Since releasing some of the finest shoegaze singles and albums of the early '90s with his band Slowdive, Neil Halstead has slowly become one of Britain's most respected songwriters.
While Slowdive had more to do with sounds than songs, the transition that band made into Mojave 3 in the mid-'90s allowed Halstead to further emulate the largely late-'60s-based folk-rock songwriters with whom he had become enamored. Along the way, Halstead did something of a tightrope act by earning comparisons to those figures without being accused of mere mimicry or tiresome revivalism.
At some point shortly after the release of Mojave 3's third album, 2000's Excuses for Travellers, Halstead found himself without normal living quarters (the result of a breakup), and he opted to hang his hat at a studio for a couple months. With several orphaned Mojave 3 songs kicking around, Halstead took advantage of his situation and recorded them for a possible solo album. He left the studio after finding an actual place of residence and periodically ducked back into the studio with a couple friends -- including Mojave 3's Ian McCutcheon, longtime associate Mark Van Hoen (Locust), and Coley Park's Nick Holton -- over the following year to finish things off.
The result, 2002's Sleeping on Roads, traded the oft-cited American touchstones (Bob Dylan, Neil Young) of Mojave 3 for English touchstones (Bert Jansch, Nick Drake). By the time 4AD released it, Halstead already had designs for a follow-up; Oh! Mighty Engine was issued in 2008 on Jack Johnson's Brushfire label. After a long break, Halstead returned to the studio with his friend Nick Holton as producer and recorded his next album live over four days' time with the Band of Hope backing him. Palindrome Hunches was released by Brushfire in September of 2012. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi