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Red, Hot & Various 

Dark Was the Night (4AD)

Since 1989, the Red Hot Organization has released 20 diverse compilations---appealing to fans of everything from mainstream to jazz and Latino music---benefiting AIDS awareness and funding around the world. For indie-rock fans, though, not since 1993's No Alternative (Nirvana, Pavement and Sonic Youth) and 1995's Red, Hot and Bothered (Built to Spill, Folk Implosion, Grifters) has there been such a magnificent collection of the who's-who darlings of the "underground is now upper-ground" music scene. Spoon, Arcade Fire, Beirut, Iron & Wine, Grizzly Bear, Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch...hell, the whole list is too crazy to itemize here. First up is Feist, with Ben Gibbard, singing a lovely, haunting Vashti Bunyan track called "Train Song," on which Feist sounds so unFeist-like, it's eerie. The Books and José González take Nick Drake's "Cello Song" to the extremes of mournful beauty. So, too, does Antony Hegarty on a tender interpretation of Dylan's "I was Young When I Left Home" with Bryce Dessner (of The National). "Big Red Machine" contrasts (National vocalist) Aaron Dessner's deep baritone and Justin Vernon's falsetto, overtop a lush string arrangement and a droning piano chord. To borrow a sports cliche, the artists brought their A-game. There really isn't a weak track on this two-CD, 31-track offering. Great music. Great cause.

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