.”

“Late Snow” will be featured on the Tree Machines EP, due out March 31st.


Get a First Look at the Epic Soundtrack for ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’

With less than a month until the release of the Derek Cianfrance’s highly-anticipated family epic/crime drama/triptych melodrama The Place Beyond the Pines, we’re finally given a brief tasting of the film’s amazing soundtrack. Done by fantastic weirdo Mike Patton, the multi-monikered musician whose music Cianfrance has loved for years, his experimental and haunting compositions—filled with from brooding metal fright to synthed-up church organs and a unique vocal style—have been a part of such musical projects as Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, and most recently, Tomahawk. Alongside Patton, a great list of musicians from Bruce Springsteen to Bon Iver and Ennio Morricone will be featured on the soundtrack.

Out digitally March 26 via Milan Records, you can pre-order the album on Amazon. In addition, you can receive a physical copy of the album April 9 and a 180-gram LP may 9. Film Music Reporter has provided us with the details and an original track from the album titled “The Snow Angel” as well as the full album tracklist:

1. Schenectady
2. Family Trees
3. Bromance
4. Forest of Conscience
5. Beyond the Pines
6. Evergreen
7. Misremembering
8. Sonday
9. Coniferae
10. Eclipse of the Son
11. The Snow Angel
12. Handsome Luke
13. Please Stay – The Cryin’ Shames
14. Miserere Mei – Vladimir Ivanoff
15. Fratres for Strings and Percussion – Arvo Part
16. Ninna Nanna Per Adulteri – Ennio Morricone
17. The Wolves (Act I and II) – Bon Iver

Personal Faves: Maya Rudolph Hosts ‘SNL’

Instead of ending the year with a slew of Best Of lists, BlackBook asked our contributors to share the most important moments in art, music, film, television, and fashion that took place in 2012. Here, Joe Reid writes about Maya Rudolph’s return to Studio 8H as host of Saturday Night Live.

Since the beginning and the "Not Ready for Primetime Players," Saturday Night Live has always boasted something of a familial atmosphere. Even when—as has been documented often—those families were fucked-up and quarrelsome. The eras of SNL close ranks around themselves in our memory, though, and even when the reality resists it, we write these narratives anyway. This is why I will never not be fascinated by what goes on during the goodbye hugs at the end of each episode. Such a great peek into family dynamics. This sense of family on SNL has been especially strong on the last several years. The overlapping Tina Fey/Seth Meyers eras have been characterized by constant opportunities for crossover—on 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon—and a sense that graduated cast members are welcome back at Studio 8H any time.

And yet even by those standards, Maya Rudolph’s hosting gig last February felt especially familial. In the nearly five years since Rudolph ended her time as a cast member, she’d been back several times, but this was her first gig as host, and the sense of rallying around her for her big moment was palpable. Despite the fact that she was already starring in a sitcom on NBC, there was no reference made to Up All Night (the same would be true of Christina Applegate’s hosting gig in October, helping to cement Up All Night as one of the great "is that still on?" sitcoms of our time). It was the previous summer’s Bridesmaids that provided the boost in stature for Rudolph to host herself. Bridesmaids was a big influencer on SNL last season. Melissa McCarthy had been on to host in October, and the success of the film was probably that last push that Kristen Wiig needed to declare this her last season on the show. Which meant, in addition to Rudolph experiencing an old home week, there was also a sense that she was helping to usher Wiig into that great Beyond-SNL phase of her career, a sense that was only galvanized by Amy Poehler’s extended cameo.

Everybody figured Poehler would be back for a reprise of Bronx Beat, her and Rudolph’s popular recurring sketch. Betty and Jodi fell right back into their world-weary rhythms (it feels like Hoarders was a phenomenon created specifically to be gabbed about on "Bronx Beat"), and it only felt appropriate that their guests would be the sound guys played by Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake (one of the more popular recurring hosts of the Fey/Meyers era, keeping us on trend). 

NEXT: "The 2011-12 season had turned into Senior Week at high school."

Both Poehler and Timberlake would show up again during the show: Timberlake as Bon Iver in an "At Home with Beyonce and Jay-Z" sketch (though he would later TOTALLY puss out by carrying an "I <3 Bon Iver" sign during the goodbyes), and Poehler in her triumphant return to Weekend Update, and specifically to "REALLY??!! With Seth and Amy." That Beyonce and Jay-Z sketch was one of those treasure boxes filled with random fantastic celebrity impersonations, specifically Taran Killam’s Brad Pitt and Nasim Pedrad’s Nicki Minaj (which tragically was never paired with Kristen Wiig’s Bjork before Wiig left the show). But it was the return of "REALLY??!!" that sold the homecoming theme better than anything else. Seth and Amy had such great chemistry together, and his happiness at having her back for a week was practically radiating through the TV.

