Some of the biggest names in independent music have banded together to record exclusive songs for "Dark Was the Night," a double-disc album whose proceeds will benefit the Red Hot organization's work with AIDS research.
In the works since 2006, the project is due Feb. 17 from Beggars Banquet and, as previously reported, was curated by the National's Aaron and Bryce Dessner. The lineup includes Spoon, the Arcade Fire, Yo La Tengo, the New Pornographers, Bon Iver, Feist, Cat Power, My Morning Jacket and Iron & Wine, among many others.
"I've been listening to some of these bands since I was in high school. Now they're peers of ours but sometimes you can't even believe that -- these are people I've idolized and respected," Aaron Dessner tells Billboard.com.
The National contributed the song "So Far Around the Bend," which Dessner says the band "didn't feel would make sense" on one of its own albums. "It has this pretty crazy orchestral arrangement; it's a little bit of a throwback song."
"Dark Was the Night" is also packed with intriguing collaborations, including Feist with Ben Gibbard and Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors with David Byrne, the Books with Jose Gonzalez, Aaron Dessner with Bon Iver and Bryce Dessner with Antony.
The latter is a cover of the early Dylan song "I Was Younger When I Left Home," which the artists did in one take. In the case of the Dessner/Bon Iver pairing, Aaron Dessner sent Bon Iver's Justin Vernon a piano instrumental, dubbed "Big Red Machine" in tribute to his Cincinnati hometown, in the hopes he'd "feel like collaborating. Then I was in Finland I got an email from him with a fully written song. It's incredible he could trace the music in the way that he did."
Those kinds of happy accidents are all over "Dark Was the Night," according to Dessner. "Bryce and I found ourselves in the midst of all of our peers and in a position to invite them to participate in this," he says. "Almost everybody was willing to donate their time and their music."
The Dessners are hoping to film some of the artists performing their songs to give "Dark As the Night" an online presence, and are planning to stage some "unique performances in New York and other countries" in the spring with as many of the contributors as possible.
Here is the track list for "Dark Was the Night":
"Knotty Pine," Dirty Projectors and David Byrne
"Cello Song," the Books featuring Jose Gonzalez
"Train Song," Feist and Ben Gibbard
"Deep Blue Sea," Grizzly Bear
"So Far Around the Bend," the National
"Feeling Good," My Brightest Diamond
"Dark Was the Night," the Kronos Quartet
"I Was Young When I Left Home," Antony and Bryce Dessner
"Big Red Machine," Bon Iver and Aaron Dessner
"Sleepless," the Decemberists
"Die," Iron & Wine
"Service Bell," Grizzly Bear and Feist
"Blood," Sufjan Stevens
"Lenin," the Arcade Fire
"El Caporal," My Morning Jacket
"Inspiration Information," Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
"With a Girl Like You," Dave Sitek
"Blood Pt. 2," Buck 65 remix featuring Sufjan Stevens and Serengeti
"Hey, Snow White," the New Pornographers
"Gentle Hour," Yo La Tengo
"Another Saturday," Stuart Murdoch
"Happiness," Riceboy Sleeps
"Amazing Grace," Cat Power
"The Giant of Illinois," Andrew Bird
"Lua," Conor Oberst and Gillian Welch
"When the Road Runs Out," Blonde Redhead and Devestations
"Love vs. Porn," Kevin Drew