(Gosh, I wrote this review a long time ago, but it was posted elsewhere before. Here it is. This is still a great CD that I listen to regularly, so it is still relevant, and I packed it full of links to view and further enjoy these bands).
Most compilations inspire trepidation in my gut. Rarely are anthologies consistent enough to inspire uninterrupted listens. Rarely are they worth buying in their entireties. They attempt to accomplish more than their songs are worth. But this one, Dark Was the Night, is rich with stellar music.
Dark Was the Night is an exciting canon of new songs and covers, and, mercy me, its list of artists reads like a who's-who of crowd pleasers who will be making the rounds at the upcoming summer festivals. The Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens, Arcade Fire, My Morning Jacket and Andrew Bird headline this 32-song collection curated by Bryce and Aaron Dessner of the National. It's sure to be one of your favorite mixtapes before you even listen to it. Except, bonus, it's a double mixtape!
Songs on the first CD of this compilation narrate gloomy, earthy folk, as the compilation's title suggests. David Byrne and Dirty Projectors open the CD with "Knotty Pine," one of the more playful songs on the CD. It prescribes a danceable rhythm, in the Talking Heads' tradition, and a jangly piano. Delightfully screechy female voices and a stoutly strummed guitar propel the song into a joyful romp. "Train Song" is a beautifully simply interweaving of Ben Gibbard's and Feist's fluent voices. Bon Iver's song "Brackett, WI" seems to project Justin Vernon's falsetto voice from the depths of the darkened forest, and Grizzly Bear supplies two songs, both of which add the band's spooky, mysterious folk to the mix.
The second CD breaks the peaceful tone built by the first. Spoon's song "Well-Alright" opens much like a teen flick theme song from the '80s. As the bass begins to chug, images of Britt Daniel bopping back and forth with his tall hair standing up straight dance in my head. "Mimizan," Beirut's input to the collection, is maybe the most boisterous and celebratory song on the track list. I think I hear an accordion and a glockenspiel being played, but I can never be too cautious when analyzing a Beirut tune. Zach Condon always has a strangely named instrument in his stash. Stuart Murdoch, leading man of Belle and Sebastian, contributes a rendition of a traditional song titled "Another Saturday," which is simply sweet, and Beach House covers the Queen song "Play the Game." Its space-filled style and Victoria Legrand's deep voice bring it new effortlessness.
Dark Was the Night is a calvacade of winning songs presented by the all-star squad of independent musicians. It's a rewarding compilation in which all 32 tracks are worthy of multiple plays.
Anyway, I'll be back later. I'm going to go listen to "Play the Game" again.
(Album cover from barnesandnoble.com)
How I spent my childhood television days. The re-runs, of course (I'm a nineties' child; not a sixties' child). Plus movies rented from my dear library. Ramona was a favorite, as were baby animals and Julie Andrews.
The use of onomatopoeia is even more impressive and exciting than I remembered. I cannot believe the words they choose to splash across the screen. Urkk is a good one although it is less than mildly threatening. It's something Charlie Brown mumbles in frustration rather than a sound a fist makes in shocking a cheekbone.