With Wiig and Samberg on their way out the door (and Jason Sudekis rumored to be as well), the 2011-12 season had turned into Senior Week at high school, with sketches seeming loopier and more likely to devolve into a pile of giggles. Wanton character-breaking like that can often test an audience’s patience with the show (see: the entire Jimmy Fallon-Horatio Sanz era), but for viewers who knew what was up, the season felt like watching fantastically funny old friends have a well-deserved goof-off day. (That day lasted 22 episodes, but whatever.) Thus the appeal of something like "Super Showcase," which consisted entirely of Wiig and Rudolph using weird voices to make them (and Bill Hader) laugh. The fact that Vanessa Bayer—new, still-trying-to-prove-herself Vanessa Bayer—was the only one to hold it together only strengthened the "Senior Skip Day" impression. 

NEXT: "The entire episode was consistently strong, a near-impossible feat for SNL."

The entire episode was consistently strong, a near-impossible feat for SNL. At 90 minutes worth of crammed-together sketches, perfection is an unattainable goal. (It also means that even the worst episodes can be redeemed by one great sketch, so it works both ways.) But Rudolph’s episode was remarkably steady: the cold open about racist "Lin-sanity" is so much more dated than anybody ever thought possible (it’s only been ten months but feels like ten years) but it also nailed that moment in time. The "what would it take for African Americans to not support Obama?" sketch was better than what usually gets tossed out at 12:45 AM. "What’s Up With That?" is never going to be for everybody, but it manages to get me every time, if for no other reason than the gleeful look on Sudekis’s face while he’s doing the running man. But, fine, say that’s the one "bad" sketch of the night. It’s more than redeemed by something like Maya Angelou’s prank show, if only for the part where Angelou assures Dr. Cornel West that her goof on him was not an act of malice but an act of whimsy. 

But really, what are we even talking about? Why did I just spend all that time talking about the rest of the episode when the show attained perfection via 30 short seconds in the second-last sketch? Not even the full "Obama Show" sketch. Just those perfectly calibrated Cosby Show opening credits. My favorite moments from those credits, in order: 1) Maya as Michelle Obama as Clare Huxtable, wagging her index finger at the camera; 2) Maya as Michelle Obama as Clare Huxtable dancing; 3) Jason Sudekis as Joe Biden as Theo Huxtable dancing; 4) Fred Armisen as Barack Obama as Cliff Huxtable doing the thing with the fingers; 5) Fred Armisen as Barack Obama as Cliff Huxtable dancing around Agent Conners. In the months since, I have watched those credits roughly seven thousand times. They don’t lose their luster. I only regret that the tag at the end of the sketch, where Poehler shows up as Hillary Clinton to lip-sych Ray Charles in parody of the greatest moment in Cosby Show history, isn’t available online due to the scourge of our time: music rights. MUSIC RIIIIIIIGHTS!!! [shakes fist]

It was only fitting, really, that this particular episode of Saturday Night Live was highlighted by a parody of one of television’s great families. Here’s hoping there’s one more of these homecoming episodes before Meyers, Hader, and company all move on. When does Kristen Wiig’s next movie open, anyway?

Follow Joe Reid on Twitter.  

Bon Iver Pens New Track for 25-Piece Silver Lake Chorus

Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon has been busy polishing his Grammys and designing kitten-friendly sneakers, and now he’s composed an exquisite new piece for the L.A.-based 25-piece indie rock-turned-chamber music Silver Lake Chorus. The angelic, English-folk-music-esque "From the Snow Tipped Hills" will appear on the group’s upcoming Wreckage EP (out September 18th), produced by Ben Lee and featuring a song from The New Pornographers’ A.C. Newman as well. It’s a far cry from some of Silver Lake’s previous work — you may remember them as the backing choir for The Lonely Island and Akon’s "I Just Had Sex" video. This is a bit more SFW, of course.

Some of the harmonies echo the ones on his self-titled album from last year, but much fuller, more complex and less vocoder-y sounding. Because, you know, there’s 25 of them instead of mostly just Vernon singing. If you need a good tune to fall asleep to tonight, or later on this weekend, this one will do quite nicely. Have a listen below. 

BlackBook Tracks #8: Gift Raps

I originally made this for my friend’s mixtape club under the theme “gift raps.” It is exactly what it says it is.

Le1f – “Wut”

Underground rap’s summer anthem of 2012 has been on repeat for weeks.

Iggy Azalea – “Murda Bizness” (ft. T.I.)

The latest party anthem from the Australian upstart shows off her undeniable star power. It’s also accompanied by one of the year’s best music videos so far, a spoof of the child pageant world.

