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The National to Drop Vast Grateful Dead Comp 'Day of the Dead'

The Dessner brothers, in conjunction with HIV organization Red Hot, have spent four years creating this Grateful Dead covers comp alongside some 60-odd awesome artists.

The Dessner brothers shot by Shervin Lainez Red Hot—the not-for-profit organization fighting HIV/AIDS through pop culture and music—has put out some genuinely brilliant and unexpected compilation records over the last couple decades. From the pop treatment of Cole Porter, Red Hot + Blue back in 1990 (Tom Waits losing his mind on "It’s Alright With Me’"was great) through to Red Hot + Riot’’s tribute to Fela Kuti (yes, that is a version of "Water No Get Enemy" with Femi Kuti, Nile Rodgers, D’Angelo and Macy Gray), they’ve found ways to reimagine the familiar, no matter how sacred it may seem.


But never have they done something quite this extensive. For their second collaboration with musical powerhouse and genre-unto-itself 4AD—2009’s Dark Was The Night was, again, uniquely interesting and entertaining—they’ve tackled The Grateful Dead. Day of the Dead is fifty-nine tracks and almost six hours worth of Dead-worship, doubling down on their predilection for bringing in immediately intriguing and brilliant pop musicians. And yeah we're freakin' excited about this. Remember that time Noisey spent three days over Fourth of July weekend, taking acid, and hanging out with Deadheads, contemplating life and saying a fond farewell to the Bay Area legends? Essential reading. Dive in now. Listen to 4AD's Dead Spotify playlist while you do

But back to this mega-comp. It all sort of makes brilliant and bizarre sense when you look at the tracklist for long enough. Bonnie Prince Billy would bring out all the melodic melancholy in "If I Had the World to Give," Perfume Genius and Sharon Van Etten should have been collaborating for a while now, and Kurt Vile and J Mascis getting together to do "Box Of Rain" is… yeah, that’s a great idea. As for Fucked Up doing "Cream Puff War," everyone involved in that deserves a standing ovation from everyone they walk past for maybe three days. Just in hallways and on the street, a knowing look and a serious, well-paced applause.

The National’s Aaron Dessner took the reins on production, backed up by his bandmates, brother Bryce Dessner and Josh Kaufman. In fact, The National are essentially the house band, here, with Conrad Doucette, Sam Cohen, Walter Martin and Josh Kaufman backing them up. It means the one Day of the Dead live performance, at Justin Vernon’s Eaux Claires Festival in mid-August, will just be a big party.


Pick through the track list below and then read through it again maybe twice before eventually saying, "Wait, yeah, that’s totally brilliant."

Day of the Dead is out May 20th on 4AD and the insane three-CD tracklist is in full below.

"Thunder" (Vol.1)

01. Touch of Grey - The War on Drugs

02. Sugaree - Phosphorescent, Jenny Lewis & Friends

03. Candyman - Jim James & Friends

04. Cassidy - Moses Sumney, Jenny Lewis & Friends

05. Black Muddy River - Bruce Hornsby and DeYarmond Edison

06. Loser - Ed Droste, Binki Shapiro & Friends

07. Peggy-O - The National

08. Box of Rain - Kurt Vile and the Violators (featuring J Mascis)

09. Rubin and Cherise - Bonnie 'Prince' Billy & Friends

10. To Lay Me Down - Perfume Genius, Sharon Van Etten & Friends

11. New Speedway Boogie - Courtney Barnett

12. Friend of the Devil - Mumford & Sons

13. Uncle John's Band - Lucius

14. Me and My Uncle - The Lone Bellow & Friends

15. Mountains of the Moon - Lee Ranaldo, Lisa Hannigan & Friends

16. Black Peter - Anohni and yMusic

17. Garcia Counterpoint - Bryce Dessner

18. Terrapin Station (Suite) - Daniel Rossen, Christopher Bear and The National (featuring Josh Kaufman, Conrad Doucette, So Percussion and Brooklyn Youth Chorus)

19. Attics of My Life - Angel Olsen

20. St. Stephen (live) - Wilco with Bob Weir

"Lightning" (Vol. 2)

01. If I Had the World to Give - Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

02. Standing on the Moon - Phosphorescent & Friends

03. Cumberland Blues - Charles Bradley and Menahan Street Band


04. Ship of Fools - The Tallest Man on Earth & Friends

05. Bird Song - Bonnie 'Prince' Billy & Friends

06. Morning Dew - The National

07. Truckin' - Marijuana Deathsquads

08. Dark Star - Cass McCombs, Joe Russo & Friends

09. Nightfall of Diamonds - Nightfall of Diamonds

10. Transitive Refraction Axis for John Oswald - Tim Hecker

11. Going Down The Road Feelin' Bad - Lucinda Williams & Friends

12. Playing in the Band - Tunde Adebimpe, Lee Ranaldo & Friends

13. Stella Blue - Local Natives

14. Eyes of the World - Tal National

15. Help on the Way - Bela Fleck

16. Franklin's Tower - Orchestra Baobab

17. Till the Morning Comes - Luluc with Xylouris White

18. Ripple - The Walkmen

19. Brokedown Palace - Richard Reed Parry with Caroline Shaw and Little Scream (featuring Garth Hudson)

"Sunshine" (Vol. 3)

01. Here Comes Sunshine - Real Estate

02. Shakedown Street - Unknown Mortal Orchestra

03. Brown-Eyed Women - Hiss Golden Messenger

04. Jack-A-Roe - This Is the Kit

05. High Time - Daniel Rossen and Christopher Bear

06. Dire Wolf - The Lone Bellow & Friends

07. Althea - Winston Marshall, Kodiak Blue and Shura

08. Clementine Jam - Orchestra Baobab

09. China Cat Sunflower -> I Know You Rider - Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

10. Easy Wind - Bill Callahan

11. Wharf Rat - Ira Kaplan & Friends

12. Estimated Prophet - The Rileys

13. Drums -> Space - Man Forever, So Percussion and Oneida

14. Cream Puff War - Fucked Up

15. Dark Star - The Flaming Lips


16. What's Become of the Baby - s t a r g a z e

17. King Solomon's Marbles - Vijay Iyer

18. Rosemary - Mina Tindle & Friends

19. And We Bid You Goodnight - Sam Amidon

20. I Know You Rider (live) - The National with Bob Weir