Release Date: Sep 11, 2012
Record label: Brushfire
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Indie Folk
The release of Neil Halstead's third solo album produces a new wave of speculation about whether or not Slowdive will reunite. But it's helpful to remember that his artistic position has basically been the same from the start. He's a craftsman of, as a friend described it, "cozy sweater folk". From the outset, Palindrome Hunches feels like the kind of hushed, close-gathered singalong that's been idealized in indie rock since the start of the millennium.
By its very nature, shoegaze was never going to set the world on fire when it emerged in the late ’80s. Neil Halstead, erstwhile co-founder of Slowdive (who later morphed into Mojave 3), now makes hushed, understated and autumnal folk music which, despite occasional dark themes (‘Spin The Bottle’ is about his ex-wife), is the musical equivalent of cashmere socks. Recorded in a primary school, the Reading warbler’s third solo record is whimsical, pleasant and calming, with shades of Damien Rice and Regina Spektor.
On his third solo album, Palindrome Hunches, Neil Halstead strips another layer off his already quiet and subtle sound. Sleeping On Roads featured a sound not too far from that of his band Mojave 3, though it was more Nick Drake-influenced and hushed; Oh! Mighty Engine cut the instrumentation pretty much in half, and on much of Palindrome, he's mainly down to his beautifully rich vocals and acoustic guitar, backed by double bass and sometimes piano. There are regular appearances by violins too, but thanks to the dry production and the recorded live feel, the album has an immediacy that gives the impression that Neil and his friends are playing in your living room.
Neil HalsteadPalindrome Hunches[Brushfire; 2012]By Colin Joyce; September 13, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetThe path that Neil Halstead has tread to end up at this current point is a tangled and nebulous one--tracing it out will give us no further insight into his current situation than just taking this statement at face value. His beginnings with that legendary shoegaze group on Creation? A figment of years long past. His work with a notably dreamy alt-country group? Similarly a distant echo of past work.
When Slowdive disbanded in 1995, forming member Neil Halstead said that he’d grown tired of creating sounds rather than songs. He then formed Mojave 3 out of Slowdive’s remains, eschewing dense shoegazing for acoustic picking, tight vocal melodies, and poetic lyricism— all traits of traditional British folk music. With Mojave 3 on hiatus, Halstead’s been writing songs in a similarly folky vein, compiling 11 of them for Palindrome Hunches, his third solo album.