Dark Was the Night

Dark Was the Night

Dark Was the Night

Dark Was the Night

Red Hot Organization

Dark Was the Night is like a time capsule of who’s who in the contemporary indie music scene. This isn’t just some vanity project put together by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National. This is a two-disc set where all proceeds go to help HIV/AIDS awareness. Usually compilations like this are just a bunch of songs that are already on the artists’ albums, but are contributed to help out the cause. It’s usually nothing to get too excited about. Not the case here. There are fantastic collaborations and originals by some of the greatest artists in the world.

Disc one is stellar and has tracks including the nearly eight-minute opus “Sleepless” by The Decemberists and the heartbreakingly tranquil duet “Train Song” by Feist and Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard. This disc also has a couple of clunkers, namely the random Dadaist title track by the Kronos Quartet. But that is easily trumped by My Brightest Diamond (the gorgeous “Feeling Good”) and the Bob Dylan cover “I Was Young When I Left Home,” a duet that takes Antony’s operatic voice and pairs it with the haunting vocals of Bryce Dessner to create another answer to the question “Why does music exist?” It’s magical.

Disc two is just as strong with contributions from My Morning Jacket (The ’60s mexi-jazz-flavored “El Caporal”), Arcade Fire (“Lenin”) and The New Pornographers (“Hey, Snow White”). Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings add some funk with the Shuggie Otis cover “Inspiration Information,” while Cat Power does a stunning version of “Amazing Grace.”

Have I mentioned yet that are also contributions by Bon Iver, Iron and Wine, Grizzly Bear, Andrew Bird, Gillian Welch, Conor Oberst, Yeasayer and David Byrne? How about Yo La Tengo and Beirut? Spoon and The Dirty Projectors? Yeah, this is one killer compilation.

The strangest contribution comes from one of my favorites, Sufjan Stevens. “You Are the Blood” is a nearly 10-minute seemingly random mess. It starts with some heavy electronic noises and electric guitar behind Stevens’ hushed vocals, then it’s like the CD skips to Stevens playing a piano interlude only to go back to the electric cacophony about three minutes later. It’s more like a song in three movements, but none of them seem to make a whole lot of sense. Maybe that’s why the Dessners put it as the last song on the first disc.

Overall, Dark Was the Night is a fantastic compilation. It’s something that all indie fans must own, not just for the music, but for the cause it helps. The Dessners are planning more installments to the series as well so start saving up. Each set is bound to become a must buy.

Dark Was The Night: www.darkwasthenight.com

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