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Neil Halstead - Palindrome Hunches

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 30 / 10 / 2012

Neil Halstead - Palindrome Hunches
Label: Sonic Cathedral
Format: CD


Seductive lo-fi folk pop on third album from Slowdive and Mojave 3 front man, Neil Halstead

In all of my life, few songwriters have touched my very soul as much as Neil Halstead has done. Originally on Creation, and part of the original bunch of Shoegazers, before it became a dirty word, his first band Slowdive was for me way beyond that scene that celebrated itself. Slowdive produced two fine albums, ‘Just for a Day’ (1991) and ‘Souvlaki’ (1993), before going in a different direction with their experimental third album, ‘Pygmalion’ (1995), and thus getting dropped. They regrouped as an alt. country folk outfit, changed labels and became Mojave 3. Mojave 3, who are presently in hiatus, have recorded five studio albums. Halstead has also started a solo career, and ‘Palindrome Hunches’ is his third solo album, following on from ‘Sleeping on Roads’ (2002) and ‘Oh! Mighty Engine’. It has come out on Sonic Cathedral, for whom he has played gigs for about the last ten years or so, and so it is natural for him to join the label that started because of him. ‘Palindrome Hunches’ is an album that I didn't listen to immediately. Why? Because I knew it would seduce me. And did it? Of course, it did. The album kicks off with the first single, ‘Digging Shelters’, which is pure Sunday evening music. Kick off those weekday shoes, pour the wine out, as this is elegant, with its soft acoustic guitar, vocal that melts on the ears, and just enough backing to carry it on its journey forward. Neil is a master of what he does, and he does it so well, A sad violin joins in towards the end which marries perfectly with the guitar. ‘Bad Drugs and Minor Chords’ is as bright as a 1970s' summer. A violin dances along in the sunshine beside a piano, which is the main instrument here. Neil's vocal is totally carefree on this song to make you smile all summer long. ‘Wittgenstein's Arm’ is what Neil does best. His fingers travel over the fret board as if dancing in the early morning rays of a new day. His vocal is like soft melting chocolate on your thirsty head. ‘Spin the Bottle’ has a sad, country feel. It is the sort of song which you might listen to while inviting old friends around, sharing past times, good wine and big hugs. ‘Tied to You’ captures the spirit of all three Nick Drake albums in one song, is absolutely marvellous and nails it all home. Sad strings carry ‘Love is the Beast’, making it much lighter and like the best slice of mid-1970s' music before punk shook everything up. ‘Palindrome Hunches’ is piano led. It is Neil's ‘Imagine’ and, lo-fi in tone and also featuring a banjo, has a vocal that is as bright as a new born day before anything happens to spoil it. It is charming in every way. ‘Full Moon Rising' is Neil at his most masterful as a songwriter. The vocal here holds you captive, while mournful strings floor you. This is the stuff that keeps you warm on a winter’s night. ‘Sandy’ is an absolute charmer, softly delivered, with melancholic violin that assists the elegant vocal, as soft piano and guitar melt into one another. ‘Hey Daydreamer’ is so exuberant that is almost a knees up, a song to put a smile on your face. ‘Loose Change’ is stripped right back, a song that reminds you of the depth and beauty that was Mojave 3. A fantastic little album.

Track Listing:-
1 Digging Shelters
2 Bad Drugs and Minor Chords
3 Wittgenstein's Arm
4 Spin the Bottle
5 Tied to You
6 Love Is a Beast
7 Palindrome Hunches
8 Full Moon Rising
9 Sandy
10 Hey Daydreamer
11 Loose Change

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Interview (2009)
Neil Halstead - Interview
The frontman with both Slowdive and Mojave 3, Neil Halstead has recently released his second solo album, '‘Oh, Mighty Engine !' He speaks to Anthony Strutt about it and his work with both bands

live reviews

Musician, Leicester, 15/1/2014
Neil Halstead - Musician, Leicester, 15/1/2014
Anthony Strutt finds understated but powerful an evening of acoustic country/folk rock from Peter Bruntnell, Neil Halstead and Danny George Wilson on the first date of their Songwriters' Circle tour at The Musician in Leicester
Garage, London, 22/7/2010

digital downloads



Oh Mighty Engine (2008)
Excellent folk and country-influenced second solo album from Mojave 3 front man, Neil Halstead
Sleeping On Roads (2002)

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