This album is not as light and upbeat as the previous 'Oh! Mighty Engine' (which I prefer), perhaps due to being recorded here and obtaining a more traditional English feel in the process. However, it still has the charm and gentleness I have, only recently, come to associate with this artist. It is another warm, rounded and mellow album to relax you. Neil Halstead is a find and as his star does not shine as bright as it should, find him you must. Palindrome Hunches is another collection of heartfelt, well crafted songs from this singer songwriter who is up there with England's all time best.
I had never heard of Neil Halstead until I saw the film Enough Said and I heard his song at the end of the film. It was enough for me to buy the CD and I don't regret it one minute. If you want a lazy Sunday morning, just chilling, put this on and kick back. His voice is so relaxing and the tunes and words just flow over you. I am looking forward to buying another album of his soon.
I would place Neil Halstead among my favorite singer songwriters of all time, a modern Nick Drake, understated, subtle, but with art and soul that allows it to get away from the sometimes bland side of the genre. This album is yet another one of his that I love. I saw him live both while at Mojave 3 and a few years back solo playing in a church in London, and both times were outstanding, his solo concert probably the best concert I've been in my life, and I've been to MANY.
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And so, a Sunday evening shortly before Christmas, and we head off to see Neil Halstead in a small club in Zurich. En route I wonder how many will be there, as, after all, listening to a Halstead song on the cultural no-man's land of Swiss music radio is certainly not an every day experience, so where would the great Zurich public have heard of Britain's best kept secret. I arrive to find the concert taking place in a small room resembling a Time Out fringe theatre with sofas for those who arrived early enough to rest their weary feet after a weekend's Christmas shopping. My wife and I sit down and relax along with 40 or 50 other hardy souls and listen to Halstead's opener, as dreamy, relaxing, and hauntingly beautiful as every other song he has written. We clap appreciatively like the other 40 or 50, only for Neil to say 'You're a bit quiet aren't you?' Suppressing the urge to respond 'Well, at least we're here!' I ask myself what kind of response he was expecting from us- leaping up and down? gobbin' at the stage? pogoing into the footlights? It was a strange first comment - we hadn't gone expecting a Springsteenesque stadium extravaganza. Halstead was, in fact, perfect for the venue, warm, cosy and intimate, just like a Halstead album, just like Palindrome Hunches. And yet when he walked off after the obligatory encore, you couldn't help feeling he looked disappointed, disappointed at the audience reaction to his songs, disappointed that maybe only 30 were still there at the end. Neil, everybody was entranced, you are one of Britain's finest songwriters, enjoy your live outings, but don't question the audience's enthusiasm, we are or were where you had taken us with your melodies, words, and wonderful songs - in another place that few songwriters can carry us. As for Palindrome Hunches, it is of course lovely, if never deviating in tone. I prefer Mighty Engine, but certainly worth a few quid of your own money.