Neil Halstead – Palindrome Hunches
On Palindrome Hunches’ penultimate song, Hey Daydreamer, Neil Halstead asserts the persistence of his idealistic outlook: "I don’t wanna be just OK / I wanna go everywhere / I wanna see everything." It’s a statement that captures Halstead’s refusal to compromise, over a career spanning more than twenty years; but it also neatly summarises the impressive scope of his songwriting ambition, which began with Slowdive’s shoegaze soundscapes before moving into Mojave 3’s Americana-tinged indie in the '90s.
The sparse, wintry folk of Halstead’s current solo work is a world away from Slowdive; the understated pieces here rarely feature more than gentle acoustic guitar, augmented with delicate piano and violin. Yet Palindrome Hunches never feels bland and repetitive; darker songs like Tied To You even channel some of Nick Drake’s arresting intensity. As Halstead has learned to strip away the embellishment, the richness of his husky, melancholy voice and the quiet assuredness of his songwriting have only become more evident. [Sam Wiseman]