“At first we were going to record in a studio but everything seemed too clean—there’s something about proper facilities that’s a wee bit sterile,” says Halstead. Instead, he and his fellow musicians spent a weekend holed up in the music room at the Fir Tree primary School (a Wallingford school attended by Holton’s children). “We just went through the songs and recorded them live without very much rehearsal,” says Halstead. “We wanted to be spontaneous and simple and to keep the little mistakes that sneaked in.” Noting the playfulness of recording in such an unconventional space (“a proper music room with lots of little drums and glockenspiels and triangles everywhere”), Halstead points out that “the hardest thing really was to resist putting on a glockenspiel on every track.”
But while Palindrome Hunches certainly has its moments of whimsy, many of the songs are steeped in a mood that’s sometimes strikingly dark. The quietly epic “Wittgenstein’s Arm,” for instance, tells the true story of Paul Wittgenstein (an Austrian pianist who had his right arm amputated in World War I and lost three of his brothers to suicide). Backed by a sorrowful violin, Halstead’s luminous voice delivers heartaching lyrics like “Death runs deep in this family/Write a song for the left hand only/I lost my arm in the first great war/Wish I never learned that piano before.” Another standout track, “Tied To You” creates a sweeping and cinematic sense of impending tragedy with its tremulous piano and urgent guitar. And on songs like “Spin the Bottle” and “Sandy,” Halstead twists tender, near-tearful harmonies into rueful ballads of love lost.
No matter how melancholy the material on Palindrome Hunches, though, Halstead imbues each song with the same otherworldliness that’s made his records so spellbinding since the days of Slowdive. Throughout the album, he adorns the stark instrumentation with hushed yet powerful vocals and poetic yet lucid lyrics. With its sunny piano and tambourine beats, “Bad Drugs and Minor Chords” spins a wistful fairytale with Halstead warning his would-be love that “I’m not your rollercoaster, girl/I’m just a boy and I got no style.” On the title track, he serenades a “Kansas City girl in your Kansas City world” with a jumble of daffy palindromes (“Do geese see god?/I don’t suppose they do”) as gently tapped piano notes climb and descend. (“I wanted to write a song that was the same forward and backward but it didn’t quite work out,” explains Halstead, adding that he chose that track for the album’s title because “I like the idea of things being reversible.”) One of Palindrome Hunches’ most rousing moments, the bouncy piano ballad “Hey Daydreamer” makes a lovely and convincing case for choosing to dwell in the dreamworld. “That’s an aspirational song about refusing to accept things that aren’t quite right all around you,” says Halstead of “Hey Daydreamer,” which opens with his sky-reaching delivering the lyrics “I don’t wanna feel all right/I don’t wanna be just okay/I want to go everywhere/I want to see everything.”
neil halstead macht schon seit vielen jahren wunderschöne musik. es braucht stets nur einige sekunden und neil halstead hat einen in den bann gezogen. ebenso ergeht es einem auch mit dem neuen stück ‘ diggin shelters ‘ aus dem kommenden album ‘ palindrome hunches ‘. ein sanftes piano kitzelt unsere haut, während eine gedämpfte stimme in die zarten saiten der gitarre eintaucht. es ist schlicht betörender, trauriger und träumerischer gitarren-pop auf höchstem niveau: