Neil Halstead's name just doesn't jump off the page. It really should, though, because Halstead's music is worth celebrating. His career has enjoyed three distinct, equally great phases. First there was the crucial shoegaze and dream-pop band Slowdive, then came the wistful country-rock group Mojave 3, and now there's his solo act, which churns out brilliant, quiet folk.
Having just released his third solo album, Palindrome Hunches, Halstead will likely play some new material at the High Noon Saloon Oct. 13. But his back catalog can give you a feel for how he arrived at where he is now. Here's a brief look at its highlights.
Halstead's music is the stuff of slow-motion season finales. Following a seven-year break after his 2001 album, Sleeping on Roads, Halstead drew myriad Nick Drake comparisons with his 2008 album, Oh! Mighty Engine. For the most part, these associations were a bit unfair and overly based on a slight similarity between the two artists' voices. Halstead tends to skirt Drake's brand of elegant gloom in favor of light, sweet ditties like the title track and the bubbly "Baby, I Grew You a Beard."
Over the course of 10 years and five albums, Mojave 3 moved from the type of expansive, pedal-steel slow-rollers like those Mazzy Star perfected to the hooky rock showcased on 2006's Puzzles Like You. Mojave 3 wears both styles very well, which makes this big shift all the more miraculous. A huge metamorphosis can cost a band as many fans as it gains, but it's hard to imagine lovers of misty twang like "Love Songs on the Radio" not finding something worthwhile in skintight pop like "Breaking the Ice" - and vice versa.
Though rightfully pegged as a shoegaze band, Slowdive often drifted toward the dreamiest of dream pop. "Blue Skied an' Clear," from 1995's Pygmalion, can practically make a stereo levitate. Closer to the Earth is 1993's essential Souvlaki, whose stunners "Alison" and "40 Days" are some of Halstead's best examples of woozy, hot-all-over songwriting.