Are you ready to move and groove? It’s MUSIC WEEK on The Colbert Report, with four very different bands to enjoy. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think this has ever happened before, and it should be fabulous fun. I personally don’t expect to hear Stephen singing along with any of these groups; they don’t exactly seem his vocal style, though believe me I won’t complain if I’m proven wrong. (Maybe Florence?) [PLEASE NOTE: WHEN I WROTE THIS I DIDN'T NOTICE THE SIDEBAR ABOUT A SPECIAL PERFORMANCE WITH THE BELLES. IT SEEMS I *WILL* BE PROVEN WRONG. AND I'M GLAD!]
It’s been quite a Stephen-worthy past week with the screenings of Company and his wonderful speech at Northwestern. I don’t know about you, but I’m inspired by his beautiful words. And it looked to me as if the students realized how lucky they were and appreciated every moment. Very gratifying to see.
Now, let’s get started! And a-one, two, three: baton, conductor!
Monday, 6/20: Bon Iver
I just read an excellent article in The New York Times on this indie-folk band and its creator, Justin Vernon. Bon Iver gained a kind of cult status in 2008 with a disc called For Emma, Forever Ago, and this eponymous album is the group’s first recording since then; it’s set to be released the day after their appearance. Their sound is a bit mystical, a touch dreamlike, and little difficult to describe. Vernon is very dedicated to his Wisconsin home and its landscape, and to me it’s almost as if you can hear the ice and snow and countryside in the music. Some have called it “hymnlike.” This glowing review in American Songwriter mentions Peter Gabriel, and I think that’s an apt comparison.
Bon Iver, as the previous recording, is produced independently, in Vernon’s own studio—a one-time veterinary clinic, transformed—although the band has since hit it big, with its songs used in the soundtracks of such mainstream films and TV shows as New Moon (Twilight series) and Grey’s Anatomy. In addition to Vernon, Bon Iver’s members include Michael Noyce, Sean Carey, and Matthew McCaughan.
And, this could mean a little Stephen fun: Vernon is close with Colbert nemesis Kanye West, having recently sung at his recent shows in New York.
Tuesday, 6/21: Florence and the Machine
Believe it or not, I first heard this group on the TV show So You Think You Can Dance, where Florence Welch + the Machine became a favorite with choreographers. She’s a London-born singer backed up by various musicians, depending on the song and the time, and she does rock, rockabilly, and soul, with a more modern, electronica touch. Lungs, the first album, came out in 2009 to great success in England, and won a plethora of awards. Florence + the Machine also garnered a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist that year. There hasn’t been a second recording yet, although one is in production and rumored for release at the end of July. But she’s touring and appearing at such festivals as Bonaroo, and her Colbert Report appearance may have to do with her upcoming performance at Central Park’s Summerstage on June 24th. In the past, Florence has done vocals on recordings by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim.
Just a bit of trivia: her mom, Evelyn Welch, is a Harvard-educated professor of renaissance studies as well as the Academic Dean of Arts at Queen Mary, University of London.
Go to the really, really good official website with a blog, news, videos, and more.
Hear her sing the Buddy Holly classic “Not Fade Away” (also memorably covered by the Rolling Stones), made for the album Rave on Buddy Holly, celebrating what would have been his 75th birthday had he not perished in a plane accident.
Wednesday, 6/22: Talib Kweli
And today’s musical treat is hip-hop, from one of New York City’s leading practitioners of the genre. And I want to begin by posting some fabulous lyrics from his song “For Women,” inspired by Nina Simone.
“I got off the 2 train in Brooklyn on my way to a session
Said let me help this woman up the stairs before I get to steppin’
We got in a conversation she said she a 107
Just her presence was a blessing and her essence was a lesson
She had her head wrapped
And long dreads that peeked out the back
Like antenna to help her get a sense of where she was at, imagine that
Livin’ a century, the strength of her memories
Felt like an angel had been sent to me
She lived from nigger to colored to negro to black
To afro then African-American and right back to nigger
You figure she’d be bitter in the twilight
But she alright, cuz she done seen the circle of life yo”
Since 1999, Kweli has released more than 18 albums (five of them solo), including two in 2010, Revolutions Per Minute and Gutter Rainbows. He and Mos Def created the group Black Star in 1998, and two years later Kweli and the producer HiTek also formed another band, Reflection Eternal.
