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Album Review

Various Artists
Dark Was The Night 4AD

Article written by Paul M - Feb 22, 2009

Dark Was The Night
Dark Was The Night
Created to raise funds and awareness for an AIDS charity (The Red Hot Organization) Dark Was The Night's cast list reads like a Who's Who of (mainly) North American independent music. Fortunately all this talent hasn't been assembled with nothing more than good intentions, for DWTN is absolutely dripping with some of the finest songs to be released this year, everyone a recording that's exclusive to this release. Opener Knotty Pine by the Dirty Projectors + David Byrne sets thing off magnificently with a joyous stomp, all plinky keys and hammered percussion and over the following thirty efforts there's scarcely a duff un amongst them (and the tiny handful that fall just short of the mark are certainly not going to be named and shamed here - it's for charideeeee ffs!).

People say there's nothing new in rock n roll, and to a degree of course the cynical bastards are right, but when artists put in performances that raise the hairs on your neck or stir the juices in your pants purely through the tenderness or richness of their delivery, well rock n roll in its broadest form ain't dead quite yet. Both simple acoustic campfire folk ditties by Bon Iver and Antony with Bryce Dessner (a Dylan cover) are frankly stunning, while the National, Yeasayer, Grizzly Bear and Sufjan Stevens all chip in with arguably some of their finest material to date. And that's just side 1.

Side 2 is a tad more experimental. While Spoon kickstart it off with some jaunty powerpop and Beirut does that mystical eastern folk trip with his usual aplomb there's also some soul (Sharon Jones + the Dap-Kings), stoner rap (Buck 65 featuring Sufjan Stevens and Serengeti) and traditional Scottish folk (Stuart Murdoch). Andrew Bird also pulls out a plum with his excellent version of the stirring Handsome Family number The giant of Illinois and both Blonde Readhead & Devastations and Kevin Drew do haunting ballads magnificently.

All in all though, at under a tenner for thirty one sparkling gems, charity or not, it's a no brainer decision really. Buy it.

Track listing:

This Disc:

01 Dirty Projectors and David Byrne: "Knotty Pine"
02 The Books [ft. Jose Gonzalez]: "Cello Song" (Nick Drake cover)
03 Feist and Ben Gibbard: "Train Song" (Vashti Bunyan cover)
04 Bon Iver: "Brackett, WI"
05 Grizzly Bear: "Deep Blue Sea"
06 The National: "So Far Around the Bend" (arrangement by Nico Muhly)
07 Yeasayer: "Tightrope"
08 My Brightest Diamond: "Feeling Good" (Nina Simone cover)
09 Kronos Quartet: "Dark Was the Night" (Blind Willie Johnson cover)
10 Antony and Bryce Dessner: "I Was Young When I Left Home" (Bob Dylan cover)
11 Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner: "Big Red Machine"
12 The Decemberists: "Sleepless"
13 Iron and Wine: "Stolen Houses (Die)"
14 Grizzly Bear and Feist: "Service Bell"
15 Sufjan Stevens: "You Are the Blood"

That Disc:

01 Spoon: "Well-Alright"
02 Arcade Fire: "Lenin"
03 Beirut: "Mimizan"
04 My Morning Jacket: "El Caporal"
05 Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: "Inspiration Information" (Shuggie Otis cover)
06 Dave Sitek: "With a Girl Like You" (The Troggs cover)
07 Buck 65 [ft. Sufjan Stevens and Serengeti]: "Blood Pt 2" (based on "You are the Blood" by Castanets)
08 The New Pornographers: "Hey, Snow White" (Destroyer cover)
09 Yo La Tengo: "Gentle Hour" (Snapper cover)
10 Stuart Murdoch: "Another Saturday" (traditional)
11 Riceboy Sleeps: "Happiness"
12 Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues: "Amazing Grace" (traditional)
13 Andrew Bird: "The Giant of Illinois" (Handsome Family cover)
14 Conor Oberst and Gillian Welch: "Lua"
15 Blonde Redhead and Devestations: "When the Road Runs Out"
16 Kevin Drew: "Love vs. Porn"


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Foxtails Brigade "Far Away and Long Ago"
North By North "Pistoletta"
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Theatre Royal "The Days Grow Hotter"
Oliver Gottwald "Freunde fürs Leben"
Heart/Dancer "Outro"
Clowwns "Idiot Bouncing"
Double Denim "Wide Open"
Flout "Rainchecks"
The Scenes "City Of White Blankets"


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