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Jeff Rosenstock/Laura Stevenson - Still Young EP Music Album Reviews

Two friends—one a longtime Neil Young fan, one a relative newcomer—team up for a warm, unpretentious covers EP that serves as an unlikely primer.

Acovers album is a great way for musicians to answer their least favorite question: What are your influences? But Jeff Rosenstock and Laura Stevenson’s EP of Neil Young tunes is more concerned with how we introduce others to the music we love. Still Young reimagines four selections from Young’s six-decade career, blowing up some of his simplest songs to a size more suited to Rosenstock and Stevenson’s punk background. It’s a compact document of two friends sharing and reinterpreting music with total freedom—a warm, unpretentious record that serves as an unlikely Neil Young primer.


Rosenstock and Stevenson go way back: As teenagers, they palled around the same Long Island punk scene, and they’ve played in each other’s bands on-and-off for years, most notably the defunct group Bomb the Music Industry! Their individual histories with Young’s music have been less aligned. “I knew I was supposed to like Neil Young but a lot of the ‘standards’ admittedly are not for me,” Rosenstock says in the EP’s liner notes. Stevenson, meanwhile, says she’s heard Young’s music at home for as long as she can remember. Eventually, Rosenstock caved and asked Stevenson for a Neil Young starter pack. Apparently it did the trick: Still Young is seemingly the first in a series of cover EPs as a duo.

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Given their lengthy friendship, it’s no surprise that Rosenstock and Stevenson are a great pair. Stevenson’s voice is light and clear—a perfect foil to Rosenstock’s crackling, conversational whine, itself a marked contrast from his customary shout. Their vocals on “Harvest Moon” are not unlike Young’s duet with Linda Ronstadt in the original. Rosenstock and Stevenson’s take on the song is fairly straightforward, though subtle snare replaces the barroom “broom sweeps” of Young’s original, and the addition of vibraphone and droning guitar give the familiar melody a little tooth. “Through My Sails” (taken from Zuma, Young’s 1975 LP with Crazy Horse), gets the most pared-back treatment, layering harmonies over a simple structure of acoustic guitar and bass.

Sandwiched in the middle of Still Young are two amplified interpretations that some may not immediately recognize as Neil Young songs. The 1970 piano ballad “After the Gold Rush” receives a glowing synth riff and multi-tracked vocals that resemble a late-’80s pop-punk Christmas carol. “Ambulance Blues,” from Young’s 1974 LP On the Beach is another maximalist take on an austere song, and it’s easily the EP’s best offering. Where Young’s original featured muted harmonica and fiddle, Rosenstock and Stevenson stack on drones, keys, and wailing guitar. There’s even a faint siren in the distance—a bit on-the-nose, but fitting for two New Yorkers who’ve surely heard thousands in their lives. Another pal, the Hold Steady’s Craig Finn, appears near the end to deliver a terse, gravelly cameo: “There ain’t nothin’ like a friend who can tell ya you’re just pissin’ in the wind,” he drawls. Rosenstock and Stevenson may have recorded Still Young just for the hell of it, but they’ve managed to uncover the best possible outcome of imposing one’s musical tastes on loved ones.


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