Kanye West – “Monster” (ft. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, Bon Iver)

Remember those days when Nicki Minaj was just doing guest verses and had yet to do anything that people considered disappointing?

Angel Haze – “Werkin’ Girls”

NYC rapper Angel Haze is Universal’s toughest new signee, and this cut from her latest release Reservation shows why.

Das Racist – “You Can Sell Anything”

#RappersThatSpitTheTruth isn’t trending on Twitter any more, but this is still my pick.

M.I.A. – “URAQT”

Have a throwback to 2005 to remember that this bad girl has always done it well.

A-Trak – “Ray Ban Vision” (ft. CyHi The Prynce)

This hilarious/infectious track was a favorite in fall 2010 and still sounds fresh, thanks to the ever-reliable A-Trak’s amped-up production.

Dominique Young Unique – “Gangster Whips”

This Florida-based rapper has remained fairly underground for years now, but she’s slowly but surely going to make her way out.

Yelawolf – “Lick The Cat” (ft. Diamond)

This song contains the line “White boys eat pussy like a sandwich.” That is all you need to know about it.

Azealia Banks – “Fuck Up The Fun”

If you haven’t already, listen to this track from Azealia Banks and Diplo and you’ll immediately know why our friends at Vibe put this dream team on their cover.

Kitty Pryde – “Orion’s Belt” (ft. RiFF RAFF)

Resistance is futile. Recent Mad Decent signee RiFF RAFF is one of the most bizarre, compelling figures in pop culture today, and Kitty Pryde’s honesty and self-awareness is inherently likeable.

Get Decked Out Like a Rock Star in Kicks From M83, Socks From Big Boi

If your commitment to your favorite bands is at the level of dropping some serious change to dress like them, well, thanks to some recent new accessory launches, you can make that happen from head to toe. Beginning last month with the announcement of Los Angeles designers Keep collaborating with Bon Iver to design an adorable, kitten-friendly sneaker, a number of musicians have announced similar sartorial designs. Last week, OutKast’s Big Boi, himself a style icon perhaps more recognized for his dapper suits and bow ties, has declared himself the “sock king” and plans to collaborate with Crooks and Castles to design a line of designer socks for the stylish but active emcee on the go. Perhaps there will be a deluxe edition of his upcoming album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors that will come with a pair of his socks included.

Also available on the footwear front is a new pair of Chuck Taylors designed by the dreamy pop group M83. The white, celestial-patterned sneaks, which feature the band’s name crudely scrawled along the side, will run you $65 and are available online. Which made us wonder: is wearing the band’s footwear to their show the same as wearing their shirt in terms of concert-etiquette bad form?

If you’d prefer to express your affinity for one of the biggest metal acts in the world through Guy Fieri-esque (thank you, Marah from the AV Club, because really, there’s not really a better way to describe them) headwear, most notably a pair of sunglasses designed by frontman James Hetfield that many middle-aged dudes will probably wear around the backs of their heads, or while headbanging. The “Hetfield”shades, designed by the rocker and Sutro Eyewear of San Francisco, will cost about $219.99. Sutro says the Hetfield fram is “designed to take whatever a 24-stop eastern European tour can throw at it,” while Hetfield describes the glasses as “built to look faster than a speeding riff and to handle the life of a road dog like me.” Road dogs, take note. 

Bon Iver Designs Shoe With Keep to Benefit Best Friends Animal Society

Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon has a new project—he has partnered with Los Angeles clothing and footwear company Keep to design a limited-edition shoe for charity. Proceeds from shoe sales will go to benefit the Best Friends Animal Society, an animal welfare and advocacy organization, which operates the country’s largest sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals. Appropriately enough, the Vernon-designed sneaker sports a fishy theme that felines will appreciate: a salmon color, herringbone accents and a fishbone sketch across the toe. Tuna scent not included.

The Keep family’s rescued cats, who have amazing names like Orange Roughy and Peanut Butter Face, seem to be quite appreciative of Vernon’s efforts. They also find the shoes to be great cuddle companions, and delicious. Vernon has two adopted cats of his own.

This isn’t the first time Keep has partnered with a popular indie artst to create some cool kicks for charity. Back in 2010, the company collaborated with Animal Collective to create the “Tobin,” a shoe designed by the band’s Avey Tare, to benefit the Socorro Island Conservation Fund, which works to preserve the ecology around the Baja California coast.

The Keep + Bon Iver shoes are available for pre-order until July 1st and they will arrive and go on sale in October. For another purr-fect convergence of the feline community with Vernon’s tunes, here’s Cookie the cat falling asleep to a whispery Bon Iver track. If you’re needing a catnap at work, just put this on: