Compilation releases rarely get much consideration on end-of-year lists, but this year’s Dark Was The Night will defy that logic. Produced by Aaron and Bryce Dessner from The National, the album’s proceeds go to the Red Hot Organization, a charity that raises money for HIV and AIDS. The double-length effort will not engage all the way through, as there are some snoozers mixed throughout. It’s obvious that many of the artists appearing on the album saved their best work for their own records (see Arcade Fire’s “Lenin”). However, the standout tracks make the album somewhat worthy of all the praise it has received so far this year.
Standout songs include the epic “You Are The Blood” by Sufjan Stevens. The 10-minute track is a reworking (and improvement) of a song by the Castanets, who appear on Steven’s Asthmatic Kitty label. An additional remix of the song appears on disc two, titled “Blood Pt. 2.” The track features a reworking of Steven’s song by Canadian hip hop artist, Buck 65. 2009 seems to belong to Brooklyn-based indie favorites Grizzly Bear, who appear on disc one twice. The band’s “Deep Blue Sea” is a whispery, melodic gem, and “Service Bell” is a haunting collaboration with ex-tourmate Feist. The most surprising track is a solo effort by TV On The Radio mastermind David Sitek. “With A Girl Like You” is a Trogg’s cover highlighted by Sitek’s usual tight production, an anthemic horn section, and baritone vocals. Although the album does not provide the grandiose indie rock statement that many bloggers have written about, there is enough good stuff here to keep listeners engaged for weeks.