Various Artists - War Child presents Heroes
Various Artists - Dark Was The Night
February was the month of charity compilations. First, on Feb. 16th, came War Child Presents Heroes, a compilation to benefit War Child. Just one day later, Dark Was The Night was released to benefit the Red Hot Organization. Each has an awesome approach to making a charity album, and each turned out to be a great album for an equally great cause.
War Child is a UK-based charity that focuses on aiding children affected by war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. They help rebuild schools, rehabilitate child soldiers and lobby politicians to do more for war-affected children, to name a few of their many causes. The compilation released by War Child is a collection of covers of iconic songs from such legends as Paul McCartney, The Clash, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Joy Division, among many others.
The factor that sets War Child apart most from other collections of covers is the amount of participation the original artist has in the process (aside from the usual legal mumbo-jubmo). The original artists personally choose the musician or band that they want to cover their song. Some, like Mick Jones, even get involved in making the cover. Most of the choices are very fitting, such as The Kinks choosing The Kooks to cover “Victoria”, and Bob Dylan choosing Beck to cover “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat”. Some are a little on the surprising side, like Paul McCartney’s choice of Duffy to cover “Live and Let Die”, and The Clash’s choice of Lily Allen to cover “Straight To Hell”.
Dark Was The Night, another very strong compilation, features 31 exclusive tracks to benefit the Red Hot Organization -- an international charity dedicated to raising money and awareness for HIV/AIDS through popular culture. The album features new tracks from the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver and Kevin Drew alongside interesting covers (Antony Hegarty’s androgynous vibrato adds a lovely twist to Bob Dylan’s “I Was Young When I Left Home”). There are great collaborations, such as that of Feist and Ben Gibbard to cover Vashti Bunyan’s “Train Song,” and Conor Oberst’s collaboration with Gillian Welch to rerecord Bright Eyes’ “Lua.”
If I had to choose a favorite song on Dark Was The Night, it would definitely have to be the new Sufjan Stevens track “You Are The Blood”. The first new anything we’ve heard from Stevens in a few years, this dreamy, ten-minute-long piece shows off Sufjan’s skill as a musician by moving away from the mild, folky instrumentation he’s known for, and tackling something completely new and experimental. The result is absolutely beautiful.
War Child Presents Heroes and Dark Was The Night are both very strong compilations. War Child focuses heavily on combining old and new, and Dark Was The Night is work exclusively from artists on the more modern side. While it’s always fun to see a newer artist’s personal take on an older song, it’s also great to see new material from more current musicians (especially those that haven’t released anything in a while). Both albums are definitely worth purchasing, and each supports a great cause!
These compilations are available via iTunes and Amazon. The money goes toward supporting great causes, and you get some darn good music out of the deal!
The Redwood Plan - The Redwood Plan EP
The Redwood Plan, Seattle’s newest dance-pop band, has hit the mark perfectly with their recent self-released, self-titled EP. The Redwood Plan is comprised of veteran musicians, including Lesli Wood (Ms. Led) and Jamie Hellgate (H Is For Hellgate). Their experience shows -- the songs are well composed, with great riffs and catchy hooks that will likely cause you to dance awkwardly in public... I may or may not be speaking from personal experience.
Each song on The Redwood Plan has its own appeal. “Push,” the opening track, is a short, dancey song that will make you shake your boot. Resistance is futile.
“Expiration” has catchy, hard rock-inspired guitars drizzled on top of the Redwood Plan’s synth-heavy music feels like a throwback to Heart... in the best way possible.
“Je Suis Romantique” is a bass-heavy track about being a romantic; daydreaming about possibilities with a potential lover. “I know this will never look like the vision in my head... I suggest that you leave now if you can’t take the heat”.
The final track, “Something To Prove,” is a little different from the rest. It’s definitely more rock-heavy than the others, and the lyrics a little more snarky. “You don’t have to play nice. You don’t have to sit by. You can do anything you want to (want to).”
The Redwood Plan may just be the beginning of a whole new wave of synth-y grrrl rock. At the very least, this album is catchy as hell. I can’t stop listening. I’m stoked to see what this band comes out with next.