Release Date: Feb 17, 2009
Record label: 4AD
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
It has been twenty years since the first Red Hot compilation, a group striving to create awareness of the preventability of AIDS. With the help of The National’s very own Aaron Dessner, Dark Was The Night is an epic production. The notable indie artists participating may make you look twice to see that your vision is okay; beginning with The Dirty Projects and David Byrne until the final track with Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene fame.
Charity should, in an ideal world, be its own reward. For those of us who fall somewhere between Gandhi and Scrooge McDuck on the giving continuum, however, there are happy mediums — like the benefit CD. In the case of two new releases, Dark Was the Night and War Child Presents Heroes, the recipients are certainly worthwhile, and the artists included are a veritable gym-class roll call of contemporary alt favorites, including TV on the Radio, Lily Allen, Cat Power, Beck, Duffy, Spoon, My Morning Jacket, and Bon Iver.
Comps have a reputation for being music's microwave dinners: an easy, cheap, somewhat embarrassing way to fill up. Drop the preconceptions for this 31-track compilation hatched by the National's Aaron and Bryce Dessner for Red Hot, the HIV/AIDS charity behind 1993's No Alternative. [rssbreak] It features top-shelf exclusive original and cover tracks by softer-side-of-indie acts currently riding a wave of relevance.
When Aaron Dessner of the National was approached to compile a new compilation to benefit the Red Hot organization, he set out to assemble an album that would be representative of current day indie rock. The result is Dark Was the Night, a thoroughly great compilation that plays like a dream mixtape of rare cuts and covers by nearly every major band that was an indie fave in the last five years. Dark Was the Night is essentially a sequel to the alt-rock-heavy Red Hot compilation titled No Alternative from the early ‘90s, and is split between one disc featuring more conventional, American-roots-based songs and covers, and a second disc heavy on latter influences.
OMG, indeed. For the 20th compilation of their 20-year lifetime, the commendable Red Hot Organisation (an AIDS awareness charity) have pulled out all the stops, enlisting the absurdly well-connected Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National on production/curation duties, who have been working on the project on and off the last three years. The result is a compilation which features some of the brightest names in North American indie-rock at the moment – in fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that the cream of the crop are all present and correct here.
The 20th Red Hot compilation Dark Was the Night also arrives during the AIDS charity's 20th anniversary. Curated by the National's Bryce and Aaron Dessner and John Carlin, this double-disc set plays like a who's who of late 2000s indie rock, especially of the mellow and/or folky variety: Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, Iron & Wine, Sufjan Stevens, Feist, Ben Gibbard, and Jose Gonzalez all contribute tracks. Though Carlin and the Dessners didn't specify a particular theme for the project outside of updating traditional themes, Dark Was the Night's first disc is remarkably cohesive.
Charity albums are usually a pretty shaky proposition with the emphasis of the album often on the cause rather than the actual music. The tunes are often cast-offs or largely uninspired and/or unoriginal covers with most artists saving their best work for their own records. Dark Was The Night doesn’t avoid all of these pitfalls but fares better than most compilations of this nature.
If the indie community ever decides to do a re-make of “We Are the World”, they should really ask Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National to jump start the volunteer process. Judging by the all-star line-up they were able to secure for Dark Was the Night, they are real go-getters. So, let’s start with the obvious. You should buy this record.
Cementing their 20th anniversary of raising AIDS awareness, the Red Hot Organization enlisted the help of The National’s Bryce and Aaron Dessner to curate and craft their 20th compilation, Dark Was the Night. Named after the Blind Willie Johnson song and featuring an all-star cast of some of the best and finest musicians currently making music, this is a STACKED affair. Everything from covers to originals is featured on here and it’s hard deciding on a place to start because this is all high-quality music.
Loney Dear Loney Dear, the one-man studio band of the Swedish songwriter Emil Svanangen, sounds frantically, claustrophobically forlorn on its fifth album, “Dear John” (Polyvinyl). “I am lost like I was the day before,” one song admits. A devotee of elaborate pop from the Beach Boys to a-ha, Mr. Svanangen sings plaintive confessions in a tenor so high and sweet it’s almost androgynous.