Various Artists, 'Dark Was the Night' (4AD)

Critical Mass
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by Barry Walters

Produced by the National's Aaron and Bryce Dessner, the latest in the Red Hot series of AIDS benefit albums plays like a musically and thematically linked NPR broadcast from a gentle corner of indie-rock heaven. Appropriately, loss and survival are recurring topics, but well-matched collabos, obscure covers, and top-drawer contributions from the Decemberists, Feist, Sufjan Stevens, and Antony Hegarty prevent the largely somber proceedings from plummeting into unchecked sorrow. Meanwhile, Spoon, Arcade Fire, and a few other typically serious types get downright giddy.

Listen: The Dirty Projectors and David Byrne, "Knotty Pine"

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