Kindness has never been more sincere. Ok, it has. Maybe in the young boy walking the old lady across the street, or that guy who dove in front of his girlfriend and got shot protecting her. It’s poetic, really. Beauty has never been better represented in the mitts of a great song. Music is the greatest proof of there being a God.
But this isn’t about a defense of God, or shameless self-sacrifice or old ladies- it’s about Neil Halstead. It’s about pretty music on a pretty sensational sounding guitar from a pretty fantastic musician.
Neil Halstead isn’t a novice to the world of music, having been involved with a few numerous and notoriously excellent bands throughout the last decade and a half. ‘Slowdive’ might ring a bell. If that fails, ‘Mojave 3’ might like a word.
If neither of those do the trick, you may just be a musical novice yourself. And being a musical novice, Halstead’s third solo album ‘Palindrome Hunches’ may do more for you than for a jaded and expert music listener. Like Rob Fleming from ‘High Fidelity’- how many pop albums do you need to listen to until you realize you could never capture even an ounce of their sincerity in your own life?
Fortunately, Neil Halstead is sincere, wholesome, and poetically divine. His solo debut opens with a soft acoustic melody that would make Nick Drake circa Five Years Left very happy. Songs like ‘Full Moon Rising’ are organic and fulfilling, turning a soft simple melody into a song of much greater scale upon its conclusion. It’s beautiful and rich, and never wavers.
‘Spin the Bottle’ seems to recall a part of the past, a past that is hauntingly loved and admired. The title track ‘Palindrome Hunches’ is short and sweet, an obvious ode to love, and sounding eerily similar to the early song ‘Bad Drugs and Minor Chords.’
I wish some of the songs here were instrumental. Not that Halstead has a bad voice by any means. His vocal crooning is soft and touching, and adds a sincerity that is absolutely required and always adored. Yet some of the guitar melodies are so whimsical and touching, I would like them to float on their own strength, rising and closing with just the sound of the plucking guitar and piano accompanying it.
Neil Halstead is a masterful songwriting, crafting infectious melodies with unrivaled sincerity. His singer-songwriter approach may be too intimate for some, who find their music more rounded with a full band. Yet Halstead channels Nick Drake, Woody Guthrie, or the more modern Bon Iver to full effect, brooding and sensational, poetic and sweet, all across 3-4 minute pieces of a much grater whole.
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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