Saturday, March 28, 2009

Album Review: Dark Was The Night

Just by purchasing this album, I had a good feeling about myself. Why? Well, I'll get to that in a second. First, let me explain what Dark Was The Night is exactly. It's a two-disc compilation album of new original works as well as some covers by some indie rock greats. It was put together by The Red Hot Organization, a group that has put out several charity albums in support of AIDS/HIV research. In 1993, they put out No Alternative, which featured Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and Pavement. Dark Was The Night is no exception. But besides going to a great cause, the album is absolutely magnificent.
The first disk is relatively mellow. Some key tracks include Bon Iver's "Brackett, WI" (named after the town Justin Vernon retreated to to create his debut album), The National's "So Far Around the Bend", My Brightest Diamond's rendition of "Feeling Good" (which I find to be much better than the Muse and Michael Buble covers), and Grizzly Bear's collaboration with Feist on "Service Bell". Other notable artists on the first disc include The Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens, and Iron and Wine. The Books along with Jose Gonzalez do a cover of Nick Drake's cello song, adding electronics to the cello sound. Dirty Projectors and David Byrne kick the album off with "Knotty Pine" which holds the fastest rhythm on the first disc.
The second disc is more of a mix. It starts off with Spoon's "Well Alright", which like the first disc starts the second disc with a fast pace. From there on out, it alternates between highs and lows. It's got some big names such as The Arcade Fire, The New Pornographers, Cat Power, and Beirut. But none of the tracks really do anything to wow the listener. About midway through the album, it gets progressively slower, starting with Yo La Tengo's "Gentle Hours". Continuing with this is Riceboy Sleeps' "Happiness" which features many of the members of Sigur Ros. Andrew Bird adds on with "The Giant of Illinois" whose strings and lullaby guitar playing induces a state of calmness. This is followed by Connor Oberst who does a rendition of his own song "Lua" with Gillian Welch. Finally, Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene fame ends it with "Love Vs. Porn" which provides a light, airy finish. One track that does seem a little out of place is Buck 65's "Blood pt. 2" which is a dark hip-hop track. Maybe the track wouldn't feel as foreign if the album featured a little more variety and added maybe another hip hop track as well as some electronica. But overall, Dark Was The Night is a fantastic album and well worth every penny.


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