Dark Was The NightAlbum | Various Artists By Laura Leebove
Covers and collaborations joining some of the era’s finest voices in intriguing new combinations
To celebrate its 20th year, the HIV/AIDS awareness organization Red Hot handed The National's Bryce and Aaron Dessner the reins to curate its 20th compilation album. The 31-song, two-LP outcome, Dark Was The Night, exceeded anyone's expectations of a charity collection: Instead of lazy live tracks and unreleased studio demos, the Dessner brothers gathered solid new material from a veritable Who's Who of the circa-2009 indie scene. Many of these haunting songs are covers and collaborations joining some of the era's finest voices in intriguing new combinations.
Among the best pairings are David Byrne and the Dirty Projectors' "Knotty Pine," Ben Gibbard and Feist's cover of Vashti Bunyan's "Train Song," and folkies Conor Oberst and Gillian Welch crooning Bright Eyes' "Lua." There's also Sufjan Stevens' uncharacteristically glitchy Castanets cover "I Am The Blood," My Brightest Diamond's stunning rendition of Nina Simone's "Feeling Good," and The National's own Nico Muhly-arranged "So Far Around The Bend," an anthemic love letter to New York. With equally fine tunes from the hipster-icon likes of Grizzly Bear, Yeasayer, Arcade Fire, Cat Power, and Yo La Tengo, Dark Was The Night sets a new standard for indie-rock charity discs.