This wonderful compilation is a dream come true.
Dan Tallis 2009
This wonderful compilation is a dream come true to followers of the latest and greatest bands on the alternative/nu-folk rock scene. Compiled by Aaron and Bryce Dessner from The National, the cast of performers here reads like a who's who of acts Pitchfork readers like to namedrop.
Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, Feist, Beirut and Bon Iver are just a few of the cool names who have contributed high quality tracks to this album which is released by the Red Hot Organisation. Red Hot have been releasing albums on a regular basis for the last twenty years to raise funds and awareness in the fight against AIDS. The original album, Red Hot + Blue, featured stars such as Neneh Cherry reinterpreting the songs of Cole Porter.
This double album of mostly original compositions opens with an upbeat and wacky collaboration from Dirty Projectors and David Byrne, who also appeared on the original Red Hot album. Two more excellent collaborations follow. The first, a cover of Nick Drake's Cello Song is an album highlight; Jose Gonzalez's sweet vocals combine beautifully with an electro beat and austere cello. Next the distinctive vocals of Feist and Ben Gibbard's exquisite slide guitar produce a winsome version of Vashti Bunyan's Train Song.
Disc one ends with the epic, sprawling You Are The Blood from Sufjan Stevens. Over ten minutes a whole orchestra of sounds are inflicted upon the listener. From dramatic strings to uncomfortable squealing noises and classical piano, it's a challenging but rewarding listen.
The majority of tracks on disc two maintain a down-tempo atmosphere, but there are a few upbeat feel good songs scattered amongst the acoustic numbers; the sing-a-long Hey, Snow White by the New Pornographers and the joyful El Caporal from My Morning Jacket.
Overall the tracks combine to produce a collection which is eclectic and entertaining without sounding disjointed. The quality rarely dips; surprisingly it's the title track which veers too far towards noodling. The majority of the artists have clearly delivered their best work rather than throwaway b-sides which can often make up these compilations.
For once you don't have to feel guilty name dropping a whole host of new acts. After all, it's for a good cause.