The National’s Aaron and Bryce Dessner are responsible for Dark Was The Night, a 31-track double album featuring exclusive tracks from a collection of the finest artists from (mostly) the other side of the Atlantic (Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch is the sole European), and all proceeds go to the Red Hot Organisation, an international charity dedicated to raising funds and awareness for HIV and AIDS. And what an album it is.
There are some stellar cover versions: The Books and JosÃ© Gonzalez’ flawless version of Nick Drake’s -Cello Song’, Andrew Bird’s take on The Handsome Family’s gorgeous -The Giant Of Illinois’ and My Brightest Diamond’s brave call to tackle -Feeling Good’. There are also a few incredible collaborations: Feist with Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard; Feist (again) with Grizzly Bear; Antony Hegarty with Bryce Dessner (on Dylan’s -I Was Young When I Left Home’); Conor Oberst and Gillian Welch. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s great new music from the likes of Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, Yeasayer and Sufjan Stevens, whose -You Are The Blood’ is hair-quiveringly good.
Indeed, the tracklisting reads like a who’s who of modern American and Canadian alternative music, from The National’s countrified -So Far Around The Bend’ to Cat Power’s late night bluesy take on -Amazing Grace’, Dave Sitek’s (TV On The Radio) Magnetic Fields-like version of The Troggs’ -With A Girl Like You’ to Beirut’s waltz-on-speed -Mimizan’. Then there’s the deliciously warm, old school soul of Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings -Inspiration Information’, the lo-fi melancholy of Clap Your Hands’ Kevin Drew’s -Love Vs Porn’ and Grizzly Bear’s swoonsome -Deep Blue Sea’.
There are also some welcome surprises: The New Pornographer’s sublime Destroyers’ cover, -Hey Snow White’, which sounds like the best Mercury Rev song you never heard, My Morning Jacket’s lazy, sun-soaked -El Caporal’ and Spoon’s electro-rockabilly -Well Alright’.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that there isn’t a duff track here: nobody has seen fit to donate their cast-offs. Instead, this is bona fide indie gold. Indeed, no single review could do justice to this double-CD/triple vinyl collection, which is literally bursting at the seams with a fair proportion of the most talented musicians on the planet today. We would describe it as peerless, but all its peers are present and correct.