Over six decades, Neil Young's musical expression has expanded beyond the rock and roll of his nascent years and the folk-rock that brought him his initial burst of renown. He's carved out new niches — the '80s found him presciently exploring synth-techno sounds, along with rockabilly and straight-up country — while periodically returning to his rock and folk roots, especially on 1972's Harvest.
"I love that album," says Filip Nikolic of California day-disco duo Poolside, whose mellow, mid-tempo version of "Harvest Moon" is just one of a recent handful of "chillwave" covers of Young's music. "We were working on our album, and we wanted to make a song we could give away free," he says. "A couple of months earlier, I'd learned to play and sing it ["Harvest Moon"] on guitar, out of boredom. It's one of my favorite Neil Young songs — and we thought, 'This could actually work.' "
Young may have a new album, Psychedelic Pill, out this week, but his reach is growing far beyond the grizzled songwriter's own sound and vision. DIY synth superstars Chromatics' latest album, Kill For Love, kicks off unexpectedly with "Into the Black," their rechristening of Young's 1979 classic "Hey Hey, My My." A follow-up, of sorts, to the Portland band's version of Springsteen's "I'm on Fire," the Chromatics track takes the mood of Young's acoustic version and flips it sideways into late-night afterparty mode — a context in which the cautionary "burn out" vs. "fade away" line feels sinisterly apropos.
Yet more evil is White Ring's "Hey Hey, My My," rooted in the chillwave-adjacent genre known as witch house. With its ethereally floating female vocals and harshly rattling 808 snares, and its valleys of calm that ascend to peaks of intense sonic bombast, this version out of the New York shadows straddles the line between Young's laconic acoustic version of the song and his visceral, hard-charging electric version.
When Young swings through town this month, maybe he'll inspire some local reinterpreters, too. Get tickets ($70–$280) at ticketmaster.com.
NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE + PATTI SMITH + EVEREST:: TD Garden, 100 Legends Way, Boston :: November 26 @ 7:30 pm