“Dark Was the Night” – Rocking is the charity

This indie charity compilation don’t need no Bono.

PHOTO COURTESY 4AD RECORDS

Ashley Goetz

PHOTO COURTESY 4AD RECORDS

Artist: Various Album: âÄúDark Was the NightâÄù Label: 4AD âÄúDark Was the NightâÄù has potential buyers by the balls. Sure, passing up a compilation double-record featuring exclusive tracks by David Byrne, Bon Iver, Feist, The National, Conor Oberst, Yo La Tengo, Spoon, Cat Power and countless other indie demigods is mildly understandable, but forgoing that very same purchase with the knowledge that 100 percent of the proceeds go to HIV/AIDS awareness? Impossible. The 20th release by The Red Hot Organization, âÄúDark Was the NightâÄù was the brainchild of Aaron and Bryce Dessener of The National and Red Hot Organization founder John Carlin. Over the course of three years the Dessener brothers networked while touring and cultivated the support of the litany of artists who would eventually appear on âÄúDark Was the Night.âÄù A concept record of sorts, the first disc, which is titled âÄúThis,âÄù features rootsy, organic material while the second disc, âÄúThat,âÄù conjures a more substantive sound. Highlights of the first disc include the collaboration between The Dirty Projectors and David Bryne called âÄúKnotty Pine.âÄù Opening with chirping acoustic guitars, plucky bass and clinking piano keys, the song bounces along with Amber CoffmanâÄôs high-register chirp, makes way for BryneâÄôs famously melodic vocals and ends with a minor synth freak-out. Eau ClaireâÄôs own Bon IverâÄôs track âÄúBrackett, WIâÄù is a down-tempo, bass-heavy number that features lofty organs, handclaps and, of course, Justin VernonâÄôs hauntingly emotive vocals. Transsexual âÄúitâÄù man/girl of the moment Antony of Antony and the JohnsonâÄôs song âÄúI Was Young When I Left HomeâÄù is a minimal acoustic number with intermittent violin flourishes that leave plenty of room for AntonyâÄôs tepidly operatic vocals. Disc two âÄî the heavier half âÄî has plenty of standouts, too. The second track fills the post-âÄùNeon BibleâÄù void of Arcade Fire music that has plagued the universe with the groupâÄôs offering, âÄúLenin.âÄù With chunky guitars, a swinging rhythm section and heavy dollops of piano, the song channels the same melodrama of Arcade Fire past, but only vocally âÄî that is to say, itâÄôs one hell of a catchy pop song. The New Pornographers always have an unfair advantage with their pairing of A.C. Newman and Neko CaseâÄôs voices, and their charging song âÄúHey, Snow WhiteâÄù plays to that. Sparse verses give way to a monumental chorus that showcases The Pornographers unrivaled pop sensibilities. All said, itâÄôd be easy to tout the songs on âÄúDark Was the NightâÄù because theyâÄôre created for such a worthy cause. While a rush of good vibes does come with the purchase of such a record, the real draw is the unique pairing of artists and the overall quality of the songs. In ignoring buzz-bands and focusing on indie scene vets, âÄúDark Was the NightâÄù is a showcase in masterful songwriting and, of course, a boon to morally righteous college kids too poor to patronize traditional charities.