Tag Archives: airborne toxic event

Now playing: Dark Was The Night

Now that's what I call a compliation album!

Now that's what I call a compilation album!

Current favourite album

There’s a subtle hint in the name of my blog that I’m not a fan of a certain chart hit compilation series, now in its early seventies.

In fact, I’m not a huge fan of compilations full stop, but here is an exception I’d like to highlight.

‘Dark Was The Night’ is a 4AD compilation album in support of the Red Hot Organisation, an international charity dedicated to raising funds and awareness for HIV and AIDS.

I discovered the album via an advert in The Word magazine and was immediately interested because the artists listed included several of my favourite recent favourites such as Iron & Wine, Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, Spoon and Conor Oberst. In addition it includes several others that had been on my radar such as The Decemberists, My Morning Jacket, The National and Andrew Bird.

So, I duly downloaded and was delighted to see it contained 32 tracks, and although most of the songs tend to the folky end of indie rock that’s exactly my current genre of choice. All of the tracks are exclusive to this album, so it’s not like you’re duplicating songs you have elsewhere.

I was instantly hooked when I started to listen, and overall I’d say the standard was uniformly excellent. The contributions from artists I was familiar with didn’t let me down, and some of the new ones turned out to be very nice surprises.

For me, the absolute standout track is ‘Sleepless’ by The Decemberists, a band who I find fascinating and intend to write more about soon. It’s over eight minutes long, but is hauntingly beautiful and quite unlike anything I’ve heard recently.

Other favourite tracks include:

  • Feeling Good – My Brightest Diamond
  • Lenin – Arcade Fire
  • Big Red Machine – Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) & Aaron Dessner
  • Well-Alright – Spoon
  • Lua – Conor Oberst & Gillian Welch
  • Cello Song – The Books featuring Joses Gonzalez (great cover of Nick Drake’s classic)
  • Happiness – Rice Boy Sleeps
  • Gentle Hour – Yo La Tengo

If you like any of the artists mentioned above, or are curious to find out what they sound like, this is well worth paying just under a tenner for the download.

Other albums I’m enjoying

A few other recent notable mentions include:

What’s new for you?

How about you? What are your current favourites, and latest discoveries?

Let me know by posting a comment below, or via the Facebook group.

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A great band beginning with A: The Airborne Toxic Event

The Airborne Toxic Event's self-titled album

The Airborne Toxic Event's self-titled album

The what?

Their name may sound like a politically correct description of a chemical attack by terrorists, but at least they got your attention. In fact it was a fictional chemical spill in the novel White Noise by Don Delillo that inspired the band’s name.

Why do I like them?

There are a number of reasons. For starters, the lead singer and lyricist Mikel Jollett is an aspiring novelist who founded the band after the worst week of his life. In the space of seven days his mother was diagnosed with cancer, he found out he had a life-threatening autoimmune disease and his long-term girlfriend left him. And you think you’ve had a tough week!

His response to this triple tragedy was to form a rock band – I admire his style.

As a writer I always respond well to lyrics and really appreciate songs that are well told stories set to a rollicking fine tune. Jollet displays his novelist’s skill in capturing the essence of real life events and imbuing them with intense emotional depth. Sometime about Midnight, the stand out track from their self-titled debut album, illustrates this perfectly as it depicts a scene at a bar where a guy sees his ex-lover for the first time in a while, goes through the wringer of emotions, and then sees her leave with a stranger. The story unfolds in cinematic style, and because the song is written so it addresses the listener (“then she leaves with someone you don’t know”) you find yourself completely drawn into the scene and experiencing the agony of rejection (“your blood boiling, your stomach in ropes”). Lyrically it’s a bit reminiscent of ‘Mr Brightside’ by the Killers, but if anything more poignant. Great tune too, and it was voted song of the year in 2008 by itunes in the USA.

Another reason I’m a fan of this band is the Pitchfork incident. When their debut album was released in the States last year it got absolutely slated by the influential music review website Pitchfork, getting 1.6 out of 10 and a salvo of barely disguised sneering from the reviewer. Mikel Jollet responded by publishing an open letter on the band’s website which defended the band’s reputation with remarkable good grace and dignity. I think that shows great character in the face of spectacularly unfair criticism.

The album was released in the UK on 9 February and I warmly recommend it.

Best songs

  • Sometime around Midnight
  • Wishing Well
  • The Winning Side
  • Gasoline

You’ll probably like them if you’re partial to:

  • The Strokes
  • The Killers
  • Spoon
  • Kings of Leon

In a nutshell:

Intelligent indie rock from LA – who knew?!

Other great bands beginning with A:

  • Arcade Fire
  • Arctic Monkeys
  • Air
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