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. It is the kind of compilation that you would be foolish to look past.
Among a slew of genres and styles, the amount of quality songs is unbelievable given the generally simple songwriting. Starting with This Disc
, tracks are often darker and more sentimental. Centered by the chilling, yet worthy rendition of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was The Night,” played out by The Kronos Quartet. Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard teams up with Feist in “Train Song,” which accentuates the vocal elegance of both artists. But perhaps the biggest splash dynamically comes from My Brightest Diamond’s slow tempo jaw-dropper “Feeling Good,” which rings off theatric and bold with smooth horn-lines playing a vital role.
Meanwhile, Grizzly Bear and Feist combine to steal a hint of glory in the short-lived, glamorous “Service Bell.” With a simple few lines uttered by Feist that start and end “Service Bell,” Grizzly Bear’s thunderous dynamic sound, propped by their luscious harmonies smack dab in the middle, make it a sure replay song. Lastly, the biggest shock value track comes from Sufjan Stevens’ rendition of the Castanets track “You Are The Blood.” Sufjan Stevens’ orchestrated mind electronically twiddled and tweaked the dreary song to ridiculous heights. Stretching the track to nearly twice its original length, “You Are The Blood” potentially sheds a light on a possible style change with Sufjan, with more overlapping and experimental tendencies than ever.
Conversely, That Disc
rubs off more chipper and upbeat, but more duds are found here, starting with Spoon’s “Well-Alright” and Cat Power’s version of “Amazing Grace.” Past that glaring weakness, That Disc
stands up rather defiant with the likes of Beirut, My Morning Jacket, Conor Oberst, and The New Pornographers among others. Yet one of the strongest originals comes from Blonde Redhead & Devastations with “When The Road Runs Out,” a slow, dark and mysterious track with a hint of accepted creepiness. An added bonus is “Blood, Pt. 2,” which is a remix of Sufjan’s rendition of “You Are The Blood” by Buck 65, who spills smooth rhymes and reinforces how brilliant
the new version of the song is. But the refinement of Conor Oberst’s very own “Lua,” is definitely a show-stopper. Spiffed up and revamped for an incredible improvement, relatively speaking, with the help of Gillian Welch’s sublime vocals taking a few verses in a delightfully brighter mood.
With every compilation, tracks are bound to fall flat. However, the turnover rate is relatively low, making Dark Was The Night
so refreshing and ultimately a worthy purchase. After all, this is different than your ordinary mix tape. This compilation is essentially an indie fan’s wet dream, all for a cause worth its due. After all, twenty years from now, Dark Was The Night
will be remembered as a legendary compilation.