Kweli appeared in a PepsiMax ad during the NFL playoffs at the time Gutter Rainbows came out, and he rejected any notion that he was selling out by doing a commercial. I personally like his refusal to buy into the “starving romantic artist” paradigm and his reminder that singers must make a living. These days, with so much available free, and fewer people buying, it’s worth thinking about the fact that the musicians (and writers and dancers and actors) we love need to pay the rent, too. Not very many actually become as wealthy as Kanye. Kweli should be way more popular than he is–many critics feel that he is one of the most overlooked musicians in the business–so anything that puts his name on people’s lips is fine by me.
A possible topic of discussion: Kweli’s recent Twitter feud with Fox News over the rapper Common’s invite to the White House! Jon has made a big issue of this, resulting in some scathingly great comedy.
Just recently, Kweli announced that he plans to write an autobiography, and he’s apparently preparing a new solo album, currently called Prisoner of Conscious. The socially conscious and Afrocentric Kweli has also strived to help community, and he and Mos Def established Brooklyn’s Nkiru Center for Education and Culture.
Want to check out his lyrics? Try here.
Thursday, 6/23: The Black Belles
I admit I was not familiar with this group at all, which plays with a fun “witchy” shtick in terms of costume and imagery (at least in the one video and images I’ve seen). The four “black beauties” (well, white beauties actually—no one’s black) are Shelby Lynne, Olivia Jean, Ruby Rodgers, and Erin Belle, who formed the band in 2009. They classify themselves as garage/indie/rock, and were discovered by Jack White of the White Stripes, who also directed their first music video “What Can I Do?” There has, as of yet, been no album released. Wish I could tell you more, but their website only has one video and a link to MySpace, and anything that I google basically takes me back to the same video on various sites…and complaining fans wondering when they’re going to get more. Maybe the ladies can address this on the Report?
Go to their official site and see the video “What Can I Do?”
Visit their MySpace page, if you like, although it hasn’t had anything added since 2010. But if you’re new to them, you might find material that’s new to you.
And Now, Let’s Check in with Our Good Friend Jon Stewart!
Monday 6/20: Ray Nagin
Former mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin has written a new book, Katrina’s Secrets: Storms After The Storm (Volume One), which will be released on Wednesday. Nagin was mayor at the time the hurricane hit, and received some criticism for his actions, although certainly the Federal government fell down badly on the job.
Buy the book at Amazon (as of posting time, Barnes & Noble isn’t listing it yet).
Tuesday, 6/21: Cameron Diaz
Bubbly actress and former model Cameron Diaz is in the newly released film Bad Teacher, starring with Justin Timberlake; this year, she also turned up in The Green Hornet. Her many movies include The Mask, Being John Malkovich, My Best Friend’s Wedding, and the unforgettably funny There’s Something About Mary, as well as the Charlie’s Angels films. Diaz has also been one of People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful.
See The Bad Teacher trailer
Wednesday 6/22: Mitchell Zuckoff
In 1945, 24 people boarded the plane for what was supposed to be a flight over paradise; all that changed into horror when it crashed, leaving them stranded deep in the jungle. Mitchell Zuckoff, a professor of journalism at Boston University, recounts this fascinating true story in his new book, Lost in Shangri-La. His previous books include Robert Altman: The Oral Biography, Ponzi’s Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend, and Choosing Naia: A Family’s Journey.
Go to his official site to learn more about this book and to buy it.
Thursday, 6/23: Andrew Rossi
Andrew Rossi is the director of the new film, Page One: Inside the New York Times, a study of life in the offices of the venerable “grey lady.” The documentary has received lots of attention for its focus on personalities in the newspaper’s offices—and the Times itself has reviewed the movie, assigning an outside critic from Bloomberg News to handle the honors . Rossi’s earlier films include Eat This New York, Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven (about the famed restaurant), and Control Room.
See the trailer for Page One.
Read an interview with Rossi.
Read The New York Times review of Page One.
Read a Huffington Post response to the Times review.
Read an article from Media Bistro, plus a video of Rossi discussing the film.
That’s it, folks!
So–if you had your wish, what band would you really want to see on The Colbert Report? Who would you most like to hear Stephen sing with–and what song? And what band or musician who has already had the “Colbert bump” would you like to have on again?
Here’s mine: Bob Dylan, dueting with Stephen on “One More Night,” from Nashville Skyline. Also, always, Keith Richards. (Maybe they could sing “Happy” or “You’ve Got the Silver” together.) Another very personal option: the Brazilian singer/songwriter Caetano Veloso, who could do a bossa nova with Stephen. Happiness!
And I always want Elvis Costello back, but also David Byrne.
Let me know what you think, and have a great Stephen-y week!