Neil Young's distinctive sound was defined so early in his career that any serious attempt he's made to reinvent himself has been hampered by listeners' desire for more of the same. It's got to be a frustrating situation - he can do Crazy Horse distortion or Harvest-style acoustic folk, and that's about it. With Le Noise, he owes producer Daniel Lanois some major thanks for finally managing to find a new sound for Young that still embodies everything we love about him.
The concept is deceptively simple. Notorious studio tinkerer Lanois devised a quirky system of modified guitars and layers of effects with Young's playing in mind, and then turned these new sonic toys over to him to go wild with. This means that what could have been a sleepy solo acoustic album has turned into a futuristic fuzz-soaked and echo-drenched tribute to both Young's songwriting and his unique guitar heroics.
What makes this work so beautifully is that the sound is completely unique and modern and yet couldn't be confused for anyone else.
Top track: Hitchhiker