Here are my current top five night records, in honor of an empty apartment and too many Black Friday purchases lying around my living room, waiting for their corners in the closet. Got different picks? If so, leave them in the comments. (I realize that many of my picks are rather generic and commercial, but I suppose these CDs are simply what I go to when the night descends and I sit for far too long in a dark living room before getting up to turn on the lights).
5. Modern Guilt by Beck
Chalk it up to Danger Mouse’s swampy production, the haunted whispers backdropping the record’s opener “Orphans” and its closer “Volcano,” Beck’s plaintive vocals, which at times nearly equal Sea Change’s depression, whatever the reason, Modern Guilt perfectly couples the hours post-bar close to the hour the station wagons swing around our neighborhoods, tossing out the daily paper. Or in my case, perfectly couples the lonely walk up past the lit-up dome of the Capitol to the police station to report to the parking office for work on a clear December night.
4. Mystery EP by BLK JKS
This is the record to pair with the moment the night turns, hopefully right as “Summertime” cues up. Perhaps the moment when you pull her down on the couch next to you and run a hand up the back of her shirt or when you tilt up the eighth of Jack only to see right through the wavy lens of the bottom of the bottle or when you cruise out of Las Vegas with a wad of money in your back pocket and the stars opening up above you.
3. Neon Bible by The Arcade Fire
Unlike Funeral, which by comparison has some incredibly uplifting moments (thanks largely to “Wake Up”), Neon Bible is a very dark record for a very dark time. The panoramic sweep of “Keep the Car Running” and its barren landscape; the Springsteen-ian, working class chant of “(Antichrist Television Blues);” the full-throated vibes of “My Body is a Cage,” surely blasting over the pews of an empty church; all this makes a good night record, particularly to sip gin to or—and perhaps here is where I am a bit biased—to coast north through Indiana and run the deserted freeway that swings through Indianapolis. While “In the Backseat” will remain one of my favorite night songs (along with Karen O’s “Hello Tomorrow, the song from the Adidas commercials of the same name), Neon Bible is a great night record.
2. All We Grow by S. Carey
Changing pace and tone and proving that not all night records need be overly dark, All We Grow serves as good background music to late-night grading or writing. Atmospheric, rollicking and wounding (sometimes in the same song, as with “In the Dark”), this is a record to sink into, as you rest on the couch, thinking that long ago, you should have been in bed.
1. Time Out of Mind by Bob Dylan
This record is so saturated with a soft shuffle reminiscent of the last 2 a.m. slow dance at a backcountry tavern that I can barely listen to it during the day. “Love Sick” enters slowly with the faint pat of a foot beating time almost imperceptibly before the organ and Dylan’s clear vocals gives us something to follow down a dark road. The record balances heavyweight ballads (“Not Dark Yet,” “Make You Feel My Love,” and “Standing in the Doorway”) with some upbeat jams (“Dirt Road Blues”) to keep things interesting. It’s strikes the perfect balance between lovelorn and late-night horny.
An old friend of mine years back had this CD stolen from his car one night along with his radio. In trying (and ultimately succeeding) to jar the radio loose, the kids cracked the plastic of the dash. My friend, shrugging his shoulders, said, “At least they aren’t good crooks.” It’s a sentiment perfectly fitting a record where Dylan sounds as if the world is sucking him dry, but he don’t mind. He just keeps trucking down the highway.
Honorable Mentions: ( ) by Sigur Ros, Rain Machine by Rain Machine, Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan, Dear Science by TV On the Radio, The Social Network (Soundtrack) by Trent Reznor, Broken Bells by Broken Bells, Dark Night of the Soul by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse, The Ghost of Tom Joad by Bruce Springsteen, So Runs the World Away by Josh Ritter, 808s and Heartbreaks by Kanye West, Wyclef Jean Presents The Carnival by Wyclef Jean, XX by The XX