Dark Was the Night

Various Artists - Dark Was the Night

On February 17th, indie rock powerhouse 4AD released Dark Was the Night, a double-disc (triple LP) compilation benefiting AIDS/HIV non-profit The Red Hot Organization. With production from The National‘s Aaron and Bryce Dessner, its lengthy tracklist is packed full of big indie names, exciting collaborations, and some interesting covers.

There’s a number of standouts here, but opening track “Knotty Pine” might be my favorite. Featuring the most satisfying collaboration on the record, Dirty Projectors and David Byrne team up to give us this upbeat, fractured pop gem. Byrne provided the lyrics and some backup vocals, while Dave Longstreth and crew laid down an interesting-as-always musical arrangement and simple, but superb, vocal melodies. Grizzly Bear‘s “Deep Blue Sea” is another great track. Updated from the Daniel Rossen home recording that appeared on 2007’s Friend EP, this full-band version flushes out that sparse demo into a rich, melancholic dirge. Stream or download both below and check out the full tracklist for Dark Was the Night after the jump.

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Download: Dirty Projectors & David Byrne – Knotty Pine

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Download: Grizzly Bear – Deep Blue Sea
Buy: Pick up Dark Was the Night over at Beggars Group U.S.A. (LP/CD) and iTunes (digital).

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Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest

Grizzly Bear

Last week Brooklyn’s Grizzly Bear finally revealed the cover art, tracklist, and release date for their upcoming, highly anticipated album, Veckatimest. No studio cuts have surfaced as of yet, but live recordings of four tracks are currently floating around the blogosphere. The soaring sun-soaked pop of “Two Weeks”, which was unveiled on The Late Show with David Letterman back in July of last year, might still be my favorite, but all are excellent. And Ed Droste claims that the album versions of both “Two Weeks” and “While You Wait for the Others” are “fuller”, “livelier”, and “clearer” than the previous live incarnations? Plus the former will feature an appearance from Beach House‘s Victoria Legrand? Something tells me that behind Merriweather Post Pavilion, this record will dominate 2009.

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Download: Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks (Live on Letterman)
Buy: Veckatimest comes out May 26th. No avenues for pre-order yet, but I’ll post when one becomes available. [UPDATE: And it’s now available for pre-order from Insound on CD or vinyl.]

You can download the other three mp3s and check out Veckatimest‘s cover and tracklist after the jump.

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Wavvves

Wavves

The upcoming album from San Diego beach-punker Wavves (Nathan Williams), titled Wavvves just to confuse you (note the three v’s), was originally due out in February on De Stijl, but ended up getting pushed back to March when it was announced that Fat Possum Records would be handling the release. Lucky for us they decided to drop an early digital release today.

With songs that are at once supremely grating and unbelievably infectious, Williams continues to perfectly unite breezy California pop and feedback-drenched noise on this latest record. Except nearly everything here is even stronger than the material on his self-titled debut, even the interludes of synthed-out cacophony he uses to splice together his power chord driven bedroom-punk. “To the Dregs”, which was one of the tracks Wavves played at his Yours Truly (a Take Away Shows spin off) performance, manages to stand out amongst the excellence of Wavvves, as do a couple other tracks that have been floating around since last year (“So Bored”, “No Hope Kids”). But, let me be clear, on first listen this whole record rules… pick it up now (first 300 buyers get a free 7-inch single).

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Download: Wavves – To the Dregs
Buy: Wavvves is available over at the Fat Possum webstore (free 7-inch) or on iTunes (with bonus track). And for you vinylphiles that would also like that digital copy, you can pre-order the LP at Insound and download the mp3s instantly.
Watch: Check out Wavves performing “To the Dregs” live in San Francisco, courtesy of Yours Truly (plus parts 1 and 2).

Beirut: “La Llorona” / Realpeople: “Venice”

Beirut (Zach Condon, pictured here with Ko?ani Orkestar)

Zach Condon, still only in his early twenties, has been reimagining the pure and powerful sounds of gypsy brass bands in an ever evolving set of contexts as Beirut. On 2006’s Gulag Orkestar he constructed what was a pretty convincing imitation with just himself (and enough instruments for a small orchestra), while 2007 saw him expand to a full band line-up on the Lon Gisland EP and later blend his take on Balkan music with additional influence from early 20th century France on The Flying Club Cup. And now for his latest EP, March of the Zapotec, Condon presents us with a batch of bombastic brass-heavy tracks via Oaxaca, Mexico.

Joined by The Jimenez Band, a 19-piece funeral orchestra from a small village in Oaxaca, this exceptionally full release finds Beirut striking at the harmonious middle ground between Eastern European and Mexican musical traditions. The songs here are even more centered on the horn section than previous releases, ranging from bouncy waltzes to breakneck onslaughts of brass. On “La Llorona”, inspired by the traditional tragedy of the same name, Condon briefly settles into his familiar, heartfelt croons before The Jimenez Band opens the floodgates with their towering hooks. The animated video for this track depicts rocky Mexican landscapes, an old village, townfolk, and a traditional band, certainly appropriate for a song that’s as much Morricone as anything else — dramatic, eccentric, emotional, cinematic.

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Download: Beirut – La Llorona
Buy: March of the Zapotec is available on iTunes right now, but comes out on CD and vinyl on Feb. 17th.

Along with March of the Zapotec comes Holland, an EP of material billed to an earlier moniker of Zach Condon. As Realpeople he explores the realm of bedroom electro-pop (save for one track of deviation), leaving Holland more comparable to 808s & Heartbreak than Gulag Orkestar or The Flying Club Cup. Maybe not as exciting as Beirut, but definitely still worth checking out.

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Download: Realpeople – Venice
Buy: Pick up Holland with March of the Zapotec on iTunes or at Insound.

Peep the album art and full tracklists after the jump.

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