I was on vacation last week, so I did my normal return to the working week rountine of catching up on music I’d missed. Because if a blogger doesn’t hear the album that many other people have listened to in a forest, does it make a sound? Yes.
In my absence, one of the other Noise Narc contributors (Chris, I’m thinking), added Neil Young’s Le Noise to our (Not So) Short List of Best Albums of 2010. I was more than a little incredulous. Don’t get me wrong, I love Mr. Young. His December ’08 concert at Philly’s Wachovia was a revelation, putting openers Wilco firmly in their place. And several of his recent albums have been pretty good. But not best of the year good. By a long shot. And teaming up with famed producer Daniel Lanois sounds like a stunt Paul McCartney would pull (and has).
But Chris’ nomination was sound. This is a killer album. Young’s guitar work and age-ripened voice pairs excellently with Lanois’ Waves of Noise. And unlike, say, some of Lou Reed’s left field albums, it doesn’t sound so much like a Neil Young experiment as a way for him to refract the essence of his music off another style, much like Dylan’s Nashville Skyline. Though this “Peaceful Valley Boulevard” is not the most representative track, its kinship with “Cortez the Killer” makes a tempting set piece.
In the glow of having an old master surprise you, I poked around Mr. Young’s Wikipedia page, I found this gem: “In the 2006 film Heart of Gold Young relates how he used to spend time as a teenager at Falcon Lake, Manitoba where he would endlessly plug coins into the jukebox to hear Ian Tyson’s ‘Four Strong Winds.'” One of my favorite (probably apocryphal) musical anecdotes involves Django Reinhardt obsessively playing a Louis Armstrong record after his first exposure to jazz, so I loved this song before I heard it (or realized I’d heard it before on Young’s Comes a Time). My body may be back to the 9 to 5, but my mind is imagining a teenage Neil Young, a pile of Canadian dimes in front of him, the gears of his irreverent musical genius clicking into place.